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Removing Unwanted Odors from Your Classic Car

Classic car interior

You never know where you may find that restorable classic car of your dreams. Unfortunately however, many times these cars have been stored in less than optimal conditions. Quite often, they have been exposed to the weather and even to small rodents and other wild life! This can result in interiors that may exhibit foul odors such as musty or even barnyard-like smells.

In some cases getting rid of these odors may require the costly removal and replacement of all the soft goods within the interior of the vehicle, such as the carpeting and upholstery. Often however, this may not be required. In this article we address some of Disaster Blaster’s recommendations for odor removal techniques you can try first before you go to the expense of replacing those carpets and upholstery.

The first step to getting rid of odors is to remove the source of the odor. To do this you should thoroughly clean the vehicle, both in and out. Don’t forget the engine and trunk compartments. Pay particular attention to the soft goods in the vehicle such as the carpets, upholstery and headliner. It is these areas that tend to hold most of the odors.

These soft goods should first be vacuumed thoroughly. After vacuuming, inspect these areas for any staining that is apparent. Any stained areas should then be pretreated with a professional grade stain remover. After allowing the stain remover to sit the length of time suggested in its instructions, you will then want to shampoo these soft goods very meticulously. We suggest adding a professional grade deodorizer to the shampoo solution during this process. Next allow the vehicle to completely dry out. You should keep the vehicle windows and, if possible doors, open during the drying and may want to use some fans to speed up this process and help blow residual odors from the interior. If it is a sunny day, it helps to let this drying occur outdoors. After the vehicle is dry, inspect the vehicle for any further staining and odors that may still be present. It may be necessary to repeat the process above numerous times before you reach a point where you are satisfied.

If the odor still persists another method that has worked is using bicarbonate powder to help remove the odors. While dry, sprinkle this powder liberally on the carpets as well as the upholstered seats and allow it to sit for a several hours. Then vacuum up the dust and ventilate the car for at least an hour. Again this may need to be repeated for optimal results.

Often, the odor may be coming from the vehicle’s air-conditioning or heating system. This is usually caused by bacteria or mold growing within these systems. To take care of this you will need a liquid antimicrobial product, which can be purchased at most cleaning product stores or online. You will want to spray this product heavily on the floor of the car by the front doors with the door open. Once applied you should first run the air-conditioning system for at least 5 to 10 minutes followed by running the heating system for that same period of time. Make sure to set the system so that air is running through the entire system and all vents to ensure all internal areas are being treated. You may need to complete this treatment multiple times. We also recommend that you add a deodorizer to the antimicrobial liquid for better effect.

Another way to reduce odors is to use a bar of scented soap in the vehicle. This will serve to mask the odor by substituting it with a more pleasant scent for the short term until you can determine the odor’s source and remove it through proper remediation. This soap often works better than car deodorizers. Be sure to place this bar of soap in a place where it cannot move and get lodged near the brake or gas peddles.

While we are on this subject we do want to comment on the use of ozone as an effective way of ridding vehicles of odors. Disaster Blaster Inc. owns a number of professional grade ozone machines which we use from time to time to remove smoke odors from fire or smoke damaged buildings. These machines are very effective in oxidizing and removing odors. We do not however recommend their use for removing odors from vehicles.

The reason for this is that ozone has been found to cause premature disintegration to some vital components in a vehicle, particularly those consisting of rubber. While not all rubbers are affected by ozone, elastic rubber (elastomers) can be damaged and often destroyed by a relatively short exposure to these high levels of ozone.

Ozone causes cracks to form in these elastomers, which is appropriately known as ozone cracking. It can occur in many safety-critical items such as fuel lines and rubber seals, such as gaskets and O-rings, which will ultimately lead to failure. While ozone concentrations can be rather high when using an ozone generator, it is thought that only a trace amount of the ozone gas is needed to initiate this cracking.

It is often difficult to remove odors completely, but don’t give up! Often a series of treatments are needed to see results.

Have fun cruising!

We hope you found this information helpful! If there’s something that YOU want to hear about, please contact your local Disaster Blaster office!

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