DIY Auto Detailing: How to Clean and Remove Vomit (and that smell!) from Car Seats and Carpet

CleaningInteriorWith St. Patrick’s Day quickly approaching, here are some auto detailing tips that may come in handy! After all, if you’re stuck being the designated driver in a car full of drunken friends, your car could easily fall subject to someone’s stomach contents. We will share with you three basic steps to help you deal with this unfortunate incident and save your car from the consequences.

Step 1: Clean Up Immediately

As soon as the mess happens, we recommend getting rid of it immediately so that it doesn’t continue to soak in. Also, vomit can be much easier to clean if it hasn’t dried and become caked into the fabric or upholstery of your car seats and floor. Soak up the heaviest moisture and get rid of any solid material with the help of some paper towels.

Step 2: Kill the Smell

There are actually a few options that can help you with cleaning the stain and getting rid of the acidic smell:

VinegarCleaningSolutionVinegar and water: Grab a bowl and mix one part vinegar with one part water. This solution will disinfect the car seats while loosening whatever vomit remains and help reduce the smell. Keep a set of clean gloves handy and get to scrubbing. Once all the vomit is gone, leaving the windows open should help air out and dry the interior, removing the majority of the smell thanks to the potency of vinegar.

Baking soda: As an alternative, baking soda can help absorb the smell of the vomit. Although it’s a bit of a messy solution, it’s a cheap response to the problem. Apply a generous amount and keep it there for several hours before vacuuming away.

Steam Cleaner: If you have a few bucks to spare, heavy duty cleaning equipment such as a steam cleaner can help remove any pathogens remaining in your upholstery. Hardware stores and some supermarkets may even let your rent these cleaners for a nominal fee.

Odor eliminator: To truly neutralize the smell, rather than masking or absorbing it, it is best to acquire a no-scent odor eliminator. Avoid using scented products since they’re more likely to mask the scent rather than remove it. With your chosen product, spray a generous amount over the soiled area and wait for the required amount of time.

Air freshener: In some cases, even after a thorough cleaning, you may still find there to be a lingering smell in your car. You can always spray some air freshener, making sure not to use an acidic smell (such as orange) which can actually worsen the vomit smell.

In all cases, you’ll note that the odor will start to dissipate and will eventually disappear completely with the proper technique. After cleaning the area, you can take additional action as you see fit.

With these tips in mind, you’ll have no trouble cleaning up any messes in the future without having to pay big dollars for a professional cleaning.

The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not intended for diagnosing. Gold Eagle Company does not guarantee - expressed or implied - any specific results and a professional should be consulted on more serious issues.

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7 Comments
  • What about vomit that has dried on a leather seat with air holes in it. Is it safe to use the vinegar and water?

    • Hi, Kim. Vinegar, by itself, can dry out leather if not cleaned out right away. You can make a solution by combining equal parts white vinegar and distilled water or better yet linseed oil. If you want a cleaner that will condition the leather while also preventing future stains, use 1 quart of warm water mixed with a few drops of mild baby soap.

  • Will vinegar stain carpet or upholstery ?

    • Hello! Based on a quick Google search, vinegar will not stain a carpet. However, it may be best to contact the manufacturer of the carpet and upholstery directly for warranty purposes. Thanks for stopping by!

  • I have cloth seats in my car. If I use baking soda, do I need to spray them with water first?

    • Hi, Elisha. No, you do not need to spray it first. Thanks for stopping by!

  • We had vomit on our fabric sofa which I cleaned up last night with dish wash liquid and water
    It still smells this morning. If I put baking sofa on it now do I have to wet the fabric again prior to putting the soda on it?