How to Get Milk Smell Out of Car: 7 Easy Ways

Spilled milk can be a double curse when it is spilled in a car. And the stench simply doesn’t go away on its own. In fact, if you let it be, over time it gets much much worse, and heaven forbids if it happens in the summer. The sour odor lingers, causing every drive to be unpleasant. Learn how to get milk smell out of car and deal with it as soon as possible.

Do not ignore this seemingly small issue, as spilled milk is a hundred times worse than spilled soft drinks or juices. Milk can soak down deep into the upholstery or carpet of a car and leave a sour smell that can linger for weeks or even months. While a quick spray of Febreze or installing an air freshener will briefly improve the smell of your interior, the rotten milk smell will be back soon enough, especially in warm weather.

Follow this step-by-step guide to ensure that you properly clean up the mess and learn how to get milk smell out of car once and for all.

remove milk smell out of car
Sour milk stench is a highly likely disaster if you have babies in your car. Credit: Getty Images


How to Get Milk Smell Out of Car: 7 Methods

Blot Up the Spill ASAP

The very first step on how to get milk smell out of car is to soak up the spill as soon as it happens. Do not skip this step. The less milk to contend with, the less work for you later on.

Use a paper towel or a microfibre to gently dab at the spill to quickly absorb it, but don’t rub the spill spot. Rubbing will push the milk further down into the carpet or upholstery.

Pull out the floor mats

If the milk has spilled on the floor mats, they should be taken out of the car. If the milk is allowed to stay on the floor mats it will eventually turn sour and the odor will fill the entire car.

Follow these steps to wash the floor mats. If the floor mats are fabric or carpeting without a rubber backing, they are machine washable. Use a stain remover on the spill first, then put the mats in the washing machine. For stronger cleaning power, use the warm or hot water setting.

If the floor mats have a rubber backing or are an all plastic mats, do not put them in the washing machine. Instead, spray them off with a hose or pressure washer. Use a dishwashing liquid on the stain to get rid of the milk.

The mats should then be allowed to air dry out in the sun.

In case the milk touches any other removable parts made of fabric, like removable seat covers, take them off to wash and dry as soon as possible according to the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. You should strictly do so even if it’s just a few drops.

Method 1: Baking Soda

how to clean milk smell out of car baking soda
Baking soda is a super effective and cheap solution for bad odors. Source: YouTube

Baking soda has been for decades one of the cheapest yet most effective and versatile solutions for cleaning and eliminating odors. Since this method is inexpensive, super easy and it’s likely that you have some baking soda in your kitchen, this is the first thing to try when you need to remove milk smell from car.

Sprinkle baking soda directly on the carpet or upholstery where the milk was spilled. To be conservative, you can go well beyond the spill area, as it is likely that the bacteria may have begun to spread.

Rub the baking soda into the fibre using a cloth or a soft-bristled brush. Let it sit at least overnight to let it work its magic, or over three or four days if possible would be ideal.

Then, vacuum the baking soda off the upholstery, then put your nose to it. If a faint smell is still present, repeat these steps or move on to one of the other methods below, depending on the severity of the odor.


Method 2: Coffee grounds

In addition to baking soda, coffee grounds or whole coffee beans have been widely used to absorb the bad odors in households and cars. Many car owners also use coffee beans to get rid of the unpleasant smell of brand new cars, which takes no less than five years to completely go away. This method is also cheap, easy and will leave your vehicle with a pleasant and faint coffee scent.

Simply leave cloth bags filled with coffee beans or plastic containers filled with coffee grounds underneath your seats for roughly two weeks. In case you have already tried the baking soda method or in case of a not-too-serious spill, this should help remove the odor of spoiled milk from the car.

Method 3: White vinegar

Another cheap method with something you likely already have in your kitchen: white vinegar. Spraying vinegar on the carpet or upholstery will help break down the enzymes in the spilled milk, thus effectively removing the odor from your car. It is also completely safe to use and is environmentally friendly.

Be aware that unless you want your vehicle to have an extremely strong vinegar smell, do mix vinegar with water. Use a spray bottle and mix four parts water to one part vinegar. 

Spray the spill area until it is drenched with the diluted vinegar. Allow it to soak for around five hours and then blot it dry with a clean washcloth or towel.

If the spill happens on non-removable parts, it’s best to leave the vehicle windows open to allow it to air out. Otherwise, remove the carpet, proceed with the cleaning then let it air dry out in the sun.

Method 4: Carpet cleaners

A home carpet cleaner should work well on carpeted floor mats or any carpeted areas in your car. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In most cases the product should be allowed to sit for at least an hour and then vacuumed up.


Method 5: Enzyme sprays

clean milk spill in car
Use enzyme sprays or upholstery cleaners on your upholstery. Source: Carsmyfriends

If the odor is still hanging in there after the above methods, it is time to break out the big guns. Enzyme sprays are environmentally friendly and use proteins and enzymes to break down the molecular structure of stains. In essence, the bacteria eats away the mess while eliminating the odor. 

Spray on the troubled area and allow it to sit for a day or two before blotting it up with a paper towel or cloth. 

Important notes: Always do a test spot first to avoid staining your carpet or upholstery. In addition, these sprays should not be used on leather interiors. 

Method 6: Steam clean the carpet

If the spill was significant, or has sat for a while, using a steam cleaner will ensure that you get rid of any deep-set milk.

If you do not have one, look online to rent a steam cleaner. A steam cleaner provides a deep clean by spraying a cleaning solution and steaming hot water onto the carpet or fabric, then sucking the water and dirt up. This will suck out any odor-causing residue of the milk, thus get rid of the sour odor once and for all.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions and change the water frequently during the process. The carpet or upholstery should be allowed to completely dry for 12 hours after the cleaning.

Method 7: Charcoal bags

After the stain has been cleaned up, consider putting charcoal bags in the car on or near the spill spot. Bamboo charcoal will effectively soak up any lingering bad odors, plus they are environmentally friendly and perfectly safe if you’re sensitive to commercial cleaning solutions.

remove milk smell from car Bamboo charcoal
Bamboo charcoal will get rid of lingering bad odors. Source: Yournaturefresh

Tips: Air out the vehicle

After the spill has been cleaned up, leaving the car windows open will help air out the odor. Direct sunlight will also help dry the stain, kill the bacteria and break down the odor.