Eeew! How to get rid of (and prevent) molds inside your car

If you have a vehicle that hasn’t been used for quite some time and hasn’t seen daylight, chances are, you’ve probably encountered this stuff. I’m rereferring to unwanted mold build-up that can thrive on steering wheels, seat fabric upholstery, carpets, and just about anywhere inside the vehicle.

Besides their fast reproduction, molds produce several natural toxins that can be considered dangerous. As such, a vehicle with mold spores is unsightly and hazardous to your and your car’s health. This article will tackle what it is, what causes it, the health risks, how to remove it, and how to prevent it from coming back.

What are molds?

These mold spores appear white and sponge-like, with blue around the edges. Molds look like wooly mats and emit a foul odor described as a musty, earthy smell. Other forms of mold can appear green, gray, or even brown. The spores usually gather in a circle, so be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. Please be cautious when looking at anything that looks or smells like mold.

Mold fungi have different types and species but here are some of the most common types that are usually seen inside vehicles:

  • Green Mold
  • White Mold
  • Black Mold
  • Yellow Mold

What causes molds?

While it naturally occurs in the wild on trees and the ground breaking up dead organic material, how it ends up inside the vehicle is another matter.

The problem usually begins with excess moisture that doesn’t have a chance to dry properly. If you spill a bottle of water and leave your car in the garage overnight, you could wake up to a mess of mold in your vehicle. Excess heat and humidity will only make the problem worse. Mold grows on wet surfaces, usually upholstery, fabric, and other absorbent materials. Mold spores are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye.

Here are some of the most common causes of mold build-up in vehicles

  • Spilled drink
  • Flood
  • Poor ventilation
  • Foreign contaminant
  • Liquid on the floor
  • Opening windows while it is raining outside
  • Humid environment
  • A car parked in a damp storage area
  • Wet or damp clothes in the vehicle

Be careful

Just to let you know, mold is considered toxic to humans. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “molds produce allergens or substances that can cause allergic reactions, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances, a.k.a. mycotoxins.” Care must be taken when dealing with particles that may cause an allergic reaction.

Having molds inside the car can exacerbate health risks, especially when the windows are closed. Minimize your exposure to molds which can be hazardous to your health, by opening all car windows.

Mold Health Risks and Possible Symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny Nose
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Sore Throat
  • Rashes
  • Headache
  • Eyes, Nose, Throat, lungs, or skin irritation
  • Trigger Asthma attacks
  • Fever

How to remove molds inside the car

Time is of the essence when it comes to cleaning up molds. The longer it sits inside the car, the longer it will spread. Mold also damages the underlying surface. It will continue to soak into the floor, carpet, or upholstery, so the longer you wait, the more likely it will ruin your car.

Step 1 – Take the car out of the garage or the shade into bright sunlight. Avoid working in confined areas with poor ventilation.

Step 2 – Roll down all the windows and keep the doors open. Let the bad air and odor escape from the car. Allow fresh air to enter inside.

Step 3 – Remove all damp items or items that cause dampness from your car. Example: floor mats.

Step 4 – Wear protective gear such as cleaning gloves and a face mask to avoid breathing in the mold spores.

Step 5 – Search for traces of mold in all corners of the car – seat belts, dashboard, ceiling, trunk, everywhere. Usually, it can be identified as a circular patch, which can be in different colors.

Step 6 – If the mold is dry and crusty, use a brush to break these particles loose. Use a vacuum cleaner to suck up these pieces. You can use a rag or paper towel if the mold is wet and malleable.

Step 7 – Disinfect the affected area by using a homemade cleaning solution. Simply mix one part water and four parts vinegar, or one quart of water, ½ cup of vinegar, ¼ teaspoon of clove oil, and one tablespoon of baking soda.

Step 8 – For hard surfaces, scrub the area with the cleaning solution and let it dry completely.

For fabric and porous surfaces, spray on the mixture using a spray bottle. Let it sit on the surface for about 20 minutes. This gives the vinegar a chance to kill the mold spores.


Step 9 – Once the stain has had a chance to soak, use a vacuum to soak up what’s left of the cleaning mixture. It’s important to let the affected area dry naturally. Keep your car out in the sun or fresh air with the windows down to let the moisture out; otherwise, that stain will turn into more mold.

Step 10 – Lastly, give the entire interior one last wipe down. Use water and a regular cleaning solution to clean off the various surfaces in your car thoroughly. The odor should be gone but if you smell something, use an air freshener or fabric freshener.

How to prevent molds from coming back

Limiting moisture is the best way to prevent mold from forming in your car. Use caution not to spill any liquid like coffee or soft drink. Change your cabin air filter to keep clean air flowing inside the vehicle. Keep the windows open whenever possible to bring in some fresh air.

Regardless of how much you prepare, there’s always a chance mold could reappear in your car. Moisture is bound to get in from time to time. Give yourself more peace of mind, and keep these cleaning materials on hand so you can clean up spills and stains as soon as they appear. Please don’t wait until you get home to clean up the mess, as it will quickly turn into mold.


Source: Eeew! How to get rid of (and prevent) molds inside your car

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