How To Get Mildew Smell Out Of Car Trunk: 6 Easy DIY Steps

The answer to the question ‘how to get mildew smell out of car trunk’ is by removing the source of the odor and cleaning the trunk. These procedures can be done at home or with a professional cleaner.


Getting Rid Of The Mildew Smell

Below are the steps in getting rid of the unpleasant odor of your car. While this article focuses on car trunks, the procedures are also applicable when the vehicle’s interior is the source of the mildew smell.

Step #1. The first step is to remove all the accessories and detachable parts in your trunk. Get rid of the mats and other things in the trunk and clean them separately.

Step #2. Dry the trunk of off liquid or moisture using absorbent rags or clothes. A microfiber towel is ideal so as not to leave any lint inside.

Step #3. After drying the trunk, scrub off the mildew using a nylon scrubbing pad. Only scrub the affected area and refrain from scratching too much of the surfaces.

Step #4. Dry the trunk again using a hairdryer for small areas or a vacuum cleaner for larger wet areas. By ensuring that the surface is dry, you can prevent the recurrence of mildew growth.

Step #5. After drying the area, apply an anti-mildew solution, odor absorbers, or enzyme cleaners. Some examples of these chemical treatments are discussed in the latter part of this article.

Step #6. Clean and dry the mats. It is best to hang them under the sun for a few hours or until the smell is gone.


Mildew Smell Removal Assistants

As promised, here are some of the substances that can help you get rid of the mildew smell, not just in your trunk, but inside the cabin as well.

  • Dryer sheets – One of the easiest ways to get rid of mildew and other unpleasant odors in your car is by using dryer sheets. By leaving a container of this reliable item, the moisture in the air is absorbed while giving off a pleasant aroma.
  • White wine vinegar – Apply a solution of white wine vinegar and water to eliminate any unwanted odor. This substance is also an excellent cleaning agent that can be applied to the upholstery.
  • Coffee beans – Coffee beans are excellent odor absorbers. Put a container with around seven ounces of beans (ground coffee is also usable but may be harder to clean) in your trunk and let it do its magic.
  • Baking soda – Try sprinkling your trunk mat with baking soda. The change in pH is unfavorable for mildew growth and will lessen the funky smell.
  • Charcoal briquettes – Charcoals are also used in getting rid of the rotten smell in refrigerators. Therefore, they are sure to be excellent odor absorbers in car trunks.


Preventing The Mildew Smell

If you found out that the source of the mildew smell is not in your trunk and you’re still wondering why does my car smell like mildew, you may use the following tips to prevent the smell from developing.


Do not leave food inside the car

This is especially true if you forget that you have chips and only remember them several days after. Not only does it favor mildew growth, the food left is an attractant of pests.


Clean up spilled liquid

Whether it is a drink or a cargo, the spilled liquid is one of the most common causes of mildew growth. Make sure to dry out the affected areas as soon as possible using a clean cloth or a blow dryer.


Put your dirty clothes in the laundry

We are all guilty of putting our gym clothes in the trunk, so the sweaty smell does not get into the cabin. However, this practice creates the perfect environment for foul odor development inside your trunk.

Thus, make sure to transfer the used clothes immediately to your laundry area and spray your trunk with anti-odor solutions.


Use liners when storing dirty items

Another practice that most car owners are guilty of is putting shoes inside the trunk so the soil does not get inside the cabin. When doing this, ensure that you line your trunk with cardboard sheets to prevent the accumulation of dirt in your mat.

You might have developed mold and mildew problems in your car if you are one of those that had limited mobility during the quarantine period. The prolonged lock-up period forced us to store our vehicles in the garage and this can be an opportunity for mildew growth.

In the article “how to prevent mold in stored car”, some very helpful insights were given to address this dilemma. 

Another possible cause of moisture leaking into the trunk is damaged seals. Ensure to replace damaged seals as soon as you notice them.



Most of us feel helpless when we encounter unpleasant odors in our cars that won’t go away. We search the internet for answers on how to get mildew smell out of car trunk but are confused by the variety of information.

In this piece, we kept it simple. Keep your car and trunk clean, remove moisture, and spray with or use deodorizers.

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