How to Get Rid of Pet Smells from Your Car

We all love our furry friends – there is no better feeling than coming home at the end of a long day to a fluff ball of joy who has been waiting for your return! But with pet-ownership comes fur, smells and messes that are less than desirable in your home, on your clothes and in your car.

Whether your pet travels everywhere with you or you’ve taken them on a trip to the dog park or the vet, they often leave unpleasant smells in your vehicle that can be difficult to get rid of.

Molecules from their fur can get trapped in your upholstery and create pungent smells that car air fresheners don’t seem to be able to cover up.

The key is to destroy and eliminate the molecules at their source, rather than covering them up with air fresheners. We have a comprehensive Pet Stain Removal Guide here, but for tips and tricks specifically related to cleaning pet-related smells from the car, keep reading.

First thing's first, vacuum your car

Don’t underestimate the power of a good vacuum! Brace yourself with a fully charged handheld vacuum and be prepared to go to town on your car's seats, floors and dashboard.

Make sure to thoroughly vacuum the entire car, not just the spot that your pet normally sits in – animal hair can easily get trapped in hard to reach areas and it’s important to lift it all up out of the fabric and get rid of it before beginning a deep clean.

Another way to pick up pesky fur is with a rubber dish wash glove. This will help lift fur out of the seats and carpet, making it very easy to pick up clumps. If you don’t have a rubber glove you can use the sticky side of tape or a lint roller to lift hair and fur.

To maintain your freshly vacuumed, fur-free zone – try to brush your pet regularly to avoid them dredging in any more fur next time they’re along for a ride.

If your pet has had an accident in your car

Accidents happen to the best of us – even man’s best friend. If your pet vomits, pees or loses control of their bowels in the car, that smell is going to be difficult to get rid of.

If you’re attempting to clean up a mess on the car interior, there are a couple of steps you can take to ensure the best result possible.

We recommend hiring the Rug Doctor Machine, Hand Tool and purchasing the correct Rug Doctor products for your stains.

While most car seat fabrics work great with Rug Doctor products, be sure to check that your car seat fabric is okay for water extraction method cleaners, and do not use the Rug Doctor machine or cleaning products on materials such as leather or non-colourfast fabrics.

How to Clean Pet Urine in the Car

Our Rug Doctor Stain Remover is perfect for accidents like urine – lightly spray, then gently blot with clean a clean cloth towards the centre of the stain. It’s best to act quick when it comes to urine, it’s highly acidic and will bleach some fabrics and once bleaching occurs this cannot be corrected with stain removing products.

How to Clean Pet Vomit in the Car

For vomit – use both Rug Doctor Stain Remover and Rug Doctor Odour Remover. Remove the visible stain with the Stain Remover, then eliminate the smell by spraying Odour Remover onto the stain. This will deodorise, disinfect and kill germs, removing any trace of odour from the interior.

How to Clean Pet Faeces or Mud in Car

For both pet poo or uninvited mud the dog brought into the car use the Rug Doctor Spot Remover, this product is great to keep close by for those unavoidable moments your animal runs through the mud at the park or has an accident. After removing the stain we recommend spraying the Rug Doctor Odour Remover to disinfect the area.

If you are hiring a Rug Doctor machine, use Rug Doctor Upholstery Cleaner with the machine to deep clean the seats and even the floor mats!

(For rubber floor mats simply remove and rinse off with a hose and soapy water).

For a more in depth look at how to deep clean your car with a Rug Doctor, read this blog post here.

How to remove General animal smells

The best way to avoid unwanted smells setting up camp permanently in your car is to deal to any accidents or spills immediately.

If your pets smell has firmly ingrained itself inside your car – here’s what you can do to reduce the pong.

To remove any lingering smells - the Rug Doctor Odour Remover will tackle persistent smells caused by pets, smoking and other strong odours.

It’s also worth considering laying down a blanket or towel dedicated to your pet so that you are easily able to wash it regularly and avoid any long term odours or damage to the vehicle interiors. Kmart has a pet seat hammock that would work great for this. 

When your pet brings in pests

By containing your pet to one area of the car, you will be making your life so much easier when it comes to dealing with cleaning and preventing the spread of pests like fleas.

The best way to deal with fleas in the car is to give the pets blanket/towel/bedding a hot wash to kill any remaining fleas, eggs, larvae and pupae.

Spraying a product like NO Fleas Total Protection all throughout the vehicle is helpful, and you may need to do a Bug Bomb too – the best way to do this is to put the vehicle in a garage and set off the flea bomb outside the vehicle with the windows wound down.

Obviously treating your pet for the fleas directly is necessary, but all the steps we’ve discussed here like vacuuming and deep cleaning will also help ward off fleas.

Fact: Only 5% of your pet’s flea population actually live on them! 95% live where your pet usually sits.

Cleaning Products to be wary of

When dealing with pets, there are a few ingredients to be careful of when using cleaning products that your pets will come into contact with, as they can be allergic and react to a few common products. Here's a quick list of chemicals we'd suggest looking out for.

  • Ammonia: cleaning products that contain ammonia (often used for degreasing things) can burn mucous membranes and when mixed with bleach, cause a poisonous gas that can be deadly to animals.
  • Formaldehyde: sometimes used in soap products, this is a carcinogen that is known to contribute to asthma - even in pets.
  • Laundry detergent: check to make sure there are no toxic ingredients in the laundry detergent you're using, as the residue that's leftover can affect pets.

All Rug Doctor products are safe for use around pets, but we do recommend you keep your pets away from the cleaning area until it has completely dried, our products are non-toxic and safe to use for your whole family.


For more information about any of the Rug Doctor services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of the friendly team members today – we would love to help you find a solution to your cleaning needs!

Rug Doctor NZ 24/7 Helpline - 0800 800 245



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