DETAILING MY CAR > The Horror of Vomit in Your Car

The Horror of Vomit in Your Car

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Not many car issues are worse than someone vomiting inside. This is one disgusting mess – and it smells pretty bad too. In this post I want to share the methods and products needed to clean up vomit and refresh the smell in your car.

Maybe you were the designated driver for your friend’s 21st birthday, only to have that friend throw up in your car at the end of the night. Or perhaps you had an experience like I did: throwing up in your friend’s car when you had the flu (and then having to clean up the mess). No matter the reason, if there’s vomit in your car, you want to deal with the problem immediately. Read on for my professional cleaning and deodorizing tips.


Gathering Supplies to Clean Vomit From Your Car

There are a few things you will need to clean up this mess:

  1. Pinesol disinfectant
  2. Clean spray bottle
  3. Clean terry towels
  4. Wet-dry shop vacuum
  5. Soft scrub brush
  6. Fabreeze
  7. Toothbrush

My Secret Steps for Cleaning Vomit

This job is a whole lot easier if you get to it before the mess has a chance to dry. To begin, grab your wet-dry shop vacuum and suck up as much of the liquid as you can. The next step is to mix up the cleaning liquid. Put about three tablespoons of Pinesol into the spray bottle, and then top it off with water.

Don’t use too much of the Pinesol or your car will smell like a hospital. Before you use the cleaner, spot clean a few small areas to make sure it doesn’t remove any color. Do this on seats, carpets, etc. I have never seen this cause discoloration, but it’s best to be on the cautious side. By the way, I always wear gloves when dealing with this type of mess.

Spray Vomit for Incredible Results

Begin by spraying the cleaner on every part of the car where the vomit hit. Be very careful not to get window switches or electronics too wet. In my early auto-detailing career, I ruined a couple of car stereos and power window switches by soaking them too much.

Now grab your scrub brush. Gently work over all the areas that need to be cleaned. Re-spray the spots with the cleaner and let it sit for a few minutes. At this point you need to use your clean terry towels to wipe up the mess. Wipe off everything, including carpets and seats. Next, go over the affected areas of the car with the wet-dry vacuum again. You want to pull out as much liquid as possible – it helps everything dry out faster and sucks up any remnants of the vomit. If you find vomit stuck in nooks and crannies, you can grab the toothbrush and scrub them out.

Dry Out That Disgusting Mess

Now it’s time to let everything fully dry out. If it’s a sunny day, roll all the windows down and let the car air out. If not, try pulling the car into the garage to dry out. Once everything is dry, it is time for the sniff test. Roll up all the windows and let the car sit. After an hour or two, open up the door and get into the car. If it smells nice and fresh, you have almost won the battle. At this point it is time to reach for the Fabreeze. Use this on all cloth upholstery and carpet that were hit. You do not need to spray it on plastic or leather. A light misting is all you need. Fabreeze is a true odor remover – not a perfumed cover up. I have used this stuff on a lot of different messes and am always happy with the results.

This problem has one similarity to cleaning up a spilled latte: You will get the best results while it’s still damp. In cases where the vomit has dried, wet it down a couple times with your Pinesol mixture. After it soaks for a bit you can go through all of the steps I described above.

Nighttime is the Worst Time

In the scenario of the designated driver, ferrying pals around and getting home late, you still need to take quick action – don’t wait until morning. You may miss some vomit in the dark, but you will get the vast majority of it. You can always spot clean the car the next day.

It’s Not Always People Who Vomit in the Car

I am sure that you can imagine other sources of vomit. I have personally had to clean up after my dog. Why can’t they clean up their own mess?! Treat this issue exactly like you would above. When this happens it’s time to turn yourself into a picky auto detailer. Don’t ignore vomit – it is a problem that keeps on giving, and the smell only gets worse. One last tip: Rinse out your wet-dry vacuum filter when the job is done. They can really stink after a job like this. I only missed doing this once, and the smell was devastating.

Well there you have it. Grab the supplies listed above and use them to clean up the vomit as soon as possible. You want to get that sick smell out of the car fast. There is nothing worse than ignoring the vomit and letting the car sit for a day or two. I guarantee you will want to go out and buy a new car if this happens. Save yourself from years of car payments and jump into action.

If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning up such an awful mess, take your car to a detail shop. It might cost a bit, but will worth it in the long run. And the next time you are out with your pals, take a cab!

One comment on “The Horror of Vomit in Your Car

  1. I absolutely understand your concerns about vomit in the car. My dog does it very often as well. All the time I need to clean the car, but there are stains that can not be removed. Thanks for sharing your cleaning way, it’s very helpful!

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