How best to rid car of funky smell

I recently bought a used car and it has a bit of a funky odor. I’ve searched and come up with nothing that can be causing it, and can only assume it is emanating from the cloth upholstery. It is the worst when the car has been sitting for a while. Any suggestions on how I should take care of this?

First off if the car has a cabin filter, change it.
Next search high and low. A tiny bit of food (dried baby formula for example) will choke a yak.
Then make sure the AC drain is clear and not draining inside the car.
Finally trays of coffee grounds (un perked) mixed with baking soda will absorb odors.
After doing this if the car still smells try driving with the AC off the fan on high and the windows down/sunroof open.
If however you have excess mold growing inside the AC unit you may have to get a professional to treat the evaporator to finally kill the odor.
PS don’t drive in recirculation all the time.

I’m not a fan of the stuff, but some people say spraying Febreeze liberally (to the point of making the fabric moist) on the upholstery will help, if the funk is actually in the upholstery. Do the usual “inconspicuous area” test first in case the Febreeze stains the fabric. Of course, depending on how old the car is, some blotches on the seats may be preferable to a bad smell.

Smells could also be in the carpet. As Rick said, make like a DEA agent and really go through the car looking for any stray molecules of anything that’s not carpet, upholstery or car parts. Look under seats, between seats, under carpet, inside seat-back pockets, and remove anything that’s readily removed, such as floor mats.

Check the trunk, especially the “well” that the spare tire sits in, and anything else that could retain water or spilled milk.

Some years ago, I had a car with a really musty air conditioner. Spraying morgue and ambulance disinfectant into the intake vents solved that, but you probably can’t find this stuff at the grocery store. And then, you need to figure how to get rid of the disinfectant smell. :eek:

I would steam clean the upholstery. It should help.

If the problem is in the vents, you may need to get a professional involved.

Also, check the trunk for dead bodies.

For a cheap alternative to Febreze (which smells like fairy ass anyway), take a couple of boxes of generic or store-brand baking soda and shake it liberally over all fabric surfaces in the car. Let it sit for a couple hours, then vacuum thoroughly. Use a crevice tool to get into tight spaces, too; there could be food (or worse) shoved deep down into the seats.

My husband bought a vehicle from a nearby PD that was a forfeiture, and apparently the previous owner had worked at a pork processor in the offal-grinding room or the flensing department or something. (That’s what we’re assuming so we can sleep at night, anyway.) The interior reeked of decomposing Spam or somesuch. The baking soda and a thorough washdown of hard surfaces took care of it.

Sitting in the hot sun with all the windows down for a few days wouldn’t hurt either.

My brother-in-law who works at a used car dealership puts ground coffee in filters under the seats for a few days with the windows rolled up. It nukes any bad smells out of the car, and it’s cheap.

Any ideas where the AC drain and cabin filter are on a 2000 Toyota Corolla? I’ve orded the chiton manual, but it won’t be here for a week or so.

I will try the rest of your suggestions.

I haven’t tried this on upholstery, but for funky smelling cabinets and drawers, I’ve found that spraying the insides with Odoban actually gets rid of the odor while Febreeze just hides the odor for a bit. I just checked the bottle of Odoban, and it says that it is safe to use on upholstery.

As my uncle used to say:

“Nothing a can of gasoline and a road-flare won’t fix.”

Go to the Toyota dealer and ask them how much it would be for their detailer to use an ozone generator in your car. That is what the car dealers do to their used cars taken in trade that are stinky.

Cabin filter is often below or behind the glove box.
AC drain is located on the bottom of the climate box usually somewhere between the center of the car and the passenger’s side footwell. If you look under the hood and locate where the AC lines go through the firewall that should give you the general location.