8 steps to eliminate odor from your car aircon system

Updated Aug 17, 2022 | Same topic: Handy Maintenance Tips

Handy guide and step by step process on how to eliminate bad odors from the car's air conditioning system.

The air conditioner is definitely essential when it comes to cooling you down on a hot day of driving. But what if it starts to spew out a musky intolerable scent? It not only distracts you from driving but it can also have you feeling sick.

Good thing we prepared this easy-to-follow guide on how you can keep your AC smelling fresh again! Check it out and don’t forget to suggest these tips from Philkotse.com to your buddies.

Step #1. Get a mildew and mold disinfectant sprayer

Purchase your preferred brand of disinfectant that fights against mildew and mold formation. These are usually available in aerosol cans and as specialty duct cleaner. Although disinfectant aerosol cleaners work great in almost any room, specialty cleaners will work best in small, clamped up spaces like your car.

These are highly recommended especially of your air conditioner is emitting a serious case of bad odor. There are different brands available in the market but if you don’t like specialty cleaners, you can always use the same brand and variant that you commonly use at home.

Disinfectant spray

Purchase your preferred brand of disinfectant that fights against mildew and mold formation

Step #2. Make an alternative all-natural car interior deodorizer

There are two reasons why we suggest you should go for this type of deodorizer instead. 1) it’s because it uses all-natural ingredients so it’s less toxic to humans and pets who may occupy the car, and 2) because you can also find these ingredients right in your home so you pretty much won’t have to spend anything at all.

To start, take one part of plain white vinegar and then mix it with three parts of clean tap water. Stir it so the vinegar is evenly spread into the concoction and then transfer it to a spray bottle or even an of old perfume bottle.

all natural deodorizer

You can also find these ingredients right in your home

Vinegar is definitely not the most pleasing scent that you’d like to sniff in your car but it certainly fights off mildew and mold effortlessly. If you really dislike the way it smells, don’t worry, it only lasts a couple of minutes before it wears off.

If you want a more refreshing scent that can also wipe away the smell of the vinegar, you can add a couple ounces of fresh lemon juice to zest up the trail.

Step #3. Turn your car off

Turn off everything in your car so that it will look like it’s in a resting mode. Flick all the switches to their respective “off” position - including the fans, AC, radio, engine and so on.

Driver touching the ignition

Turn off everything in your car

>>> Must read: Should you shut off the A/C before turning off your car’s engine?

Step #4. Spray your choice of disinfectant into your car

It’s now time to spray your choice of interior disinfectant. Whether you decided to use the all-natural disinfectant or the commercial aerosol type, you need to follow the application instructions below:

  • Get a mask so you don’t inhale the disinfectant. Inhaling the toxic ingredients of the spray may cause nausea, vomiting and stomach pains.
  • Close the doors and windows to make sure the disinfectant circulates and kills all the bad odors in your vehicle.
  • Get in the backseat and sit in the middle of the row so you are staring at the center of the front windshield directly.
  • Lean forward and start spraying at the side vents from the driver’s seat. Make sure you get some disinfectant right into the inside of the vents.

Man spraying the air-con of the car

Spray the central air conditioning system

  • Spray the central air conditioning system next, the one at the center console. Flip the vents so the disinfectant reaches inside.
  • Do the rest for the other vents in your car. If your vehicle is a sedan, then our best guess is that it may have three sets of vents for the air conditioner. If you have a larger vehicle such as an SUV or a Crossover, then you may need to spray four or five sets of air conditioner vents.
  • After you’re done spraying, the smell of your chosen disinfectant may start penetrating your mask. Simply open the rear door right next to where you are sitting and exit. Make sure you close the door after you leave so the disinfectant seeps in the vents to eliminate the source of bad odors.

>>> Learn more tips about car air-conditioning system maintenance:

Step #5. Turn on your car engine

After at least 40 minutes of spraying your car interior with disinfectant, you can now safely enter the vehicle and then turn on the engine. Switch your air conditioner on and make sure the fans are blasting at full power.

The air will then start to circulate inside your vehicle and you may start to smell the stench of the disinfectant again.This is the residue of the product you used that settled inside the vents. Let the fans blow it for a couple of minutes.

Man turning the engine on

You can now safely enter the vehicle and then turn on the engine.

Step #6. Locate your vehicle’s re-circulation vent

Your car’s re-circulation vent should be fairly easy to find. It is usually located on the driver’s side of the floor. It should be right next to the console, but on some occasions, you can also find it near the trunk. Look for a small button that has an arrow pointing to a circle.

locate re-circulation vent

A small button that has an arrow pointing to a circle can locate your vehicle’s re-circulation vent

This will set your car to stop air intake from the outside and recycle the air from the inside of the car instead. Press this button once you find it and then take your spray bottle and give the re-circulating vent a few spritzes of your chosen disinfectant. This will ensure that no bad odor remains in the system and that the vents are all clean.

Step #7. Set your AC’s fan to full mode

The purpose of your AC is to make cooler air but at this moment, you would need more air. So turn your AC fan to max mode once more so the disinfectant formula circulates in your car and kills off any of the remaining bad stenches.

This is also an effective way to prevent any unwanted moisture from entering and developing in your car while you clean it out.

AC fan at full mode

Turn your AC fan to max mode

Step #8. Finishing touches

Turn on your car engine and keep it on idle for 5 minutes with all the car doors open. Turn the air conditioner off and keep the fans on. Let it stay in this condition for at least 5 minutes. This will be the final drying procedure that will prevent mildew and mold formation and developing a musky stench.

>>> Read more useful tips and advice on car maintenance at Philkotse.com

Hanna Sanchez

Hanna Sanchez


Hanna is one of the most competitive swimmers in the country during her day. It was not long before she discovered her passion for the automotive industry as well. Nowadays, she balances her passion through writing as well as coaching.

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