There are many different ways to eradicate odors from the inside of a vehicle. The following terms are used to identify these different procedures and the different types of products used to treat relatively simple odor problems:
• Maskers: As the name implies, these products mask odors. They are fragrances or deodorants that overwhelm the malodor. They can be used as the final step in the odor eradication process or as a temporary measure.
• Distorters: These products work on the theory that molecules causing the odor can be distorted in such a way that they are no longer detected by the human brain.
• Odor eliminators: An odor eliminator does not mask or distort odors. Instead it is designed to attack the molecules and odor-causing bacteria causing the malodor. In some cases it can be sprayed directly on the problem area; in others it is mixed with a cleaning solution and then applied to the area.
Whichever process is used, the first step in eradicating an odor from the inside of a car is to locate its source. If it is a spill or a stain on the carpet, for instance, finding the source may be very easy. In many of these cases, properly applying an all-purpose cleaning chemical, possibly a disinfectant, and/or an odor eliminator to the area and allowing it to air dry will be enough to eliminate the problem.
A similar procedure can also work to eliminate cigarette and cigar odors; however, locating the actual source of the odor may prove to be impossible. Because of this, you need to clean all surface areas that might be permeated with the cigarette or cigar smoke, including the dashboard, the carpet, and all leather and vinyl areas.
Charlie Marinella is head of the auto care division at U.S. Products, a leading manufacturer of professional carpet, floor, restoration, and auto care products.