How To Destankify Your Car Cheaply And Without Chemicals

Sometimes you find the perfect vehicle, but the interior leaves a little bit to be desired. Mint interiors where the previous owner smoked like a chimney. Project cars that must've sat in a swamp for the past ten years. You know...the stank. Fortunately, reducing the amount of odor is fairly simple and doesn't have to involve any of those stupid little cardboard trees.

I have had the misfortune of being stuck with several stinkers over the years, the most recent of which being a 944 that smells like musty farts. Since I'd rather sell the reusable interior parts to a Porschochist in need, I turned to the one odor control solution that has always worked best: citrus.

Step 1: Acquire fruit.

How To Destankify Your Car Cheaply And Without Chemicals

Nope –I'm not just suggesting this because I've got a grody LeMons car. I've tried pretty much anything you can think of: scented pots, fancy sprays, hanging air fresheners. The only other thing that ever came close was a can of spray specifically meant for smoke smell that a neighbor gave me after I accidentally lit my kitchen on fire. I tried it on a stinky Altima that used to be a smoker's car and it helped a little.

Word of advice: don't catch your kitchen on fire.

I can't remember what spray that was, either, but honestly, it's a lot cheaper to skip all the fancy sprays and rear-view mirror/aircon-vent-mounted baubles and go grocery shopping.

How To Destankify Your Car Cheaply And Without Chemicals

Look for fruits with tough skins, like limes, oranges and lemons. Personally, I like oranges—especially the little clementines. The orange scent is really strong when you peel them, and that sort of makes up for the hanging cherry air freshener that you've probably given up on by now.

Step 2: Eat the fruit—but keep the peels.

How To Destankify Your Car Cheaply And Without Chemicals

80s car? Time for an 80s TV tray.

While my preference is to peel and eat 'em directly, this is where you could get creative:

  • Kolache filling
  • Cake
  • Marmalade
  • Old fashioneds
  • Orange chicken (That has actual oranges in it, right?)

...and I'm not much help here since my attempts at cooking tend to result in me losing my apartment deposit. I generally try to avoid the kitchen because I don't understand it. Put orange slices in mouth, done.

Or maybe put them on ice cream first. Creamsicles rule, so the addition of fresh oranges to vanilla Blue Bell seems like a good idea.

The important part is to hold on to those peels. Put them into a plastic container (such as a Ziploc baggie or a small piece of Tupperware) that you can easily put somewhere else.

One word of advice: since they are technically bits of foodstuff, remember to vent the container that you're using. First of all, you want the orange peels to cancel out and absorb the stank in your car, so they need to remain exposed to the air in your smelly vehicle.

Secondly, when I tried this with a closed bag full of orange peels, they molded really quickly. I guess the extra heat of a closed bag combined with the moisture from the oranges made a nice little breeding ground for mold. Granted, you're using a plastic container so that any perishable chunks won't mold on your car's interior, but it's better if you leave the container partially open for this reason.

Step 3: Place container of peels in stanky car.

How To Destankify Your Car Cheaply And Without Chemicals

If your car is stationary, you really don't have to worry about tipping them over or anything—just put them in a dry location where the orange peels won't be making direct contact with anything important.

How To Destankify Your Car Cheaply And Without Chemicals

Like here.

However, if your smelly vehicle actually runs and gets regular use, you will probably want to stick the orange peels in a location where they are unlikely to tip over and touch your car's interior. Small compartments like consoles and ashtrays work well for this. Ashtrays smell a whole lot better when they're full of orange peels than they do when they're used for their intended purpose, anyway.

This has worked so well in my cars that I'm testing out a bowl of orange peels next to the interior pieces I've pulled and brought into my apartment.

How To Destankify Your Car Cheaply And Without Chemicals

Another word of advice: chicks dig it when your place doesn't smell like a Miata that's been left out in the rain with its top down.

Since I'm required to dig my own space, I couldn't have the pile of 944 offal overwhelming my nose every time I walked in. Scented candles worked as long as they were lit, but it went right back to Stank-ville every time they weren't.

Let's be honest – when your dinner table and a large chunk of your floor is covered in car parts (anyone want a tape deck? haha), adding a bowl full of orange peels won't exactly ruin the look.

So far, it's working. Orange peels: 2, 944 stank: 0.