You left your windows open in a heavy downpour. You didn’t properly secure the lid on that nearly-full water bottle. There are any number of ways to expose your car’s interior to water damage. And if that water isn’t properly dried, wild mold growth isn’t far behind.
Mold thrives in a dark, damp, warm environment. Moisture is the real key, so keeping your car dry and freshly aerated means staying mold-free. If, by accident, you end up with water in your car, and you start to smell that tell-tale musty, moldy smell, there are a number of ways to kill the mold growth.
Let the Sun Shine In
The first and best thing to do is to get your car out of the garage, and parked in a nice, sunny spot. Open all the windows, the sunroof (if you have one), and the doors, and let mother nature air-dry your vehicle. Sunshine and a fresh breeze work wonders.
It’s worth noting that certain molds can be detrimental to your health if inhaled. If you have a very serious mold issue in your car, it’s worth wearing rubber gloves and an appropriate face mask to prevent contact and inhalation. If you have a mild case, all you’ll need is a stiff-bristle brush for cloth upholstery, clean rags for leather or vinyl, some white vinegar, a spray bottle, and some disinfectant spray.
Tackling the Issue
First, fill that spray bottle with vinegar. When your goal is to kill mold, you don’t need to dilute the vinegar. Test the vinegar on an out-of-sight portion of the fabric, just to make sure nothing reacts badly. If it passes the spray-test, spray the moldy area with your vinegar. Don’t be afraid to really saturate this visibly contaminated area. Continue spraying the white vinegar until you cover about a foot outside the visible mold section. It’s possible to have spores growing even if they aren’t yet visible, so hit those surrounding areas just in case. Let the vinegar soak for a while. Ten to twenty minutes usually does the trick.
If you have cloth seats, take that bristle brush and scrub thoroughly until all the mold comes out. This could take a few tries, so don’t be afraid to soak the area with vinegar a second or third time and keep scrubbing. Once you have the mold taken care of, take your disinfecting spray and apply it to the once-infected area. This spray will kill what is left of the mold, and will help prevent future spore growth.
If you have leather or vinyl seats, you won’t have to scrub with the brush. Instead, apply the vinegar to the infection site and surrounding areas and let it sit for ten to twenty minutes. Then take a clean rag and wipe the mold away. Like the cloth seats, you may need to reapply the vinegar and wipe it down a second or third time. You should spray the cleaned areas with disinfectant spray.
Keep letting the car air-out and dry out in the sun. The vinegar smell will dissipate, and your car should be free of funky smells in a few days. Back to clean air driving for you! Enjoy your freshly mold-free car.
Lingering Mold Smell
A persistent mold smell means you’ve missed some mold. Check under the seats and check your floor mats. If there is no apparent mold growth, your best bet is to consult a professional. The smells means there could be mold hiding in a tough-to-reach spot, and you don’t want that going untended.