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How do I clean spilled milk out of my back seat?

Back in September 2010 one of my friends left chocolate milk in my car and I had no idea that she had left it in my back seat. The milk then exploded when I went to class and had to park in the sun. I took it to a car wash where I knew a friend and they cleaned the seat and scrubbed it, but it still did not solve my problem. I also tried to use a mini Bissell carpet cleaner. It worked and got a bunch of the milk out, but I still smelt the spoiled milk. As time went on the smell kind of went away, but now that it’s April and it’s starting to get warm again the smell is slowly starting to appear again. I can’t afford to get it detailed because I am a college student with no money. I’m not at all sure what to do now that the stain has been there for awhile. Please help me figure out what to do. I can’t buy a new car so please don’t suggest that.

Get a cat.

Seriously, take it to a car detailing shop and they will take care of it.

Around how much does that cost? I’m very tight on budget.

Detailing your car would probably cost you in the neighborhood of $100 or more, and may not help much, if at all. Your cheapest route will probably be to visit a salvage yard to find another Saturn of the same vintage with the same color interior and buy the back seat, or just the seat bottom if the back was not affected. If in doubt, get both. Replacement of either or both is simple with basic hand tools. The people at the salvage yard can explain to you how to swap them out. Should take less than 20 minutes to do the job, if replacing back and bottom. Five minutes if just replacing the bottom. Your current back seat belongs in a dumpster because that milk smell will probably never go away.

Some shops will give you an interior only package for $50 or so. That said, Mark called it - detailing is not guaranteed to get the smell out. It had a long time to soak deep into the cushion, and the likelihood that anything short of replacement will get it all out is pretty remote.

What Mark Said.
Also, clean the floor underneath (as suggested by Caddyman), when the seat cusions are removed, with a good cleaning solution.


I also vote for replacement from a salvage yard. I suspect cleaning will never get it all out.

Without serious dis-assembly you may never get it out.
It has soaked deep into the foam within the upholstery.
Cleaning solutions wetting from the surface will never soak deep in AND be able to be sucked out good enough.

The upholstery will need to come off the seat, turned inside out and cleaned from within.
If you’re a good DIY it can be done with simple tools and a carpet ar shop vacuum. AND lots of time, like all day Sunday to do it.
If you 're paying someone to do it, realize it’s a time intensive job and will cost accordingly ( ask for estimates )
– how time consuming ?

  • The seat base gets removed from the car.
  • The seat backs too if the milk splashed there.
  • Upside down on a work table, the hog rings and other retainers are removed to be able to “un-dress” the seat frame. The upholstery comes off, much like a tight fitting sweater, and is flipped inside out to expose the foam.
  • Now hot cleaning solution is soaked in and vacuumed out. Possibly many, MANY different times. Use HOT water for better disolving of the dried milk.
  • The ‘good’ side is cleaned again too and air dried.
  • The seat springs/frame get cleaned.
  • The floor and carpet previously hidden under the seat gets cleaned too.
  • When dry the upholstery is re-fitted over the frame and hog ringed back in place.
  • the seat base is re-installed in the car.

It’s a lot of work.
The achilles heel here ? Yours exploded. You may be cleaning headliner, front seat backs, door panels etc.

I did mine ( just a spill ) myself with a shop vac that’ll “suck a golf ball through a garden hose”. This being an advantage over a carpet cleaner to really get the deep down sucked back out.

Why was Caddyman’s original post deleted?? Now you see it, Puff, now you don’t…

Now I see one in the duplicate post “spilled milk on back seat”.
Is that the same one, or did you post in both ?

Thanks ken, I didn’t notice there were two threads going…

If I’m curt with you it’s because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get out of this. So, pretty please…

Leaving aside the question of whether “exploding chocolate milk” is code for “accidentally shot Marvin” and keeping in mind that you’re a bachelor on a budget, your best move is Chlorox. It’ll go anywhere the milk went. Do it outdoors and leave the windows rolled down. There will be a lingering chlorine smell but that will pass.

Also, there’s a product you can get at drug stores that’s marketed as “two drops deodorize a skunk” and I’ve found it pretty effective.

Remove back seat when two sunny, warm days are forcasted. Hose the heck out of it and let dry in sunlight. If not dry enough, put it outside the next day. Turn it over after a few hours.

Method 2. Have an auto upholsterer make a new seat cover.

The ONLY thing that will work is replacing the seat and thoroughly cleaning the area underneath it…The bottom edge of the seat-back is going to need some attention too…Spoiled milk is the worst of the worst…Humans can detect the oder in the parts per billion range…

“…Spoiled milk is the worst of the worst…”

You may be correct, but when I managed a body shop we had a fairly new car that was involved in a collision that sat out back for a few weeks in the summer sun with windows closed and doors locked, waiting for parts or an adjuster or something.

On the way to the collision the car was carrying groceries from a market run. I think what really made this car stand out, smell-wise, wasn’t just the spoiling cabbage that was turning into some sort of liquid substance, but the shattered unopened, large, super-jumbo-sized jar of Hellman’s Mayonaise ! Who knows though, really ? It was kind of a toss-up, literally.

That car was pushed into the shop and was undrivable coming out of the heated paint booth after being repaired and painted. That booth made some cars stink that didn’t even smell that bad until the were baked for a while.


How can I stop posting like this??