How to remove the smell of bug repellent from inside my car

Over a month ago while cleaning my car, I noticed a can of bug spray that was either in the glove compartment or middle arm rest, was leaking. Ever since it’s been a chore to find out exactly where the smell is coming from and to remove it. It seems to be more prevalent when the heat is on. I’ve tried the following solutions on the seats, carpet, inside the glove box, and arm rest, to no avail and I’m looking for additional ideas:

  • Leather cleaner
  • Mixture of white vinegar and water
  • Air freshener
  • Onion
  • Activated charcoal bags

Try ammonia in a shallow pan with a handful of cotton balls soaking in the pan. Let it sit in the sun with the windows rolled up for a day or 2.

If that doesn’t get it all, try Ozium spray, available most hardware stores.

That spray has been used in the embalming room of funeral parlors for decades, and they wouldn’t use it if it didn’t work to remove odors. It actually neutralizes odors, rather than simply masking them. Ozium became more widely-popular in the '70s, to remove the odor of certain “herbs” that had been smoked in a car.


How much leaked, and where, exactly? Unless you can find out where it leaked, and clean up the majority of the spill, it’ll be hard to get rid of the odor.

Yes. You might have to identify just where it soaked in, and replace those parts. Auto recycler is your friend there.

Take the car to a professional detailer

I once owned a car driven by a heavy smoker. It was out of season to drive with the windows open, so my wife put two of those clothes dryer pads under the front seats. It gradually got rid of the smoke smell.

Yes, that would probably work–over time. However, speaking as someone with asthma, being in that enclosed space with two dryer sheets would cause me to need my rescue inhaler. For someone w/o respiratory problems, it is a good idea, but for many others it would cause breathing problems.

I have found that cleaning up the spill with soap and water to be effective, you can’t do that with an onion.