So, your sunroof or trunk seals leaked a bit and now you have a bit of mold in your car. Or, perhaps a water bottle leaked and went un-noticed for a few weeks. Or, maybe you bought a car for your kids (or to flip) and it has some green stuff inside.
Never fear, you can get the mold and smell gone - safely. You may even have everything you need to do this.
We’ll walk you through an inexpensive and practical way to safely eliminate mold - and future mold spores - in your vehicle. While there are a number of steps here, the process is pretty quick and easy.
If your car is inundated with mold, please know that your procedure to remedy this may need to be more intense. This is geared towards mild to moderate cases. If the interior is 100% coated, you may want to consider replacing some things as the mold may be hard to eliminate. We recommend talking with a professional detailer for this.
Wear a mask (ideally with a filter), nitrile gloves, eye protection, long pants and long sleeve shirt (to wash immediately after).
Put your safety gear on, then park your vehicle in a sunny spot and open all the windows and doors. Remove any items from the car – floor mats, and all the loose stuff in your doors and console.
Follow directions for your vehicle and remove your cabin filter. Don’t replace it yet, just remove it.
With your vinegar spray bottle, soak the areas where it is moldy. Also spray a few inches around them to address any spores you may not see. Allow to set for at least 10 minutes. Keep the area wet if it’s very hot outside. Vinegar is safe for leather, fabric, vinyl and other materials. Be careful if using it on alcantara or suede. For leather, you’ll want to condition it afterwards so it doesn’t dry out (step 16).
Thoroughly vacuum the entire car, as well as your floor mats that you removed.
Allow 10 minutes or more to dry.
Sprinkle borax over the previous mold spots, and let sit for 5 minutes. Then vacuum it up thoroughly.
Spray vinegar on your microfiber towel or detail brush, then apply to all of your car vents.
Using a 10:1 APC mixture, spray on your microfiber and clean your upholstery, dash, console and doors. Wipe away with another microfiber. Use detail brushes for hard to reach spots.
Your carpet floors and mats could use a good super cleaning right now. Liberally spray 4:1 APC (or your favorite carpet cleaner) on the floors and mats (one at a time). Use your drill brush to thoroughly and carefully agitate the carpets. Wipe clean and dry with a microfiber.
If you have access to a dry steam cleaner, now is a great time to use it. Steam every surface and wipe clean with a microfiber. Also, steam your vents thoroughly – this will sanitize your HVAC system. We love the Chief Steamers. If you don't want to buy one yet, you can likely rent one at your local hardware store.
Put the new cabin filter in now that your car is clean.
Lightly sprinkle baking soda on the upholstery and carpets. Place a dyer sheet on each seat and carpet area too. Let this sit overnight, ideally with the windows down in a garaged area. If you have to close the windows and leave outside – it will be okay too. Work with what you have.
Do one more vacuum of the car. If you have a leather interior you can condition it now . You may also want to use a UV-protectant interior detail spray (optional). Now, replace your belongings and floor mats.
After this process, monitor these areas to make sure the mold doesn’t come back. If it has gone to the seat cushions, you will have to have them replaced. Many auto shops can do this, without the need to replace your entire seat.
Congratulations on making your car safe, clean and refreshed!
If you have fun detailing your own vehicles, check out our detail side hustle course. We show you a proven way to easily make $900-$2k a month, and still have time for friends, family and your full-time career.
Chris has worked in tech for 30 years, and healthcare tech for 8 of those. He's on the advisory board of Harvard-Based Think:Kids, and runs Rad Dad Rules. He is the proud Dad of two awesome kids, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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