7 Very Simple Ways To Get Smells Out Of Leather Car Seats

The beautiful luxurious look and the lush feel of leather car seats are always priceless until the leather car seat begins to stink up the whole car.

Well, there is no need to spend too much cash on some fancy interior car detailers as there are many simple and easy ways to get rid of the unpleasant odor!

So, how do you get the smell out of leather car seats? Here are 7 excellent ways to get the smell out of leather car seats:

  1. The Vinegar Method
  2. The Baking Soda Method
  3. The Charcoal Briquettes Method
  4. Using Silica Gel
  5. Use Air Freshener
  6. Using Car Odor Eliminator & AC System Cleaner
  7. Hire A Professional

Now that we know the methods we can use to cure our leather seats from bad odors and smells, let’s go into the details on how to execute each one of these methods.

But before we head over to the details, let’s first of all, look at the effects smells have. It’s more or less like I want us to find some extra motivation to kick out those the smells from leather car seats.

How Does Smells From Leather Seats Affect Us

The effects of the smells from your leather car seats go beyond how embarrassing you get when you have passengers on board or the awful smell that creeps in and out while you drive.

Here’s what’s really going on with all that funky smells you have coming from your leather car seats.

Migraines and Headaches:

It’s been clinically proven that most or almost 50% of those who severely suffer from migraines normally get sensitivity to bad smells or can have their migraines being triggered by smells.

The car is a small extension of our homes, we tend to spend a bit of time in there as we commute each day to and from the house.  

And so it’s such a bad idea to have smells longer on our car leather seats and car interior as a whole.

Nausea and Vomiting:

The awful smell from your leather car seats may cause all manner of allergic reactions including nausea and vomiting – especially for people who are sensitive to unpleasant scents and foul odors. 

It may probably not be you who’s going to be affected by the smell from the leather car seats as most car owners will 9 out of 10 be used to the nasty smells and may not even notice its presence.

Usually, it’s going to be a family member or an innocent neighbor who decides to carpool with you to work that will get hit by the funky little smell – causing them to have a really bad rest of the day.

Affecting mood, anxiety and stress levels:

Let’s leave science out this time. You and I know how terrible we feel when we are around bad smells and how our moods tend to lighten when there are beautiful smells all around us.

There’s a lot of clinical reports that show good smell can help to alleviate anxiety, stress and even help with insomnia – while the opposite is also true, as a bad smell can increase anxiety and stress levels.

If you have always wondered why your mood is always all over the place after your drive to or from home, then there you go. If you didn’t know, now you know!

It’s such a bummer if you’re going to allow your smelly car leather seats to after your mood this way.


It’s common knowledge that bad smells from the leather care seats or anything around us can be very uncomfortable.

Just as funky smells are bad for us psychologically and emotionally, it’s can also build up and cause some physical discomfort such as breathing, coughs, and sometimes instigate flu.

Details On How To Get Smells Out of Leather Car Seats

Removing the bad smell from your leather car seats can be very easy if you know what you’re doing. Here are the 7 best ways to remove bad smell from leather car seats.

But first, one important thing I will highly recommend you do before going ahead to apply any of these methods is to clean the leather car seats with a leather cleaner. There are 2 ways to clean leather car seats.

If your leather car seats have been cleaned recently and do not need any serious cleaning, you can simply use leather cleaning wipes to wipe down the entire leather seats.

However, if your car leather seats haven’t hitherto seen any cleaning then this will be a good time to clean and deodorize your leather car seats.

Cleaning Leather Car Seats Before Deodorizing It

Step 1: Dust off with a brush or vacuum clean the leather car seat. This will help to remove any form of loose dust, dirt, or debris.

Step 2: Clean the leather car seat with a good leather cleaner. Follow the instructions indicated on the leather cleaner you choose.

Step 3: After cleaning, leave the leather car seat to air dry.

Cleaning the leather first will help to remove any grease or dirt trapped in the leather and will help to open up the pores so that whatever method I have recommended in this article will be properly absorbed to help remove the bad smell from your car leather seats.

1. The Vinegar Method

White Vinegar contains high amounts of acid that can help to kick out bacteria that easily causes smells on leather.

The high acidic content of vinegar makes it perfect for dealing with bacteria causing molds, mildew, etc.

Although the leather often used for car interiors are highly finished so it’s resistant to stains and anything that might mar its look and durability, it will still retain some level of porosity and the ability to absorb moisture and smells whether good or bad.

This is why this method will be effective at removing the bad smells from your leather car seats.

There are a couple of ways to apply this method, here’s how you go about it.

Things Needed:

  • White vinegar
  • Microfiber Cloth
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Bowl


Vinegar Method 1: One method of applying the vinegar method is by simply leaving a jar or bowl of vinegar open in the car overnight.

No potent or strong smells on your leather car seats will be able to linger on as the leather will absorb the smell of the vinegar to replace the bad odor it had before.

You can repeat this 2 or 3 times. Just ensure you leave a good amount of time for the smell of the vinegar to completely absorb into the leather.

Vinegar Method 2: Another way is to use a solution of white vinegar and water to clean the leather car seats instead of using a leather cleaner.

You can mix the solution in a spray bottle and put a little squirt on the leather and use a microfiber cloth to work it into the leather and also buff off the solution.

Although this will leave behind a strong vinegar smell, this would have successfully removed the foul smell that was there before.

This does not mean the interior of your car is going to remain with the pungent vinegar smell for the rest of your life.

The strong vinegar smell you will initially have will eventually fade away in a couple of days leaving behind a nice neutral leathery smell that you’re going to absolutely love.

2. The Baking Soda Method

When it comes to neutralizing and removing smells and doors from leather items in general, sodium bicarbonate commonly known as baking soda stands tall. 

Here’s how you will be able to use Baking soda to remove the bad smell from your leather car seats.

Baking Soda Method 1:

Things You Needed:

  • Baking Soda
  • Vacuum cleaner or soft brush
  • Clean Cloth or towel


Step 1: Sprinkle a light layer of baking soda on the surface of your leather car seats.

Step 2: Leave the baking soda to sit on the leather overnight so that it can slowly absorb the smell.  

Step 3: With the help of a vacuum machine, remove the baking soda residue from the leather.

Not only will this remove the bad smell from your leather, but it will also take care of any stubborn liquid or grease stain from your leather.

Step 4: Use a dampened cloth to wipe the surface of your leather car seats to remove any remaining residue.

You can rinse out your cloth and wipe again until all the baking soda is gone.

Baking Soda Method 2:

Just like the vinegar method, you can also do a less invasive approach to deodorizing your leather car seats.

This method is a perfect natural air deodorizer.

Things Needed:

  • Containers (perforated preferred)
  • Baking Soda


Step 1: Put a good amount of baking soda in 2 or 3 containers (you can fill it up if you want) and leave the top opened.

If the containers have any additional perforations it will be great.

Step 2: Place the containers filled with the baking soda on the car seats. You can put one on the front seat and the others on the back seat.

Step 3: Allow the smell on the leather car seats to be absorbed by the baking soda.

Using the baking soda technique is one of the best solutions to remove smells caused by vomit on leather car seats.

The baking soda method doesn’t only remove the stains, it also removes the disgusting smell it leaves on the leather car seat

This alkaline powder has some effective abrasive qualities which make it tough on smell caused by mildew from your car AC which can easily be absorbed and spread.

3. The Charcoal Briquettes Method

Using activated charcoal briquettes is a domestic method that helps to effectively remove and eliminates toxins-causing sells.

Leaving charcoal briquettes in your car will eventually absorb all the bad smells from your leather car seats and leave the seats and the whole interior fresh smelling.

A bag of charcoal briquettes is highly porous and contains abilities that will filter the bad air lingering in the car resulting in smells.

It may seem like a weird thing to do but it’s surprisingly effective.

There’s a lot of charcoal briquettes application in many water and air filters all over the world. So how do you use it to remove smells from leather car seats?

Things Needed:

  • Charcoal (usual charcoal you use for your barbecue)


Step 1: Re-energize the charcoal pieces by placing them on the sun for a couple of minutes, an hour tops)

Step 2: Put or re-bag a few ounces of charcoal into a perforated jar or simply perforate the bag the charcoal briquettes came with.

Step 3:  Now leave the perforated bag of charcoal in your gloves compartment or trunk of your car. Let it sit in there for as long as you can so that the bad smells on the leather is gradually absorbed and neutralized.

You can leave the charcoal bag in your car even as you drive around town. As you drive, the charcoal will help your car interior to be aired out for a nice refreshing smell.

Using charcoal in removing smell also comes with some added bonus. The charcoal will also help to remove molds and mildews from your leather car seats.

This way of removing smell from leather car seats is also cost-effective as charcoal is not the most expensive thing to buy.

You will be able to pick out a few from your barbecue grill if you bbq quite often.

And whatever charcoal you use can be left in the car to continually remove bad smell for up to 2 years. That’s amazing!.

Now a couple of pointers when it comes to using charcoal briquettes.

  • Stick to just cutting holes in the container and allowing the charcoal to do its work of absorbing and neutralizing smell in leather car seats.
  • Do Not grind the charcoal and put it on your leather car seats even if your car seats are black.
  • Do Not spill or shake the bag containing the briquette on the leather as it can easily leave black stains on your expensive leather car seats.
  • The best practice is to get the charcoal activated and leave it in the glove, trunk area, or under your leather car seats and the yucky leather smells in your car will gradually fade away.

4. Using Silica Gel

Most smells from leather car seats are caused by moisture from accidental spills and splashes.

Silica gel beads are able to absorb moisture on the leather surface and corners of leather car seats which causes the smell.

Sodium silicate is what silica gel is made of. This substance is known for its capacity to keep leather from contamination – as this is one way a leather car seat or items will smell.

Molds and sometimes spores which appear especially on leather car seats because of how the car doors are left closed for a long period of time.

These can be removed by using silica gels so the tendency for it to create smell and odor is taken off.

Silica is an effective moisture removing substance, so when it’s kept on the sides of leather seats, the moisture on the seats will be removed.

This will then take care of any bacteria which feeds on moisture that leaves smells – this then automatically removes smells from the leather.

However, it’s important to note that there are some toxins contained in silica gel that makes it poisonous and so must be kept away from kids and pets.

5. The Air-Freshener Method

Mold, mildew, smoking, spills, sweat, and dirt are among the most common causes of smells. On leather car seats.

This will particularly happen if these smell causing agents are not masked or removed. This is where a good air freshener comes in handy as one effective way of dealing with bad smells from the car leather seats.

As clearly mentioned above, leather retains some level of porosity and absorbency even though most of the leather materials used for car interiors are highly finished.

So because of this, your leather seats are going to absorb all the nice refreshing fragrance of the air-freshener you hang in your car while kicking out any form of sour or noxious smell.

So always keep a good air freshener to help mask the smell of the leather car seats until they are gone for good.

One important thing I must add is that do not mix different air-freshner fragrances as that too, instead of helping to fix the smell problem can further make it worse.

Also go for car air-fresheners that are natural smelling. If you do not want to purchase any ready-made air-fresheners, you can also use a container filled with ground coffee for to maintain a nice coffee smell.

You can also use citrus oils and mint to naturally deodorized and clean the air in your car. This will remove any lingering odors or smell produced by the leather seats.

6. Using Car Odor Eliminator & AC System Cleaner

There are AC systems cleaners which when sprayed into the exterior car vents will easily eliminate all lingering smells or odors which usually causes odors on car leather seats and the car interior as a whole.

For the AC system cleaner to work well, the AC must be turned on for it to properly diffuse through the vents to remove the bad smell.

You can also spray car odor eliminators into vents to take off smoking smells which when allowed to linger on can be absorbed into your leather car seats to worsen the smell.

7. Hire A Cleaning Professional

The last but not the least is hiring a professional to do the job for you. This is a great alternative if you have some money to spend and have very little time to do for yourself.

Or if you have some stubborn smells on your leather car seats, consulting a professional may be the best way to deal with the problem.

A professional leather detailer will be able to eliminate smells within a couple of hours and save you a lot of time and guesswork.

Although their work will be super fast and an easy task, it’s going to be a highly expensive option for removing smells from leather car seats.

Most professionals will come fully equipped with products that will do the just pretty good. Some other professionals will have some sort of secret “ingredients” or concoction that will leave your leather car seats smelling soo fresh.

Simple Tips To Prevent Smells From Leather Car Seats

There are a bunch of things you can do to prevent smells from your leather car seats, but the most important ones I will like to emphasize are cleaning your car seats regularly, using seat covers, and not smoking in your car.

  • Cleaning Your Car Interiors Regularly:

Frequently and thoroughly cleaning your car interiors and making sure the leather car seats, are kept clean will greatly help prevent conditions that build up to promote bad smells on your car leather seats.

  • Covering Your Leather Seats With Seat Covers:

This is a great way and a good investment that will safeguard your leather car seats from splashes and spills of water which will in turn cause molds and mildew smells on your leather seats.

  • Smoke Outside of Your Car:

If you have real leather seats installed, you would want to smoke as far away as possible from them. I know smoking is one of the most favorite things smokers love to do in their cars.

I always wonder how it feels to roll the glass down, with elbows out and simply cruising along. As fun and cool as this may always look, it one of the things that hurt car leather seats the most.

I know you might be asking, what if the glasses are completely down? This does help a little bit but doesn’t completely eliminate the chances of smoking getting on the leather.

  • Always Try to Figure out the Cause of The Smell

It’s important to know what’s causing the smell first before attempting to remove it. Usually, some smells may be very simple to deal with and may require a bit of lifestyle change to remove the smell.

For example, leaving food, empty food cans, and wrappers in the car or on the car leather seats.

So you would want to remove trash, dirt, and any other junk from your car seats and corners of the seats and vacuum to make sure nothing is left behind.

Clean Immediately:

There’s no better way to say this! Always clean any mess immediately when it occurs on your leather.


In this article, I showed you 7 Simple Ways to remove smells from your leather car seats.

So the next time you start dreading the thought of getting into your car because of the bad smell the leather car seats give your car interior, jump quickly unto one of the ways I have shared here, and fix the odor problem in quick simple steps.

I hope this post has been super helpful to you. Things for sticking around and see you in the next one! Cheers!!!


Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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