Autoblog may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability are subject to change.
When you first get a new car, it comes with the intoxicating and highly desirable “new car smell” (though it’s true those odors are often the product of chemicals used in vehicle construction). Over time, pets, food, kids, and even normal use can leave behind strong odors that are hard to shake. The good news is that there are several excellent car air fresheners that offer much more effective odor elimination and control than the old-school green pine tree you had hanging on your rearview mirror in high school.
Febreze Gain Car Air Fresheners
Febreze built its house on eliminating odors, so it’s no surprise that its Vent Clip air fresheners are among the best products to freshen up your car. They’re available in various scents, last a long time, and stay out of the way thanks to the easy-to-use clip. People note that the scents aren’t overpowering, and most say that the scents are true to their names.
The company claims up to 40 days of use from the clips, but many reviewers state that they were able to get up to two months of scent before they ran out. If you’re a person that enjoys more subtle smells, the Febreze Vent Clips offer adjustable output settings that let you dial in the level of aroma.
Niyikow Nature Fresh Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bags
This isn’t a spray or a scented pine tree to hang on your mirror. This is a bamboo bag filled with charcoal. Seriously. The charcoal in these bags absorbs odors, moisture, and other particles in the air. Leave one under the seat of your car, and people say it’ll be odor-free within a week. There are no chemicals and no scents, so the only thing you should notice using these bags is less odor overall.
The company says the activated charcoal in each bag is potent enough to last for up to two years and recommends placing it in direct sunlight for a few hours each month to “rejuvenate the charcoal block’s filtration capabilities.” Many buyers say they replace their bags more frequently than the company recommends, but even if they only last a year, that’s a significant value upgrade over traditional air fresheners.
Chemical Guys New Car Smell Spray
“New car smell” air fresheners are hit or miss, but Chemical Guys seems to have nailed the formula. The brand’s air freshener spray has tens of thousands of mostly positive reviews, and the company says its enzymatic formulation Eliminates odors instead of covering them up. Chemical Guys says the spray is concentrated and can be diluted, but many say it works best straight out of the bottle. That said, there’s a fine line between too much and too little here, as people sometimes say they’ve overdone it, and many say the aroma faded after just a couple of days.
Sometimes, the best option available is the one that’s easy to get. You’ll find Scent Bomb air freshener sprays at all kinds of car parts stores, hardware stores, and gas stations all around the country. Scent Bomb offers more than just sprays, too, with scent cans, vent clips and little circles that hang from the rearview mirror. The brand also offers an odor eliminator product. Pretty much all of Scent Bomb’s fresheners get good reviews, and they offer a lot of different scents.
Things to consider
We’re not asking you to over-analyze your car air freshener purchase. We just want you to keep a few things in mind.
No matter what you’ve heard, no car air freshener can replicate the smell of a brand-new car interior. Automakers use many different materials, chemicals, and adhesives to build cars, and each brand is unique. Car companies also employ teams of engineers to focus on details like the interior scent, so it’s unlikely that an air freshener company could match the effort. Just pick a scent that smells good to you and don’t try to reclaim your car’s glory days.
Type of air freshener
Most air fresheners are small and easy to hide, but some have to be installed in air vents and other easily visible places in the cabin. Think about how the air freshener will look once you place it in the car, especially if it’s stuck in the air vent or hanging from the rearview mirror.
This also impacts how well an air freshener works in your car. Sprays and other liquid products work well but don’t last as long as “hard” air fresheners. If your car has leather, suede/Alcantara, or other unique upholstery, you may not be able to use spray or liquid products because they can stain and discolor some materials.
The strength of an air freshener should be directly correlated with the size of the space it’s used in. For example, it takes far less air freshener in a Mazda Miata than it does in a Ford Expedition. If you want a super intense aroma and don’t mind that burning sensation in your eyes, feel free to go heavy on the scent. In most cases, though, it’s best to choose an air freshener that is just strong enough for the size of your car.
Clean your interior
No amount of air freshener is going to cover up a giant mess in your car. Leaving food and drinks, dirty clothes, and other junk in your interior will make it stink, and an air freshener isn’t going to fix it. Instead of temporarily masking the odor or worse, creating a new good-bad-weird super-scent, clean out your car before you start spraying or hanging an air freshener. You might be surprised to learn that the smell goes away or is drastically reduced with a simple cleaning.
Cover it up
Car seat covers and protective gear aren’t the most attractive interior upgrades, but they can be a big help with preventing odors and stains. If you frequently carry pets, kids, or messy cargo, investing in a seat cover or cargo tray can help prevent lingering smells inside your car. It’s a lot easier to take a seat cover out for washing than it is to try scrubbing a smell out of a car seat.
Frequently asked questions
Do used car dealers use scents in their vehicles?
Many do, especially if there’s something off inside. A company called Original Factory Scent makes a product it claims helps sell more used cars by bringing back “that new car smell.”
Can I make my own car air freshener?
You can! There are dozens of “recipes” for car air fresheners online, many of which use everyday household products and ingredients you probably already have.
Do car air fresheners actually work?
They do! Even so, you’ll likely see the best results with an enzyme freshener like Febreze or Chemical Guys’ New Car Smell. Eliminating odors is better than covering them up with a strong scent.
Can I spray Febreze into my car?
Yes. It’s best to spray into the air, however. Don’t spray the freshener onto seats, leather, or other surfaces without first making sure it won’t stain or discolor the material.