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Car Mold Removal Guide: Effective Steps to Clean Mold Out of Your Vehicle

Mold growing on a car steering wheel.

Mold spores can cause ill health if exposed to them for prolonged periods. So, it's best to learn how to remove mold before the worst happens.

You can get mold out of your car in several ways, such as using white vinegar and a spray bottle, a non-iodized salt solution, several drops of clove oil, or a bit of baking soda.

The ingredients clear surface mold and penetrate deeply into interior fabrics to eliminate the root cause and prevent regrowth.

In the following sections, we'll explore the various cleaning methods, mold growth causes, health implications, and more.

Table Of Contents [show]

    Mold growing on a car steering wheel.
    Mold growing on a car steering wheel.

    How Do You Get Mold Out Of Car Fabric?

    With the right equipment, ingredients, and a little bit of elbow grease, removing mold from your car interior isn't as hard as you may think.

    From white vinegar to clove oil, we go over the top mold removal solutions below:

    1) White Vinegar

    Distilled white vinegar works wonders on vehicle mold.

    Thanks to its acidic properties, it kills pesky mold spores and prevents them from returning.

    Vinager can be used to clean mold.
    Vinager can be used to clean mold.

    It's suitable for use on different car interior surfaces like vinyl and leather, provided you follow the recommended application instructions below:

    1. Dilute white distilled vinegar with water or use it straight for pervasive mold growth.
    2. Apply the mixture to the mold and mildew using a spray bottle or cloth.
    3. Gently scrub it.
    4. Leave it for around 20 minutes.
    5. Finally, use a wet-and-dry vacuum cleaner to get rid of the lifted surface mold.

    The pungent vinegar smell is a significant downside to this method.

    That said, it's relatively easy to eradicate by spritzing air freshener inside your car or opening the windows to let it disperse naturally.

    Mold can be cleaned with a salt solution to remove mold.
    Mold can be cleaned with a salt solution to remove mold.

    2) Non-Iodized Salt

    Saltwater solutions kill mold spores by dehydrating them. After all, mold growth can't happen without excess moisture.

    Here's how to use non-iodized salt to remove mold:

    1. Vacuum the affected area.
    2. Mix the salt into a bucket of water, ensuring it's concentrated enough.
    3. Use a spray bottle or sponge to spritz/dab the salt water onto the mold inside your car. Don't forget to apply it to the surrounding areas too. Otherwise, you may inadvertently miss some mold spores and encourage further growth.
    4. Sit your car in direct sunlight and let the surface dry. It will leave a powdery residue.
    5. Finish using a scrub brush and water to remove the leftover crust or a vacuum cleaner.

    Like white vinegar, there's a little disadvantage to this method of removing mold from your car — salt is pretty corrosive, potentially causing damage to leather seat covers.

    Not to mention you will have to deal with salt stains, meaning it isn't the best way to eliminate mold, but it will work if you're out of options.

    3) Clove Oil

    While clove oil is typically used to relieve digestive and tooth problems, it's a powerful antiseptic that makes it an expert at mold removal and prevention.

    The best part? You only need a few drops of clove oil (about ¼ teaspoon) for a liter of water!

    Follow the steps below to use this cleaning method:

    1. Vacuum the moldy areas first.
    2. Mix the clove oil solution using the ratio above.
    3. Apply a small amount to the mold growth.
    4. Leave it to dry.
    5. Clean the area, and you've successfully removed mold from your car!

    If you're suffering from extensive mold, mix clove oil with baking soda and apply it to the area with a toothbrush.

    Scrub vigorously and wipe it off when the surface dries.

    Baking soda can clean mold in your car.
    Baking soda can clean mold in your car.

    4) Baking Soda

    Baking soda boasts exceptional cleaning properties — and its mold removal abilities are no different.

    Plus, it's a fantastic air freshener, so what's not to love?

    Simply sprinkle the baking soda onto the mold in your car and leave it for 20 minutes.

    This kitchen staple absorbs moisture, leaving a powder that's easily vacuumed or wiped away.

    For even more robust results, make a baking soda and vinegar solution and use a spray bottle to apply it.

    Best Mold Remover For Car Interior?

    Aside from the vinegar smell, we dub white vinegar the best solution for cleaning mold!

    Just allow fresh air to circulate your car's interior by opening all the windows before going on a road trip.

    Car Detailing Mold Removal Cost?

    Professional interior car cleaning services can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 (and more), depending on the size of your vehicle.

    Generally, it's worth the money if you don't have time to remove mold yourself — and even if you do, a professional will have the perfect machines and chemicals to get rid of the mold in your entire car properly.

    Mold on car seats.
    Mold on car seats.

    Signs Of Mold In Car

    While it's easy to spot mold on the floor mats and other material surfaces in your car due to the discoloration, there are other early signs of mold growth to watch out for.

    Typically, you'll discover the presence of mold due to its scent.

    Often described as damp, earthy, and musty, the stench doesn't go away and instead worsens as the mold spores continue to multiply.

    Even opening your car windows won't get rid of the smell because you have to tackle the root cause — i.e., the mold inside your vehicle.

    Why Is Mold Growing In My Car?

    Most car owners don't expect to see mold in their vehicles. But unfortunately, the interior can create a perfect microclimate for fungus growth.

    Mold loves warm and moist spaces, which describes most untidy cars.

    And since it's airborne, it can infiltrate the air conditioning system and spread throughout your whole car very quickly.

    You can get mold in your car in various ways, including:

    • Opening the windows in damp weather
    • High humidity
    • Leaving wet fabrics on your seats (e.g., gym bags, jackets, shoes)
    • Flooding
    • Spilling liquid on the floor mats or seats
    • Leaving your car in a damp garage

    What Kind Of Mold Grows In Cars?

    Depending on the species of mold in your car, it will exhibit different colors and textures.

    The most common car interior mold types are:

    Green Mold

    This could be Cladosporium, Aspergillus, or Penicillium.

    It's normal to see this mold in your car or home.

    White Mold

    White mold can cause allergic reactions and other health problems if improperly handled.

    Black Mold

    Despite its alarming color, not all types of black mold are innately toxic.

    However, it's always best to clean it as soon as possible.

    Yellow Mold

    If you're exposed to yellow mold for a long time, it can pose health risks. It's certainly one to put on your watchlist.

    Is Mold In A Car Dangerous?

    Mold in your vehicle can be dangerous — you aren't just risking your car's health but your own.

    Car mold can cause a runny nose.
    Car mold can cause a runny nose.

    Mold spores are airborne, meaning exposure (especially over a prolonged period) can cause rashes, infections, or allergic reactions if inhaled or touched with bare skin.

    Car mold can cause:

    • Sneezing
    • Sore throat
    • Coughing
    • Runny nose or congestion
    • Fever
    • Asthma attacks (in those who already suffer from asthma)
    • Eyes, nose, lungs, throat, or skin irritation
    • Rashes
    • Headache
    • Fever

    In worst-case scenarios, exposure can lead to heart problems and eventual death.

    With that in mind, remove the fungus as soon as you see it and do your best to prevent mold from regrowing.

    How Long Does It Take For Mold To Grow In A Car?

    Since cars are sealed, often warm, and don't benefit from much ventilation, they present the perfect opportunities for lightning-fast mold growth.

    Given the correct conditions, mold can grow in approximately 12 hours, and you'll usually experience the mildew smell after a mere six to ten hours.

    Does Sunlight Kill Mold In Car?

    Sunlight is one of the most efficient ways to remove mold in your car!

    Park your vehicle in a sunny spot, open the doors, and leave it for as long as possible.

    That said, it's best practice to tackle the mold spores using vinegar, clove oil, or one of the other methods first and use sunlight and fresh air afterward.


    Salt solutions, clove oil, and baking soda are all effective ways of removing mold.

    However, distilled vinegar and a new spray bottle is arguably the best solution, as long as you allow air to flow through your car afterward, eliminating the acidic smell.