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How to Clean Vomit out of a Car

Vomit is one of the most disgusting messes to have to clean out of your car’s interior. But if you have kids (or friends with motion sickness) it’s a mess you’re likely to be faced with at some point in another. Figuring out how to clean vomit out of a car efficiently will help you spend as little time as possible interacting with the mess.

The most important thing: clean the puke as quickly as possible. Leave it too long and you’ll be left with a permanent stain, not to mention a very unfortunate lingering odor. The good news is, you can use common household cleaners to eradicate all signs of throw up as long as you get to it quickly.

Tips of how to clean puke out of a car

Step 1: Remove solid matter.

If the vomit is fresh, you can do this with a damp paper towel. If it’s had time to dry, you may need to scrape it away. A thin plastic spatula can get dried deposits off of delicate materials like leather without causing damage.

Step 2: Blot away excess moisture.

Don’t scrub hard or apply too much pressure. This risks working the throw up further into the material. Just press to absorb whatever liquid you can.

Step 3: Make a cleaning solution.

You don’t have to buy a special cleaner, either—you can whip one up from things most people have already in their kitchen.

For leather, stir warm water into baking soda until it makes a paste—usually, the ratio will end up being about three parts baking soda to one part water. Rub it over the vomit and leave it for 15-30 minutes, before cleaning it off with a towel or sponge.

For carpet, cloth, or vinyl, combine one part dish soap, one part vinegar (the plain white kind), and six parts warm water. Spray the entire area thoroughly, let it soak a few minutes, the clean with a towel.

Step 4: Rinse and assess.

Wipe away any remaining cleaning solution with a damp cloth. Use a light-colored cloth so you can see if you’re still picking up vomit. If there is still significant staining after rinsing, you may need to rent a steam cleaner to completely remove it.

Step 5: Dry thoroughly.

Use a hairdryer until the area you’ve washed is dry to the touch. If the weather allows, it’s ideal to open your windows and air your car out overnight to remove lingering traces of odor.

Step 6: Eliminate odors.

One key in how to clean throw up out of a car is getting rid of the smell. It can linger even after visual traces of the vomit are gone. A non-scented, odor neutralizing spray is the best way to combat this odor. Continue airing out your car and spraying periodically. You can spray air freshener to cover up the smell until you’ve eliminated it. Just avoid scents that are acidic, like lemon or orange, which can actually intensify the smell of throw-up.

What about vents and controls?

There are a lot of places in a car interior with small cracks and hidden crevices, like the dash or door interiors. Getting to these spots quick is especially important, since it is often very difficult to remove all remnants out of small cracks and creases once the vomit dries. To clean:

  1. Wipe away any visible vomit.
  2. Use the same cleaning mixture above (vinegar, dish soap, and water) to wet the stain then go over it again with a sponge or towel.
  3. Dip a Q-tip in cleaning solution and get into any hidden areas. Pay special attention around window controls and the handle of the door. This method can also be used for cleaning inside vents and door compartments.
  4. Anything that can be removed will be easier to clean after you’ve taken it from the car. This includes speakers and removable vent covers. Use a cleaner designed for electronic components for anything from your audio system.

How to clean vomit out of a car after it’s dried

The above steps should work if you can attack the vomit quickly, but unfortunately, that’s not always possible. You can still clean dried vomit from a car, it just might take a bit more time. Follow the steps below:

  1. Moisten the area with a spray-on cleaner. The home-made cleaners above may work, but you may need something more powerful. Laundry stain removers may work for cloth and carpeting, You can find specialty cleaners for materials like leather and vinyl.
  2. Let the cleaner dry, then re-spray it. Let it sit about two minutes to re-moisten then scrub the spot with a sponge. For carpet and cloth, you can use a hard-bristled brush to really work the vomit loose.
  3. Blot the area with a cloth soaked in clean, warm water. For larger stains, keep a bucket of clean water handy and periodically re-soak and wring out the cloth. Continue until you’ve removed all the cleaner, and the stain should come up with it.

If you can still see the stain after following these steps, your best bet is to rent a steam cleaner. You’ll probably also need to take some extra steps to de-odorize your vehicle. With a bit of work, you can get your car as fresh and clean as before the accident happened.

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