How to Get That New Car Smell

People love that new car smell — but what is it? And how can you keep your car smelling like a new car, even after years of use?

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What is it about new car smell that is so enticing? According to Olivia Jezler, the CEO of The Future of Smell, a human’s sense of smell is linked to “the areas of the brain that process emotion, associative learning, and memory,” which explains why the smell of a new car is so evocative. We associate it with a meaningful purchase — a new car.

What Is the New Car Smell?

Unfortunately, sometimes things that smell good aren’t good for you. According to Chemical & Engineering News, new car smell is created when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the adhesives and sealants used in car manufacturing emit noxious gas into the passenger compartment, something known as off-gassing. Individually these VOCs aren’t harmful, but together they could cause health problems if there is long-term exposure. Fortunately for your health, but perhaps unfortunately for your olfactory pleasure, VOCs that create new car smell dissipate over a few months.

How to Keep a New Car Smell

While the VOCs that make a new car smell new will dissipate over time, there are some things you can do to keep your car smelling fresh.

Vacuum Regularly

Vacuuming seats and floor mats removes crumbs, dead skin, pet hair and dander, etc., that combine to create a stale odor in your vehicle.

Wash the Floor Mats

Floor mats should be removed and washed with a small amount of dish soap. Rubber mats can be hosed down. Cloth floor mats should be vacuumed, scrubbed with a carpet and upholstery brush, then rinsed clean with water. Dry floor mats entirely before returning them to the car.

Shampoo the Seats

Clean cloth seats with a carpet and upholstery cleaning product like Resolve and a carpet and upholstery brush, or with a portable carpet and upholstery cleaning machine like Bissell’s Cordless Portable Carpet Cleaner. Treat leather seats with leather cleaner and wipe dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

Clean the Vents

Use a toothbrush and a car cleaning solution like ArmorAll Multi-Purpose Cleaner to eliminate a mildew-y scent. If the mildew odor persists, replace the cabin air filter.

Use an Odor Eliminator

Activated charcoal is a scent-free odor absorber that will eliminate smells in your car’s interior.

How to Get the New Car Smell for Your Car

If a car that smells merely fresh doesn’t do it for you, there are products available that will recreate the new car smell. New car scent products come in a variety of formats, including surface wipes, pump and aerosol sprays and solid gel car air fresheners. Learn how to make car freshener on your own.

Meguiar’s makes several new car-scented products: New Car Scent Protectant Wipes, which is a surface wipe; New Car Scent Protectant, a pump spray; or New Car Air Re-Fresher, an aerosol spray. The Chemical Guys brand sells a set of pump-spray products that mimic the scents of new car and leather: New Car Scent and Leather Scent Combo Pack. Citrus Magic offers a version of its Solid Air Absorber in Luxurious New Car.