How To Keep Your Car From Smelling Even With Kids In Tow

Note: This article contains affiliate links (hyperlinks, widgets, or through images), which means I receive compensation if you purchase a product through them. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and/or believe will add value to my readers. Visit my disclosure page for more information. 

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FRAMFreshBreeze #CollectiveBias

air fresheners / deodorizers, air fresheners for cars, air fresheners with essential oils, air fresheners diy, air fresheners, car air fresheners car air fresheners diy car air fresheners products car air fresheners essential oils, car air fresheners diy, burlap car air fresheners, car air fresheners

Being cooped up in a car isn’t fun for anyone. There are limited things you can do when you’re tied down in a box.

For a child, going from home to the grocery store can seem likes years sometimes. They get fidgety and whiny which is no fun for any parent.

The feeling of wanting to escape is exacerbated when the car smells. Tied down in a smelly box? No, thank you! Here are some ways to keep your car smelling fresh and clean (despite the toys):

Don’t Forget Bottles & Sippy Cups

Besides, maybe the smell of skunk spray, the smell of sour milk is unbearable. Especially some that’s been in a car on a sunny day. The car upholstery just seems to soak up that lovely smell.

So if you have an infant or young child, make sure all bottles and sippy cups are tightly fastened. Even if a small amount of spilled milk gets left unnoticed by the eye, your nose sure will smell later.

Also, when traveling with kids make sure you check underneath the seats for thrown bottles and cups. No one wants a bottle of curdled milk busting open!

Take Off Shoes At Home

Maybe it’s just my kids, but for the life of me, I can’t get them to stop taking off their shoes and socks in the car. On a long car trip, yes. On a 5 minute trip up the road, no. They just can’t seem to tell the difference but my nose sure can.

The smell of dirty socks and sweaty shoes is worse now that my son’s feet have started to smell. Throw in him playing baseball for a few hours and they out right reek. I think I am going to have to glue his socks and shoes to his feet!

Make DIY  Burlap Car Air Fresheners

air fresheners / deodorizers, air fresheners for cars, air fresheners with essential oils, air fresheners diy, air fresheners, car air fresheners car air fresheners diy car air fresheners products car air fresheners essential oils, car air fresheners diy, burlap car air fresheners, car air fresheners

Sometimes we just can’t avoid smells but we can try to cover them up. These DIY Burlap Car Air Fresheners are quick and easy to make, only having four ingredients which can be found at Walmart.


1/2 cup rice
20-30 drops essential oil
6 x 12-inch piece burlap fabric
string or ribbon


In a small bowl, combine rice and essential oil. Stir until rice is thoroughly coated. You can use any essential oil you want. I used grapefruit because it’s a nice fresh scent, especially when heated by the sun.

Place rice and essential oil mixture in center of the burlap fabric. Pinch burlap fabric in the center and fold up the sides. Tie tightly with a ribbon.

Set them in car cup holders, under the seat, or in the door. When the scent gets too weak, add a few more drops of essential oil and it’ll be new again!

Change Your Cabin Air Filter Regularly

If you can’t manage to do the other tips, this one is a must! Like most people, you probably don’t even know your car cabin has a filter. I didn’t until it was suggested at an oil change. We thought, okay sure if our car needs it. Then they ended up charging us $100 for it! My husband is now completely upset that he got duped into that considering how easy it is to install yourself.

1.  Open up the glove box and remove all of its contents. Press the two push tabs to remove the back of the glove box (Some models have a release string in the upper right-hand corner)

filter access

2. Find and remove the cabin filter access door by pressing two push tabs

fram filter door

3. Slide out old filter and replace with a new FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filter

remove filter

FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filters clean the air passing through your car’s ventilation system. This means all of the dirt and dust from the road, pollens, and lord knows what lurking around outside can be removed from the air entering your car, up to 98%* worth! Something that is a must for our family, allergies run rampant this time of year.

fram filter

To help hide the smell of sour milk and old food, FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filters use the natural deodorizing qualities of ARM & HAMMER® baking soda.

Say goodbye to the smell of stinky shoes and socks, and hello to freshness. See if your vehicle takes FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filters and then head to your local Walmart’s automotive department to buy one. That’s where I found mine. Your car will smell SO much better!

fram fresh breeze aisle

4. Reverse steps and enjoy cleaner, fresher air!

See, it’s something everyone is totally capable of doing themselves and not worth the money in labor for someone else to do it. Just follow the recommended change intervals as noted in your vehicle owner’s manual and you’re golden!

Get parenting tips, giveaways, and more directly to your inbox

* indicates required
Email Format



  1. Awesome, I can get my car smelling good again.

  2. Carrie @ourpotluckfamily says:

    Those air fresheners look so easy to make and should definitely help with the funk of kids, pets, etc. in the car. Thanks for the tutorial! #client

  3. Michelle Bartley says:

    Thanks for the great tips!!

  4. Lisa Coomer Queen says:

    This would be awesome! Thanks for the tips. Anything to get rid of that smell!

  5. robin masshole mommy says:

    Sometimes my boys STINK! I am totally trying this. I hate it when my car smells like sweaty boy.

  6. What a great idea to DIY some scented satchels! I usually buy these for freshening spaces up, but so much better (and cheaper!) to make my own!

    • Oh yes, the MUCH cheaper part is where I got the most excited. Air fresheners are so expensive!

  7. I know this is a problem for many but the only time my car has ever smelled is when I buy fast food in drive through and leave the windows rolled up in my garage. The next day is stinks, so now I make sure windows are down before I get out of my car!

    • I have a family member who is pretty good about her car smelling good. She’s got a gift like you 😉

  8. Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh says:

    I love the idea of using the rice! I have been wanting to make an air freshener using essential oils, and all I have found are using clay pieces. This seems so much easier!

    • Clay works great with oils but for long term use just sitting in a car, rice is SO much better. I’m glad you liked it!

  9. This is one helpful post. I have twp boys and you know how boys are, right? So, yes! saving this post.

  10. Love your crafty idea! After a road trip our car stinks. Will have to check out those Fram filters.

  11. Your right, cars can get stenchy, especially if you are cooped in them too long. I like the idea of making a burlap freshener to make the car smell nicer x

    • They’re my favorite on long trips for that specific reason. It starts to smell stale when everyone is stuck in the car for a long trip.

  12. I honestly dont think I have ever changed our cabin air filter – ever! I love how your burlap air freshner turned out – way cuter than the tree hanging from the rear view mirror. Thanks for the great ideas!

    • That good ol’ tree…those never smelled that great but they were better than nothing. Glad you enjoyed it!

  13. Great tips! I will say kids do the darnest things and can leave the darnest smells lol

    • You sure nailed that one on the head. 😉 I’m going to go ahead and say that boys are the worst about the smells. 😛

  14. This is a unique product. I have never heard of this before. It would help with the old stinky bottle smell that my car gets.

  15. annalisanuttall says:

    What a good idea, I should suggest this to my sister in law for her car. Thank you for this. xx

  16. Rhian Westbury says:

    Taking off shoes is a definite idea, I have a new car and haven’t done a long journey in it yet but I know I’ll be doing these things to stop it smelling x

    • Stinky feet have a smell that seems to linger and soak into the fabric of cars, haha.

  17. Amanda Love says:

    This sounds pretty neat. I’ve never made a burlap air freshener before. It’s a great idea and it’s easy to make as well. I should definitely give that one a try.

  18. thecoffeemom0617 says:

    how great! I have 2 kids and a dog regularly in my car, so this will help me out a ton! I have to try this out ASAP.

    • That’s one crazy combo that will for sure cause some gross smells. Let us know how you liked it!

  19. The car air fresheners are such a great idea and definitely a fun project for anyone who loves DIY’s! Thanks for the tip.

    • They’re great for people who don’t do crafts naturally as well because they’re so easy to make!

  20. The Everyday Mom Life says:

    This is a really cute idea! I swear my car has a combo of smells that can only be made by old french fries, cheerios and poopy diapers.

    • hahaha! It’s a special smell that only a mother could love…or not love but tolerate at least 😉

  21. No one likes a stinky car. I love the idea of making your own air freshener. I bought one not to long ago and it actually made my car smell chemically.

    • Yeah, they’ll do that. Plus, some of those scents are so strong to start out with that they give you a headache.

  22. This is a fun DIY! My kids do not really smell but I do love a fresh car!!

    • Well, tell me your secrets, haha! It’s not really my kids that smell, it’s their habits 😛

  23. I love this idea, I am nver satisfied with the store bought fresheners. Will give this a try

  24. cvnxena says:

    Well this is essential advice! it is one of my pet hates when the car smells! Also when the dogs get in it in the winter too :p

  25. planningthemagic says:

    This is great, I hate how easy a car will start smelling like something. I need to check my filter.

  26. Wow! Such an easy thing to make and keep. I will keep it handy and definitely use it. Great suggestion.

  27. Mommy Engineering says:

    LOL I so have this problem! I love your tips! I will have to try them!

  28. I love this idea because my sons love making messes in my car. I always impress upon them how I like for my car to stay clean and smell good.

    • It seems the general consensus is that boys are often the main culprits of smells in cars hahaha

  29. I don’t think I’ve ever replaced the car filter. I didn’t even know that was a thing!

  30. I need to try these. My kids really stink up my car! Wowsers!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Read previous post:
plumbing tips households, plumbing tips simple, plumbing tips home, plumbing tips kitchen sinks, plumbing tips pipes, plumbing tips and ideas, plumbing tips how to, plumbing tips bathroom, plumbing smart, plumbing tips, plumbing
How To Be Plumbing Smart When You Have Kids

Have you ever been sitting happily, enjoying a drink? Then all of a sudden your child yells that the toilet...

managing stress, stress remedies, dealing with stress, stress reduction, stress tips, stress less, stress management, stress relief, reduce stress ways to, take stress away, reduce stress
4 Easy Tricks To Have Less Stress In Your Life

Do you feel like you’re always on the go? Is it getting you down? Do you simply wish you led...

fishing with kids tips, fishing with kids, child fishing, fishing trip checklist, fishing trips, fishing trip needs, first fishing trip adventure, first fishing trip, first fishing trip travel
How to Make Your Child’s First Fishing Trip The BEST Experience Ever

It's often fun to reflect on all of your firsts — your first bike ride, your first dance recital and...