How to Clean Vomit From a Car (Smell Fresh)

Image Credit: Jade Jackson via Flickr

Image Credit: Jade Jackson via Flickr

How to Clean Vomit From a Car (Smell Fresh)


When somebody gets sick in your vehicle, the result is a huge mess for you to clean up. Whether you have cloth or leather interior, it’s important that you understand how to clean vomit from car seats so that the smell does not haunt you in the following weeks.

While cleaning vomit can be a frustrating experience, it’s possible for your car to look (and smell) as good as new.

How To Clean Vomit From A Car

  • Step 1: Put on Safety Gear

  • Step 2: Scoop Solid Matter

  • Step 3: Sop Up the Excess Vomit

  • Step 4: Spray Upholstery With an Enzymatic Cleaner

  • Step 5: Use a Carpet Cleaner or Steam Cleaner

What You Need to Remove Vomit From Car Seats

These tools will help you not only clean vomit from a vehicle but also prevent the smell from settling in. While you may not need all these tools, they are helpful to have available if removing vomit becomes a struggle.

  • Scooping tool (spoon, ladle, plastic utensil)
  • Paper towels
  • Enzymatic cleaning solution
  • Baking soda
  • Warm water
  • Small bucket or container to hold water
  • Dish soap
  • Vinegar
  • Cloth rags or towels
  • Face mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Carpet cleaner machine or steam cleaner (optional)
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Soft-bristled scrub brush
  • Upholstery stain remover
  • Club soda

How to Clean Car Seats After Vomit

If you are lucky enough to catch the vomit immediately, there are a few steps you should take as quickly as possible to clean the interior of your car. These steps help you remove vomit while it is still wet so it does not soak into the upholstery.

Step 1: Put on Safety Gear

The first thing you should do before you clean vomit is put on your safety gear. Rubber gloves and a face mask prevent you from making contact with the vomit. The mask especially is beneficial if you are sensitive to odors, as it will keep the vomit smell from making you sick.

Step 2: Scoop Solid Matter

Plastic scooping tools help you pick up large pieces of vomit without touching it with your hands. Whether you have a cloth or leather car interior, use the tool to scoop the debris onto a paper towel or into a plastic bag. The trick is not to get too deep with your tool, as it could scrape your seat or push the vomit into the fabric.

Step 3: Sop Up the Excess Vomit

Use a paper towel to blot at the vomit, picking up anything leftover. Paper towels are a great tool to pick up vomit because they are so absorbent. They pick up liquid before it has time to settle into your upholstery. You can use cloth as well, but paper towels are disposable and leave you less exposed to hazards.

Step 4: Spray Upholstery With an Enzymatic Cleaner

Vomit is incredibly putrid, which means that vomit smell tends to linger. If you want to get rid of the scent, it is a good idea to spray the upholstery with a cleaning solution that includes enzymes. The enzymes work well for breaking down bad smells. The instructions may differ depending on the specific cleaner you use, but you may need to let it sit for a while.

Step 5: Use a Carpet Cleaner or Steam Cleaner

If you have cloth seats, a carpet cleaner or steam cleaner is a useful tool. Simply plug it in and use a hose feature to get rid of any traces of the mess.

How to Clean Dry Vomit From a Car

So, what happens if the vomit had time to dry in your car? You still have time to remove the vomit, but you may have to take some extra steps to ensure you don’t end up with a stain or lingering smell.

Step 1: Wipe Away Dry Debris

Use a paper towel to wipe off as much of the dried throw-up as possible. Try to wipe it away without water at first, as this can be less messy when you have a lot of vomit to clean.

If the mess won’t come up, use your soft-bristled brush to loosen the debris from your car interior. Then, bring your vacuum in to pick up as much of the vomit as possible.

Step 2: Wet the Area With a Cleaning Solution

Next, it’s time to make a gentle cleaning solution. You can mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water to create a solution that you can use with your scrub brush to clean more thoroughly. You can also add a bit of vinegar to the mixture to combat odor. Allow the mixture to sit on the spot for a few minutes, and make sure that you don’t flood the area.

Step 3: Blot Away the Moisture

Use paper towel or cloth to dab at the wet area. Pick up remaining vomit as well as the cleaning solution. Once the cleaner is gone, use a bit of water to rinse the upholstery once more. Dab this moisture away too. Again, make sure not to use too much water. You want to use just enough to make the area clean.

Step 4: Use a Carpet Cleaner or Steam Cleaner

Now, bust out the carpet cleaner or steam cleaner to give your car one final scrub. This final pass with the machine and a vacuum can prevent staining.

How to Get Rid of Vomit Stains in the Car

So, what if the vomit was able to sit for a long time, leaving behind a nasty stain? All hope is not lost, and you may be able to remove the stain left over after you get rid of the vomit itself.

Step 1: Loosen Stuck Debris

Once you’ve followed the steps listed for removing wet or dry vomit, grab your bristled brush again. Use it to knock free any material still clinging to your upholstery. Use a vacuum to pick up loose debris.

Step 2: Apply Stain Remover

Spray auto upholstery stain remover on the stain. Follow the directions specific to the cleaner you want to use, as each one is a little different. You may need to let the stain remover sit for several minutes. You will also need your scrub brush to work the stain remover into the material.

Step 3: Rinse & Blot the Stain

Use water and a cloth to blot at the stain. This will remove the stain remover and any of the vomit leftover. You don’t need much water to rinse the area, and you should leave the area relatively dry.

How to Get Puke Smell Out of Leather & Cloth Seats

Perhaps you were able to clean the vomit out of your car, but that does not mean there are not traces of the vomit lingering. Vomit odor is incredibly strong, and it can make your vehicle uncomfortable to ride in. These steps eliminate bad odors.

Step 1: Apply Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda over the impacted area, letting it sit. It may be preferable to apply baking soda to the area once it’s dry to avoid a difficult cleanup process. Baking soda will absorb the smell within about half an hour, and you can vacuum up the powder when you’re content.

Step 2: Apply Club Soda

If you are unhappy with the results from the baking soda, apply some club soda to the area. You don’t need a lot, just enough to cover the affected upholstery. After a few minutes, use a paper towel to dab at the liquid.

Step 3: Air Out the Vehicle

Finally, park your car outside in a safe area with the doors open. Allow air to circulate and (hopefully) take away the bad odor with it.


Vomit is one of the most difficult materials to clean from carpet. It can get deep into the fibers of your upholstery, leaving you with stains and bad smells for weeks. Whether you operate a rideshare vehicle or you drive your family to school each morning, you don’t want to deal with this.

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