Smell is an underreported aspect of the driving experience. Classic car buffs will talk about the intoxicating smell of leather and wood in an old Jaguar or the hearty smell of leaded fuel from an old Triumph sports car, but it’s hardly ever mentioned with more modern motors. Even the scent of vintage Castrol motor oil is adored by the vintage car brigade (the fact it doubles as a laxative conventionally forgotten.)
What smells good changes too. For years car manufacturers have revelled in the love us Brits have for that ‘new car smell’ and have spent serious money trying to keep it lingering for longer. The Chinese market however detests this smell which is why manufacturers are now trying to eliminate it altogether.
One thing that is certain however is that a bad smell can ruin a perfectly good car. Take the latest 911 GT3, a superb performance car in almost every aspect. However, if you settle down into the surprisingly comfortable bucket seats and the smell of old milk, fairground hotdogs or BO enter your nostrils, you’ll quickly forget how good it is to drive and focus on the brutal odours over the brutal acceleration.
For removing foul odours quickly and without fuss nothing beats a good fabric freshener. These spray bottles will help remove horrible smells while leaving a nice pleasant scent in its place. They can also be used in the home and are really good value for money. Here are our favourites.
The best fabric fresheners for cars
The best car fabric freshener
A simple and effective way of keeping your car smelling fresh, this bottle of Autofresh can be sprayed on any fabric surface to help eliminate and nasty odours and leave a nice refreshing fragrance instead.
Poorboy's World PB-AFP16 Pina Colada Air Freshener
The best car fabric freshener for mould
Ideal for a leaky, old car that's started to grow its own unwanted garden, Poorboy's Air Freshener is effective against both bacteria and mould. It's also water-soluble and doubles as a deodoriser meaning it'll help keep your car fresh. The long-lasting pina colada scent will beat the smell of damp too.
Febreze Anti Tobacco Fabric Freshener Spray
The best car fabric freshener for tobacco
Cigarette smoke leaves a rancid smell that bakes into fabrics. Removing it is hard enough, especially from a car's interior. This spray does more than mask the scent, it's designed to eliminate the tobacco odour and replace it with a nice citrus note instead.
Astonish C1926 Fabric Refresher Trigger Spray
The best car fabric freshener on a budget
A regular of most peoples cleaning arsenals, Astonish offer good cleaning at an affordable price. This generalised fabric refresher will remove odours and leave a nice fresh scent once dried. It's not specially designed for cars but is still a good option.
Scent Selection One In A Melon
The best car fabric freshener for a touch of luxury
This luxury melon-scented spray features a rich fragrance, odour eliminator and is anti-bacterial. Like the others here you spray it liberally so it binds to the fabric and can be used around the home too. It's also long-lasting thanks to the use of di-ionised water. The stainless steel bottle and branding that looks like a fancy candle will also add a touch of class to your glovebox.
Chemical Guys Vanilla Bean Fresh Scoop Scent Premium Air Freshener
The best car fabric freshener for a sweet smell
If you're after something that smells good but don't want to use an air freshener then this vanilla-scented spray from Chemical Guys is a perfect idea. It'll leave the rich sweet smell of French vanilla ice cream on every surface and will eliminate any bad smells too.
Why not use a normal air freshener?
Conventional dangly air fresheners are really good for adding a little burst of freshness and masking bad smells but they don't tackle the root of the problem. They're also short-term solutions only lasting for two to six weeks in most instances. Without wanting to sound like a voice-over actor for a TV advert, fabric fresheners eliminate the source of the bad smell for long-lasting results. We say keep the air freshener for a burst of freshness but use the fabric freshener to get rid of bad smells.
What about those air freshener bombs?
Air freshener bombs are the nuclear option for removing an odour, but an option you can only use once. Whereas even the stingiest bottle of fabric spray will last you a good few months, an air freshener bomb is a one-blast device which means if a bad smell reoccurs you'll be needing to purchase a new bomb each time. In short, perfect for removing embedded and offensive odours, a bit overkill (and expensive) for regular cleaning.