There are several great options for keeping your car smelling great, despite having to ferry stinky passengers around in it all day long.
In this article, I’ll provide you with several methods for removing bad odors from your vehicle, introducing great new ones, and preventing your passengers from leaving bad ratings because they didn’t like the smell of your vehicle.
I scoured the internet for these tips and techniques and some of them are worth their weight in gold. If you want to protect your driver rating plus your nose, all while earning bigger and more consistent tips, then continue reading below.
1. A Clean-smelling Car Starts With You
Do you keep yourself clean and odorless every day? I’m sure you think so. But do your passengers?
If you smell bad, it is going to kill your ratings and reduce your earnings.
When browsing the ride sharing forums and Reddit posts, a fairly common complaint that I found was that “my driver smells like he has never heard of a shower before.” Or sometimes they say, “my driver’s cologne is so strong that I want to puke.”
The best advice for dealing with your own personal smell is to keep yourself smelling neutral. Although your spouse may like your natural body odor or the cologne you wear every day, it’s highly unlikely that every passenger you meet is going to like it as well.
When you smell neutral, you can easily control the rest of the aroma in your car in order to produce an excellent passenger experience. Follow these simple tips for keeping yourself smelling neutral all day long:
- Take a shower before you start driving. Use neutral-smelling soap and shampoo, so the scents don’t conflict with the other scents we’ll teach you about later in this guide.
- Wear clean clothes. No, “it’s only been worn twice” doesn’t count as clean.
- Make sure your shoes don’t stink. We quickly get used to the smell of our own stinky shoes, but other people will notice them right away.
- If they do reek of sweat and body odor, I recommend removing the smell with this neutral-smelling shoe deodorizer.
- Use neutral-smelling deodorant. Keep a stick in your glove compartment to re-apply it through the day if you start getting hot and sweaty halfway through.
- Don’t use any cologne or scented body products. It will conflict with the other scents that are recommended later in this guide, creating a bad mixture.
2. Take Preventative Measures Against Food & Beverage Spills
A big cause of bad odors is passengers spilling food, drinks, or filth in your back seat.
I saw one Lyft driver who said, “a passenger spilled a few drops of coffee onto my car seat, and my car smelled great like coffee all day.” But having a passenger actually improve the smell of your car by spilling something is extremely rare. Usually, they just make it smell worse.
Whether they spill food on your floor, or beverages on your seat fabrics, you need to have a plan for dealing with bad odors that are left behind by your passengers throughout the day. If the bad odor is still in your car by the time you reach the next pickup, your ratings and tips will suffer the consequences.
There are a few great ways for preparing yourself for the inevitable passenger mishaps. I’ve listed the most highly recommended ways here:
- Use protective rubber floor mats. If a passenger spills something on your floor mat in the middle of your shift, you can pull over and shake or wash it off immediately, reducing the stench that is left behind in your car for the next passenger to smell.
- Keep fabric cleaner spray in your car. A passenger that spills coffee on your seat isn’t so bad. But there’s about 100 other things they could spill that might smell terrible instead. Using a strong odor-killing fabric cleaner on your seats or floor will help get the stench out as fast as possible.
- Bring a car-friendly handheld vacuum cleaner. If passengers get food or dirt all over the back seat, you’ll need some way to handle it before picking up your next ones. Equip your car with a small vacuum and your car will be clean again in just minutes.
- Consider using back seat covers. Seat protectors like this is are usually used for keeping pet smells out of your seats when you transport your dog in the car. But let’s be honest here: some of your passengers actually smell worse than a wet dog, don’t they? Using a seat cover can keep the stench out of your seat fabric and in the cover. And if a passenger spills something on the cover, you can just remove it and then wash it when you get home. Problem solved – with no interruption to your driving service.
3. Deodorize Your Car Between Rides
A lot of drivers make the mistake of just covering up bad odors with a strongly scented aerosol spray, or some other form of new fragrance.
The problem with this is that many passengers will react negatively to these strong scents. Studies have found that a significant portion of the public is allergic to unnatural air freshener chemicals. And even worse, some people are even allergic to natural ones as well.
This includes people who suffer from asthma and are at risk of having respiratory problems as a result of air fresheners. You certainly don’t want to have a passenger start hyperventilating in the back seat as a result of your poor fragrance choices!
To avoid allergic reactions in your passengers, and to prevent the need for covering up bad odors, the right course of action is to focus 80% of your efforts on removing bad odors instead of introducing new fragrances.
There are a few great products for car deodorizing that I recommend. Take a look:
- Open your windows. This is the easiest way to clean out bad odors, and it’s free.
- Use ozone spray to remove lingering airborne odors. I already told you to bring a fabric cleaning spray to remove odors from your car seats. But what if the odor is just wafting through the air instead? Using a neutral-smelling ozone gas will destroy odor particles that are hanging out in your car. This gas is all-natural and unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in your passengers. However, ozone shouldn’t be inhaled in significant quantities, so allow it to air out of your car with the windows open for several minutes before picking up your next passengers.
- Install deodorizing bags of activated carbon. Activated carbon is a material that “grabs” onto odor particles that contact it, effectively sucking them out of the air. You can use pieces of porous fabric that contain activated carbon by hanging them in your car. When odor particles permeate the fabric, they touch the carbon instead and get trapped there, leaving the air in your car smelling clean.
4. Add A New Fragrance That Nobody Hates
The problem with most air fresheners is that they often contain synthetic chemicals which many people are allergic to. Studies have found that unnatural air fresheners can cause symptoms like headaches or sneezing in around 20% or more of the general population.
Needless to say, aggravating such a large portion of your customers is a terrible idea. So we need to use air fresheners that won’t do that.
Here are a few great tips that various drivers have shared for adding natural, inoffensive scents to your car:
- Use a vent clip air freshener that lets you choose your own scent. Instead of using the synthetic air fresheners that clip onto your air vents, did you know that you can use all-natural scented oils instead? You can do this by getting a vent clip that contains an odorless pad of felt fabric. Just add a few drops of any scented oil you want to the felt pad, and your car will feature that scent for the rest of the day. The best part is that you can also control the strength of the aroma by using more or less drops of oil.
- Click here to view my recommended air vent air freshener that allows you to use your own natural scented oils.
- If you prefer plant-based fragrances, then I recommend this 6-scent value pack that comes with the hugely popular lemongrass and eucalyptus scents.
- If you prefer food-based scents, then I recommend this 6-scent pack which comes with delicious scents like coffee cake, gingerbread, and pumpkin pie.
- Stick a dryer sheet under your back seat. These will produce the familiar smell of “clean laundry” that just about everyone in the world recognizes and enjoys.
- Store coffee beans in your car. Get some fresh coffee beans and stick them into an open container or bag that allows the smell to permeate out. The last thing a passenger will expect when stepping into your car will be the smell of fresh coffee, which will certainly leave a unique impression. I’ve never heard of anyone being allergic to the smell of coffee.
- Provide smell-tastic snacks for your passengers to enjoy. I saw one driver who said he has bags of popped popcorn awaiting his passengers in the back seat. The smell of popcorn or many other foods will easily overpower other scents in your car, and free food will leave your guests extremely impressed with your quality of service. The driver said that what he spent providing food for his guests, he easily made back in larger and more frequent tips.
5. Deep Clean Your Car The Easy Way
You already know that your car is going to need regular cleanings if you plan to continue profiting from your driver experience. You don’t want it to end up getting that “taxi cab smell” after all, now do you?
There are a few great products that can do all of the deodorizing work for you. They leave your car smelling great, and easily cost less than a professional detailing.
Everyone knows about vacuuming and washing the fabrics, but there are two options that I recommend for extremely powerful odor removal from your entire vehicle:
- Use an air freshener “bomb” for whole-car odor removal. An air freshener “bomb” is a container of odor-destroying gas. You set the container inside your car, activate it, and then get out and shut the door. Once activated, the container spews a huge amount of odor-destroying gas throughout your vehicle, getting into every crack and crevice and eliminating odor particles wherever they lie. When using an air freshener bomb, it’s advised to have the car running with the air turned on and circulating inside the vehicle, to also remove odor particles hidden in your air vents.
- For an air freshener bomb that destroys odor particles and leaves a deeply-embedded new scent that can last for weeks, I recommend this air freshener product which comes in 6 different scents.
- For a neutral-smelling deodorizing bomb that removes odors without adding a new aroma to your car, I recommend this unscented air freshener product.
- Invest in an ozone generator. I mentioned earlier that you can buy ozone gas in a spray bottle to deodorize your car between pickups. But did you know you can get a generator that produces an unlimited amount of odor-destroying ozone gas whenever you want it? Just plug this into an extension cord and set it in your car, then close the doors and windows. The generator will “zap” regular oxygen in the air, turning it into ozone gas, which will float around your car and destroy odors everywhere. This effectively gives your car a “deodorizing deep cleaning” without the high cost of professional detailing. You can use the generator on a regular basis to remove all the odors from your car seats, floors, and fabrics every week, month, year, or whenever you want. Open the windows to let the ozone-filled air out of your vehicle before driving, as it is unhealthy to breathe highly concentrated ozone.