How to Clean Throw Up Out of a Car (and Get Rid of that Smell)

As a parent, you have probably experienced your share of having to clean up throw up. In fact, it’s practically a rite of passage into parenthood.


Typically, you try to get your sick little one to a restroom before he vomits but if you are stuck in a traffic jam or your child becomes carsick then that he will more than likely puke in your car and you will be faced with how to clean throw up out of a car. However, don’t despair because the unpleasant cleanup task can be achieved successfully so there is no remaining stain or odor.

Preparing for the Vomit Clean Up

Chances are good that as a parent you have been faced with cleaning up vomit. Your resolution and abilities have probably improved due to the rigors of parenthood. However, some new parents might become sick themselves at the sight or smell of puke.

In such circumstances, you should wear a facemask and gloves to avoid the unpleasantness. You might want to rub a bit of menthol rub inside of the facemask to somehow mask the smell. Sympathetic vomiting can create a real mess so you definitely want to avoid becoming sick yourself.

Cleaning Supplies That You Will Need

  • All purpose cleaner that is fabric safe. Avoid any cleaners that contain bleach or they could damage the interior of your auto.
  • Baking soda
  • Paper towels
  • Spatula
  • Cloth towels
  • Plastic bags
  • Scrub brush
  • Shop-Vac
  • Activated carbon
  • Air freshener
  • Bowl

8 Steps to Clean Up Vomit From a Car’s Interior

  1. Using the paper towels and the spatula you will need to remove any chunks of vomit from the surface and place them into a plastic bag. Ideally, if you own a shop-vac,  you can use the tool to effectively suck up all chunks and moisture.
  2. Press a cloth towel into the area to remove any excessive moisture. Dab the area until any liquid has been thoroughly absorbed.
  3. Cover the entire area with a light dusting of baking soda. The baking soda will neutralize odors and absorb any remaining moisture. Let the baking soda sit on the spot for two to three hours.
  4. Using the spatula, remove the baking soda. In some cases, it may have hardened a bit and be difficult to pry up from the surface. Using a shop-vac is a great way to easily suction up the baking soda.
  5. Spray an all-purpose cleaner onto the spot. Some people opt to use a pet stain cleaner to remove the stain. Scrub the cleaner into the surface using a scrub brush. Use a towel to blot the area dry.
  6. Leave the windows of the car open for at least two to three hours to let the interior completely air out.
  7. Unfortunately, even after going through the entire process of cleaning the vehicle there may still be a lingering and unpleasant odor. In such a situation, it is advised that you place a bowl of activated carbon in the car to help filter out the air, according to Your Mechanic.
  8. Spritz the auto’s inside with a pleasant smelling air freshener.

Additional Cleaning Tips

Here are just a few additional tips that might help you further clean the throw up from your auto’s interior:

Biological Cleaner: Many people do not have ready access to a biological cleaner but if you do then you should use it on the vomit stain. It will help to further neutralize and sanitize the spot.

Steam Cleaner: Most supermarkets and hardware stores rent steam cleaners which can quickly remove the vomit from your auto.

Enzymatic Cleaner: An enzymatic cleaner is a typical cleaner used to remove substances such as cat urine from a surface. It also works great for throw up.

Vinegar and Water: Many parents hesitate to use a chemical-based cleaner around their family. An all-natural choice is a simple vinegar and water mixture. The vinegar not only cleans but also neutralizes the odor.

Orange or Citrus: Never use an air freshener with orange or citrus as its base because it can make the smell of the vomit even worse.

Dealing With a Child Who Gets Car Sick

Some children are just prone to car sickness. In such circumstances, you know that on a long auto ride your little one might end up throwing up. If your tot gets sick regularly in the vehicle then you might want to pack a vomit survival kit.

Just like on an airplane, you can keep barf bags on hand for your child to grab if he starts to feel like he is going to throw up. You should also keep a few towels on hand and an air freshener that you can spritz in the car’s interior even if your child does manage to vomit in the barf bag there will still be a lingering odor.

What the Experts Say

“Ideally a wet vac extraction machine with clean warm water should be used to thoroughly extract the area,” says the Car Cleaning Guru. “If you do not have access to a wet vac extractor you can use a vacuum cleaner with a suitable attachment but ensure you soak up any excess moisture first with a dry micro fibre towel to prevent the vacuum cleaner from taking in too much moisture.”

“If you have a few bucks to spare, heavy duty cleaning equipment such as a steam cleaner can help remove any pathogens remaining in your upholstery,”  writes Cool Rides Online. “Hardware stores and some supermarkets may even let your rent these cleaners for a nominal fee.”

Part of parenting is facing the day that your little one first vomits. Remember, your child will be upset and afraid so try to remain calm. When you get home, you can easily clean vomit out of the car after you have reassured and cleaned up your little one. Most cars feature stain-resistant interior materials so with a bit of diligent cleaning there will be no discernable puke stain.


Kimberly Sharpe

Based in Florida, Kimberly Sharpe has been a full-time writer since 2006. Her writing has a strong focus on travel, parenting, outdoor sports, gardening, health issues, pets (both domestic and exotic), home improvement, DIY, and business promos. Her work has appeared in USA Today, MORR Gear, Hipmunk, Travelocity, Livestrong,, Hydro Live, Maximum Yield, eHow, Yahoo News, SF Gate, Garden Guides, Whitefence, S.F. Gate,, and numerous other publications. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, India, and Sri Lanka in an effort to expand her knowledge and enhance her writing skills.

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