Most cars spend their entire lives outdoors, in all weathers and climates, which can make the interior a haven for mould. Not only is it unsightly and a bit smelly, but some moulds can be harmful to your health. We’ll show you how to get rid of it for good and get your car back to looking its best.

Why Me, Why My Car?

It might just seem like bad luck that your car interior has gone mouldy, but there’s usually a few factors working together to create an environment that mould just loves. A damp car in a warm environment is a breeding ground for all sorts of fungus and moulds that can ruin your interior.

Mould growth is a common problem in older cars and ones that have been off the road for some time. Hands down the most common source of a mould infestation is a leak in your car. When the seals around your doors and windows start to perish, they let in the damp outside air and set the scene for mould to flourish. 

If your car is normally parked in the shade and you often forget to close your windows, it’s another way for mould to get inside your car. You might think you’re doing your car a favour by keeping it under a cover or in an unheated garage, but those are both perfect breeding grounds for all sorts of mould as well. 

The other common way for mould to get a foothold in your car is spilled food and drinks. If you’re someone who does a lot of eating and drinking in your car, and you don’t get around to thoroughly cleaning up afterwards, there’s an increased chance of mould, especially under seats and floor mats.

Smelly car interior

Types of Mould

There are thousands of different types of moulds and fungi out there that could end up on your car seats or carpets, but some common ones you might find are:

    • Mildew is a type of mould that just loves to grow in damp environments. It’s often found in fluffy white or yellowy brown patches on organic materials, especially leather 
    • Penicillium is that classic dark green fungus found everywhere in nature. Even though it’s the base of the potent antibiotic penicillin, exposure to penicillium can be dangerous
  • Acremonium is a toxic and harmful mould that’s often white, orange pink or grey in appearance. Commonly found on window seals, it’s the sort of mould you could find if a sunroof has been leaking for a long time
  • Cladosporium is particularly attracted to damp material, especially carpets and upholstery. It can cause allergic reactions on skin and in the eyes, nose and throat
  • Stachybotrys, or more commonly known as black mould, is a particularly nasty and form of mould that can cause severe health problems and even death. It thrives in damp conditions and where there is poor ventilation

Why You Need to Fix Mould in your Car

Mould in your car looks bad and it smells bad, but are those the only reasons to clean it up? No. Mould, mildew and fungus can reduce your car to scrap if you let it get hold, and if you’re very unlucky, it could make you sick

The cost of cleaning out a mouldy car can vary from using a few household cleaning products and a few hours of your time to finding mould in every corner and having to completely replace your interior. 

If mould can penetrate your car seats and carpets it can be almost impossible to clean off without it making a reappearance. When this happens, the cost of replacing your seats, carpets, lining and even steering wheel might end up costing more than your car is worth. 

Putting money aside, some moulds are an irritant and others can be extremely hazardous to your health. If you don’t tackle a mould problem as soon as you find it, you could be putting yourself or others at risk. 

The good thing is that if you catch the problem early, most moulds and fungi are relatively easy to deal with. And if you do things properly, they’ll be gone for good.

mould on car mat

What You’ll Need to Fix Mould in your Car

Here’s a list of what you’ll need to tackle your car’s mould problem: 

PPE

  • A quality respirator. Mould spores can become airborne when disturbed, so make sure you have one that’s rated for the job. We recommend a P100 filter that blocks out 99.9% of all particulates
  • Goggles that fit snugly on your face. Mould spores can irritate the eyes, and so can some of the cleaning products you’ll use 
  • Disposable gloves will keep your hands safe from mould and cleaning products, and should be binned straight after use
  • A painting suit or other disposable protective overalls are important for everything except the smallest jobs. If you use your own clothes, wash them immediately afterwards

Cleaning Equipment

    • A spray bottle is the best way to apply cleaning products to upholstery and carpets without soaking them
    • A wet/dry vacuum cleaner is an essential bit of kit that will save you a lot of effort here. You can rent one from most tool hire shops, and they make short work of contaminated upholstery and carpets with hot water and cleaning solution
    • Nylon brushes are tough on mould and dirt, but not on your car seat material. Stiff paint brushes are great for getting into those nooks and crannies, and nail brushes pack a punch when needed
  • Microfibre cloths are our go-to cleaning cloths because they’re reusable, won’t scratch your interiors and absorb water as they go

Cleaning Products

    • Distilled white vinegar contains enough acid to kill most moulds without damaging the material underneath. Don’t be tempted to use domestic cleaning products as they often contain bleach that will ruin your car interior
  • Dedicated anti-mould car cleaning products are readily available and are well suited for the job

How To Clean Mould From Your Car Interior

  1. The first thing you need is a dry, sunny day. Mould hates direct sunlight and fresh air, so give yourself a helping hand by choosing the right day to tackle your mould problem
  2. Make sure you’re wearing the correct PPE. Open all your windows and doors to air out your car. Allow time for any airborne spores to blow away, for at least 10 minutes
  3. If you can, remove your car seats as this is makes accessing the underneath of them so much easier. You could miss a lot of mould otherwise. If not, be prepared to get down under the seats to search for signs of mould
  4. Using your spray bottle filled with neat distilled white vinegar, liberally spray all the seats, carpets and interior trim. This wets the mould and stops airborne particles from flying around. Leave it to work its magic for at least 30 minutes before moving on
  5. Use your wet/dry vacuum cleaner filled with warm water and cleaning solution or vinegar to clean the car interior thoroughly. Repeat the process more than once for heavily soiled areas
  6. Leave your doors and windows open to help your seats and carpets to dry
  7. Use your spray bottle and microfibre cloths to clean off any mould from the steering wheel, dashboard, gear stick or from any hard surface. Remember to get into all the nooks and crannies with your nylon brushes and mop up any remaining moisture
  8. Don’t forget to spray into the air vents where mould could be breeding. You should also spray into the outside air intakes to help kill off anything in the heating system. Don’t run your fans until you have treated the area several times
  9. Leave everything to dry out, the vinegar smell will go away once the interior has dried out

Cleaning car interior

How to Stop Mould from Returning

Even if you love cleaning your car, you don’t want to have to get down and dirty cleaning off mould every time it rains outside, and your car gets damp. Prevention is miles better than cure, so you should try to stop mould from growing in the first place:

  • Fixing any leaks from old seals or damage is the best way to stop water from getting in in the first place
  • Use a desiccant or dehumidifier to soak up moisture if you can’t find a leak. Empty it out often and be amazed at how much liquid is getting into your car
  • Heat your garage if you keep your car in there. Cars kept in a dark and damp garage are prone to mould infestation
  • Clean up any food or drink spills immediately. Or stop eating and drinking in your car altogether
  • Clean your car often. A thorough clean inside and out will help keep your car disinfected and free of moulds

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