How Not to Be Gross: Cleaning Your Car of Doggie Grime

If dogs are frequent passengers, here's how to get rid of ground-in fur, drool, and dog odor.


Every Friday, a group at Laura Markson’s office gathers to go out for lunch. And every Friday, Laura ducks into the ladies room, or pretends to be absorbed in work, until she hears that the transportation arrangements are set.

“I don’t want to drive anyone,” Markson admits. “I have two Golden Retrievers who love car rides. My car is a jumble of fur, drool stains, and doggie odor.”

Doggie outings are lots of fun for everyone, but evidence of your canine passenger shouldn’t send your human travelers looking elsewhere for a ride. Whether it’s a summer road trip or your daily jaunt to the pond, if you share your wheels with a pooch, take steps to keep your car fit for all passengers, furry or otherwise.

1. The biggest culprit: fur

Once it has nestled into crevices or upholstery, it’s hard to remove dog fur. Try rubbing rugs or upholstery vigorously with a damp towel, which will cause the fur strands to roll together into a tangle that you can lift off. Or wrap duct tape around your hand, sticky-side-out, to lift off the fur.

You can also try vacuuming, but be ready to use some muscle. With four dogs in tow, vacuuming has become a three part process for Kimberly Gauthier of Keep the Tail Wagging. “A shopvac to get the dirt, our home vacuum cleaner with attachments to loosen up the hair that is interwoven into the fabric, and a shopvac again to get the last of the hair,” she says.

Also, removable, washable seat covers are a must for any nature-loving dog.

“I have a Kurgo seat cover that’s heavy-duty
 and waterproof canvas. It’s been great for protecting the rear seats in 
both my cars from drool, mud, dog vomit, etc,” says Jason Lancaster,
 editor and founder of AccurateAutoAdvice. “It does a great job of 
protecting the seats and I can hose it off.”

You can always improvise by covering your seats with a blanket or towel, but be sure to tuck them in securely to prevent slipping.

2. Signs of slobber

Drool has a way of flying all around the inside of a car. Keep a package of upholstery wipes or even baby wipes on hand, and try to sop up drool before it has a chance to dry or settle into fabrics.

Once dried, if drool has left a stain, use an upholstery or leather cleaner designed for car seats.

Prevention may be your best bet if your dog is a drooler. Anxiety is often the trigger, so if you suspect car rides make your pup nervous, take some steps to make his experience more pleasant, including shorter trips and positive reinforcement. “Whenever I take a road trip, I make stops every couple of hours to walk
 the dog, and the walks last a good 10 minutes. That seems to make a big 
difference in his anxiety,” says Lancaster.

3. Oh, the Odor

A doggie outing wouldn’t be half as much fun without mud, water, and the occasional romp with a rotting substance. After a particularly messy outing, use a towel or brush to remove residue of snow, mud, or whatever else he’s collected.

Back home, let the car dry completely before you try to vacuum or sweep. If an odor remains, try leaving a box of opened baking soda or charcoal briquettes in the car overnight with the windows closed. Spray odor-eliminators, such as Febreze, can also help.

Even if your dog politely stays clean on outings, doggie odor can naturally build up over time. Combat this with an occasional, liberal sprinkle of baking soda over your upholstery and rugs. Let it sit to soak up odor, then vacuum. While it’s an obvious solution, leave windows open as much as possible to keep the air flowing and prevent the buildup of odor.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve de-dogged your car, set aside a couple hours for a thorough cleaning, then aim to be more diligent in the future. With a little routine upkeep, your car can be pleasant for all species of passenger!

How do you keep your car clean of doggie grime? Tell us your tips in the comments.

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1 thought on “How Not to Be Gross: Cleaning Your Car of Doggie Grime”

  1. Hi Debbie, thank you for sharing your insights and these cleaning tips are all amazing!  If an odor remains, try leaving a box of opened baking soda or charcoal? Thank you!

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