How To Get Rid of Beer Smell in the Car (Cloth, Leather, & Carpets)

Whether you spilled some beer while cleaning out your car, or a six-pack broke on your way home from the liquor store, beer stains can be a frustrating and unpleasant experience. While it is highly irresponsible to drink in a vehicle while the engine is running, there are a number of legitimate reasons you might have to deal with a spill inside your car. If so, fear not! There are some sure-fire ways to get the inside of your car smelling as good as new.

The most effective way to get the smell of spilled beer out of your car is to get it professionally detailed, but there are many things you can do at home to lessen the problem. Soak up spills as soon as they occur to keep the beer from soaking into the upholstery or carpets then blot the stain with a cleaning solution and allow the car to air out.

Read on to get the specific recommendations for how to clean up stains off your seats, carpet, and central console.

Spilled beer in your car?

Though there are many understandable reasons you might spill beer in your car, it’s important to keep in mind that it is dangerous and illegal to operate heavy machinery under the influence of alcohol.

If you or someone you know spilled beer in your car while drinking and driving, don’t be afraid to contact an organization like SMART recovery that can help you or your loved ones address struggles with alcohol misuse, whether you want to quit alcohol entirely or just want to commit to safe decision-making while continuing with the home-brewing hobby.

With that disclaimer out of the way: what should you do if you spilled beer in your car due to ordinary circumstances?

The first thing to keep in mind is that beer stains are considered water-type stains. That means they’re completely water-soluble and will come out easier than oily or highly pigmented stains. 

Since beer stains are water-soluble, cleaning them with water and a detergent and letting your car air out should solve a majority of the problems, especially if you clean up the stain before it dries onto your interior and use a fan to air out the smell.

Keep reading for detailed information on how to clean specific areas of your car.

Does beer smell ever go away on its own?

While the smell of stale beer may lessen over time, don’t count on waiting out the smell in your car.

The compound responsible for stale, skunky beer, prenylthiol, will stick around for a long time after the water in your beer evaporates, so it’s best to address the problem sooner than later.

Depending on how much beer was spilled, you may be looking at a very long summer if you don’t take the time to clean it properly.

How to get rid of the beer smell in your car

Because beer stains are water-soluble, it is possible to prevent the skunky smell associated with prenylthiol using water alone. However, the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to remove these odors since the amount of prenylthiol in the beer stain will increase the longer it stays untreated in your car. 

For best results, soak up stains as soon as they occur, then rinse the spot with detergent or a vinegar solution. Be sure to air out your car as the stain dries to ensure that the smell evaporates and exits your car entirely. If possible, steaming upholstered seats and carpets will make a big impact on stubborn stains. 

Whatever you do, make sure to act fast. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the beer smell will become persistent and may even require you to have your interior completely re-detailed. 

Cloth seats

If you spilled beer on upholstered cloth seats, using a steamer and/or blotting at the stain with a detergent or vinegar solution should clean up the stain without leaving any odors. 

To remove stains from your cloth seats:

  1. Soak up as much spilled beer as you can by dabbing at stain with clean white paper towels or cloth.
  2. Prepare your detergent or vinegar solution.  
    • Mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar with ⅔ cup of rubbing alcohol.
    • Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid hand dishwashing detergent with 2 cups of cool water.
  3. Sponge the stain with your solution of choice using a clean white cloth.
  4. Dab up the solution until the liquid is completely absorbed
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 until the stain is completely removed.
  6. Sponge the area with cold water and blot dry.

Though they will not include the detergent step to remove the smell, steamers are a quick and powerful tool for removing less stubborn beer stains. If you enjoy the feeling of clean seats, you may want to consider investing in a small steamer.

Leather seats

Because leather is less porous than cloth, leather seats will usually have easier clean-up for beer stains than upholstered seats. A very similar method for removing stains is recommended by leather-care experts though: wipe down the stain with water, and use a vinegar solution if the smell persists.

To remove beer smell from leather seats:

  1. Sponge the stain with soda water.
  2. Gently wipe the area with warm water using a clean cloth.
  3. Wring out the cloth and smell the seat. 
  4. Repeat Steps 2-3 until the smell is gone.
  5. Wipe dry and smell the leather again after 20 minutes.
  6. If the odor persists, mix equal parts white vinegar and water and sponge the area again. 
  7. Rinse and sponge the area again with cool water.

Carpets and floor mats

Carpets and floor mats can really hold onto the smell of skunky beer; to avoid persistent smells and stains, you should liberally wash your carpets and floor mats with vinegar and detergent and allow them to air-dry with the help of a fan to remove the smell from your car interior for good.

To remove beer smell from your carpets and floor mats:

  1. Using clean paper towels, blot up the beer spill as soon as possible, until no beer remains.
  2. Mix a solution of:
    • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
    • 2 cups of lukewarm water
  3. Dip an absorbent white cloth into the cleaning solution and wring it out so that it’s wet, but not soaked.
  4. Wipe down the spill, rinsing the cloth frequently in the solution.
  5. Ring out the cloth and soak up any detergent remaining on the carpet.
  6. Let the carpet dry completely, using a box fan pointed at your open car windows to let the interior aerate.
  7. If any smell remains after washing, sprinkle the area with baking soda for 30 minutes, then vacuum.
  8. Repeat baking soda treatments until the smell is completely gone.

Note: this advice also works pretty well for getting beer out of home carpets!

Consoles, cup holders, and other areas

Luckily, center consoles are not very absorbent and will not hold the smell of spilled beer. Still, cupholders and crevasses make it tedious to clean up sticky beer stains. 

To clean beer smell out of your car console:

  1. For freshly spilled beer, wipe up the beer stain as soon as possible. 
  2. Then (after soaking up the stain, or for dry stains) use a sponge soaked in warm, soapy water to moisten the area. 
  3. Finally, rinse well and wipe dry.

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