Help! My Sweaty Ass Is Stinking Up My Car

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every other week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

I love your column and I've become something of a "keep your gear not-funky" guru at my Crossfit gym because of it (and white vinegar, duh!) But I'm starting to notice a funk creeping into my car. I don't have time to shower at the gym so I'm usually just plopping my sweaty ass back into my car after long workouts and driving home. I can't keep the seatbelt from getting sweaty either. Sometime I'll get back in the car later in the day and my sweatbelt (freudian typo I'm leaving in) is still cold and damp. Blech. I'm a big time sweater so switching into a new shirt post-workout wouldn't do me much good, I'd just dirty two clean shirts instead of one. Beyond putting down vinyl on the seat, can you give any recommendations?


It pleases me to no end to learn that you're spreading the gospel of clean gear and vinegar washes to your Crossfit brethren. That's such marvelous news to hear at the start of a new year.

I do have some recommendations for you, sure thing. There are two separate things to do to keep those odors at bay: (1) stick an odor-eliminating product somewhere in the vehicle and (2) show that drivers seat and seatbelt some TLC.

The odor-eliminator part is pretty easy and hands-off: get one, put it in an unobtrusive place in the car (under one of the seats is one spot to consider), let it do its work. But make sure it's an odor-eliminator and not an air-freshener, which will just make your car smell like sweaty pine. Some brands to look out for are the Innofresh Auto Odor Eliminator and The Bad Air Sponge. But there are loads more similar products on the market, which can generally be found in hardware and home improvement stores.

In terms of de-funking the seat and seatbelt, there are some quick, short-term fixes to try and also some deeper cleaning that should go on every few months to stave off the bacteria growth that's caused by setting your sweaty self on the upholstery day-in, day-out.

For regular, quick cleaning, keep a tub of baby wipes in the car and use them to wipe the seat and seatbelt off after you've been driving around in your sweaty gear. Baby wipes are low moisture, so they won't saturate the seats, which can lead to mildewing. They also contain a mild soap that will help to wick away some of the grime you've left behind. In addition, they can be safely used to wipe down the seatbelt without leading to any compromising of the belt's fabric.

You might also want to consider doing a light spritz with Lysol or white vinegar—light being the key here! Both of those products are antibacterial, and will help to keep your seat from turning into a festering pit of germs.


Longer term, you should give the seats a deeper cleaning every six or so months. A shop vac combined with an upholstery shampoo is a great tool for this, as is one of those Rug Doctors that you can rent at supermarkets, hardware and home improvement stores. Rather than taking you through written instructions, here's a video I like that will show you what the process looks like.

Nothing says the holidays like a crazy stain. For me, there was a little mini bottle of WD-40 that wound up soaking my good jeans and a sweatshirt. Thoughts on how to deal with that?


That holiday stain is certainly not as crazy as some of the holiday stains I've been asked to help out with—frosting on couches, barf on green corduroy party shorts (I know, I'm as perplexed as you are) and mystery wax on a white sweater have all crossed my transom during holiday seasons past.

Still though, WD-40 stains can be a bear to get out—they fall into the oil/grease category, which is always a tricky one. The two go-to stain pretreatments when you're dealing with an oil or grease stain are Pine Sol and Lestoil. To use, dab onto the stain using a cloth or sponge (they both come in fairly wide-mouthed bottles, so to avoid accidentally dumping the stuff all over the place it's best to put it on a cloth and then apply it to your stained clothes), then allow it to marinate for a spell before laundering as usual. An hour up to a few days will do it. Once the garment(s) have been washed check the area where the stain (hopefully!) had been to ensure it's gone before putting the clothes in the dryer, since heat will set a stain. If you're unsure if the stain is gone—sometimes it can be hard to tell on wet clothing—err on the side of caution and air dry the items in question.


Other options when it comes to removing oil and grease stains are dish soap (Dawn in particular); cornstarch, talcum or chalk; degreasers like Zep; and laundry pretreatment products like Zout.

This was a pretty light answer, but I wanted to get to it because dear God WD-40 is just such great stuff! I want to encourage you to use it for everything from getting crayon off of walls to lubricating the mechanism on your drawbridge.


Top image by Jim Cooke

Disclosure: Innofresh provided sample products for review purposes.

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Jolie Kerr is the author of the upcoming book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume, February 25, 2014); more cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr. Squalor appears on Jezebel and Deadspin on alternating weeks.