Asked on Oct 12, 2012

bad smell in car..sour milk?

Bernice H
by Bernice H
Ok ,another problem! We bought an 07 Toyota Sienna the other day, there is a smell in there, like maybe some milk had spilled and spoiled..the carpets were shampooed..but it is still there. Any suggestions? Maybe it is the carpets, maybe not..(hubs is pretending he doesnt really smell it so bad. He really wants this car! )
  54 answers
  • Carroll A Carroll A on Oct 12, 2012
    Febreze makes a spray for cars. Have you tried spraying it down real good and leaving the doors/windows open all day? I would wash all the hard surfaces too. But this may be a sign of a bigger problem like a leak somewhere.
  • Chemical sprays will mask the odors, Ozone will remove it. If the car has a strange odor, I would suggest that you check CarFax and see if there is any history of the car being in a flood. Check well up under the dash for soil stains. Lots of these autos on the market. This can cost a few dollars but could be worth it. If your getting from used car dealer have them provide you with the report for free!
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 12, 2012
    Thanks Bob...we did get a report, not from carfax . I forget who, no kind of problem at all in the reports.....
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 12, 2012
    @Woodbridge Environmental BTW...what do you mean by ozone...especially in a car? And if it had been in a flood how would that have affected the car smell wise? This one came from upper New York. Hubs did come home today saying....hmmm! Not good. I wonder if we can identify where the smell is coming from..and if the carpet has to be replaced, is this very expensive?
  • Ozone generators kill the bacteria that causes odors. Many house electrical air fresheners use this. Orick (spelling) vacuum company sold these a while back and had a recall due to excessive ozone delievery. Also Shacklee sells them for home use. You may be able to rent one, but hard to find. If you Google Ozone machine you will see all types and brands of these and explanations on how they work. Their are many studies on these units and if you read the EPA stuff on them they say do not use because they are unsafe, however when used properly and for reasons such as yours, they can be very successful and work well.
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 13, 2012
    Sienna = minivan Minivan = kids Kids = milk Milk + travel = motion sickness Motion sickness + milk + kids = puke fest when my daughter were really young she threw up in the back of my truck (jump seats) she had been drinking chocolate milk I got it cleaned up as fast as I could but it still took some weeks of cleaning and recleaning to get the smell out. I used some baking soda and that seemed to help. That was some 8 plus years ago. I also used some citrus air freshners spay to "cover" the smell for a few months, after that it finally faded away
  • Ellen H Ellen H on Oct 13, 2012
    So eloquent, @KMS Woodworks . LOL (or NOT, depending on whether it has happened to you).
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 13, 2012
    @KMS Woodworks Yup, kids and sour milk , however my son barfed in my friends car after eating German sausage, now that was also "grody"! I saw a suggestion for the MEANTIME about fresh ground coffee beans and leaving an open container in the car. Also some good citrus spray, as you suggested. Decades ago, I had a friend who rented a house that had cat pee smell real bad, landlord wouldnt take care of it, so we pulled the carpet up and applied lots of baking soda on the floor, I was amazed at how well it worked! We laid the carpet down again, but it still worked! I am thinking we may need to have new carpeting put in, at least before summer.....ICK!!!! I am sure the dealer knew of this problem, but the windows were open and we thought shampooing the carpet as it was detailed would take care of the problem. Does anyone know what is involved with replacing carpet and how much dinero we are talking about? Or how do I find out online? @Woodbridge Environmental I will certainly follow up on an ozone generator, I know we saw one in a Motel room that had had smokers in there. Is that what you are talking about? I will have to post a picture of this car, it is gorgeous! And such a good vehicle..but........!
  • Ellen H Ellen H on Oct 13, 2012
    Yoou might try an odor remover called Capture - Lowe's has it back in their flooring dept. Capture makes a line of products - we bought the one for removing odors. We were treating cat urine and bought the gallon size and put in a pump sprayer and generously sprayed the carpet. I was quite pleased with the result. It isn't perfumy, although there is some not-unpleasant chemical smell when you first spray it on. No lingering chemical odor when it dries. The lady who told me about it used it to clean mobile homes between tenants.
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 13, 2012
    @Ellen H yeah, Kevin's a man of few words , yup! Well, I will keep that (capture) in mind also. Making a list! ha I suppose we need to find the source first, and I am not sure how to do that! However if it is milk, isnt that a protein, and don't proteins need enzymes, like cat and dog stains do? I am not sure , but this problem seems to be my job! However Hubs is driving the car...snicker! Supposed to be my new car, but i told him, he wanted all wheel drive, now he has it!! I am still driving the honda mini van ..which sort of rattles. oh well.
  • Donna R Donna R on Oct 13, 2012
    The best, and most inexpensive odor remover I have found is good ole' vinegar and water. It can be sprayed onto everything without damaging the interior of the car, and then leave the doors open for a day if possible. One part vinegar to three parts water. It's great to use for that load of clothes you "forgot" and left in the washer for a day too (and it acts as a fabric softener)!
  • Leida R Leida R on Oct 13, 2012
    What about pulling out the carpet, and giving it a good hose wash??? or, is that not an option?
  • Donna R Donna R on Oct 13, 2012
    Does it have a warranty? Did you go thru a dealership?
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 13, 2012
    @KMS Woodworks @Woodbridge Environmental What do you think of @Donna R Donna's idea of vinegar and water ? How liberal can I be in spraying? I really want to get under the seats because that may be where it is coming from, shampooing doesnt get under the seats, does it? I do use vinegar in my laundry! Dealership is 3 1/2 hours away. Not many siennas here in Yakima.
  • Donna R Donna R on Oct 13, 2012
    I would try the vinegar water suggestion that the other Donna R. suggested! Can't hurt!
  • I am not a proponent of using Vinegar and water on anything. Other then dying eggs and some other cooking. Way to many people believe that this natural chemical is the cure all for everything, and from all of the many postings seen on HT I suppose they have had good luck with this product. While it does work on lots of stuff, I simply do not use it. My major reason is because your adding water to the mix. Water promotes mold development. If you have a odor being admitted out of the carpet, regardless of what caused it, barf, milk, or even a window left open during a rain storm. This odor is caused by bacteria which is another way of calling it mold. And vinegar does not kill most molds. It may provide a solution that will break it up so it can be washed away, it just does not kill the stuff. And using it in a carpet that has a jute padding for sound and heat prevention from under the car, In my opinion it is a recipe for a bigger issue. You can call someone such as a carpet cleaning service. They or many of them now do auto carpets. They have all sorts of cleaning chemicals that will deodorize and remove any issues with bacteria. With the holiday seasons coming up, I am sure you will find some deals on getting this done. As this is when they begin looking for holiday work. Pulling the carpet out would work Leida R, however that can be a daunting task as the seats and all the interior trims need to be pulled out in order to do this.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Oct 14, 2012
    Our car got contaminated with cigarette smoke! We used a combination of Feebrz and Oust! It will take more than one application...keep at it!
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 14, 2012
    I'm also in @Woodbridge Environmental 's camp and do not use vinegar for cleaning...I use it in my cooking. I had a client get a deal on a Subaru wagon that had some mice or squirels live it. She had all of the carpets and padding in the ceiling etc replaced, that ran about 4 K I'm thinking just the carpets would be maybe half of that. and to me that seems like a lot of green for a bit of annoying smell...I'd just keep at the cleaning with some baking soda and get a pine tree for the rear view mirror...LOL
  • Kelly S Kelly S on Oct 14, 2012
    I used ZORBX on my truck interior to get out the cigarette smell and in the dogs laundry (blankets she lays on) to get out the urine smell. It's made in the USA. They have a website, and a toll free number 1-800-201-5530. It worked for me.
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 14, 2012
    I am really appreciating all the help and advice I am getting on here, thank you thank you! We started on this project this afternoon, and yes @KMS Woodworks there were kids!!!! We found a crayon under the very rear carpet at the back hatch door! I got the strongest smell from there, a big yellow stain right where the carpet hits the plastic, hubs took off the plastic rear thing and i scrubbed the carpet top and under real well with straight vinegar. Yellow kept coming off as I sopped up the vinegar .I am hoping this is the PLACE! The smell was very strong there. I am hoping if this is the place and we dont get rid of the smell , we can replace just part of the carpet there. Wouldnt that be too good to be true? The WHOLE carpet is dirtier for an 07 than our 03 Honda carpet is. I was amazed! But keep suggestions coming..we are not done yet! we have theheat on so hopefully it will dry faster. But I think our next step would be a cleaning supply place for enzyme/bacteria digester?
  • Leida R Leida R on Oct 14, 2012
    What color are the carpets of ur Sienna, Bernice? Also, I forgot to tell u that I buy a spray product from Walmart called Oxy-Fast Stain & odor REMOVER. I find that this product is GREAT. I use it because I have dogs, and will also advice you to keep it in mind possibly for this smell in ur car, and/or for future use. This product is found at the animals' aisle at WM.
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 15, 2012
    If that carpet piece is not too expensive I'd go ahead and replace it. before the new one goes in you will had an opportunity to clean underneath...That will help a ton...if you cant afford the new just removing the old carpet and cleaning it out of place at a car was type place with the mega spay wand (like some people use on their floor mats) will REALLY help while that is being done you can clean out / air air under it.
  • Donna R Donna R on Oct 15, 2012
    This is the first time I have disagreed with KMS and Woodbridge concerning a solution, and that's only because I have used vinegar to remove odors from just about everything for many, many years and it works. I do understand the concern about the water, but as long as you make sure the interior is totally dry it's never been a problem with using the mix to clean. I've had many cars and kids and pets, and vinegar is definitely my go to product when other "odor" sprays/cleaners don't work. Glad to hear you tried it straight though because you won't have to worry about water and mold. You may have to do it again, and it wouldn't hurt to cover the spot with paper towels and put something heavy on it (like a brick or two) to absorb moisture/contaminents from underneath. Check the towels every one to two hours and replace with clean ones as necessary. I hope you can handle this problem with the least expense as possible because I know money is tight for everyone. Good luck.
  • And it is totally fine to disagree Donna R. This is how everyone learns and me for sure, But in my camp and I would also assume KMS as well, there is way to much emphasis on using vinegar as the cure all for all things. I do not think anyone is saying that you cannot use it, but you need to understand more about what ever it is your cleaning just to be safe. A lot of folks use home remedies to fix and solve things, and that is fine, but one also must understand on the professional side, were responsible to be 100% sure all the time or we end up in court. And if we said we used a home remedy on a mold or cleanup project and someone got sick or their belonging became worse as a result. We would not be in that profession for very much longer.
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 15, 2012
    @Woodbridge Environmental Bob and @KMS Woodworks I totally problem, I did use vinegar because it is a first step/cheap, used it before, and I dont think we have anything to lose, then I will progressively do other things if this doesnt make it acceptable. We got the car from a "wholesale" dealer, 3 1/2 hours away. It was on the lot with 3 other siennas, they sold immediately, this one was going back to auction for the next day.. The guy said this didnt sell immediately because it was so much more price wise than the others. Now, I am thinking...hmmm however... it has everything hubs wanted in a newer car. So he is driving it! It is all in one's perspective , I wasnt hepped up about a new car...he hates the honda will keep trying, I do think tho if it doesnt dissipate, and if the smell is the rear spot I am thinking of, yes, maybe we can replace part of the carpet. But we have other things to try first. &&&& I have to shre, notice the typing here? I jammed my finger intio the dash biard yesterday trying ti keep things in there from falling in the floor, I jammed my finger si bad hakf the naik cqame off, and i have a splint in my finger right now. so whjen i look at the keyboard then up at the screen this si wat i see! takses too long to correct so mu notes will be shirt for a whuile! haha sorryyy
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 15, 2012
    @Leida R gray...gray gray...blech! Everything is grey now, or else it is gray....
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 15, 2012
    ps hubs did google, or bi ng, a solution adn thisis one of the suggestions. this has become a sleep interrupter for us, tho i know there are worse things in the world with filks!
  • Leida R Leida R on Oct 15, 2012
    Sorry about ur finger. My God, "when it rains it pours". Hang in there as everything will take its course. Take care of ur ginger, though.
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 15, 2012
    Hahahaha gud on!
  • Donna R Donna R on Oct 15, 2012
    @Bernice H, are you typing drunk? LOL! Sorry about your finger.
  • Donna R Donna R on Oct 15, 2012
    Maybe you need a designated typist! :)
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 15, 2012
    Its this splint...i have to watch every letter, time consuming...I dont know what to do about my finger nail..It is half down to the base, will it heal itself? What can Dr do I can't?
  • Leida R Leida R on Oct 15, 2012
    Maybe a pencil eraser can help with the typing. Well, u know what I mean. Lol!!!
  • Bernice are you sure you did not find a bottle of something under the seat of that mini van? lol That is not going to make the smell go away. hope your finger feels better soon.
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 16, 2012
    Actually....a bottle of something would actually smell better than the smell we are dealing with, but hubs says it is better today, but how does he know yet? Wishful thinking?
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Oct 16, 2012
    @Donna R about the vinegar thing...personally i just don't care for the smell. I'm more of a Pinsol and Lemon kind of guy...LOL
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Oct 16, 2012
    And I like lemon and cinnamon..ha!I Aired the car out today, We shall see what hapens over th e next few days. I woke up at 3 a.m worrying about this problem. No joy in having a newer car!
  • Hughena M Hughena M on Oct 24, 2012
    Fill A plastic container filled with charcoal and do not put a lid on it. After a few days the odor should disappear.
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Nov 03, 2012
    Update on car smell. It seems to not be so bad anymore after all that vinegar etc.But it is still there. I think as the weather gets warmer we may have to remove part of the carpet. I can just imagine how hot it will get in there and how 'odorific' it will be. We shall see.
  • Sheila Dever Sheila Dever on Nov 19, 2012
    I had this problem and I used baking soda and the smell is completely gone! Apply liberally and leave for 24 hours then vacume.
    • Bernice H Bernice H on Aug 14, 2013
      @Sheila Dever Hey Sheila just rereading...yes, baking soda is wonderful. My friend moved into a rental, and the bedroom carpet was cat smell so bad. We pulled up the carpet area where it was, and just POURED baking soda under the carpet and then on worked!!! I was amazed. We put it on the base floor, then the carpet pad, then the carpet itself. What is baking soda anyway?
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Nov 19, 2012
    @Sheila Dever Thanks..we may have to do something else, we were gone all weekend and I got my fill of it. Hubs "doesnt notice it so much" anymore.....ha! He's good at denial.I know the odor is from something in the the smell will still be there. I am sure we will have to get rid of at least wherever the carpet is soiled.
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Jan 01, 2013
    Well a month and a half later and compared to the problems of the world, this is so minimal, but the smell is still there. Just barely. But it is so cold out there, it is not so noticeable. We will know when it gets warmer. Part of the smell is the "air freshener " hubs got. I would like to find one that is like cinnamon or at least not as sweet as what he found. I really think we wil have to take some carpet out. oh joy!
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Jan 01, 2013
    @Leida R @Donna R @Woodbridge Environmental re my fingernail..I am so amazed, it all grew back in like nothing ever happened!
  • Kelly S Kelly S on Jan 02, 2013
    I'm glad your finger is all better. How's the car smell?
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Jan 07, 2013
    @Kelly S smell is still in there, but not very stroong, so in the apring we wil pursue doing something more. sigh :(
  • Carol Carol on Aug 07, 2013
    If you have air conditioning in your vehicle Bernice check to see if you are cooling fresh air or if you are just cooling the recirculating air inside the vehicle. I had that smell once and it was because I had the air conditioning set incorrectly.
  • Carol Carol on Aug 07, 2013
    Even if you are using heat the same thing can happen if it is set on recirculation of air in the car.
  • Leida R Leida R on Aug 09, 2013
    How is the smell inside your Sienna now, @Bernice ?
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Aug 13, 2013
    Hey @Leida R well, the smell has dissipated quite a bit, it is not so sicky sweet now. Of course it has been a while, and I was hoping for that to happen. But occasionally ..tada... there it is , no rhyme or reason! But it is real faint, doesn't bother me now.Thanks for asking. btw..hubs tells everyone I don't like the car, actually he says I really don't like the car, sometimes it is... hates the car. This is not true. He says he bought it for me, I shake my head, how can he forget ...he is the one who wanted 4 wheel drive, (for snow which we had one time this winter)..he was the one who wanted a belt not a chain, get the drift? What do I care about those things. So I drive the HOnda van. So he tells everyone ...yada yada. sheesh I cant win. It IS higher to get into than the Odyssey.And I am usually with old people, plus I don't need a new car for what I do. When I am out in it, I live in it and it looks like it! Plus it is burgundy, as was my old Lincoln Town car(sob), and burgundy cars need to be washed regularly to keep them looking wow! And I cant do it. I am short and fat! The car is big and tall! So he can do it, but doesn't. It hurts my feelings to not give a beautiful car a bath when it needs it! So, yes, the smell is almost not noticeable! @Carol doesn't seem to be the a/c or heat, recirculating, it was there when we didn't have the recirc going. I am still sure it is the hepa or some milk somewhere. But it is very tolerable now.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Aug 14, 2013
    I don't know if I have passed this along to you or not Bernice, but ODO-BAN is the very best ever about removing smells! I had my carpet cleaned and the independent carpet guy must have gotten it too wet because it soured! I was facing having to relace aobut 500 ft. of carpet when I discovered ODO-BAN. We buy it at Sam's Club by the gallon....actually just bought a gallon last week. I have used it on musty stored furniture and even spray a cloth and wipe down wood surfaces like the inside of chests. Worth a won't hurt cloth surfaces. If you dont want to go to Sam's, you can get it on line just by googling ODO-BAN.
    • See 1 previous
    • Linda Linda on Aug 08, 2015
      If not in the store try Walnart online they have extra stuff or just put odo ban in google and it will come up with retailers
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Aug 14, 2013
    Yes and no...I bought a small bottle at WalMart a couple of years ago, but our Walmart here does not continually carry things. If you go to WalMart, it will be withthe Oust, etc., but it will probably be toward the bottom search around for it.
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Aug 14, 2013
    in the cleaning section? grocery area? or car/ auto area?
  • Susan Susan on Sep 29, 2015
    If you replace the foam go to a factory that directly makes it. Don't get the firm or high density, it will not be comfortable to sit on. It might cost a lot but it is cheaper than buying a new sofa. Then let Stanley Steamer or any STEAM cleaning company steam clean it for you and you will think you've got a brand spanking new sofa for so much less.
  • SimonColby SimonColby on Jan 08, 2019

    Why don't you use services like to check your's car history?

    Did you smell something when you bought this car? Maybe it's a sign (i know it sounds stupid) to sell it and buy another one?

    • Bernice H Bernice H on Jan 08, 2019,thanks for popping in...this original post was from 2012. 😳 we eventually ,sold the was high and difficult to get into,and almost impossible in the back seat.The smell dissipated until it was barely noticeable. We offered to sell it to friends, and they jumped at it. They still had noticed a slight smell, so she drives around with those trees hanging in the front window. Which is sicky sweet too. Ha ha not my problem any more. I still have my Honda van! 👏👏👏