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Best dog smell removers for cars: air fresheners to eliminate wet dog odour

Do you need professional help to completely rid your car of doggy smells, or could a DIY alternative do the job?

In the past five years, more than a million of us have done something which can knock hundreds off the value of our car: get a dog. According to the PSDA charity, there are 10.2 million pet dogs in the UK – 1.3 million more than five years ago. And while they bring untold joy, your car won’t be feeling the love.

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Besides any physical damage, the harm to your car could be something you can’t see – the smell. All dogs have a natural odour, and if you add in a few trips in the car after a damp, muddy walk, the reek will be obvious. 

Simon Morgan, director of Letchworth Motor Auctions, said: “Our inspectors list adverse smells in the same way we would for a dent or other damage. I’d expect a car that smells of damp dog to be worth at least £500 less than an odour-free equivalent.” That’s enough to make it worthwhile investing in some pooch protection.

Covers and boot liners, such as our test-winning CarBox Form S, can contain the worst of the muck and are far easier to clean. You can also find dog ‘showers’, such as the Mud Daddy, to clean pets off post walk. 

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But even these won’t protect the car completely, so you’ll have to crack out the cleaners. To test the options, we enlisted a 2012 Fiat Panda that had been used by a professional dog walker. It was so dirty that a dealer refused it as a trade-in and it was going to be scrapped.

How we tested them

The Panda was given a thorough valet to get rid of all possible sources of odour, but there was still a distinct whiff of damp dog when getting in on a warm day. Experts told us the only way to really get rid of the smell is with an ozone treatment, which costs between £75 and £150 and is done by professional valeters.

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Ozone is the gas which occurs during a thunderstorm and gives a ‘fresh air’ smell. The process can be created artificially using an ozone generator, and it kills odours.

George Dikran of OCD Pro Detail in Herts says: “After thorough cleaning, you use the machine for 45 minutes. The gas gets into the places the cleaning doesn’t.”

However, it is expensive and using ozone too often can harm surfaces inside. We tried several DIY options to get the final freshness in our Fiat and enlisted our fussiest passenger – my wife – to judge their abilities. 

Best dog odour removers:

Airvive

  • Price: around £17.50
  • Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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To use Airvive, you mix two powders together with water, shake the jar and then leave it inside your vehicle for eight hours. The resulting yellow gel emits a gas that leaves the interior of your car smelling strongly of chlorine – rather like a swimming pool. This can be a little overpowering at first, but it dissipates after a few days – sooner if you can air the car safely – and leaves the cabin smelling considerably better.

The whole thing has the feel of a children’s chemistry set, but it did work well by seeming to destroy the smell rather than mask it.

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Buy now from AirVidox

Air-con bomb

  • Price: from around £10
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

With your air-conditioning having to constantly fight with damp dogs and muddy boots, it’s likely that the internal parts of the system are going to become a little fusty. These ‘bomb’ aerosols lock spray into the pipes and enter with the air-con set to recirculate. For these products to work properly, it’s essential that you change the cabin air filter at the same time. 

Our Panda had a noticeably fresher smell, but only with the fans blowing. The whiff when first getting in the car was still there a week after the treatment.

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Air freshener

  • Price: from £1
  • Rating: 1.5/5 stars

A car air freshener, such as scented tree dangling from a rear-view mirror, must be the most popular car accessory in the world, and there is no doubt it smells a lot better than a damp dog. However, none of the fresheners we tried were able to completely mask strong odours, unless they were excessively used to the point where they themselves caused nausea.

Most effective was Autoglym’s Odour Eliminator (around £11), which comes in a squirty bottle and was useful on fabrics such as the tricky-to clean headliner.

Buy now from Autoglym

Our verdict

When it comes to pooch-pong protection, prevention is key. Cover up as much of the car’s interior as you can and make sure your dog is as clean as possible before letting them in. 

When it’s time to sell or return the car, it might be worth investing in an ozone treatment and professional valet, but for the occasional freshen up, we would recommend the Airvive. Just make sure you thoroughly clean the interior first. 

Driving with your dog...

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