How to Remove a Musty Smell From a Car Air Conditioner

Updated February 21, 2017

The crisp, clean smell of a new car is a welcome scent when most vehicle owners purchase a new vehicle. However, that scent can quickly wear off due to a number of factors including road dust, exhaust and condensation from the air conditioner. A musty odour is often noted by many vehicle owners, and that smell is not only irritating, but it can make your vehicle difficult to sell in the future. Removing the musty odour from your car's air conditioner will make driving your vehicle much more pleasant.

Clean your car thoroughly. While it may seem like common sense to keep your car tidy, many items commonly found in cars, such as jackets and seat covers, can hold moisture and contribute to a musty odour.

Park your car in a sunny area when you are not using it. The heat from the sun will permeate the car and dry out any excess moisture your car may have picked up while you were driving.

Change the air filter in your car. Air filters are made of soft, fibrous material that retain moisture and odours, and a new filter can reduce unpleasant odours.

Start your car, turning the air conditioner to the fresh air setting. This will draw new air in from the outside rather than recirculating the stale, wet air already running through the vacuum lines.

Open the car's bonnet and locate the air conditioner intake. Spray a generous amount the antibacterial spray into the intake and allow it to circulate through the air conditioner. The antibacterial spray will cling to and kill off any fungus or bacteria in the system.

Switch the air conditioner setting to recirculating and spray the odour-eliminating spray into the intake. This spray will remove any remaining musty smell from the air conditioner and will introduce a new, pleasant odour throughout your car.


Choose sprays that have a scent you enjoy. Many sprays will eliminate the musty odour of your car, but some sprays may carry a scent that you find equally offensive.


Never use plain water to try and flush out your air conditioning system. It may seem like a few sprays of water will help flush out scents, but the water will sit and stagnate, making the problem worse.

Things You'll Need

  • Air filter
  • Antibacterial spray
  • Odour-eliminating spray
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About the Author

Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.