How to Clean Vomit from Your Car

Disinfectant with some tissue

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You never want to hear the dreaded sound of one of your passengers heaving in the backseat. Let’s face it, it happens. Especially if you have little ones or riders that are prone to carsickness.

This cleaning guide will help you take the hesitation out of cleaning vomit from your car.

What You Need to Clean Vomit From Your Car

Before you start cleaning, make sure you have all the tools necessary for cleaning up the vomit and your car. Each of these items will make the job easier. Some also offer protection as a barrier between you and the unsightly mess.

Old vintage car interior

Protection

First, make sure you are protected while you are cleaning. Don’t skip these items to save time. In the long run, you will be better off by taking just a moment to protect your hands and face.

Gloves

Every cleaning cabinet should have a box of disposable latex, rubber or plastic gloves. These gloves are great for protecting your hands from messy substances. They also keep your hands safe from harsh chemical cleaners that can irritate skin.

If you don’t have any gloves on hand, you can still use other things to protect your hands while cleaning. For cleaning gross messes like vomit or if you have to deal with pet poop, grab a plastic bag and put your hand inside it. This will act as a barrier between your hands and the mess. Basically, it’s a tool that helps you scoop up any and all debris on the surface of the area you need to clean.

Face Mask

A face mask works double duty. First, it keeps you safe from any airborne illnesses that could come from the vomit in your car. Second, it can dull down the stomach churning smell that comes from the vomit.

This tool is especially important if anyone around you is suffering from an illness such as the Norovirus which is highly contagious. It spreads to others via airborne pathogens in vomit.

If you don’t have any disposable face masks handy, you can use a scarf or tie a t-shirt around your face. This will also create a barrier between your mouth/nose from the air and pungent smell.

Natural Cleaner

Choosing a natural cleaner is a great option. It saves you some money and protects your surfaces and loved ones from the harshness of some chemical cleaners.

When you are cleaning vomit from car surfaces, you will want a cleaner that doesn’t just mask the odor with another loud smell. Instead, these two natural products clean the area and eliminate the odor at the same time.

Vinegar Cleaning Solution

White distilled vinegar is a favorite among natural cleaners, thanks to its gentleness on fabrics yet tough on stains and odors. White vinegar is highly acidic. Normally, it’s mixed half and half with water when creating a cleaning spray. This cuts down on the high acidity and strong vinegar smell.

For the cleaning step a little further down you will want to mix a 50/50 water and white distilled vinegar solution in a spray bottle. You can add a few drops of Dawn to the solution to give your natural cleaning spray a little more scrubbing power.

Just know that if you do mix in a cleaning detergent like Dawn, you will need to add in an additional rinsing with clean water. This makes sure you are able to get the dish detergent up. Vinegar and water alone can air dry, no extra rinse needed.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is another great option for cleaning. It has deodorizing and absorbing properties to help you get rid of strong smells. In addition, it will absorb any excess moisture in your fabric or carpeted surfaces.

You can mix a few tablespoons of baking soda into a cup of water to create a baking soda cleaning spray solution. This cleaning spray is good for light cleaning, stain removal, and as a spray deodorizer.

Baking soda will be the number one answer for how to get rid of vomit smell in car seats and the floorboard.

How to Clean Vomit From Your Car

Vomit can land in your car floorboards. Unless you are lucky enough to have rubber floor mats that easily spray clean, you will be dealing with cloth mats and that lightly fuzzed floorboard. If you have vomit on your floor boards, you can easily clean it by following these steps.

1. Clean up the surface vomit.

First, use gloves or a plastic bag to pick up any and all puke debris that is on the surface. You could also use a paper plate as a flat surface scraper to pick up the vomit. This is the first and most important step since you can’t clean without getting up as much as possible. By doing this, you aren’t rubbing the debris back into the floorboard.

2. Use a cloth to lift up the moisture.

Next, before you begin spraying a cleaner onto the area, get up as much of the moisture on the floor that you can. This gets your surfaces ready for the cleaner so it can work without being too diluted or blocked by the moisture of the vomit.

Disinfectant with some tissue

Paper towels are a good disposable way to get up a lot of moisture. Just toss it in the trash. You won’t have to fuss with washing towels and rags after you have finished cleaning one surface. Especially if you are cleaning yucky stuff, just use disposable items so you don’t have to worry with cleaning and sanitizing your towels afterwards.

3. Clean the floorboard.

Now that all of the vomit has been cleaned from the floorboard surface, you can begin cleaning vomit from your car floorboards. Use the vinegar and water mixture that was mentioned above to clean the floorboards. Make sure you are spraying the area well. Do not drench the area by dumping a cleaning solution on it. If you make it too wet, you will face the issue of not being able to get up all the moisture you put on your floorboards. This could potentially lead to mold and mildew in your car. Use a spray bottle and limit your spray. A good rule of thumb is to dampen the area well and add a little more if you think it is needed as you are cleaning.

Use a little stiff brush to agitate the cleaner and scrub the floorboard. Clean any sides of the floor or car that has been hit with the vomit. For seats, hold off until the next section since we will handle them with a little more care.

4. Lift the moisture again

Use a paper towel or a dry cloth to pick up the excess cleaning moisture. If you used Dawn dish detergent and need to rinse the area, you will still want to follow this step before you rinse. By doing this you are limiting how much liquid you are putting on your floor boards.

If you do need to rinse the area, go ahead and add in the rinsing step before you put down any baking soda or sanitize the floorboards. Make sure you repeat lifting the moisture again before you move onto the next step.

5. Follow with baking soda

The final step is an extra deodorizing step that also wicks up moisture. There are two different ways you can utilize the baking soda.

-First, you can sprinkle the baking soda and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes. It absorbs extra moisture while also getting rid of any odors. Vacuum up the baking soda and let the area air dry.

-If you want to avoid wet baking soda, you can let the floorboard air dry by leaving the windows down for air circulation for 12-24 hours. Once dry, sprinkle baking soda on the floorboard and leave it for anywhere from 1 to 24 hours to allow it to absorb any lingering vomit odors. Vacuum the baking soda up with a stick vacuum when you are done.

6. Sanitize

When you are dealing with body fluids it is always a good idea to sanitize the area. A simple pass with ​Lysol Disinfectant Spray will take care of any virus germs that are lingering in the air or in the floorboard fibers.


These steps will help you when you need to know how to clean puke from car floorboards. Following them will take a lot of the “what do I do” stress out of the equation. Now, you can get back to enjoying your car again.

How to Clean Vomit from Car Seats

Cleaning vomit from car seats can be a little more delicate. Different materials need to be cleaned differently. Since these are surfaces you see, will want to be gentle on them.

Cleaning Leather Car Seats

Leather car seats are wonderful when it comes to cleaning vomit. You don’t have to worry about the vomit soaking in since this is a sealed surface. However, it can potentially discolor your leather surfaces if it sits for long periods of time. Try to clean it up as soon as possible.

Since there is no soaking in, you can follow the simple steps. Wipe up the surface debris, then skip ahead to cleaning your seats with a cleaning spray. You can use the vinegar and water cleaning spray (skip the Dawn) for your leather seats. Yes, vinegar can dry out leather, but with a quick spray and wipe you don’t need to worry about this. It will only dry out your leather if you leave vinegar sitting on your leather surfaces for long periods of time.

Use a clean cloth dipped in water to wipe the seat after you have sprayed the vinegar cleaning solution. This step gives you a clean rinse to make sure there is no white vinegar on your leather seats.


Use a ​Lysol Disinfecting Wipes to finish the job and get rid of any lingering bacteria on your seats.

White leather car seats interior

Clean​ing Cloth Car Seats

Dealing with cloth car seats is very similar to your floorboards. You just want to forgo any hard scrubbing with a bristled brush since this could potentially damage your fabric seats. Instead of the brush, use a cloth or rag to rub gentle circles into the vomit covered areas you are cleaning.

Also, since your seats have so many deep layers of padding, you will need to make sure you are not over drenching the seats. This is why a spray bottle is a great cleaning product distributor. It lets you limit your cleaning spray to a concentrated dampening of the areas that need it without drenching areas that don’t.

Make sure you are getting up as much moisture as you can. Also, crack the windows and park your car in the sun to help the seats air dry before you sit on them. The sun’s rays also act as a secondary disinfectant on your car seat surfaces. In addition, you can use a good car vacuum cleaner to suck up all the remaining moisture in the seats.

Clean​ing Kid’s Car Seats

Kids’ car seats can be a little easier to clean since the cloth cover comes off. Just toss the car seat cover into the washing machine and you won’t have to deal with cleaning it. You will, however, need to make sure you clean the plastic base.

After the car seat is finished in the washing machine, don’t toss it in the dryer. Lay it out in the warm sun to air dry or hang it above the shower to fully dry before putting it back in your car.

Conclusion

Cleaning vomit from car seats and floorboards is not a fun task but it can be easy once you know the right steps. While we do have a few steps we recommend you follow, you can take rest in knowing you are cleaning it the right way the first time. This way you don’t have to come back and clean your car a second time due to a lingering stain or smell.

​If you​ enjoyed this article, make sure to check out our comprehensive cleaning guides:

About the Author Lauren Moldvay

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.