In purchasing a used car you are purchasing everything that the previous owner did to the car, and their smells that happened while in the car. S.N. came with a distinctive lived-in smell, along with some stains that come along with having kids: chocolate milk on the ceiling, Sharpie on the doors, dirt embedded into the carpet. Cleaning S.N. was a top priority for me, so I took to it with vacuums, carpet cleaners, and lots of windex.
Vacuuming did the trick for a lot of the dirt, the carpet cleaner really pulled out the deeply buried dirt, but to get the sharpie marks off I employed a trick that I discovered in undergrad to get sharpies off of dry-erase boards. Because like solubilizes like, you just write on top of the sharpie mark with a dry erase marker, and then wipe it off right away. This can take sharpie off of hard surfaces in one or two cover-and-wipes. At that point S.N. was dirt and stain free.
Even after the vacuum and the carpet cleaner the car seemed to retain a closed-up smell, especially when the heater was running. The culprit—the cabin air filter needed to be cleaned. The cabin air filter collects all the gunk floating around inside the car and keeps the fan running clean. In most cars the cabin air filter is located behind the glove box and is easy to remove and then you can clean or replace it. I opted for giving it a good vacuuming and then soaking it with some Victoria’s Secret body splash. While the scent won’t last for too long, for now whenever we go down the road S.N. will feel like our “Secret Escape.”