A good car detailer?

otto and daisy in backseatSue emails:

I bought a used car from a friend who had a dog, and the car smells like dog...which isn't too great when it's hot and the windows are up because the AC is on.
Two different friends of mine have said I should get the car detailed, which I guess is an extra thorough washing, but I have no idea how to find a place...I am willing to throw down a few dollars to make the car fresh again, but would like to make sure that my money is well spent.
So maybe some of the AOA readers have some experience with this? Also, if they think a vacuum and some baking powder is the way to go, I welcome any DIY tips (although this is definitely one of those things that I would rather pay for).

Oof. We hope you have some suggestions for places Sue can get her car de-dogged. The Otto-mobile has also been kind of doggy lately -- so we could also use the tips.

Got a suggestion? Please share!


Try out these guys.. they did wonders for my boat.

If you don't mind manual labor, and have a wet/dry vac, you can try the following:

Items needed:
2 spray bottles
wet/dry vacuum
carpet brush

1. fill one spray bottle with 50/50 wool-lite/water mix
2. fill a second spray bottle with water
3. Remove all of the floor mats from the car.
4. Vacuum the car thoroughly
5. spray 50/50 mix on interior carpet, one section at a time (i.e. driver front/driver rear, passenger front/passenger rear). Don't soak the carpet to the point that there is standing water in the car.
6. start scrubbing carpets with the carpet brush. Brush in a north/south, east/west pattern. If you need more liquid, use the second spray bottle (with just water).
7. When finished, remove the filter from the wet/dry vacuum and start sucking up the moisture from the carpet.

Do the same process for the mats, but instead of using the wet vac, just hose the mats down after you have scrubbed them. You can drape them over a railing outside and let them dry in the sun.

The seats have the same process. However, don't apply too much 50/50 mix or it will take forever for them to dry. Also, if the seat material seems like it would tear easily, don't use the carpet brush on it.

Once complete, leave the windows open to allow the car to dry.

If you have any smells coming through the air ducts, you can spray lysol into the intake vents, just below the windshield on the outside of the car (usually below the wipers), then run the air. You don't need to have it on A/C, and you should make sure it is NOT recurculating the air from within the car.

For the dash and plastic, wipe with a wet spunge, then apply a protectant. Most people use armor all, but I would recommend "303 Aerospace Protectant". This product is marketed for use on vinyl boat cushions and plastics. It will help prevent cracking and fading. The only place in the area that sells it is "West Marine" in Latham.

I had a similar problem when I bought my car- it was a "fleet" vehicle which had been non-smoking, but clearly someone had smoked in it. I tried a couple of different home remedies and eventually the smoky smell faded:

  • Rub/throw baking soda on the fabric surfaces and leave overnight. Vacuum clean in the morning.

  • Small dishes of vinegar left on the seats overnight supposedly helps freshen the air- i had one leak on my front seat, necessitating a major clean-up job (I used a spot cleaner made for car upholstery that I bought at Target- it came in a blue can with a scrubby brush attached to the spray nozzle)

  • A mild mixture of vinegar and water (1:1) on all the plastic areas- this is especially important for smoky smells as they tend the residue tends to "stick" to plastic/vinyl areas. If you don't want your car to smell like salad dressing afterwords, clean water and a sponge will help get rid of vinegary smell.

  • You can try either Febreeze or any of that than anti-odor stuff on the fabric and other places; that tends to help in the short run but fades after time.

  • I think what worked best for me was several different very-thorough vacuuming and (eventually) using my parent's carpet shampooer vacuumy thing (it had a hand-held attachment); this seems similar to Greg's suggestion above.

  • I also did something similar to Greg's suggestion about the lysol in the air vents in my previous car; I don't know how well that worked (it tended to stink up the car and fade over time) but I also tried plain old soap and water dumped into those vents. With my smoky car, eventually I got the interior air vent filter replaced, which also helped get the smoky smell out of the vents when I turned on the A/C- so consider doing that too.

  • Don't forget to vacuum/deodorize/shampoo the ceiling (if it's carpeted). Do a small area first on a low vacuum setting (so you don't end up sucking the carpet off the ceiling).

  • Good luck!

We went to Hoffman's up in Latham to get our car detailed. It was amazing how different it was after that.

Lysol. Scented alcohol water. In my imagination, Charles Lysol and Joseph Listerine, their fortunes made, once took lunch together at the Stork Club, and made a bet on who'd be selling more product 100 years later. Then they ordered more Madeira and pork cracklings, and had a good laugh.

Today, probably in a golf cart, David Oreck is laughing the same laugh.


I used to work for Nemith Motor cars in Latham. Don't think that this is a promotion, but I really liked their services. I also shampooed my car there from top to bottom, the smell was like in a new one after....)))

I had my car detailed by the dealer and I wasn't impressed, I could do a better job myself with BacOut. But I recently used Beaver Body and Paint at 9 Garden Alley in Albany, and they did an amazing job. My 3 year-old car looked brand new. It wasn't cheap, but it encouranged me to keep the kids from eating in the car for at least three months. (518) 463-7044

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