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Let’s face it: sometimes the interior of your car can get funky. Whether you’ve been carrying smelly items like food, dirty clothes or equipment, or even pets in your vehicle, your car’s interior can accumulate smells and odors over time. And that can leave you with some not-so-pleasant scents. Fortunately, getting your car smelling fresh and clean once again is as easy as using a car air freshener.
Available in many different styles, scents, and forms, there are a ton of car air fresheners to choose from. Some fill your car with enjoyable fragrances while others purify and deodorize the air to freshen your vehicle’s interior. Whatever kind of air freshening you need, you can find it — and the following list features some of the best car air fresheners available today.
The Best Car Air Freshener
This item is entirely natural (free of harsh chemicals) and a good way to remove odors from your car. It is essentially a linen bag that contains natural bamboo charcoal and nothing else.
The activated charcoal essentially scrubs the air of excess moisture that can be a breeding ground for nasty things like mold, mildew, bacteria – these are the things that really cause bad odors. Stop them in their tracks using products like this one, and you don’t need to worry about bad odors in your car – they simply don’t exist!
After care couldn’t be easier either – just take it out of your car every month and leave in the sun to dry and re-activate. After two years (yes – two years!) instead of tossing it in the trash, you open the bag and sprinkle the charcoal on your favorite plant as tasty, nutritious plant feed.
How cool is that?
- BrandMosu Natural
- Weight12.6 oz
Like charcoal-based products, this one also works to eliminate the causes of bad odors before they develop. Instead of removing excess moisture however, this device releases negatively charged ions into your car cabin. These ions effectively purify the air by destroying things that could cause odors – like bacteria and mold.
It can also target things like cigarette smoke that can hang around for a long time. Yes, it’s pretty futuristic but it is based on actual technology and science – negative ions are a real thing naturally found in the real world.
The device operates simply by plugging into the 12-volt charger in your car and has no filters or refills required over its working life. Simply plug it in, turn it on and away it goes.
- Weight1.44 oz
Who doesn’t love that new car smell – and who doesn’t miss it when it inevitability goes away? If that sounds like you, then this product could be the one you need.
This is our first spray can on this list, but as usual the principle is the same. The spray contains compounds that target and eliminate the sources of bad odors in your car. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean it’s going after your dog! It works on a molecular level and targets those nasty bacterial and mold spores, stopping bad smells fast.
As a spray, it has the added advantage of being able to pass through the vehicle ventilation system, helping it to get into all the nooks and crannies in there to root out even well-hidden odor causes.
As a final bonus it helps to leave behind that all-important “new car smell” – even in a car that was “new” when Clinton was in the White House.
- Weight2.56 oz
Usually when a product comes along with “premium” in the name, we’re a little skeptical. After all, that’s setting the bar pretty high. Fortunately, when it also comes with the name Chemical Guys attached, then you can believe the hype.
This is a premium product, rest assured. It contains natural enzymes that – you guessed it – go to work taking out all the junk in the air that causes bad odors. It is also specially formulated to re-create that cool “new car” smell that you know we love!
As a premium product it does of course come with a somewhat premium price tag – however this is offset somewhat because this is actually a concentrated product. You can use it very, very sparingly or also dilute it with water.
That helps to offset the price tag somewhat, making this product both effective and economical.
- BrandChemical Guys
- Weight1.19 lbs
This is the first of what would be considered a traditional air freshener to appear on the list. It does not contain enzymes, and it does not shoot out ions to target mold spores. Simply tape it to your dash (or leave it in a door or dash cup holder) and let it do its job.
The question then is does it do it – and the answer is a resounding yes! The Squash scent air freshener has been around for years and years. In fact the first time you smell it, chances are it will transport you straight back to your childhood!
And you will smell it, this is a pretty strong product although it toes the line just the right side of being overpowering. It will definitely cover up bad smells and bring a nice aroma to your car. It lasts about a month, and refills are pretty cheap too, so it’s a decent long-term investment.
- BrandAir Spencer
- Weight45 gr
Febreze Car Air Freshener
You’ll notice a difference when you use the Febreze Car Air Freshener. It uses proprietary OdorClear Technology to eliminate odors and replace them with a light, fresh scent. A single clip can last for up to 30 days inside your car, giving you long-lasting results. And these car air freshener clips are easy to install, requiring just a single press into place to stay firm and secure as you drive.
- Weight1.6 ounces
Hands up – when you started reading this article on car air fresheners, who didn’t expect to see this iconic product make it onto the list?
The truth is, when you think air freshener, the image in your mind almost certainly goes to the little tree hanging from the rear view – and with good reason. This product by this brand has been around for years, and while it may not have the high-tech abilities of some of the products on this list, it is certainly one that has stood the test of time.
It’s hard to write about these because everyone knows what they are, right? They hang from the rear view, they smell great – simple! One complaint has always been that the odor perhaps doesn’t last as long as other products.
Since these come in a pack of 24 though, you can easily replace them as the perfume fades. A great, traditional product that been around almost for as long cars themselves!
- BrandLittle Trees
- Weight2.88 oz
We know exactly what you’re thinking – surely a lit candle is going to be a hazard while driving, right?
All jokes aside, this is of course not a traditional Yankee Candle – it’s a gel product that hangs from the rear view mirror – though you could also tack it to the dash or leave it in a cup holder if you prefer.
While it is not a candle, this product does take advantage of the years of premium fragrance making of a reputable brand like Yankee. What does that mean in practical terms – it means it smells great!
Again, it also neutralizes odors pretty effectively too, allowing it to work on two fronts of odor elimination and also creating a nice smelling atmosphere in your car.
- BrandYankee Candle
- Weight0.16 oz
If you’re thinking of setting the mood for a really romantic evening with your loved one, you don’t need some fancy restaurant to set every in order. Clipping the GerTong into one of your car’s aircon vents should really start spicing up the evening. Of course, you have to pick the right scent from the 11 aromatherapy essential oil diffuser refill pads that the package comes with.
Since the GerTong is a handy aromatherapy diffuser that can be snapped right into your car’s AC vents, you might as well have a mobile spa right inside your car. It’s the perfect device to help you relax, set you in the mood, and even alleviate some of the aches that you’re experiencing after a hard day in the office. Again, the thing here is you’ve got to have a working knowledge of the different essential oils used in aromatherapy and the benefits that they bring.
Not only is this air freshener ideal for cars, it can actually be converted into your own portable essential oil diffuser for home, office, or even travel use. You don’t have to worry about troublesome smell anymore since it’s the soothing and relaxing scent of aromatherapy oils that will be bathing your senses.
- Weight0.96 oz
With notes of sweet ripe banana combining with the nutty goodness of tropical coconut filling your nose, this car air freshener provides an entirely different riding experience. Putting it simply, you’ll be driving yourself towards the idyllic beaches and virgin rainforests of a tropical island paradise.
That’s the experience one gets with every tin can of the Refresh Your Car. With a choice of Hawaiian Sunrise, Summer Breeze, and Pacific Rain and a few others providing a refreshing fragrance to your car, you can always be sure that the ride will feel nothing less than paradise-like. Not only is every can of this car air freshener fully capable of bringing sensations of paradise inside your car, it also does a great job eliminating nasty odors.
Controlling the strength of the scent that fills your car’s cabin is quite difficult with conventional air fresheners. With the Refresh Your Car, fine-tuning the degree of fragrance that floods your cabin is made ridiculously simple with a twist of its scent control lid. It’s an otherwise simple solution that other manufacturers perhaps do not really think about. For that, the Refresh Your Car gets a thumb’s up.
- BrandRefresh Your Car
- Weight5.6 oz
The issue with most car air fresheners is that they have to be placed right in front of the air conditioner vent to allow the scent to be circulated throughout the cabin of the car. While this is understandable, the presence of a gadget or contraption that can detract from the overall aesthetics of one’s car interior can be an issue that is not easily passed by some car owners. And if you’re one of them, you’d want something that easily blends with the rest of your car’s interior.
That’s exactly what the Little Trees bring to the table. Looking at the package you’d think this car air freshener is just like other products that need to be hanged on your rearview mirror or clipped to your air convent. But once you open the package, you’d be surprised at just how small this contraption is. Moreover, you’d be asking yourself how such a small piece of technology can help you freshen up your cabin.
With patent-pending StediScent technology, the Little Trees car air freshener hugs a single slat in your air convent. The way in which the Little Trees device is designed is that it blends seamlessly with the black background of the vent so your passengers won’t exactly know where that lovely fragrance is coming from. It’s the perfect tool for keeping your car smelling fresh, making others think that you’re so meticulous in the care of your vehicle.
- BrandLittle Trees
- Weight0.8 oz
It functions like an air purifier, eliminating odors inside your car rather than masking them with another smell. And it’s a great option for kids, pets, and those with asthma or allergies.
The porous bamboo charcoal that this car air freshener is made from works like a large sponge. As air passes through it, odor particles become trapped. It lasts for over 365 days, offering you one of the longest-lasting options available today. And when you’re done with this air freshener, you can use it as a natural fertilizer for your plants or garden.
- Weight12.8 ounces
Are you looking for a car air freshener that looks as elegant as it is effective in giving your car interior the kind of freshness that it really needs? Well, look no further as the Carall is simply one of the most elegant, most luxurious gel type car air fresheners we’ve seen.
With a candy sweet scent that lasts up to 60 days, definitely longer than other products we’ve used, the Carall comes in an elegant-looking blue glass that is reminiscent of those luxury glasses served in some high-end clubs. The stainless steel lid provides a remarkable contrast to its blue body, more like a luxury yacht anchored in the Caribbean.
But don’t just take our word for it. You’ve got to experience it to really appreciate the beauty of the Carall. What’s more, since it comes in a glass container, you can easily bring and use it at home, in the office, or even in your hotel room. It’s that cool.
- Weight3.84 oz
Fans of the NFL love this car air freshener from Team ProMark. We believe that it’s going to be more of a collectible than simply an auto air freshener.
The scent is definitely there. The problem is that it really doesn’t last that long. So, after several hours of driving around, you’ll be left with nothing more than a cardboard cutout of the football helmet of your favorite NFL team.
Like we said, it’s a great gift for avid followers of the game. But if you’re looking for some serious freshening of your car, this one’s definitely not for you. It’s a collector’s item, nonetheless, and is officially licensed by the NFL itself.
- BrandTeam ProMark
- Weight0.16 oz
Car Air Freshener Buying Guide & FAQ
Different Types of Car Air Freshener
One factor that makes choosing the best car air freshener challenging is the sheer number of available options. These fresh-smelling, air-purifying products come in many different styles, and you have a lot of different types you can consider. There are six common kinds of car air fresheners.
Cardboard – Cardboard car air fresheners are the simplest and often cheapest style you’ll find. These air fresheners are slim in profile but can be powerful in scent — but they typically last no longer than a week on average. You can hang a cardboard air freshener from your rearview mirror or clip it onto surfaces throughout your car. Instead of eliminating odors, these products work by releasing strong, pleasant scents.
Plug-in – Plug-in car air fresheners work via your car’s cigarette lighter socket. Pop one of these products into your car’s lighter socket or outlet and the electricity will heat up fragrance oil located inside the device. That heat will result in a fragrant smell that fills your car interior. These car air fresheners are especially great at eliminating stubborn odors. However, they can be a more expensive option.
Can – A can car air freshener is literally a solid scent placed inside a metal or plastic can. Compact in size, and able to be placed on the floor of your vehicle or on a flat surface, these air fresheners use a gel to release fragrance into your car interior. They come in a number of different styles, including cans that can be peeled open and twist-lid versions that allow you to control the amount of fragrance that’s released.
Sticky gel – Sticky gel car air fresheners are a spin on the can air freshener. It’s essentially a highly scented gel that comes in a block or strip rather than a can. You simply stick the gel onto a surface inside your car, and it releases a pleasant fragrance. However, there’s a downside — these air fresheners simply mask unpleasant smells instead of actually getting rid of them.
Spray – Spray car air fresheners are short-term options for removing bad odors and lingering smells. They work just like household aerosol sprays; you spray the product into your car and allow it to fill the air with a fresh, clean scent. Unfortunately, these types of air fresheners don’t offer long-lasting results. They often have to be reapplied in order to be effective.
Vent sticks or diffusers – Many car air fresheners work as vent sticks, diffusers, or clip-on products. These items circulate cleaner, fresher air throughout your car by attaching right onto your car’s air vents. Each time you turn on the fan or run the AC, the airflow will carry the fragrance. The scent is consistent, and you’ll get a lasting flow of fresh air. These car air fresheners can last for weeks or months at a time, and they’re often quite affordable.
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Benefits of Using Car Air Fresheners
Car air fresheners are not really new technologies. They’ve been around for more than half a century. Every mode of transportation today, be it on land, water, or air, will have an air freshening system in their respective cabins.
One of the most important benefits of using car air fresheners is that it makes the ride more enjoyable or, to put it simply, less stressful. Not everyone can stand the smell of a moldy car interior or even a cigarette smoke-filled cabin. Not everyone will feel comfortable with the stench of pet urine on the car’s floor or even upholstery. The point is that, while it is unavoidable that odor molecules will be floating and sticking around in our car’s interior, you can do something about it. Using car air fresheners can help provide a more pleasant odor to your cabin, making the trip more worthwhile.
There is another benefit that is closely related to the first. Since there are air fresheners that utilize essential oils, you can actually feel more comfortable and more relaxed while driving. If you’re feeling pain, the scent of essential oils can help alleviate the pain sensation or discomfort that you’re experiencing. Think of it more like another day in the spa where you’re being calmly treated to a taste of paradise.
Some air fresheners actually work more than just simply mask the odor; they actually work to neutralize the source of the nasty smell. These products are the best since putting a scent in lieu of another is hardly the best way to manage a problem. This makes these types of air fresheners true healing wonders. If you’re able to get rid of the actual source of the bad odor, you’re saving your lungs from inhaling these odor molecules. And if you have allergies, this can actually be a life-saving device for you.
Car Air Freshener FAQ:
Q: What if I have allergies or the smell is too strong?
A: While it is easy to think that car air fresheners don’t contain allergens that can trigger allergies, science has shown otherwise. A study presented to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology showed that there is a positive relationship in the number of respiratory problems and the sales of air fresheners and scented candles in the home. What this simply means is that as people tend to buy more scented products, there is a commensurate increase in the number of people who develop respiratory problems in households that use such products.
Since car air fresheners are essentially scented products, there is a strong likelihood that it will trigger asthma or allergic symptoms in individuals who are at an increased risk of such conditions. For those who already have allergies, exposure to car air fresheners, especially those that are strongly scented, can further worsen the symptoms of asthma and allergies. If the allergy is severe enough, it can lead to a life-threatening form of allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
According to the same report, more than a third of individuals who have asthma reported worsening of their health conditions when exposed to air fresheners. And this is not only car air fresheners they are talking about.
Volatile organic compounds have been shown to trigger allergy symptoms or even aggravate existing asthma and allergy conditions. Some of the major volatile organic compounds used in many car air fresheners today include alcohols, formaldehyde, esters, petroleum distillates, and even limonene.
So, are car air fresheners safe if you have allergies? The very simple answer is "no!"
Q: How often should I change my air freshener?
A: Different manufacturers of car air fresheners have their respective duration of effectiveness, often depending on the type of scent delivery. For instance, those that come in a can typically last longer than gel types, while cardboard types of air fresheners will not usually last that very long.
That being said, how often you should change your air freshener is dependent on the type of product that you’re using. It also depends on a variety of products such as the humidity and temperature of your car interior. Increased cabin temperatures can quickly reduce the lifespan of air fresheners so you’ll be changing your contraptions a lot more frequently.
Q: How can I make my car air freshener last longer?
A: Making your car air freshener last longer can be tricky, but it can be done. It all depends on the type of air freshener that you have.
If you have a gel type, make sure never to open the lid or the product itself completely. Many car owners make the very simple, but costly mistake of fully opening gel car air fresheners. This will only hasten the speed at which the gel will be used up.
If you have a paper or cardboard type of air freshener, there really isn’t much you can do to prolong its fragrance. What you can do, however, is to "recharge" the cardboard by soaking it in your own favorite scent. This is more of reusing these types of air fresheners rather than prolonging their lifespan.
If you have liquid air fresheners, the best way to lengthen their lifespan is by opening them only halfway, especially if you live in a rather cool environment. If there’s an odor that you want to overpower, that’s the time you can open it to its fullest.
Our Top Pick
While there are plenty of car air fresheners that are worthy of your consideration, some stand above the rest. Some are more effective, better in quality, and better for you to breathe in as you drive. And you want to make sure you’re choosing one of the best of the best available when you’re looking for a car air freshener that really works. That’s why we’re awarding the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag our top overall pick.
This car air freshener is no slouch. Though it’s small and compact, it offers powerful results that you can really smell. The Moso air freshener is really an air purifier — it doesn’t mask odors, but instead removes them from the air altogether. With natural bamboo charcoal, it attracts unpleasant odors and absorbs them. The Moso air freshener is also natural, and it spreads no potentially harmful chemicals throughout your car. You and your passengers will breathe easier with this product’s effectiveness and natural components. It’s entirely safe and healthy.
Even more importantly, though, this high-quality car air freshener lasts for quite a long time. A single bag can last you for up to two years, giving you a very long lifespan and great value for the money you spend. You can easily maintain this air freshener’s effectiveness by placing it in direct sunlight at least once per month to “charge” the charcoal inside.
With no harsh scents or irritating fragrances and a natural ability to purify air, the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag is our top choice. But as you shop for, search for, and consider different car air fresheners, think about what you need the most. Each product offers different benefits and features, and there’s an option available that’ll suit your needs perfectly.