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How To Get Rid Of Rat Urine Smell In a Car In 7 Steps (with Pictures)

rat sitting on car tire

When it comes to rodents, you can count on one thing—they’ll pee on anything and everything! What’s even worse, is the fact that they love to pee on stuff that we love most. Things like food, furniture, stationery, and even cars.

Ignoring the deed is not an option. Rat urine smells so bad that it will keep you from using your car eventually!

Luckily, there are ways to get rid of the smell. In this article, we’ll look at 7 steps to ridding your car of the smell of rat urine.

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Tools & Materials

Preparation is important if you want to effectively clean all the urine and disinfect the affected areas in your car. You’ll have to make sure you have everything you’ll need, or you’ll find yourself repeating the same process over and over.

The tools and materials needed for this job include:

  • Feet covers
  • Coverall
  • Rubber gloves
  • Respirator mask
  • Ultraviolet light source
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Disinfectant
  • Old rag
  • Essential oil
  • Craft knife
  • Half-pint mason jar
  • Thumbtacks
  • Glue

How To Clean Rat Urine In A Car

1. Shield Yourself

three people wearing hazard suites
Image Credit: Andy Dean Photography, Shutterstock

Before you do anything, cover your face, hands, feet, and any other body area that’s exposed. We don’t want any of that waste matter to get in contact with your skin.

According to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), rat urine is home to different bacteria—the kind that can compromise your health. Some of the diseases caused by those bacteria can’t be cured through conventional means. Leptospirosis is the most common one, and it can sometimes be fatal.

Never forget what Benjamin Franklin once said; “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

2. Trace The Origin Of The Smell

man covering his nose from bad smell in the car
Image Credit: daniiD, Shutterstock

Where’s that smell coming from? You’ll have to find it to thoroughly clean the affected area. Rat urine is always musky and smells like ammonia. Part of the reason is the bacteria found in it.

If the smell doesn’t lead you to the source, you should use a black light. Sometimes referred to as UV light, the black light usually makes urine glow in the dark. It will show you where the smell is emanating from in seconds.

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3. Roll Down All Windows and Open All Doors

open regular car doors of grey car
Image Credit: face-4, Pixabay

The goal here is to make sure you’re not only not choked by the smell of urine, but also that of your cleaning products. Some of those products have volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and several other harmful chemicals that could cause chronic respiratory complications, headaches, and several allergic reactions. Especially for an asthmatic person.

Make sure air is circulating in that car before you start cleaning.

4. Mix The Perfect Solution

vinegar and cleaning supplies on the table
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Mix 2 tablespoons of vinegar with 1 pint of water, pour it into a spray bottle and start spraying on the areas where you’ve spotted urine. Let it soak for 20 to 30 minutes, then wipe it off.

While the interior is soaking, move on to the car engine. But this time, we don’t want you to use vinegar. Vinegar looks harmless but it could easily hurt your car engine and any other metal parts by catalyzing the rusting process. Instead, we’ll use baking soda. You could mix it with water to form a solution or a paste. Either way, it will get the job done.

5. Apply Disinfectant

spraying on car engine
Image Credit: Petr Smagin, Shutterstock

After you’ve wiped off all the vinegar and baking soda from all those surfaces, apply disinfectant sparingly everywhere but the engine. We have to exercise caution because we don’t know what chemicals are in the disinfectant, or if the ones that are there can react with the engine’s components.

6. Mask The Smell

Air freshener on car dashboard
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Even though we’re done with the hard part (cleaning), you may still smell urine—that and a little bit of vinegar. So to mask those odors, we need to make a naturally-scented air freshener.

2/3 of the jar should be filled with baking soda. Add 20 drops of your essential oils in there, close it, and start shaking. Shake until the oils are evenly distributed. Once you’re done, remove the lid and replace it with cardboard.

Make sure the cardboard is slightly larger than the jar’s lid. It’s now our new lid, and you should be able to attach it to the jar using glue or tape.

Once you’re certain that it’s secured, start poking holes in it using thumbtacks. Finally, place the jar in your car’s cup holder, and leave it for 3 to 4 days.

7. Throw Away Anything Disposable

disposable gloves
Image Credit: Callum Hilton, Pexels

Anything that has been exposed to the urine has to be disposed of. Should you feel different (if they are still reusable), soak them in boiling water for a few minutes, disinfect, wash, rinse, then hang them outside to dry.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can the smell of rat urine go away without treating it?

We’re not sure that’s possible, seeing as rats always go back to the same spot they urinated. That smell will remind them there’s a territory that has already been marked, so they don’t have to mark another—female rats are more notorious for marking territories.

But if they don’t come back, the smell will likely go away in 7 to 10 days.

Will disinfectants get rid of all the bacteria found in the areas that had rat urine?

Disinfectants are pretty effective when it comes to killing bacteria. As long as you apply enough of it, and wipe thoroughly, all the bacteria will be gone. Alternatively, you could mix bleach and water. The solution will certainly kill all the germs and mask the odor.

Don’t use it on the car’s interior cloth fabric or leather, though, as it could cause serious damage.

How dangerous is rat urine?

Potentially pretty dangerous. Although rare, once you’re exposed to it you could get Leptospirosis or find yourself in a hospital bed grappling with meningitis or Weil’s disease. And even if you don’t touch it, inhaling those particles in the air is just as dangerous, since you could develop Hantavirus.

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Final Thoughts

If you’ve done everything but you can still smell that terrible odor, repeat the whole process—you might have missed a few spots. Also, don’t forget to close all the doors and windows whenever you park the car in the garage to help prevent rats from getting into your car. Rats love to move under the cover of darkness.

Featured Image Credit: Holger Kirk, Shutterstock


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