A few years ago, my friend, who drove children to different places as part of their job, said that somebody had left a piece of lunch meat. That was towards the beginning of summer. When school started, the first thing the worker did was open the car. The rotting smell, plus all the gasses caused by the bacteria was so overwhelming that it made them nearly pass out.

That smell never went away, even after two years. When I first got inside the van, I opened up the Windows, and I had the worker turn on the AC, but I still kept breathing in the fumes. After I left, I discovered that my clothes absorbed the smell. Even when they put air freshener, it stinks like that and rotting meat at the same time.

Is there anything out there I can use to cover my face so that I won't have to face such a situation like that again?

  • Having the worker turn on the AC pulled the toxic material into an inaccessible part of the vehicle. That made your clean-up more difficult.
    – Stan
    Apr 8, 2018 at 23:00
  • 3
    Ah, "opening up the Windows" ... you might have been better off opening up an Apple. It's sometimes a breath of fresh air. :P
    – Lawrence
    Apr 9, 2018 at 0:51
  • I remember reading an internet article about something like that done deliberately, to cause trouble for someone you don't like (a more sophisticated technique was also described, involving injection of egg's content into a car seat with a syringe). The article claimed that the only way to get rid of the smell would be to completely replace all the soft materials used inside the car (seats, etc.) - they absorb the smell and keep it forever.
    – Headcrab
    Apr 9, 2018 at 1:34
  • @Headcrab I'm not sure it's enough to replace the soft material. It sometimes seems like it gets into the air conditioner's internal pipework and can't be flushed out properly.
    – Lawrence
    Apr 10, 2018 at 17:04
  • @Lawrence Isn't the smell still absorbed by some "soft materials" of the air conditioner's air filters (maybe even by the accumulated dust itself)? Wouldn't it help if you replace those?
    – Headcrab
    Apr 11, 2018 at 3:30

4 Answers 4


The gases released by rotting meat are soluble in fabric and plastic: they actually soak into them and it is then impossible to extract the stink back out of them. The gases even soak into paint and all the rubber parts inside the car.

For this reason, if a person dies in a car and is not found until the corpse is rotting, the car is totaled; it cannot be repaired.

This was demonstrated some years ago on the TV program MythBusters, where the hosts put a dead pig in a Corvette, sealed it up, and let it rot to pieces. After many attempts, the car could not be fixed - in the end, it was sold for the engine and transmission and the remainder was sent off to the junkyard.

  • I also heard this from an other source (friend of a friend of mine) where the stripped the car to the bare metal and still did not get rid of the smell.
    – Willeke
    Apr 15, 2018 at 13:11

the good air is outside the car, so breathe thru a diver's snorkel which is extended out the window. That would be easier and a more convenient alternative to sticking your head out the window. Another alternative may be using a compressed air cylinder & mouthpiece.

  • +1 for snorkel X-factor. Longer snorkels used by SCUBA enthusiasts will easily accomodate the OP. Do you have a link for these air cylinders and mouthpieces? I remember one featured in Goldfinger IIRC;)
    – user2497
    Apr 16, 2018 at 22:25

Breathe through your mouth

As we know we can breathe through our mouth too. Try to breathe throughyour mouth. You can also use air freshener.

Try some alcohol and clean the part of the car where the rotten meat was. As alcohol is a universal solvent it can clean as well take away the smell.

Put some naphthalene balls in that car.

Put some wet used tea bags in your car.

Vinegar can also effectively remove the smell, repeat the cleaning with vinegar.

  • 1
    I forgot to mention this in the body, but the worker did use air freshener. The result was that it smelled both like air freshner and rotting meat at the same time. Apr 8, 2018 at 19:04
  • Check this answer again. Apr 8, 2018 at 19:12
  • +1 Breathing through your mouth is a good way, temporarily. Don't forget to keep the windows open.
    – Stan
    Apr 9, 2018 at 14:29

Avoid the exposure to the contaminated vehicle.

Try Ozium

Traditional air fresheners try to mask the odour, which often results in a sort of Hawaiian breeze/rotting hybrid stench. For those who need the odour 100% gone in a relatively short amount of time, Ozium could be your best bet.

What Is Ozium?

Ozium prides itself in calling itself an odor eliminator, and unlike many other brands, they can actually back up that claim. The two active ingredients Triethylene Glycol and Propylene Glycol are proven effective against bacteria and smoke-caused odors.

The spray is often compared with having similar properties to hand sanitizer, giving it the title of an effective “air sanitizer.” Because just like products like Purell, Ozium’s active ingredients have the power to kill bacteria and effectively sanitize.

Here’s a quick tutorial for how to use Ozium, one of the most powerful and effective odor eliminators ever made.

Step 1

Hold the Ozium can with one hand and ensure that the spray nozzle points away from any pets or people within the vicinity.

Step 2

Shake the can vigorously. This mixes the active ingredients to prepare the Ozium for use.

Step 3

Press the nozzle with one finger, and release the solution into the air while counting for 1-2 seconds. Important: This prevents you from using too much Ozium. Leave the room immediately after spraying, as the active ingredients can be irritating to your respiration.

Step 4

Repeat this process in other areas of the room only if the first attempt did not get rid of 100% of the odors. Repeat steps 1-3 every five to six hours for as long as the odor persists.

Do not expose yourself or pets to this stuff. It is powerful and easy to use too much at once.

You should also locate and sanitize the area where the meat was located. This may not work with fabric so replacement may be your alternative.

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