Stale air, food spills, and pet dander can all leave the interior of your car smelling funky. “By using a car air freshener, you can eliminate these odors and create a more pleasant driving environment,” says Jade Shutes, founder and director of education for The School for Aromatic Studies. A wide variety of air fresheners are on the market, from the iconic little trees hanging from the rearview mirror to more advanced plug-in models. “Some car air fresheners use essential oils to promote relaxation and reduce stress,” Shutes notes. Others rely on the natural properties of charcoal to absorb odors. There are even products designed for specific culprits, such as stinky pets or heavy cigarette smoke.
While some air fresheners release a fragrance to mask odors, others are able to eliminate them completely. We researched the best car air fresheners on the market, evaluating their type, scent, longevity, and ability to mask or eliminate odors. Use these air fresheners to freshen up your car’s interior and make your drive a lot more enjoyable.
Febreze Unstopables Car Fresh Vent Clips
Effectively eliminate odors
Freshen the whole car at once
Dial lets you control scent intensity
Last up to a month
Scent can be strong initially
May evaporate faster in a hot car
Febreze Air Freshener Vent Clips earn the top spot in our roundup thanks to their unobtrusive design, effective odor, and long-lasting performance. These compact air fresheners clip onto the vents of your car’s dashboard. The airflow from the vents helps to circulate the scent throughout your entire car. The scent can be a bit overwhelming at first. However, the intensity of the scent can be adjusted using the dial on the back of the air freshener.
Many users find these clips preferable to hanging air fresheners because they aren’t a distraction while driving. They also outlast the competition by a long shot. While many other air fresheners tend to lose their scent after several days or weeks, these Febreze clips can effectively fight odors for up to a month. They may evaporate faster in a hot car, however.
Like other products in their lineup, Febreze air fresheners don’t just mask scents; they help to eliminate foul-smelling odors from the air. These clips are reasonably priced and can be purchased individually or in packs of three or eight for an even better value. When you consider how long they last and how well they perform, these clips are an all-around, exceptional choice for a reliable car air freshener.
Price at time of publish: $13
Type: Clip | Scent: Fresh | Duration: 30 days
Little Trees Black Ice Air Freshener
Small and versatile
Available in many scents
Don’t last very long
Might be distracting for drivers
Little Trees are one of the most inexpensive yet iconic air fresheners on the market. Their black ice fragrance is one of the most popular options, combining sandalwood, bergamot, and lemon to keep your car smelling fresh. Little Trees are available in many scents, ranging from citrus and floral fragrances to more woodsy blends.
You can hang one of these trees from your rearview mirror, though some drivers may find it distracting. They’re small enough to store just about anywhere, so you have plenty of options. The air freshener can be placed near an air vent or tied to the gear shift, the headrest, or the door handle to help disperse the fragrance.
These air fresheners are sold in a pack of six and cost about a dollar each, which is an excellent value. The only major downside is that the smell doesn’t seem to last very long. They will likely need to be replaced every few weeks. Some users recommend leaving some of the plastic wrapping on the tree to preserve the scent and extend its longevity.
Price at time of publish: $7
Type: Hanging | Scent: Black Ice | Duration: 2 weeks (on average)
Glade Plugins Car Starter Kit
Plugs into your car’s auxiliary outlet
Lasts up to 60 days
Adjustable fragrance level
Light dims when it needs to be refilled
Refills are pricey
If you’re a fan of Glade Plugins, you’ll love this handy air freshener that plugs into your vehicle’s auxiliary outlet. The battery power from your car heats the liquid in the air freshener, emitting a continuous, yummy scent while the car is running. These plug-ins can last for up to 60 days, which is an impressive amount of time when compared to most of the competition. They also come in several different scents, including Floral Perfection, Hawaiian Breeze, and Aqua Exhilaration—all of which are infused with essential oils.
The sleek design of the plug-in blends in seamlessly with most cars’ interiors. Depending on the setup and size of your console, this air freshener could get in the way of your cupholder. This kit includes one scent cartridge, which you can easily insert into the plug-in. A blue light will illuminate when the air freshener is working and dim when it needs to be refilled. Although the plug-in itself is fairly inexpensive, refills are a bit pricey—almost as much as the product itself.
Price at time of publish: $7
Type: Plug-in | Scent: Assorted | Duration: Up to 60 days
Air Spencer CS-X3 Car Air Freshener & Refill
Sleek modern design
Includes double-sided tape
Sliding louver adjusts the scent
Pricier than other options
Scent dissipates quickly in direct sunlight
While we realize that scent can be subjective, almost everyone seems to agree that the Air Spencer CS-X3 smells amazing. Although the scent is referred to as fresh squash, the name is misleading. It actually has a sweet citrus scent that most users find refreshing, with some comparing it to Juicy Fruit gum. The CS-X3 is imported from Japan, and it’s one of the pricier options in our roundup—especially when you factor in the cost of refill cartridges. However, its appealing scent and innovative design are well worth the splurge, in our opinion.
This air freshener can be mounted to your dashboard using the included double-sided tape. However, the scent dissipates quickly in direct sunlight. For that reason, we recommend placing it under your car seats. You can refill the fragrance cartridges, and a sliding louver lets you change the scent's strength. While it’s a bit more conspicuous than other options, the CS-X3 has a sleek, modern design that is fairly unobtrusive in most vehicles.
Price at time of publish: $30
Type: Pod | Scent: Squash fresh | Duration: 4 weeks
Chemical Guys Leather Scent Premium Air Freshener and Odor Eliminator
Fresh crisp scent
Contains enzymes to break down odors
Full control of application
Spray nozzle can be finicky
This air freshener spray from Chemical Guys effectively neutralizes and eliminates odors with a few quick spritzes. The Leather Scent is one of their most popular options because it mimics the crisp scent of new upholstery. Plus, this formula contains enzymes that destroy odor-causing molecules in your vehicle. Another advantage to a spray formula is that you have complete control over how much air freshener is released.
Instead of spraying this air freshener directly onto the seats, we suggest using it in the car's footwells or under the seats. Otherwise, you might find that your clothes reek of leather. We also read some reports that say the nozzle leaks, clogs or doesn’t spray evenly. You should always perform a few test sprays to avoid any spills or mishaps. When it comes to longevity, reviews are mixed. Some say the product lasts for several weeks, while others say it’s gone in a day or two. However, the formula is concentrated, so a 16-ounce bottle should go a long way.
Price at time of publish: $10
Type: Spray | Scent: Leather | Duration: Not specified
California Scents Can Air Freshener
Effective for 60 days or longer
Adjustable lid to control the scent level
Come in a variety of scents
Scent can be strong initially
These compact little tins from California Scents can keep your car smelling fresh for 60 days or more, making them one of the longest-lasting air fresheners on this list. Unlike gel formulas, these spill-proof cans contain wood fiber blocks for effective deodorizing, and they’re compact enough to fit in most cup holders. Some say the scent can be very strong at first. However, you can adjust the vented lid to control the amount of fragrance that’s released.
These 1.5-ounce scented cans are sold in packs or individually. Each pack has a variety of scents that remind you of California, like Coronado Cherry, Monterey Vanilla, and Laguna Breeze. Several retailers, including Walmart, sell them individually, which is great if you want to give one a try without committing to a full supply. Eco-conscious shoppers will be pleased to know that these aluminum cans are recyclable.
Price at time of publish: $28
Type: Can | Scent: Assorted | Duration: 60 days or more
Ozium Odor Eliminator Gel
Freshens air and eliminates odors
Gets rid of most cigarette odors
Adjustable lid to control fragrance level
Ozium gel comes in a compact container that can be placed almost anywhere in your vehicle. You can tuck it discreetly under the seat or store it in your cup holder. Unlike sprays that require multiple applications, this gel formula is a great set-it-and-forget-it option. Ozium is an effective air freshener and odor eliminator, and it’s powerful enough to tackle stubborn cigarette smoke odors.
Although a specific scent isn’t listed, we've read a few reports that it can be strong or unpleasant at first. The good news is that the smell tends to dissipate within a few days. This container has an adjustable lid, which allows you to control the fragrance level. You can also extend the lifespan of the air freshener by partially venting the holes on the top of the lid. This multipurpose air freshener can be used in the car, the locker room, the bathroom, the trash can, and pretty much anywhere else unpleasant odors might be lurking.
Price at time of publish: $11
Type: Gel | Scent: Original Scent | Duration: Not specified
Best for Essential Oils
RoyAroma Car Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser
Naturally combats odors
Includes 2 diffusers and 12 felt pads
Easily attaches to car vents
Vents circulate aroma throughout the cabin
Essential oils not included
This essential oil diffuser allows you to combat foul odors with the power of aromatherapy. The set includes two decorative stainless steel diffusers that feature a Tree of Life pattern. They have a clip on the back that easily attaches to your car’s air vents. This set also includes 12 felt pads in a variety of colors. All you need to do is apply your essential oil of choice to the felt pad and place it inside the diffuser to make your own air freshener. The vents will help circulate the aroma throughout the cabin of your car.
Note that this set doesn’t include any scents or essential oils—you will have to supply your own. Their effectiveness and longevity largely depend on the type of oil that you use. Herbaceous or resinous oils, such as basil, frankincense, and amber, tend to last longer than citrus or floral oils. In addition to eliminating odors, essential oils can help relieve stress and keep you alert while you’re driving.
Price at time of publish: $13
Type: Diffuser | Scent: N/A | Duration: Not specified
Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag
All-natural and fragrance-free
Covers up to 90 square feet
Lasts up to 2 years
Easy to use
Activated charcoal is used in the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bags to absorb odors, moisture, and pollutants in your car. Unlike many other car air fresheners, this product doesn’t contain any synthetic fragrances or chemicals, making it our top choice for a natural car air freshener. The charcoal is contained in a stylish linen bag, which you can place almost anywhere in your car. Each bag holds 200 grams of activated bamboo charcoal, enough to freshen the air up to 90 square feet.
This air freshener has a very impressive lifespan and can last up to two years. To maintain its effectiveness, however, you have to put the bag in the sun once a month for one hour. These bags are significantly pricier than other options, but they provide all-natural, incredibly long-lasting odor protection that’s well worth the investment. In addition to vehicles, the Moso bags can be used throughout the home in closets, bathrooms, pet areas, etc.
Price at time of publish: $48
Type: Bag | Scent: Unscented | Duration: Up to 2 years
Best for Pet Owners
One Fur All Pet Car Air Freshener
Available in more than 20 different scents
Eliminate unwanted pet smells
Don’t last very long
Do you like to take your dog for a ride but hate the way their smell lingers in the car afterward? Get a pack of One Fur All Pet Car Air Fresheners so you don't have to leave your furry friend at home. They come in a wide variety of scents derived from essential oils, including apple cider, lavender green tea, and cucumber mint. Free from dyes, phthalates, parabens, and other toxic ingredients, these air fresheners are safe to keep around curious canines. Best of all, they also feature an odor neutralizer that eliminates funky pet odors and leaves your car smelling fresh.
These air fresheners are reasonably priced and sold in packs of four. The paw-shaped design only adds to their appeal. You also have the option to combine different scents into one order. We read mixed reviews on how long these air fresheners last. Some users say the smell lasts from a few days to a few weeks at the most. Having to replace them frequently will significantly drive up the cost over time.
Price at time of publish: $12
Type: Hanging | Scent: Variety | Duration: Up to two weeks
The Febreze Car Odor-Eliminating Air Freshener Vent Clips are our top pick because they are reasonably priced, easy to use, and circulate a pleasant scent throughout the car. If you’re looking to fully eliminate odors (rather than simply mask them), the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag is a chemical-free alternative. The Moso bag contains bamboo charcoal, which naturally absorbs odors and deodorizes the air.
What to Look for in Car Air Fresheners
Scent is a matter of personal preference, and there is no shortage of options to choose from. Many scents that you enjoy in your home will likely be available in a car air freshener. There are products available that mimic a "new car" or leather scent, which may be preferable to the more artificially scented options. An unscented air freshener is your best option if you’re sensitive to fragrances. Our best budget pick, Little Trees Black Ice Air Freshener, is available in dozens of fragrances, though black ice is one of their top sellers.
Not all air fresheners actually get rid of odors, but many do a decent job of masking them with pleasant fragrances. Odor maskers usually come in vent, plug-in, hanging, and canned formulas. While these types of air fresheners work well enough to freshen up your car, they likely won’t tackle tough odors like cigarette smoke. To effectively remove foul odors in your vehicle, your best bet is a spray or charcoal formula. Sprays contain enzymes that neutralize odors, while charcoal has the ability to absorb odors and moisture. Our top choice for a spray formula, Chemical Guys Leather Scent Premium Air Freshener, is highly effective at neutralizing bad smells.
Most air fresheners last from several weeks to several months, depending on their type. The lifespan of cardboard air fresheners is typically the shortest, with some lasting up to 30 days and others losing their fragrance after only a few days. Vent clips, cans, and plug-ins typically last anywhere from one to two months. Charcoal has the longest lifespan by far, though it needs to be exposed to direct sunlight to maintain its effectiveness. Our top choice for a natural car air freshener, the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag, can last up to two years.
How often should I change my car air freshener?
This all depends on the type of car air freshener you are using. Most synthetic car fresheners will last from a few weeks to several months. Cardboard air fresheners, which often hang from rearview mirrors, usually last up to 30 days. Cans, plug-ins, and vent clips typically last for a month or two. “If using essential oils in a car diffuser, you may need to touch up with essential oil at least once a week,” says Jade Shutes, founder and director of education for The School for Aromatic Studies.
What type of air freshener lasts the longest?
Charcoal air fresheners can last for up to two years with proper maintenance. Just keep in mind that charcoal needs to be reactivated to remain effective. You should place your charcoal air freshener in direct sunlight for two hours at least once a month.
What is the difference between an air freshener and an odor eliminator?
“An air freshener is a product that is designed to mask or cover up unpleasant odors in the air by releasing a pleasant aroma,” says Shutes. Many of the picks in this roundup—cardboard, vent, plug-in, and canned air fresheners—fall in the odor-masking category. “On the other hand, an odor eliminator is designed to eliminate or neutralize unpleasant odors rather than simply mask them,” Shutes adds. Odor eliminators are generally limited to sprays containing enzymes and all-natural charcoal bags.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Sage McHugh, a home and lifestyle writer for The Spruce. For this roundup, McHugh considered dozens of car air fresheners, carefully evaluating each product’s type, scent, longevity, and ability to mask or eliminate odors. For expert insight, she turned to Jade Shutes, founder and director of education for The School for Aromatic Studies.