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While maintaining a clutter-free car may seem like an easy task, maintaining a car that also smells clean can seem a bit daunting. Like any vehicle, cars are often privy to the scent of stale air, dirty pets, and harsh odors. Purchasing a car air freshener can not only improve the smell, but can change the overall esthetics of your vehicle in an instant.
When it comes to air fresheners, there are several types on the market. Some function as scent boosters and release a pleasant aroma to mask harsh odors. Others function as odor eliminators, containing compounds that actually purify the air inside the car or capture lingering odor particles. Whether you're searching for odor eliminators, natural air fresheners, or hanging scent boosters, we've researched the right product for your vehicle.
Here are the best car air fresheners that will keep your car odor-free.
Best Overall: Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag
Searching for an odor eliminator for your car? Activated charcoal is well-known for its powerful odor absorption, and the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag is our pick for a car odor eliminator.
This small linen bag is filled with 200 grams of activated bamboo charcoal that will freshen the air in up to 90 square feet. The charcoal inside of the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag is fragrance-free, making it a great choice for a natural car air freshener. It works by absorbing odors and moisture lurking within your vehicle and trapping it within the charcoal.
To keep this air freshener working great for up to 2 years, you just need to lay the bag in the sun for an hour once per month. The UV rays will cause the charcoal to release absorbed odors and moisture, then the bag is ready to be placed back in your vehicle. Many people like to place these natural air fresheners under a car seat for out-of-sight odor absorption.
Best Clip: Febreze Car Odor-Eliminating Air Freshener Vent Clips
The light, fresh scent and deodorizing properties of the Febreze air freshener make it stand out as a top contender for a clip air freshener.
Using a clip-style car air freshener is convenient and easy—the clip keeps the air freshener attached to your vents and out of the way from your rearview mirror. In addition, the airflow from the vents helps to propel the scent throughout the cabin of the car. The intensity of scent is adjustable, thanks to a dial on the back of the air freshener. Turn it all the way up to release maximum scent or keep it on a lower setting for a more subtle scent.
The Febreze car air freshener also stands out for its ability to deodorize your vehicle. Like other Febreze products, this clip air freshener won’t just mask scents—it actually helps to remove offending odors from the air. Keep your car smelling great by just adding this small clip car air freshener to your vents—the Febreze is so small you will hardly notice it, but so big on deodorizing that it will be hard to ignore.
Best Scent: Air Spencer CS-X3 Car Air Freshener
Whether something smells pleasant or not can be a subjective question, but there is one car air freshener that nearly everyone agrees smells great—and is worth searching out. The CS-X3 air freshener in Squash scent by Air Spencer has been an auto enthusiast favorite for decades.
Set aside the fact that this Japanese-made air freshener is labeled as smelling like a squash—it doesn’t. Instead, people describe it as the most amazing sweet, slightly fruity and fresh scent. Sometimes it draws comparisons to Juicy Fruit gum. No matter how your nose interprets it, the overwhelming conclusion is that it smells nothing like squash and is amazing.
The genuine CS-X3 car air freshener is made in Japan and worth the extra dollar or two you will spend on each cartridge. This is also a refillable car air freshener and once people start complimenting the unique, sweet scent in your car you’ll always want to keep an extra cartridge on hand. One thing to keep in mind is that if it’s placed in direct sun, it may dissipate faster than expected. For this reason, most people find that this air freshener works best when placed under a car seat or out of direct sunlight. If you want one of the most unique and best scented car air fresheners, order the Air Spencer CS-X3.
Best for Essential Oils: RoyAroma Car Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser
If you prefer a more natural car air freshener, then an essential oil diffuser for the car may be your best bet. The RoyAroma Essential Oil Diffuser makes a good choice if you want to use a car air freshener with essential oils.
This set of two engraved stainless steel diffusers comes with 12 felt pads that are ready for your essential oils of choice. Simply add the scent that you prefer to the felt pad, then place it inside the essential oil diffuser. You can also use two pads for double the scent power in your car air freshener. The diffuser has a clip on the back that allows it to mount to your vehicle’s air vents, or it can be placed in a cupholder or another convenient spot.
Note that this car air freshener doesn’t include any scents or oils—it’s ready to be customized by you. How long the scent lingers depends on the essential oils you choose. Some scents like herbaceous or resinous oils (basil, frankincense, amber, etc.) will last longer than other types of oil (like citrus or some florals). When the air freshener stops working, it’s time to dab the felt pad with more essential oils!
Best Budget: Little Trees Black Ice Air Freshener
It’s hard to beat the budget-friendly and iconic Little Trees hanging car air freshener that costs less than a soda. The Black Ice variety is one of the most popular Little Trees scents of all times and will make your car smell fresh and inviting.
These individually packaged air fresheners are a quick way to refresh your car’s scent or mask unpleasant odors. Hang one from your rearview mirror or stash it somewhere else—like around the gearshift or near a vent—to get the most benefit from this budget air freshener.
Some people are advocates for opening the package and only pulling it down a little at the time in an effort to make the air freshener last longer. Others find that it makes no difference—or don’t like to see the plastic wrapper hanging onto the tree. Either way, when you can buy six car air fresheners for a song, you can afford to keep your car smelling nice with this classic scent.
Best Gel: Ozium Smoke & Odors Eliminator Gel
Instead of a visible car air freshener, you may be looking for a discreet and easy way to freshen your car’s interior. A can of gel air freshener, like the Ozium Smoke & Odors Eliminator Gel is a popular pick.
Just pop the top on this gel air freshener, and Ozium gets to work eliminating odors and leaving a pleasant scent in your car cabin. As a combination between an odor eliminator and an air freshener, this air freshener is widely known for being able to tackle even tough odors like cigarette smoke. You can place it under a car seat, in a cupholder, or tucked away in another inconspicuous spot.
While you don’t have options when it comes to the scent of this gel air freshener for cars, the light citrus scent works for most people. It also lasts for a reasonably long time, especially if you only partially open the vent holes on the top of the container. Of course, serious odor cases or heavy cigarette smoke scenarios will shorten the lifespan of the product. Overall, though, this is a great set-it-and-forget-it gel air freshener for cars.
Best Spray: Chemical Guys Leather Scent Premium Air Freshener and Odor Eliminator
If you want to instantly improve the aroma in your car while nixing odors, then a car air freshener spray makes a good choice. With a few quick spritzes, you can take your vehicle’s scent from “Oh, no!” to “Whoa!” A popular choice is the Leather Scent spray formula from Chemical Guys.
This air freshener spray for cars is an enzymatic formula—meaning that it actually breaks down odor-causing molecules in your vehicle to improve the smell of the air. It also contributes the essence of leather, which many people find to be a great alternative to sweet, floral, or perfume-like scents. Whether your car has leather interior or not, this air freshener is a welcome change from the other more common car air freshener scents.
Vehicle owners recommend spritzing this air freshener in the footwells of the vehicle or under the seats, rather than on the seats of your car. Otherwise, you may find that you have an overpowering scent of leather on your clothing.
While this leather spray didn’t quite match everyone’s expectations of what leather should smell like, the car air freshener sprays from The Chemical Guys are segment leaders and a popular choice for the convenience of a quick scent reset in your car.
Best for Pet Owners: One Fur All Pet Car Air Freshener
Do you enjoy having your four-legged friend ride shotgun in your car, but don’t love the lingering scent of doggy odor? Instead of leaving Fido at home, pick up a pack of One Fur All Pet Car Air Fresheners—our top choice of an air freshener for pet owners.
These car fresheners for dog owners come in a wide variety of scents derived from essential oils - like Lavender Green Tea, Apple Cider, Bamboo Watermint, and Mandarin Sage.
Thanks to the great scents and an odor eliminator, pet owners say that these car air fresheners really tackle the smell of wet dog and leave their car smelling fresh. While opinions are mixed on how long-lasting these air fresheners are, most people agree that they smell great and take your car from smelling like a doggy den to a botanical getaway.
If you're searching for a chemical-free, natural air freshener that will get the job done, look no further than the MOSO NATURAL Air Purifying Bag. MOSO's Air Purifying Bag contains powerful charcoal that eliminates odors and allergens lingering in your car without releasing a harsh fragrance. But if you're looking for a compact air freshener, then the Febreze Car Odor-Eliminating Air Freshener (view at Target). Despite its small size, this air freshener removes odor particles in the air and leaves your car smelling fresh.
What To Look for in Car Air Fresheners
Scent is the most important consideration when it comes to picking an air freshener for your car. Think about what scents you enjoy in your home, or in your perfume or cologne, and look for scents with similar profiles. If your favorite candle is one that smells like sugar cookies, and your favorite perfume includes notes of vanilla, look for something sweet-smelling. Likewise, if you're generally pretty scent-averse, pick an air freshener with a neutral scent, like leather.
Certain air fresheners provide only scent and perfumes to cover up odor, rather than absorbing or getting rid of the odor entirely. Look for car air fresheners with air-purifying features to make sure that your car won't stink the moment you take the air freshener away.
Cheap or poorly-made car air fresheners may only last a few days before the scent fades away. Look for higher quality ones that last for several weeks, not just several days. Not only will this prevent you from having to buy air fresheners in bulk, but it will also remove the hassle of exchanging air fresheners every few days.
How long do car air fresheners last?
Different types of car air fresheners last for different types. Hanging car air fresheners last the shortest amount of time, with the scent only sticking around for a few days. Air fresheners that are attached to a vent typically last about a month, while gel scents can last even longer.
How do car air fresheners work?
Car air fresheners work by containing or giving off a scent that is then distributed throughout the car. There are plenty of different mediums to this, like air fresheners gels, oils, or sprays. Car air fresheners can also use deodorizers to remove stinks and smells from your car.
What are car air fresheners made of?
Car air fresheners use a number of things to keep your car smelling fresh. Fragrances are a key ingredient to the scent of your air freshener, and fragrance carriers distribute it around the air of your car. Many air fresheners also use deodorizers, which neutralize or absorb existing odors in the car.
Why Trust The Spruce
This article was researched and written by Erica Puisis, a professional writer specializing in products that elevate outdoor and indoor living. Erica has covered a variety of backyard products such as pools, hot tubs, solar panels, and patio furniture. Additional reporting was done by Rabekah Henderson, a freelance design and decor writer whose work has appeared on MyDomaine, Atomic Ranch, Cary Magazine, and American Farmhouse Style.