If you’re a big fan of outdoor festivals, then you know that evidence of the experience can stay with you long after the music and fun wind down (and we’re not talking about commemorative trucker hats). Here’s our best advice for getting that unwanted festival funk out of your car.

Playa dust

If you’ve been to a certain famous desert festival, than you’ll want to make sure you don’t let the alkaline dust that’s sure to follow you home stay too long on your upholstery, interior surfaces, or in your car vents. Take the following steps to ensure your car is dust free after a visit to the playa:

  • Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Open your car windows.
  • Turn your AC fan on to its max setting.
  • Switch all vents to cold air.
  • Vacuum interiors with a powerful vacuum.
  • Wash interior surfaces with a car cleanser meant for upholstery and plastic.
  • Wash exterior surfaces with a combination of soapy water and a splash of white vinegar (or use a professional car wash,  but be warned  you might have to go through twice).

Beach sand

Sand gets harder to remove the longer it sits on your floor mats and in the crevices of your upholstery, so try not to delay on getting rid of it.

  • Pack a battery-operated car vacuum to help you remove the sand when you see it.
  • Shake out floor mats and seat protectors and then vacuum.
  • Use a damp microfiber cloth to remove sand from hard surfaces.
  • Use a cotton swab to clean narrow nooks and crannies.
  • Wipe wheels and tire trim with a wet sponge or microfiber cloth to remove any remaining sand.
  • Consider professional upholstery cleaning if sand remains.

Body glitter

Body glitter may seem like a great idea when you’re going to the show. But that lingering shine and sparkle becomes far less desirable in the return to normal life.

  • To clean glitter from hard surfaces, wipe with a wet sponge and wring into a large bowl of water.
  • Shake out floor mats and seat covers and then vacuum all surfaces.
  • Run a damp paper towel across mats, seats, and carpet to help remove any remaining glitter.


Festivals are often rain or shine affairs. If you’ve got a caked-on mud situation, you’ll need to take special care to get it out of your car.

  • Mud is easier to remove when dry, so let wet mud dry completely before cleaning, if possible.
  • Scrape dried mud from hard surfaces and floor mats with a hard-edged item, like an old credit card or a stiff-bristled brush, and then vacuum up remaining dried dirt.
  • Vacuum mats, seats, and carpeting.
  • If necessary, shampoo or wash car mats with soapy water and a scrub brush and then use a power washer to remove remaining soap and dirt.
  • Let mats air dry outside of the car.


If you ever need to remove bile from your car’s interior, don’t delay on cleaning it up or your job will get much harder. And yes, more unpleasant.

  • Wear gloves and a face mask, if possible. (Pro tip: a little vapor rub or other strong-smelling essential oil on the interior of your face mask will help mask any malodorous smells and make your job a little less yucky.)
  • Open all car doors and windows for optimal ventilation.
  • Using a plastic tool, scrape any solid matter into a plastic bag.
  • Use paper towels to absorb as much moisture as possible from soiled areas.
  • Apply dry baking soda to the stain and let sit for as long as possible (overnight, even).
  • Use spatula to scrape baking soda into plastic bag.
  • Vacuum area thoroughly and then spray hard interior surfaces with an all-purpose car cleanser and wipe dry.
  • Allow car to air out as long as possible. Leaving bowls of baking soda inside the car’s interior while parked may help absorb remaining odors. And car air fresheners can also help mitigate lingering smells.

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about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.