Why Does My Car Smell Like Chlorine?– Reasons & Prevention

You open the door and smell something unpleasant like chlorine from the car’s interior. It can happen to anyone’s vehicle. Hence, this smell irritates the nose and is harmful to our health, especially if it remains long. As a car enthusiast, I am here to discuss “why does my car smell like chlorine?”

Typically, the strong chlorine odor may appear due to several reasons. They can be dirty AC systems, chemicals for car maintenance, interior water leaks, battery defects, and fuel leaks. But nothing to worry about; ways to eliminate the chlorine smell exist.

This article thoroughly shows you all the reasons for the chlorine-like smell in cars. Also, you can learn about the risks associated with this odor. Please, read the whole content to learn how to prevent this problem.

Understanding the Chemistry of Chlorine

Chlorine (Cl) is a chemical element. It’s atomic number 17. (Source: RSC) It is a greatly reactive, greenish-yellow gas with a pungent odor.

This halogen gas is used in versatile industries like solvents, pesticides, plastics, and paper products. It is even commonly used as a disinfectant for different spheres like swimming pools, vehicles etc. (Source: LibreTexts)

Chlorine has a feature that many of us may dislike. Its smell is often described as “bleach-like” or “chlorine-like.” Likewise, the reaction of chlorine gas with water in the air causes this odor. This reaction forms hydrochloric acid (HCl) and hypochlorous acid (HClO).

The problem with this chemical is its impact on our health. For instance, the acids above can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation at high concentrations. Therefore, chlorine can react with organic matter, like bacteria or organic chemicals. They form chlorinated organic compounds. Also, some of these compounds are toxic and potentially carcinogenic.

There is a connection between cars and chlorine. You may find your car smells like chlorine. Usually, cleaning products for cars may contain chlorine. Even mold or mildew growth may also cause a chlorine-like smell.

Common Causes of Chlorine Odor in Cars

Most of us complain about the smell of chlorine in our cars. It may happen for several factors. Among them, these factors are most notable for creating the nuisance odor of chlorine:

  • Chemicals used for car maintenance and cleaning
  • Vehicles carrying pool chemicals or related products
  • Interior water leaks
  • Mold and mildew growth
  • Leaking battery
  • Gas leaks
  • Air conditioning problems
  • Heater system problems

In the rest, you can read each of these causes in depth and how to deal with them.

Chemicals Used for Car Maintenance and Cleaning

Car maintenance helps to maintain its appearance and longevity. But we need to be aware of our car cleaning products. Some of these products contain chemicals that produce chlorine-like odors. Some car cleaning products that may contain chlorine include:

  • Glass cleaners: We often use these cleaners to remove dirt and grime from car windows. But they may contain ammonia and chlorine. As a result, there is a chance of getting the smell of chlorine.
  • Upholstery cleaners: These cleaners remove stains and dirt from car seats and carpets. The chlorine bleach of these cleaners can also produce a strong chlorine odor.
  • All-purpose cleaners: These cleaners are designed to clean different surfaces like the dashboard, door panels, and center consoles. Likewise, they may contain chlorine that can linger in our cars.

Here are some steps to identify if a cleaning product has chlorine in it:

  • Read the cleaner label: You will see a list of this cleaner’s ingredients on its label.
  • Check for warnings: You may see warnings on the label about the potential hazards linked with the product. It may also contain chlorine.
  • Test the cleaner in a small area: You can apply the product in a small area to know if it contains chlorine and produces any smell.

Vehicle Carrying Pool Chemicals or Related Products

You may notice a strong bad chlorine odor when transporting pool chemicals for maintenance. Here is how it works:

You and your passengers may remain exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals when you carry those pool cleaning products. If you inhale the odor in large amounts, it can be harmful.

You should properly secure the containers of chemicals. Otherwise, it may leak or spill inside the car while you carry them. It may cause chemical burns, skin irritation, and respiratory problems if you inhale the chemicals.

Some steps you can take to minimize the hazard and chlorine-like smell are:

  • Use a different vehicle: Using a specific vehicle for transporting any chemicals is a good idea. So there will be no risk of accidental spills or leaks in the car.
  • Secure the chemicals: Always ensure the containers are securely sealed before carrying them in any vehicle.
  • Transport in the trunk: If you wish to transport chemicals in the car, you can carry them in the trunk. It prevents exposure to chlorine and other chemicals.
  • Wear protective clothing: Anytime you deal with pool chemicals, you should wear protection first, like gloves, goggles, and a mask. It protects from inhaling chlorine smells.
  • Ventilate the car: Keep the windows open or turn on the air conditioning to ventilate the car. It will keep the chlorine-like odor out of the vehicle.

Interior Water Leaks

Another reason why your car smells like chlorine the interior water leaks is. It may cause mold and mildew growth that is responsible for chlorine odor.

After water leaks, it may seep into the carpet and upholstery. It creates a damp environment which is the birthplace of mold and mildews. Thus, you may smell the odor more when entering the car or turning on the AC or heater.

Here are some of the potential sources of water leaks in your cars:

  • Sunroof: Do your car has a sunroof? You may know that the drain tubes running from the sunroof to the underside may become clogged. As a result, water leakage happens, and a chlorine-like smell appears.
  • AC drain line: AC in cars produces condensation that drains through a tube under the car. When the tube becomes clogged or damaged, water leaks and causes a smell like chlorine.
  • Windshield: Improperly sealed or damaged windshields may also cause water leaks during rain or snow.

Some steps to detect and remedy a water leak issue in your car are:

  • Check the weatherstripping: Replace any damaged or worn weatherstripping after inspecting it around car’s windows and doors.
  • Inspect the sunroof drain tubes: Clear any clogs or replace any damaged tubes that connect to the sunroof.
  • Check the AC drain line: Unclog the AC drain line under the car. Also, you may need to replace it if you find any damaged parts.
  • Inspect or replace the windshield: Replace it if needed after checking any damage or gaps between it and the car body.
  • Dry out the car: If you find a chlorine odor due to a water leak, dry out the vehicle to prevent mold or mildew growth. You may use a dehumidifier or leave the windows open to dry out the car.

Mold and Mildew Growth in Cars

Mold and mildew growth in cars can be a serious issue. It may cause health problems and unpleasant chlorine odors. Mainly, the reason behind it is the moisture inside the car. Excessive moisture can create a damp environment that helps mold and mildew to grow well.

Some possible causes of mold growth in car are:

  • Water leaks: Damp environment for water leakages is ideal for mold and mildew growth.
  • Wet items left in the car: If you often forget to leave wet items in cars, that can be another reason for getting a chlorine-like odor. These items can be clothing, towels, or others.
  • Humidity: High humidity levels can also create dampness inside the car. It helps mold to grow and spread the bad smell of chlorine.
  • Poor hygiene: According to PuroClean, car owners who do not care about hygiene may welcome mold and mildew easily.

If you notice a musty or earthy odor in your car, it may be a sign of mold and mildew growth. Other signs of mold and mildew growth include:

  • Visible mold or mildew: There will be visible patches of mold or mildew growing on the carpet or upholstery in your car.
  • Stains or discoloration: Look out for any stains or discoloration on the car carpet or upholstery. They also sign mold and mildew growth.
  • Allergy symptoms: Car owners or passengers with allergy symptoms may sneeze, cough, or have a runny nose from the mold.

Some tips to prevent mold and mildew growth in your car are:

  • Keep your car dry: You should thoroughly dry it after it gets wet. A dehumidifier may also help in this case. Besides, leaving the windows open may also keep the environment dry.
  • Avoid leaving wet items: Remove any wet items from the car and dry them out as soon as possible.
  • Use air conditioning: Running the car AC can reduce humidity levels and prevent mold and mildew growth.
  • Keep your car clean: Many people suggest regular cleaning of your car. You may vacuum the carpets and upholstery to remove excessive moisture.

Leaking Battery

If you experience a chlorine scent inside the car, it may happen off the battery leakage. Let me describe it more.

Car batteries have an acid and water mixture. Once a battery leaks, it releases hydrogen gas and sulfuric acid. Hence, the reaction of sulfuric acid with other chemicals causes the chlorine odor.

A few signs that your car battery may be leaking can be:

  • Battery corrosion: You may notice a white, powdery substance on the battery terminals or cables. It is a sign of battery leakage.
  • Low battery fluid levels: If your battery has low fluid levels, leaks may drain the fluids and cause a smell.
  • Bulging or bloated battery case: Bulging or bloated battery case can indicate leakage.

You should follow these steps after finding the battery leaking to prevent chlorine odor:

  • Wear protective gear: Wear gloves and goggles before handling the battery.
  • Turn off the car: Turn off the car and remove the key from the ignition.
  • Disconnect the battery: Carefully disconnect the battery cables from the terminals.
  • Remove the battery: Remove it from the car and place it in a safe location.
  • Clean up the area: Clean the battery acid or corrosion thoroughly.

Battery Overheating

In addition to leaking, overheating the car battery can generate a chlorine-like odor. The overheating causes battery chemicals to react. As a result, you can smell unexpected chlorine-like odors.

You can avoid overheating the car battery by following these steps:

  • Keep the car out of direct sunlight: Always park in a shaded area like a garage or under a tree.
  • Avoid overcharging the battery: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when charging the battery to prevent overheating.
  • Check the battery regularly: Maintain battery health by regular checking. You may need to replace it if things get worse.
  • Keep the battery clean: Regularly clean the terminals and cables to prevent corrosion. It reduces battery overheating.

Gas or Fuel Leaks

Gas or fuel leaks in a car can produce a chlorine-like odor noticeable to passengers. They produce for the presence of different chemicals like sulfur or mercaptans in the fuel. Thus, these chemicals have a strong odor that is like chlorine.

Some symptoms of a fuel or gas leak in your vehicle can be:

  • A strong, pungent odor in or around the car.
  • Decreased fuel efficiency or gas mileage.
  • A visible puddle of fuel or wetness under the car.
  • A check engine light on the dashboard.
  • Difficulty starting the car.

When you suspect gas leaking, you may follow these steps:

  • Turn off the engine: If you are inside the car, turn off the engine immediately.
  • Leave the area: Get out of the car and move safely from the car.
  • Do not smoke or use open flames: Gasoline is flammable and can ignite easily. So, avoid smoking or using open flames in the car.

Air Conditioning or Heater System Problems

Have you ever noticed a strong chlorine-like odor in your car? But you couldn’t quite pinpoint the source. If you have, there might be malfunctioning with the car’s AC or heater system. Hence, a malfunctioned AC or heater system may leak their refrigerant (known as freon) into the car’s interior. So, you will smell the chlorine as freon has a sweet and pungent odor like chlorine.

Some signs of defective air conditioning or heater system are:

  • Weak or no airflow from the vents
  • Unusual noises coming from the AC or heater system
  • Difficulty in adjusting the temperature
  • Increased humidity inside the car

Here are some instructions you can follow to avoid malfunctioning in the heater or AC system:

  • Turn off the air conditioning or heater system. Then, roll down the windows to let fresh air in.
  • Take your car to a qualified mechanic to diagnose and fix the problem.
  • Service the air conditioning or heater system regularly, following the manufacturer’s schedule.

DIY Methods for Getting Rid of Chlorine Smell in Car

Some easy ways to be free from chlorine smell from your car can be:

The Use of Baking Soda

Baking soda is a versatile household item. You can apply it for odor elimination. Besides, it is an affordable and ready option.

Follow these steps to use baking soda:

  • First, vacuum the car to remove any debris, dirt, or dust causing the smell.
  • Then, sprinkle a substantial amount of baking soda on the affected area.
  • After that, leave the baking soda for several hours or overnight.
  • Vacuum the area again to remove the baking soda.

Charcoal and Other Natural Odor Absorbents

Charcoal is another effective natural odor absorber to eliminate the chlorine smell.

Follow these steps to use charcoal:

  • First, place several pieces of charcoal in a bowl or bag.
  • Then, place the bowl or bag in the car while avoiding spillage.  
  • Next, leave the charcoal in the car for several hours or overnight.
  • Remove the bowl or bag of charcoal and dispose of it.

Some other natural odor absorbents I can suggest are coffee grounds, citrus peels, and white vinegar.

Vinegar and Water Solution

Vinegar is another household item useful for getting rid of mold and mildew. So there will be no chlorine odor anymore.

Follow these steps to use vinegar:

  • Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
  • Then, spray the vinegar-water solution on the affected area.
  • Leave the solution to sit for several minutes.
  • Wipe the area clean with a damp cloth.


Are you still thinking, “why does my car smell like chlorine?” I hope you are not. In this article, I have discussed all possible causes of getting a chlorine-like scent in your car. Just follow the instructions I have added with the reasons.

Also, maintain the car to prevent unusual odors from developing in your vehicle. You may try the DIY methods too.

Thanks for reading this long article.