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How To Remove Musty Odor From Car Interior
Posted by Mike at 1Z einszett on 9/21/2011 to How To's/ FAQS
Nothing goes hand in hand like spring and detailing your car. If you've been dealing with snow than more likely than not you've been waiting for the moment when you can unearth your car from layers of road salt and grime. 

While surface treatment of the paint finish and interior get all the attention during the car care season, there's one area that is often overlooked  the air conditioning system. If you've ever noticed an unpleasant musty odor (old gym socks maybe?) coming out of your vents when your air conditioning system is on, you might think there's nothing that could be done about it other than ignoring it or masking it with an air freshener. Or maybe you've never noticed it and a passenger brought it to your attention. So why is there an odor coming from the air conditioner?

Cause

Every time you use your air conditioner, you are providing an opportunity for odor causing mold, mildew and bacteria to grow within your air conditioning system. To explain how this happens, a basic explanation of how the air conditioner system works. When the air conditioner is operating, it pulls moisture out of your cars interior through a unit called the evaporator core, which is located underneath your cars dashboard. By pulling moisture from the air, the relative humidity is decreased allowing the air temperature to feel cooler. The moisture that is pulled from the air condenses and is drained outside the car. Ever notice a pool of water under your parked car on a hot summer day? That's the water that was drained from the system. This also happens to be the way home air conditioners work.

Even though most of the moisture is drained from the car, moisture still remains on the evaporator core and the box that the core sits inside of. As the air circulates around the evaporator core, dust and pollen in the air stick to the moisture on the metal fins of the evaporator. Soon thereafter mold, mildew and bacteria begin to grow on the surface of the evaporator. This collection of grime and odor causing agents begin to release odor and is the cause of the smell coming out of your vents.

Solution

One way to help prevent or at least reduce this issue is to keep the air conditioner on the fresh air setting. This keeps fresh air circulating around the evaporator which helps keep it and the surrounding area dry thereby reducing the chance of any mold, mildew and bacteria from growing. However, there are two disadvantages to this method. First, its also not always convenient to switch to the fresh air setting in order to draw in hotter air to dry out the system. It just might be too hot or cold to be worth this extra effort. Its also not economical. Second, allowing fresh air to flow in increases the accumulation of dust, pollen and brake dust build up. Of course if you have a cabin air filter you don't have to worry about that since it will trap the pollutants before it reaches the evaporator area. 

Another possible solution is to spray a disinfectant like Lysol into the ventilation system or have your car treated with ozone or other similar system. However, this process does not affect any dust, pollen and other contaminants that have accumulated on the evaporator. While it may disinfect any mold, mildew and bacteria, the results are usually short term. 

Last but not least, you can have your system treated by the dealership. They will use Klima-Cleaner or a similar product and may charge $150 and higher for this service. This is the most effective solution but it can be expensive. 
 
Solution: Klima-Cleaner

As we found, the best solution is to have the dealership treat your air conditioning system for you. However, its quite expensive. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can use the same product they use. Applying einszett Klima-Cleaner effectively disinfects mold, mildew and bacteria on the evaporator core. It also applies a thin layer of protectant that has been proven in laboratory tests which makes the growth of contaminants more difficult so the results are long lasting. Klima-Cleaners effective foam solution emulsifies the debris build up on the evaporator core so its cleaner and will run more efficiently. 

Another significant benefit is the result of cleaner cockpit air. This is especially important for allergy sufferers who are sensitive to airborne contaminants. 

For those who are highly sensitive to chemicals, rest assured that Klima-Cleaner is a water- and salt-based cleaner so chances of any skin reaction is extremely minimal.

Application

Apply Klima-Cleaner exactly as directed on the product label taking caution that it may be best to have it applied by a certified mechanic if you are unsure about applying the product yourself.

Its best to apply Klima-Cleaner every six months. The easiest way to remember is to apply it every time you change your oil. We also suggest you change your cabin filter at the same time for optimum air conditioning performance and the freshest, cleanest air.

And dont think that Klima-Cleaner is only for the spring and summer. Applying it in the winter is also important whether you live in area that snows or rains. If you drive in the winter, youve probably used your air conditioner setting in conjunction with the heat setting to de-humidify the interior. If so, the evaporator core is susceptible to the same issues as in the warmer months.

Summary

Detailing your car is a full system process involving the treatment of every aspect of the car. An application of Klima-Cleaner as part of your detailing regimen will improve the performance of your air conditioning system and improve the air you breathe inside your car.

Disclaimer: If you are unfamiliar with your cars air conditioning system or unsure about application, you should have Klima-Cleaner applied by a certified mechanic only. Many cars in the last few years have complicated air conditioning systems that are operated using electronic components. Applied incorrectly, Klima-Cleaner may damage these electronic components. einszett will not be responsible for any damage caused due to improper application of the product.
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