The Best Car Air Fresheners

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Keeping your car’s interior smelling fresh and clean is important because we spend so much of our lives behind the wheel — and it’s dangerous to hold your nose while driving. Those irritating odours wafting through the cabins are annoying at best, but they can be more than unpleasant; and, they can be distracting. A car air freshener can mask the smell of old burger wrappers and dog hair and replace it with a scent you love.

If you’re ready to fall back in love with your car’s interior buckle in for this list of the best car air fresheners. From charcoal to citrus, and Febreze to floral — here are the best air fresheners to make you breathe easy.

1. Editor's Pick: Febreze Car Air Freshener Vent Clips

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Febreze is the best-known air-purifying/freshening brand and its range of car products are effective, well-priced, and widely praised.

The company has done a good job making their diffuser look like it belongs in most interiors, with subtle colours and a clean, unobtrusive style. The Linen and Sky version of the Febreze air-vent clip models is not only great smelling, but they look good too. We love these clips for the adjustable dial, so you can set it for the intensity you want or need. Set to low, each clip will last up to a month. There are three clips in a packet which makes this an extremely affordable solution for your car.

Febreze prides itself on the way its air fresheners trap and smother bad smells, while simultaneously spreading pleasing aromas through the cabin. The range of vent-clip models is not safe for those with allergies, but does offer consistent, pleasant, and controllable freshening for most cars and SUVs.

2. Longest Lasting: Moso Natural Charcoal Bag

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The odourless and chemical-free Moso Natural air-purifying bag is filled with activated bamboo charcoal that absorbs and traps the scent-carrying particles floating around in your car. We love this purifier because it is safe for pets, children, and those with allergies.

You can keep it under your seat for inconspicuous and effective scent removal. The best part? It will provide effective air cleansing for up to two years. To clean it and restore the Moso bag’s purifying power you just leave it out in the sun for an hour or so once a month. UV rays bleach out the nasty smells.

One of these 200 g stitched-linen bags will handily remove the yuck from anything from a compact car to a full-size SUV. At the end of the bag’s life, the bio-degradable linen bag can be safely tossed into the garbage and the charcoal can be mixed into your garden or pot plans.

3. Best Value: Little Tree Magic Tree Mix Pack

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Little Trees air fresheners are the iconic rear-view mirror accessory that provide both pleasing aromas and whimsy to your car’s interior. This mix-pack of 30 is in the same ballpark pricewise as the Moso Natural charcoal bag above, and for the money you get 30 different scents and styles.

We like the fun names, like Vanilla Pride or Black Ice – which Little Trees says is a masculine fragrance. If you’re not into “manly” smells, there’s strawberry, green apple, or watermelon. If you are into the wilder side of life, there’s Bold Entrance, Leather, or simply, Heat.

Little Trees are iconic, but they’re not an air purifier, they’re an air freshener. The most these cute little fellas can do is mask the smells in your car. That might be all you need, but if you have strong smells you’ll soon find they just blend with whatever Little Tree you have hanging.

If your car isn’t plagued by heavy smells from pets or smoking, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from one of these fun little trees hanging from your rear-view mirror.

4. Best-Smelling: Air Spencer CS-X3 Car Air Freshener

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Smell is a subjective thing, so it’s surprising that almost every driver rates the Air Spencer CS-X3 car air freshener so highly.

Made in Japan, this refillable capsule can be kept out of sight and will still fill the cabin with an aroma that is fruity and lightly minty at the same time. Some like the style of the cannister and keep it on the console or dashboard. The blue-accents on the black and grey case make it even more reminiscent of Japanese automotive styling from the early 2000s, which might account for some of the love it gets.

It also looks a little bit like the old radar scanners of that era. While drivers do enjoy the smell, some users are frustrated the scent wears out quickly, and refills aren’t cheap.

5. Most Fancy Air Freshener: RoyAroma Essential Oil Diffusing Pad

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RoyAroma’s stainless steel vent-clip lockets are a stylish and luxurious diffuser designed for use with essential oils. The lockets are portable, so you can take them with you outside the car too.

The pack contains two 30 mm lockets with different designs that fit 22mm felt pads. The robust magnetic closure and strong clips are designed to last, and there are 12 pads, each with a different vibrant colour.

We spend so much time in our cars they are almost a second home. Whether your oils help you release stress, improve your alertness, or just make you feel nice, a diffuser lets your take that sensation with you. The essential oils don’t come with the diffuser kit, but if you have your own favourite mix of natural aromas you’ll probably want to use those anyway.

6. Best Mirror-Hang Air Freshener: Yankee Candle Car Jar Ultimate Hanging Air Freshener 3-Pack

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The Bahama Breeze, Black Coconut, and Turquoise Sky hanging air fresheners from Yankee Candle are all together in this handy three-pack for your car. These gentle fragrances are released from an elegant and environmentally friendly glass jar that hangs from your rear-view mirror, rear grab handles, or seat back.

While Yankee Candle does make actual candles, it’s important to note you shouldn’t set your Yankee Candle car jar on fire. Nor anything else in your car, for that matter. If you do want one of the famous Yankee Candle smells without having to carry an open flame and hot wax with you as you drive – the car jar is our favourite of the brand’s options.

We highlighted these aromas in particular for their light, gentle, and uncomplicated scents. There are other aromas available, and all come well-rated. They range from the citrus family all the way through to seasonal scents like Mistletoe and Spiced Pumpkin. Like other hanging fresheners in this list, these are merely perfumes, not air purifiers. The Yankee Candle range of car products will bring clean interiors to life with pleasing smells.

7. Best for Smokers: Ozium Smoke and Odours Eliminator Gel

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A tub of Ozium gel placed inside your car is a heavy-duty defense against cigarette smoke and other strong odours that can contaminate your car.

Like offerings from Febreze and Chemical Guys, Ozium’s formula bonds to malodourous particles and blocks them from emitting their stench. The can itself doesn’t look great — especially after a week sitting with the lid off in notoriously dusty environments like cars — but you can keep it out of sight to avoid that.

The Ozium tub fits under the seat, in the console, or in the cupholders. There are vent holes in the lid, or you can remove it completely to combat persistent, stronger smells. If you’re a smoker, you’ll go through the tub faster than someone who isn’t, but you will protect your car’s interior from absorbing the cigarette smell.

This is one of the most expensive solutions in our list, but it’s the best-performing scent eliminator by far. There is only one scent available, and it’s a lightly citric smell that most people will find appealing.

8. Best Air Freshener for Pets: Pet House Car Air Freshener by One Fur All

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If you need a hypo-allergenic, non-toxic car air freshener that will tackle pet smells like a puppy on a stick — One Fur All’s Pet House car air freshener has you covered.

The dye and chemical-free paperboard hangers won’t harm Fido if he mistakes one for a treat or prey, and they are infused with essential oils for a satisfying aroma. Most importantly, these hanging tags feature a natural odour neutralizer for potent protection from pet odour.

You will need to replace the adorable little tags often, but they’re modestly priced and come in packs of four. There are 16 scents available, including Vanilla Crème Brulee, Sunwashed Cotton, Pumpkin Spice, and Moonlight. I am a fan of the Apple Cider and Ruby Red Grapefuit.

One Fur All’s freshener is ideal for dog walkers, pet rescuers, or just the animal lover who takes their fur baby with them when they travel.

Types of Car Air Fresheners

Car air fresheners come in two main categories: sprays and leave-ins. Sprays are usually better at sanitising the air in your cabin, but both types do more covering-up than actual cleaning. Sitting somewhere in the middle of these is car vent sprays — that set off a timed burst every few hours or so. These days, there are even factory-fitted air fresheners, like the diffuser found in the Mercedes-Benz S Class.

The Real Problem

The only real way to thoroughly clean bad odours from your car or truck, is to thoroughly clean your car or truck. A deep clean of your seats and carpet is what you’ll need to truly eradicate the lingering smell of cigarette smoke, for example. You should also look at changing your car’s cabin air filter if it has one.

There’s also a range of seat covers and cargo liners designed to protect your car from pet smells and pet hair. Most of these are machine washable. The best solution for a car interior that doesn’t smell as good as it used to is always a thorough cleaning.

And if you want to restore a rich leathery smell to your truck, consider using a leather conditioner to clean and reinvigorate your seats.

A Note on Allergies

If you use your vehicle for ride sharing, remember that some people are extremely sensitive to odours and artificial scents. Perfumes, body sprays, and car air fresheners can all trigger nasty allergic reactions. For the sake of your ride rating and your customers, choose one of the hypo-allergenic options from the list above.

Do you use any of these air fresheners to keep your car smelling fresh? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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