Gear: Meguiar’s Whole Car Air Re-Fresher

Anyone who’s tried to mask a stinky car interior with tiny trees hanging from the rearview mirror knows there’s only so much you can do to cover up a smell. Meguiar’s new Whole Car Air Re-Fresher, however, is claimed to have a more lasting effect on keep odors out of your cabin. Instead of simply masking bad smells, it gets rid of them.

The small device is an aerosol can that sprays a mist all throughout your car’s cabin. To use it, Meguiar’s recommends turning your car’s air conditioning to recirculate and setting the fan to high, then leaving the car with the doors closed — and no people or pets inside — for 15 minutes while the aerosol does its work. The idea, explains Meguiar’s product specialist Mike Pennington, is to have the Air Re-Fresher’s mist circulating through heater vents and all around the cabin, capturing malodorous particles in the process.

“It is not like a standard tree or spray or vent stick that’s just emitting pleasant scents to cover up, but it’s actually permanently eliminating that smell,” Pennington said. “It encapsulates and traps that molecule of smell, and no matter how hot or humid it gets, it won’t break down.”

When we opened the doors after the Re-Fresher bottle had sprayed its contents, and after waiting the prescribed amount of time, we were greeted by an overwhelming new, more pleasant odor. To help signal to users that the Air Re-Fresher has done its job, Meguiar’s included a “new car” scent in the aerosol. That scent fades within one or two weeks, but for the first few days we found it excessive when we tested it on a smaller car. Pennington said the company has tested and could consider selling different types of these “signal” scents.

On the other hand, using the Air Re-Fresher did result in a fresher-smelling car interior, helping cover up 17 years of scents left by the previous owners of our test vehicle. Pennington notes that you should vacuum and clean your car’s interior before using for best results, but says that one spray should keep a car fresh for a long time. “We have really seen it do really good stuff on odors from things like smoking, sports equipment,” he says.

The Meguiar’s Whole Car Air Re-Fresher is on sale now for $7.99.