Our suggestion is to only offer odor removal with a full interior detail!
When I started my mobile auto detailing business during my college days, a frequently requested interior service was odor removal. Most complaints were related to vehicles having a smoke, mildew, some other offensive odor, or as the customer would put it "It smells horrible". I offered odor removal only with the full interior cleaning package and I suggest you do the same for some of the following reasons in the blog below.
The hardest part of removing the odor within the interior of the vehicle is actually finding the source of the odor. If a customer informed you that the car smells like cigarette smoke and you are able to confirm this, where is the source of the odor?
I have seen many auto detailers think they can use an ozone machine, odor eliminator chemicals, coffee beans, dryer sheets, baking soda and many other products to remove the odor. The odor cannot be removed if the source odor is not located and then removed. Running an ozone machine, using costly sprays, dryer sheets, or coffee beans is just going to mask the odor, not remove it!
Before purchasing unnecessary items first, do a full interior cleaning. Since cigarette smoke is a very common complaint we will use this odor as an example. As the occupant of the vehicle smokes a cigarette, the nicotine will be transferred to the headliner, windows, plastic panels, throughout the circulation system, upholstery seating and all other areas within the interior.
If these areas are not thoroughly cleaned first, all other odor eliminator items are essentially going to act as a cover up.
The interior might smell good after the odor removal treatment, but this pleasant scent will quickly vanish and the cigarette smoke smell will reappear. As the smell returns, you will then have an upset customer which will cost you more time and money to correct the problem.
Proper steps in order to remove the odor
So what steps should you take to remove the smell?
Do a thorough interior cleaning of all the areas including the headliner. Pay special attention to the headliner as much of the nicotine is going to be embedded in this area.
Make sure you are familiar with cleaning the headliner as some of the headliners are more delicate than others, and you do not want to make a costly mistake by having a headliner sag from over saturating it.
The safest way I have found to clean a headliner is to spray Greenway's Kleen It All or your cleaner of choice directly onto a soft absorbent towel. Gently wipe each area of the headliner while constantly turning the towel to a clean side.
Never spray the headliner directly with any type of cleaner as this might over saturate the headliner and cause it to separate.
This is a great time to use some light colored towels to see when the nicotine is completely removed as this process can take some time and plenty of towels.
Once the headliner is complete, clean all the upholstery, carpets, plastic and vinyl panels within the car.
Look in the owners manual or search the internet to see if the particular vehicle you are cleaning is equipped with a cabin air filter. If the vehicle is equipped with a cabin air filter, this filter should be changed as they are inexpensive and typically very easy to replace. Much of the cigarette smoke smell will be captured within the cabin air filter along with many other odors.
Each time the vehicles conditioning system is activated, a dirty filter will allow the smell to continue to be dispersed into the vehicle. Let the customer know that the filter has to be changed and offer to pick one up if a store is nearby.
It is also a great idea to ask ahead of time the exact year, make and model of the vehicle prior to the appointment so you can already have the filter on hand if needed.
This not only saves you time but also allows you to get the customers vehicle back to them faster.
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