How to Make a DIY Car Air Freshener With Coffee Beans

How to Make a DIY Air Freshener
Aaron Miller/Thrillist
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Your car has more smells than you can identify, starting from the moment it's born in the factory, when everything from the dashboard to the seats begins to outgas, forming what you know and love as That New Car Smell. If your car is used, you've likely gotten used to the myriad olfactory clues to the car's life before you -- but your guests sure as hell haven't. They'll smell every cigarette, every spill, every fast-food order's lingering scent as it gradually decays from sublime to sour.

You could use one of those two-buck spray bottles you find in your local parts store, or a clip-on scent dispenser in Spring Moon Orchid Blossom. But the factory-made, chemical-laden scent only covers up the odor. So if you don't want your ride smelling like an Uber, there's another way: the DIY way.

socks and coffee beans
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

What you'll need:

  • Five minutes
  • Some old socks (they should be clean and sans holes)
  • A wide funnel (I used a plastic cup here)
  • Some zip ties
  • A natural odor absorber of your choice (more on that in a sec)
Aluminum silicates absorb smells
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Step 1: Choose your natural odor absorber

The goal here is to make something that absorbs smells, not just pushes them out -- much like the box of baking soda you keep in your fridge. A lot of products do this, but they all have fatal flaws that make them less than ideal in this scenario: baking soda or kitty litter would be a clean-up disaster; laundry sheets smell like godawful synthetic flowers; vinegar is great... but driving with an open glass of vinegar in your car is an inconceivably horrible idea.

Instead, you want something that's not going to break down, and that either gives off no odor at all, or something that you'll find pleasant.

Unscented: Activated charcoal or aluminum silicates (called zeolites, shown above) will get the job done and don't give off a scent.
Scented: Wood chips are a fine option and give your car that cozy-cabin lumbersexual vibe. We went with whole coffee beans -- they work great and make your morning commute extra zingy. The best part is that these are all-natural materials, even if they can be mass produced. No chemical smells.

How to make a super cheap funnel
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Step 2: Grab your funnel... or make one

This is the easiest step on the planet -- cut the bottom off the cup. Really. That's it. DIY ain't so bad.

Roll the sock onto the funnel and fill
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Step 3: Fill the sock

Roll the sock up over the funnel, and poor whatever you're using in there (I went with the coffee beans). The only reason this isn't an easier step than making the funnel is because if you're a klutz like me you're going to spill some and make a mess all over your garage floor. If you're not a klutz like me? You should already be done pouring.

Place the sock under the seat of your car
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Step 4: Tie off the ends

Take your zip ties and cinch both ends of the sock to make sure nothing escapes. If you used activated charcoal or the aluminum silicate, you might want to consider a second sock to prevent any dust from filtering through.

Step 5: Stash your fancy new air freshener under the passenger seat

Search around for the best place under the front passenger seat to put your sock. Why the passenger seat? Just in case it comes loose, you'd rather it not go under one of your pedals while you're driving. Ideally, you want to make sure it's not blocking an air vent (most cars have one that exits under the seat that you've likely never seen) or sitting on top of a speaker (some cars have subwoofers under the seat). You also want to avoid the motor and/or track on which the seat moves, and you don't want to be stuck against any heating elements. Basically, be careful, and you'll be fine.

That's it. You're done! Now, order some really exotic takeout with confidence.

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Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter. He once tested the volumetric efficiency of air conditioners based on how quickly they removed the smell of pad Thai.