How To Handle The Many Smells Of Rideshare Driving

As Uber and Lyft drivers we see… and smell… it all. Isn’t it funny how passengers think they’re so stealthy when they’re releasing… smells… from various parts of their bodies? Senior RSG contributor Jay Cradeur shares all the ‘fun’ smells we deal with as drivers – and how you can protect yourself from them!

Farts, belches, and too much aftershave.  What is a driver to do? We drivers can spend up to 14 hours a day in our cars, which are essentially a metal box, and must experience a wide range of odors for which we cannot simply leave. We must keep on driving.

What is the best way to handle the onslaught of odors?  This article will break down the various malodorous scents, and offer some suggestions for relief.

Want to watch this video? Jay shares it all (smells not included) below!

1) Farts

Farts, passing gas, or cutting the cheese, there is no mistaking when someone lets one loose in your car.  The funny thing is the passenger always acts as if nothing happened.  You know the passenger farted.  The passenger knows he or she farted.  However, no one wants to acknowledge it. It is like it’s a mystery.

My first move after the initial awkwardness is to open my window about halfway and take a look outside while gasping for clean fresh air.  This certainly lets your passenger know that you know there was a serious fart infraction. I am OK with that. I need air.  The passenger should know how to control his or her bowels (it’s usually a guy!).  This technique is not too subtle but it gets the job done.

2) Belches

These are worse for me than farts.  Just last week, I sturdy petite older woman got into my car.  After about two minutes of driving, I heard a loud burp. It must have lasted a good three seconds. After completing this momentous belch, the passenger said: “Excuse me.”

“Oh no!” I thought to myself, “This is going to be bad!”  Then, like a big wave crashing on my head at the beach, I was enveloped with the warm smell of chili con carne.  It was unmistakable.  I was so repulsed!

The chili started out as good food.  Then it was eaten.  Then it came out of her stomach, and now many hours later I was smelling it.  It was not pleasant.

This called for a drastic move: opening my window all the way.  I needed air. I gulped down a few good deep breaths.  Once the pungent odor had been cleared out, I closed the window back up.

3) Alcohol

I do not do any night driving, except for New Year’s Eve, so I have never experienced anyone vomiting in my car.  Vomit is not a pleasant smell.  Not only does it not smell good, opening the window will not do the job.  You actually have to clean up the mess.  Get barf bags so you can avoid this fiasco.

I do drive in the early morning and take many all night partiers home.  There is a unique smell, a sweet unctuous smell that oozes out of the pores of most well hungover people.  It is unmistakable.  It is not as unpleasant as a fart or belch, but I would not call it pleasant.  I usually open my window just a bit to keep fresh air circulating.  I will also often say something like “Big night last night?”  This often leads to an entertaining story about the previous night’s antics.

4) Outside Smells (Sewer Grates/Low Tide)

Opening the window does not always relieve a driver of odors.  In fact, sometimes opening the window only makes things worse.  My brother drives for Uber and Lyft in Chicago.  He reports there are sewer grates that reek of human feces. It’s unmistakable.  The first time he smelled it, he opened his window and that only made it worse.

Beware the smelly sewers

The same can be said here in San Francisco.  There are certain parts of the Bay which, when the tide is low, smells horrible.  Here again, opening the window only makes it worse.  The best you can do is to use your vents to cut off the air from the outside and turn up the fan to circulate the air.  This will help a bit, but you will not be out of harm’s way until you vacate the area.

5) Aftershave / Perfume

Some passengers wear too much, or passengers will wear aftershave or perfume that you don’t like.  Others still will wear scents that will blow your mind. It’s like what Forrest Gump said: “You never know what you’re gonna get.” If you don’t like it, crack the window.

Some guys wear way too much aftershave.  They just took a shower, drenched themselves in sandalwood and jumped in a Lyft.  We as the drivers are the first to smell them after their ample application. They are planning ahead for a full day, so they are generous with the amount.  We are, unfortunately, collateral damage.

On the other hand, sometimes a man or woman can get it absolutely perfectly right.  I can still recall two specific passengers, both women, who quite honestly mesmerized me with their scent.  Not only did I compliment them on how mind-blowingly awesome they smelled, but I also asked for the name of the perfume.

One was called Bond #9 Scent of Peace and the other was called Rose by Hermes for Unisex.  I had never heard of either of these prior to my driving experience.  For all the farts and burps we tolerate, just a few moments of odorous bliss can make it all worthwhile.

6) Marijuana

Some people get into my car and they are fairly well baked.  They got high before the ride in preparation for the day.  I have learned it is best not to make any comment.

I have tried in the past and it did not go over well.  I said something like “Wow, I am getting a contact high up here!”  Either they were too high to understand me, or they simply did not appreciate my attempt at humor.  I stopped commenting.

Not a lot you can say to the people who smell of marijuana – good luck!

Instead, I play my music, crack the window, drive and let them have their experience.  If you get someone who is reeking of weed in a Lyft Shared or Uber Line, then you may need to open the windows a bit more and crank up the fans with the vent set to outside air.

7) Body Odor aka BO

Some people don’t smell very good. Either they are unaware of how bad they smell or, like Mathew McConaughey, they have made a life choice not to wear cologne or deodorant. It can be a bit unpleasant.

Since most passengers sit in the back seat, I have not had to endure too much of the bad BO.  A few times, passengers in a Lyft Shared have made a comment after a smelly passenger left the car.  There is not much you can do besides open the window and let some fresh air circulate

8) Food

Some passengers feel that my car is their dining room.  They get in, pop open a yogurt or a bag of tortilla chips, and chomp away.

Good luck getting cheesy finger stains off your seats

Personally, I find the sound of someone crunching down on chips to be off-putting.  However, the smell can be overwhelming.

I have never liked the cheesy chips so when I hear the bag open, I know to open my window. I don’t mind the smell of coffee, which is a near daily experience in my car. But please, don’t use my car as your kitchen.

What Is The Best Smell For Your Car?

I have tried many different scents.  I have used Febreze, Ozium (both Original and New Car Smell), and Lavender Oil.

This will help with the funky smells in your car

I just ordered a small essential oil diffuser and will try that next week.

Only you can tell what is best for your car. You can judge by how you passengers respond. And, it is best if you like the smell of your own car.  It is important that you are conscious of your car’s smell.

Your car’s smell is one of the first things a passenger notices.  If you have ever been in a car that smells like someone has been sleeping all night in there, it is not pleasant and ruins the ride experience. I prefer the smell of lavender.  It is very relaxing and goes well with my jazz music.

Keep it clean and smelling fresh.  You will earn more tips.  Have a great day with many wonderful scents.  Be safe out there.

Readers, how do you keep your car smelling clean and fresh?

-Jay @ RSG