This Is What "New Car" Smell Really Is

You’ve just come from the full-service car wash, you slide into the driver’s seat, and the first thing that hits you is……..ah……that crisp and clean “new car smell.” Few scents trigger such a rush of positive feelings all at once. Exactly what is that smell anyway? Buckle up, friends, because the truth isn’t pretty. When you buy a new car, much of the vehicle is composed of things like latex, polyurethane, and plastic — all of which produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are chemical byproducts created by everything from plants to plastics and have a high rate of particle release at room temperature. That steering wheel? It’s plastic. Carpeting? It’s packed with plastic fibers. Those cushy seats? Polyurethane foam. Literally all of those individual components roll off the assembly line releasing fresh VOCs into the air (official term: "outgassing") that, when used to build that cool new ride you can’t wait to drive, combine together to form that “new car smell.” Congrats, you're smelling fresh toxic chemicals! So, is new car smell harmful to your health? Yes and no. While VOC exposure can trigger everything from eye irritation to memory impairment in the most extreme cases, by the time your car hits the road, the initial outgassing and number of VOCs being released into the air will have significantly reduced. If you’re concerned about the amount of VOCs that remain in your car’s air, there’s any easy solution: open the windows. The fresh air can push out that VOC-filled air, but you’ll be sacrificing some of that new car smell with it.