If you’re a service advisor, maybe advise…your techs to not use regular Febreze dealing with stinky headrests

Earlier last year, as thousands of Hyundai Palisades drove off dealership lots with new owners, a stinky problem arose (literally), many Palisade owners noticed a stink coming from their seats. As the forums, Facebook groups, and dialed-in complaints rolled into Hyundai, they realized this was no minor problem but one that would eventually trigger a Technical Service Bulletin.

It turns out material in the headrests emits an odor akin to human number two. How disappointing to finance a family SUV over $35,000 over several years only to realize your new pride-and-joy smells like human waste anytime you sit inside?

It’s so bad that, despite the TSB, some Palisade owners never got their problem resolved (for reasons I’ll get into, soon.) Here’s a Palisade lemon-law’d, primary reason listed as “Headrest Assembly Odor.”

How embarrassing for Hyundai and frustrating to the owner.

Here’s a screenshot of Hyundai’s TSB below, including the relevant parts. Basically, Hyundai instructs techs to soak the offending parts in surface cleaner and odor eliminating fabric refresher.

Listed as a cleaning agent is Febreze, a spray synonymous with eliminating odors.

Here’s the catch, regular Febreze DOES NOT eliminate odors, Febreze merely masks the smells.

Here’s how Febreze works according to Thought Co.

The active ingredient in Febreze is beta-cyclodextrin, a carbohydrate.

When you spray Febreze, the water in the product partially dissolves the odor, allowing it to form a complex inside the “hole” of the cyclodextrin doughnut shape. The stink molecule is still there, but it can’t bind to your odor receptors, so you can’t smell it. 

As Febreze dries, more and more of the odor molecules bind to the cyclodextrin, lowering the concentration of the molecules in the air and eliminating the odor. If water is added once again, the odor molecules are released, allowing them to be washed away and truly removed.

In other words, if your headrests, sprayed with Febreze, get damp, for example, thanks to humidity or a sweaty neck after a workout, you’ll literally re-activate those dormant stink molecules and have solved nothing.

To be fair, Febreze sells a professional Sanitizing Fabric Refresher with ethyl alcohol as the primary, bacteria killing active ingredient. That one actually might work.

So, if you want a repeat customer at your Hyundai service department and live in a humid clime, use Febreze…or not.

And, if you own a Palisade want warranty work, ask them kindly not to use Febreze or, if you do the TSB yourself, use the stuff with alcohol.

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