Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk. Or Neglected Milk Cartons.

When I went to Nashville a few weeks ago, I left home at dark o’clock on a Saturday morning.  I brought my coffee along in my trusty thermal to-go cup.  It occurred to me, as I drove myself to the airport, that it would not be wise to leave the coffee to-go cup in my car, seeing how there was cream in the coffee.  And over the weekend, sitting in the hot car, the cream would likely curdle and end up gracing my minivan with a quite unpleasant aroma.

Trust me when I tell you that the last thing my frumpy, cluttered, outdated minivan needs is the stench of sour milk.

I had a brilliant plan.  Before I left my car, I would use the leftover bottled water that had been sitting in my car for a few weeks to rinse out my to-go-mug.  Made good sense, right?

Well guess who forgot to rinse out the coffee mug when she arrived at the parking garage?

So while I hopped a plane and partied in Nashville for the weekend, guess what became of my poor, neglected minivan?

You guessed it.  When I arrived back at the Philly airport and unlocked my car after the weekend away, I was greeted with a powerful stench of sour milk.

Being the airhead that I am, I didn’t realize right away that it was the to-go cup.  I drove away with the windows down, silently cursing the kids for leaving their sippy cups in the minivan.  After driving a ways down the highway, I reached down for the fresh bottle of water the parking lot attendant had handed me on my way out, and my hand landed on the forgotten coffee to-go cup.

AHA!  That explained it.  I mentally repented for blaming my kids for my own foolishness.

Once home, I emptied the car of the offensive mug and went along my merry way. 

The next morning, when I got in the car to take my daughter to school, guess what greeted me at the door?  You got it — the sour milk stench.  That must have been some powerful half-and-half, that’s all I could figure.  I drove around all day with the windows rolled down, hoping to air out the car.

The next day I climbed in my car again, and the stench was STILL there.  Declaring all-out war on sour milk, I cased the car for any evidence of a long forgotten sippy cup, but there was none to be found.

For days the stench haunted us.  Hub looked under the seats to see if I’d missed something and came up empty handed.

This went on for TWO WEEKS, people.  Finally we decided that one of the kids must have spilled milk or a milkshake on the carpet and the stench was a permanent fixture in our life.  And so we went along our merry way, driving to school and church and the mall in the odoriferous minivan, resigned to our fate.

Then this past Sunday,  Hub was taking his guitar out of the trunk, and he came around the side of the car with two milk cartons in his hand.

"Um.  You think these might have had something to do with the odor in the car?"

He had pulled two old, OLD milk cartons from the basket underneath the stroller.  The very stroller I had used several times since the Nashville getaway.  The very cartons of milk I had seen under there and ignored because I make it a policy never to go out of my way to exert myself unless absolutely necessary, and bending over to retrieve trash from the stroller basket can always be put off for another day.


Honestly, the fact that I run a household never ceases to amaze me.

And would you believe that there is now no stench in my minivan?  Well, of course you would. 

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30 Responses

  1. I’m sitting here silently laughing and shaking my head, because that sounds like something I would do! I think having children did it to my mind. It’s gone, never to return, and never to be as sharp as it once was.

    I’m glad you finally got rid of the smell though!

  2. I’m trying hard not to laugh myself out of my chair. I’ve done that same thing, but it was older creamer packets under one of the seats. I’m so glad you got to the bottom of it and was able to rid the van of sour milk.

  3. LOL! I really needed a giggle! This really sounds like something I would do, and the hubs would tease me about it over the course of our lives!

  4. HATE that smell. One of the worst. (Also one of the worst to get rid of. Kids ‘N’ Pets will, though; I know I’ve already sung its praises to you).

  5. Oh my ….. I can SO relate! There’s nothing like the stench of sour milk in the summer time! I had a milk carton leak onto our car’s carpet, and no matter how hard I scrubbed, it still stunk for the longest time!! Great story — thanks for the laugh.

  6. Reminds me of when I left some shoes in your car for an entire semester. I don’t think they smelled, though. Based on what I am seeing in the catalogs and on-line I think they’d be in style again.
    We’ve had several sippy cups get lost in the van this summer. Its amazing how good they are at hiding and stinking.

  7. Awesome story.

    My nemesis: grapes in a plastic baggy, left behind by a four-year-old to ferment under her carseat. Yes, between the booster and the actual seat. My SUV (and all who rode in it, probably) smelled like a wino before I finally found them.

  8. Oh, but there is something worse than the smell of sour milk in a mini van.

    Last summer we went to the beach and left Princess’s bag of beach toys in the back. Two days later the car smelled like something had crawled in and died. The next weekend we cleared EVERYTHING out of that van trying to figure out where the stench was coming from.

    Her sand bucket had some seaweed and shells in it. Well, some of those shells still contained the now decaying bodies of their owners. Ewww.

  9. ohhh… this is SO me. I had the same odor and could not find the source until one day i finally located an OLD bottle half full of formula firmly shoved way down deep into the seat back pocket in front of her car seat. ugh!!!

  10. Glad you (er, I mean the hubs!) found it. I would NEVER do anything like that. No, not me, ever… {lots of sarcasm…}

  11. I left a 1/2 mug of coffee in my classroom over the summer.
    Gross doesn’t begin to describe it.
    I LOVED this narrative.
    Thank you.

  12. Last spring I put a few bags of clothes in the back of the van to take to Goodwill. I have a good heart, but I procrastinate just a wee bit too much. 1.5 months later the bags were still there. But the smell! Oh my word we looked everywhere. Finally I dug out the two bags of clothes and squinched underneat was a 1/2 gallon of milk. I have no idea how long it had been since it slipped silently out of the white plastic Target bag…but it was long enough. Did I mention that it was the end of JUNE when I found it? In Texas. It took 2 guys at Colonial car wash working for 1.5 hours to detail the van back to an occupiable (is that a word?) state. And about $80.00.

  13. First of all, this reminds me of the Seinfeld episode about his car and B.O. from a valet driver.

    Second of all this reminds me of the time I got a college textbook which totally smelled like someone spilled milk all over it and then let it sit in an airless, hot room for about 5 months. IIIICCCCKKKK.

    I’m glad you finally figured out what was up with your smell. Woo hoo!

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