Vomit is gross, but it is inevitable if you are a rideshare driver. It does not matter if you are a night driver, or a day time driver. Shit happens. Vomit happens. There are a couple things you can do to protect yourself and more importantly, ensure that smell does not remain forever.
First of all, you need a vomit kit. These are the items, after 5 years and half a dozen or so vomits that I recommend:
(each link will take you to the items I have personally purchased on Amazon)
1. Vomit Bags
2. Microfiber Cloths
3. Odor Neutralizer
4. Disposable Gloves
First and foremost, you need to do your best to keep that vomit out of your ride. When you see someone puking in the bushes, it is probably not a good idea to pick them up. Cancel. Let them finish, another driver will pick them up, hopefully when they are a bit sober.
Of course, you will end up getting that person sooner or later that starts to feel sick on the way. They can be drunk, ill or even have motion sickness (some riders ask if they can sit up front because they are predisposed to motion sickness.. you would be foolish to not let them.)
By all means, you should be focused on the road in front of you. However, you also need to pay attention the riders body language. Typically riders who want to throw up but for some reason do not want to admit it, are quiet. They get in, don’t say much (because they feel sick). This is a red flag, and these are the riders that you need to watch out for. If they get into a fetal position or start to moan, you need to get ready to pull over and offer them one of those vomit bags. It is also a wise idea to make sure your windows are unlocked as some riders will try to roll them down and puke without asking. (partly due to the fact that if they speak, their vomit will come out with their question).
Pro Tip: Ride in the furthest right lane when you have the smallest inclination you may have a puker. This allows you to pull over quickly and let them open the door to puke outside of your car.
Ah, so what if this didn’t work and this asshole of a rider decided your car was the best place to puke. (or like one I had who decided the bag was just a recommendation).
So, with the exception of one rider’s husband, most of these pax will not acknowledge what they did. That’s fine. Don’t sit there and argue with them about cleaning it or giving you money. Both Uber and Lyft have policies in place to allow the rider’s bill to include a cleaning fee. Time is of the essence. Drop them off, don’t argue, especially if they are drunk (you won’t win with a drunk)
You literally have minutes to bust out your cleaning supplies before that vomit soaks in.
As soon as you drop them off, log out and take pictures. Follow the in app instructions for cleaning fees.
DO NOT CLEAN ANYTHING UNTIL YOU SUBMIT PHOTOS TO UBER OR LYFT.
Side Note: Uber and Lyft have been requesting receipts lately, sometimes before even issuing the cleaning fee. The last thing you need to do is allow that vomit to soak in. That is when you get that lingering smell years later, and honestly no cleaning fee will help that, especially since they are paying less and less for cleaning fees, which are not only designed to pay for your cleaning, but since you can not log in until your car is dry, and smelling good, your time as well. This really puts the driver who cleans it themselves at a disadvantage.
YOU SHOULD NOT BE LOSING MONEY BECAUSE SOMEONE DECIDES TO PUKE IN YOUR CAR.
Fortunately, reputable car washes like Jonnies’ Detailing in Houston are starting to realize you need a quote and will send you one via email, for a small fee, but it will be credited should you decide to have your car cleaned by them or one of their partners!
Next, you need to find the closest self-serve car wash. Many drivers recommend keeping a small vacuum in your car for messes, and yes, you should. However, you do not want to use your personal vacuum for vomit. The smell will stay in there and eventually make its way through your car. Furthermore, a small vacuum is not going to have the sucking power as a commercial one at a car wash.
But why self serve? If you are lucky, you will get a puker during regular business hours, and sure you can find a car wash to detail your car and clean the mess for you. However, most places will not touch vomit or bodily fluids. If they do, they will charge you extra money. Uber and Lyft have caps of $250 for cleaning fees, but very rarely can you get one for more than $150 in the last few years. In fact, it used to be that you will get $150-$200 vomit on the exterior only. (you know that rider puking out the window, driving down the freeway). However, something like that will get you $40 from Uber/Lyft, which is honestly all you need. (for exterior washes, I recommend a gas station car wash, so it does not splash on you).
Remember, exterior or interior, time is of the essence. That puke will soak into your seats (even if you have leather) and that stomach acid will eat away at your paint if you leave it for too long.
First and foremost, vacuum all of the chunks you see. If your seat/carpet is still wet, go ahead and leave the vacum on the wet spots. It won’t dry it, and perhaps not even remove anything, but I still do it. Maybe it works. Who knows. All I know is following these techniques, I have not had any more lingering smells.
After that is done take out one of your microfiber towels from the kit. Remember, press down as hard as you can. DO NOT RUB THE AREA. Pressing down actually gets more of the wetness up.
After you feel you have done it enough, go ahead and spray that odor neutralizer all around.
Finally, let your windows down and let the car air out until it dries.
Some additional tips:
Check every crevice. Often times, puke falls between seats, the plastic trim (actually fairly easy to pop off) and other hard to reach places. I actually found puke behind my seat once and had to remove it. A bit harder, but well worth it, knowing you cleaned every area. Of course, you will be hard pressed to find a detailer to do all of that extra work without ponying up.