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Car clutter can make you dread driving in your car, but it doesn’t have to be! Here’s your step-by-step guide for how to keep your car clean all year long!
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I live in my car.
Between the driving to my old home town, shuffling Lucas to play dates and classes, bags, boxes, paper, cups, coats, shoes, trash and more the car gets pretty messy.
For most women, especially moms of children all age and grandmother’s like me, our cars can feel like our home away from home. And, if you like to be prepared, then your vehicle also holds all those emergency essentials you might need if your car breaks down or worse.
But I hate the mess, and I hate clutter, and so I devised a plan to keep my car clean all year long, and I want to share it with you in the hopes it will help you keep your car clean and stay that way!
HOW TO KEEP YOUR CAR CLEAN – INSIDE TIPS
Set aside a few hours on a day where it’s not too hot. Nothing is worse than trying to clean your car when it feels like an oven outside.
You’ll want to grab some garbage bags and start tackling the mess inside the vehicle.
Purge your car by first removing all the trash. Anything that can be thrown away – throw away.
Next, grab another trash bag and place everything that belongs in the house into this bag. You’ll deal with the contents later.
Last, take everything else out of the car that will eventually be returned to the car. This hopefully is a few things because the last thing you want to do is make your car a quasi-storage area.
Make sure you remove all storage containers, car seats, or anything else in the car to ensure you’ve tackled all the clutter. Don’t forget to check under the seats where cups and trash love to lurk and the car door consoles.
Once the car is completely empty grab your vacuum and go town. Vacuum all surfaces in the car including floor mats, upholstery, the dashboard, and glove compartment and console. Use your vacuum attachment tools to tackle all those hard to reach areas and small compartments like the change holder. Get down into the cracks and crevices of the car.
Next, wipe down all surfaces. Use a butter knife or other thin object wrapped in a damp cloth to clean the cracks in the console and dashboard. Wipe down the doors, cup holders, and pockets.
Lastly, wash all the windows inside with a good window cleaner. Watch for streaks by making sure all windows are in the shade.
Finally, check all seat belts, wipe down with a sanitizing cloth and make sure they are in good working order.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR CAR CLEAN – THE OUTSIDE OF THE CAR
Keep your car clean by taking the time each week or couple of weeks to wash the exterior of your car. Here’s how!
Fill up a bucket with soap and water, making it super sudsy. Be sure to use soap that is made to wash cars; shampoo and dish soap won’t do the job.
Choose a shady area to park your car, so as to avoid direct sunlight. Direct sun tends to dry the vehicle prematurely, in turn leaving splotches on it. At the same time, make sure to keep the car away from trees that drip sap or drop leaves. If you do find some sap, you can use WD-40 to remove tree sap from cars.
Close all the doors and windows of your car and set all the cleaning equipment at your side.
Fill a bucket with water and add car wash soap, as per the directions on the bottle. Keep another bucket full of water.
To remove excess dirt, hose off the car starting from the roof to the tires. Be careful not to use a strong jet, as that can rub grit over the paint and leave scratches.
Lather a wash mitt or sponge in the soapy water and wipe your car with it, starting from the roof. Spray off the excess soap, after the entire roof has been cleaned.
Wash the car section by section, washing one full side at a time, including the windows and fenders, and rinsing it with the hose before going to the next section.
Rinse the sponge in the clear bucket of water frequently to remove excess dirt.
As you progress through the various steps, keep the entire car wet. It will ensure that the droplets don’t dry on the paint, leaving water spots.
The dirtiest and grimiest part of a car is its lower body and wheels. Make it a point to scrub and clean them last. Use a different sponge for those parts.
For cleaning the openings of the wheels, use a long, skinny wheel brush. To clean the tires, make use of steel-wool soap pads, one for each tire.
To dry the car, use chamois leather or a towel and set it flat on the surface. Drag it along the surface, starting from the roof and moving down to the tires. Make sure to pick up every water spot.
Use a rag, soaked in plain water, for cleaning the windows. After washing, dry them with a dry cloth. Alternately, you can also use window cleaner and pieces of balled-up newspaper for both the inside and outside of the windows.
PRIORITIZE WHAT GOES IN THE CAR
Once the car is completely clean inside and out, it’s time to put items back in the car. Now’s the time to ask yourself if you NEED an item or not.
I’m a strong advocate for preparedness and don’t recommend skimping on items you’ll need, but do be reasonable about what you need and what you’ll keep in the car.
Because I live in New England I have two different emergency car kits I keep in a plastic tote in the trunk and switch them out for the appropriate season.
I won’t go into everything I keep in my winter car kit or summer car kit but do recommend you create a kit that meets the needs of your family and living location. Here are few things I do recommend:
- Jumper cables
- Garbage bags (it has multi-use like a rain poncho, seat protector, etc.)
- Hand wipes
- Money (about $10 is usually sufficient
- Bottled water
- First Aid Kit
In the glove compartment, I keep the paperwork for the car including our roadside assistance plan, registration, car manual, tire gauge, and an extra phone charger.
In the center console, I keep a box of tissues, a small umbrella, a shopping bag, a small first aid kit, a roll of quarters for emergencies, a window breaker which also can cut off a seat belt and a pocket knife.
Keep the inside of your car clean and organized by taking the necessary steps to organize what you’re keeping inside your vehicle.
NO MORE STORAGE
As a family, we’ve made a commitment to stop using the car as a storage unit. We attempt to leave the car the way we found it by always bringing into the house whatever we brought with us. I have some bags we use for the gym, church, book club, karate, etc. These bags are left in the mud room, and we take them with us and return them to the mud room after we return home.
Just this one simple habit we created is helping us to keep the mess and clutter out of the car.
Without a doubt, this new habit we’ve implemented has been the hardest to embrace.
Eating in the car is by far the biggest mess creator. Between the spilled coffee, sticky residue left over from spilled juice, not to mention the crumbs and containers that stink from leftovers our car was a complete disaster. So we decided we would “try” to not eat in the car.
I’d love to tell you we’ve been 100% successful but that would be a big fat lie.
We see the benefit of no eating in the car, but we struggle with the implementation of this habit. But we continue to try and hold each other accountable to the no eating rule.
Keep your car clean longer by not eating in the car.
UNAVOIDABLE PASSENGER PROBLEMS
I have two family members who get car sick. My daughter and grandson both suffer from motion sickness, and I’ve had to clean up smelly messes from my car more times than I care to remember.
Here are a few tricks to making it easier.
- Clean it up right away
- Use the contents of your emergency kit (garbage bags, changes of clothes, sanitizing wipes, paper towels to clean up the mess)
- Sprinkle baking soda over the area of the smell and leave it to set for several hours up to overnight
- In the morning vacuum up the baking soda and the smell should be gone
- This technique works well for spilled or spoiled milk or any other smelly mess
TRAVELING WITH PETS
If you like bringing Fido along for a ride or you need to take your pet to the vet, always ensure they are safely harnessed in or in a carrier to ensure everyone’s safety. Animals should not be allowed to room the vehicle without being secured. This is a precaution for everyone’s safety.
Keep a kit on hand for your pet too and make sure they have plenty of water available to them.
Never leave an animal in a car. The temperature of a vehicle rises quickly in the summer and feel like a furnace or hold the cold in the car in the winter.
Even if you feel like you spend too much time in the car, with a clean car, you’ll feel more organized, more relaxed and more prepared. Now when you find yourself behind that “home away from home” you’ll be in a clean and organized car ready to handle whatever life throws your way!