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Car Cleaning Tips for Busy Parents

Updated on September 15, 2012

Helpful Tips for Maintaining a Clean Car

Find valuable tips for busy parents to help keep their car clean.
Find valuable tips for busy parents to help keep their car clean. | Source

Car Cleaning

Does the above picture look familiar? If so, I can safely assume you have kids riding in your car. For busy parents always on the go, it is a constant struggle to keep the car clean. No matter how many times you clean and swear it will never go back to that filthy state, it usually does within a week. So how can you help prevent this mess? Read further for 10 valuable car cleaning tips that all parents should try to follow to keep that car spic-n-span or at the very least a vehicle that your friends and family wouldn't be scared to death to ride in.

Which Backseat Do You Prefer?

Our backseat after removing the carseats.
Our backseat after removing the carseats. | Source
Our backseat after some intense cleaning.
Our backseat after some intense cleaning. | Source

Car Organizers

Munchkin Backseat Organizer, Black
Munchkin Backseat Organizer, Black
A handy organizer that hangs on the back of the seat.

Organize the Clutter

Declutter the floor of your car with an organizer.
Declutter the floor of your car with an organizer. | Source

Cleaning Supply List for Parents to Keep in the Car

Every parent should keep these cleaning items in the car to help deal with those unexpected spills and messes.

  • Baby wipes or wet wipes
  • Trash bag or small grocery bag
  • Small towel for spills
  • Carpet cleaner
  • All purpose cleaner

Car Cleaning Tips

Though a family's car is never going to be picture perfect, here are 10 car cleaning tips for keeping your car in good condition:

  1. Clean daily. I don't mean get out the vacuum and car cleaners. Cleaning daily means whatever you or the kids brought into the car that day, take it all back inside with you. Toys, snacks, and drinks seem to accumulate and somehow multiply in my car if I don't make the effort to bring that stuff in the house. The classic and all too familiar "I will get it tomorrow" routine never works.
  2. Limit the number of toys your child brings into the car. My youngest son is famous for wanting to bring all his favorite toys in the car even on the short trips to the store. Because of him, I had to start limiting the number to two small toys. If I don't enforce the limit, my backseat turns into a mobile playroom.
  3. Get organized. To help prevent the mobile playroom, buy an organizer or use a small tote bag to hold some toys and activities that your kids enjoy. There are some great organizers out there that attach to the back of the seat that can hold activity books, movies, small toys, snacks, etc. Switch out the contents once a month so your kids won't get bored of the same old stuff.
  4. Don't eat in the car. I know that is easier said than done, but if you can help it plan out the day where you have time to stop and eat inside the restaurant. Also, if your destination is food-friendly, go ahead and pick up the food but wait until you arrive to eat. The more you stay away from eating in the car, the cleaner your car will be.
  5. Stay away from messy snacks. Try to pack snacks that won't melt in the car or all over your child's hands. Snacks such as small crackers or fruit gummies that can be ate in one bite lessens the chance of crumbs or stickiness all over the seats and in the floor.
  6. Pack snacks and drinks in containers that are car friendly. For younger children, this means no-spill sippie cups and snack bowls. You can even buy older children a cool insulated cup with a lid to avoid those unwanted drink spills all over the seat.
  7. Wet wipes or baby wipes are a necessity in every car with kids. These wipes come in handy for that accidental drink spill or preventing those sticky hands from touching everything in sight. It also prevents those stains from getting worse and damaging the interior of your car.
  8. Clean up spills and messes immediately. As soon as you arrive home or to your destination, make it a point to go back and thoroughly wash the area with the proper cleaning supplies. If you ignore these kinds of accidents, it will be more difficult to tackle those problem areas and could potentially leave a permanent stain or damage the interior.
  9. Keep a garbage bag or small grocery bag in your car for trash. If you have a bigger vehicle such as a van, you may want to put a small trash can somewhere inside to help out with the mess. Be sure to empty it once or twice a week to prevent unwanted smells in your vehicle. Not only do these bags come in handy for keeping the interior of your car clean, it can also be used in the event of a sick child and as a place to store soiled clothes.
  10. Routinely clean your car. Even though you are busy, make sure to thoroughly clean the inside and outside of your car once or twice a month. Your car, especially the backseat area, takes a beating from being on the go all the time. Make sure to carry all the extra toys inside, vacuum and wipe down the seats, and tackle any problem areas that you may have been ignoring.

Cleaning Supplies for the Car

Cleaning supplies for your car.
Cleaning supplies for your car. | Source

Car Cleaning Kit

Meguiar's G55032SP Complete Car Care Kit
Meguiar's G55032SP Complete Car Care Kit
A great kit for all your car cleaning needs.

Car Cleaning Supplies

It is recommended to wash your car at least once a week. For those parents with a hectic schedule, do your best to accomplish this task once or twice a month. Here is a list of car cleaning supplies you will need to have on hand to properly wash the inside and outside of your car:

  • Car washing solution
  • Two sponges (one for paint and one for wheels)
  • Chamois or soft terry towel
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Bug and tar remover
  • Leather conditioner
  • Upholstery cleaner
  • Glass cleaner
  • Car wax

Car Interior Cleaning

What to Use
How to Clean
Sticky leather seats
Vacuum, slightly damp cloth, leather cleaner or conditioner
Vacuum seats and wipe down with damp cloth. Apply a leather cleaner or conditioner and rub gently into leather.
Stained upholstery seats
Vacuum, damp cloth, and fabric or carpet cleaner
Vacuum seats and wipe down with damp cloth. Apply fabric or carpet cleaner and scrub in circular motion.
Muddy or stained floor mats
Vacuum, soap and water or carpet cleaner
Vacuum floor mats. Apply a mixture of soap and water or carpet cleaner and scrub in circular motion.
Car odor
Fabric sheets or cotton balls soaked in scented oils
Place fabric sheets under seats or leave a plate full of cotton balls soaked in scented oils overnight in the car floor.
Grease or oil stains
Paper towels, WD-40, cloth, soap and water or carpet cleaner
Blot and soak up stain with paper towels. Spray with WD-40 if stain has dried. Apply carpet cleaner or soap and water mixture and scrub thoroughly.
Vomit stains and odor
Paper towels, damp cloth, baking soda and water mixture or club soda
Remove as much as possible with paper towels. Wipe down with damp cloth. Apply a baking soda and water mixture or club soda and scrub thoroughly. Leave windows down overnight.

*Always test new cleaners on a small area to prevent damage to your car.

Car Cleaning Poll

Which best describes your car cleaning routine?

See results

How to Keep Your Car Clean

For those parents with a hectic schedule, the key to keeping your car clean is preventing the mess from accumulating. Sticking to a cleaning routine, setting limits on toys and food, and getting more organized are additional ways that will help your family achieve the dream of a cleaner car.

Will your family car ever be perfectly clean? Probably not - but you can be rest assured that you won't be mortified of the condition of your car the next time a friend or family member needs a ride!

I hope these car cleaning tips have been a helpful guide to achieving a cleaner car. If you have any comments, questions, or additional cleaning tips you would like to share, please feel free to leave these in the comment section below.


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