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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

Situation
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.

Comments

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    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Excellent tips for car cleaning. #4 is tough to do with grandkids but it's a good tip for sure. Handy wipes are the best and I always keep plenty in the car. Voted up and sharing!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I took a look at your body of work since you've followed me (Thanks!) and I'm impressed with the niche you've carved out for yourself. SHARING

      From your profile I was going to look for advice for my son who is getting a degree in actuarial science but hasn't passed one of their tests yet in four attempts. Can you suggest any other careers for him to pursue?

    • Lanny Poffo profile image

      Lanny Poffo 

      5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Clean daily? Lol - almost as if this comment was written by someone that isn't a parent. I always tried to take out a few items from my truck each day, but sometimes that just isn't possible.

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much Victoria! It is so hard to keep the habit of bringing in all your stuff from the car especially on those long, tiring days where you just don't feel like it. I try my best to keep up but I admit there are always those days where I use the "I will get it tomorrow" line :) Appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      7 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Great guide! I rarely clean my car, and I don't even have kids. It's just me, and I can't keep up! I'm trying to practice the habit of bringing in things out of the car instead of letting them build into a junk pile in the car. Great hub!

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Hi Peter! I bet it's hard to keep a working vehicle clean. If it wasn't for my husband, our car would hardly ever get washed. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

    • profile image

      Peter geekie 

      7 years ago

      Dear alissaroberts

      I'm afraid my land rover is a working vehicle and as such counts itself lucky if it gets washed outside let alone cleaned inside. In the uk we have teams of immigrants from eastern Europe who clean cars at supermarkets and that's when mine sees a sponge !!!

      Kin regards Peter

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much nancynurse! So happy you found these tips useful! Appreciate you stopping by and for leaving your kind comments!

    • nancynurse profile image

      Nancy McClintock 

      7 years ago from Southeast USA

      Awesome hub. I love your tips. You have been so thorough thank you for sharing. I will be using some of these ideas.

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Hi mjkearn! That backseat can be a scary place when you know little ones have been there. It is just amazing how much stickiness accumulates between cleanings. Thanks so much for your visit and kind comments!

    • profile image

      mjkearn 

      7 years ago

      Hi alissaroberts,

      great hub and great advice. I confess I'm not a parent but in my time in the motor trade I've had to clean a lot of kiddy cars as I call them and I always wondered how they got so many sticky sweets everwhere, thanks for sharing,

      MJ.

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much teaches12345! So true - preplanning and organization are so important when dealing with kids! Happy to hear you say this hub will be helpful to others out there. Appreciate you stopping by and for the vote up!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      This is a GREAT post and one that will keep parents from becoming overwhelmed. It's all about preplanning and organization. Voted up!

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks randomcreative! I agree to make a sweep of the car everyday. I wish my husband would catch on to that tip. It always seems I got a lot more to carry in after the hubs has borrowed my car :) Appreciate you stopping by!

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks Denise! Don't feel bad I haven't cleaned the car in awhile. Between ball and school functions there just hasn't been time lately. Thankfully this WTI came up so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone :) Appreciate you stopping by and for the votes!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Awesome resource! I agree that one of the biggest ways to stay ahead of any mess is to clean daily. Making a sweep of the car every day, whether you have kids or not, can make a huge difference. Thanks for all of the detailed tips!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Great hub info and so practical! I was one of the sorry lots who took the poll, all four of us being losers who never clean our car! haha. I loved it-voted up/useful. Table was an added bonus too.

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Hi Simone! It definitely is possible to keep a clean car or maybe in my case I should say at least halfway decent looking :) And yes I have had personal experience with all those deep cleaning issues so I thought I better share those because if you have kids you are going to run in at least a couple of those situations! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind comments!

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      I hear you Doc - we do good in the colder months about not eating in the car but once that warmer weather hits we are out and about and it is just easier to eat in the car. But that is where that trash bag becomes a life saver. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks Teresa! We got a lot of sports equipment in the trunk too. Next year we will have even more with my youngest son playing as well. It will be interesting to see if I can keep all that organized in my small car. We may have to upgrade to a bigger vehicle :) Appreciate you stopping by and for your comments!

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks Rebecca! Being ball season right now we are eating in the car left and right. Lifting up those carseats I found enough food to feed the entire ball team! And it's funny you mentioned crayons because I found 2 in the seat. I would have died if those had melted! Appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Oh I am just as guilty as you are donnaisabella :) The car gets clean and I do good to follow my own rules for 3-4 days and then it becomes disaster area again. Especially being ball season right now - it seems like all my rules flew out the window! But writing this hub was a good reminder for me that I need to do better. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Hi Marlene! Yes I totally agree about the garbage bag. Though I do have to admit I forget to replace it sometimes which gets me and the car into trouble :) Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Boy, I want to send this to all the parents I know who think it's impossible to have a nice clean car! Great tips and pointers. The parents I knew as a kid who had the cleanest cars were all really good about the things you've pointed out. Only neat snacks were permitted, nothing was left behind when we left, etc...

      If one is proactive enough and develops good habits, having a clean car with kids is totally within reach! When that's not an option... well, at least you've given us some great tips on doing deep cleaning, too :D

    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 

      7 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      We've tried to set the no eating in the car rule in the past, but sometimes it's such a time saver that we have to do it. Your tips about having a trash bag in the car and cleaning up spills asap are good for people do who eat in the car, though. Thanks for this very helpful hub.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      great hub Alissa. Yes we eat in the car but I do keep a garbage container so the messes are getting fewer. For us it is sports equipment. After reading this I will be picking up in my van and applying some more of your tips. Great job!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Great Hub! I think the two main keys are clean daily and don't eat in the car. Oh, the times I have said, "We're not going to eat in this one" after getting a new car. Oh, and no crayons! They can really make a melted mess!

    • donnaisabella profile image

      Isabella Mukanda-Shamambo 

      7 years ago from Fort Myers

      Guilty as charged. I have given up trying to keep my car clean it is looks like one of those inconveniences and embarrassments I have to endure often. If my sister did not do it for me quite often, I would get to cleaning it or hiring someone to do it for me when it was driving me really crazy. Your tips are wonderful but they still sound like a lot of work because I do not live in the car but it sure does get messy if only I go out with all my kids just one day. Thanks for the great tips.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      7 years ago from USA

      This is an excellent guide. I am definitely going to share this. The number one thing that helped me a lot when my kids were young was having a garbage bag in the car at all times.

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