As any mom can tell you, once you have kids, keeping your car clean seems dang near impossible. Besides just the added kid stuff that seems to accumulate quickly (sports gear, books, toys, coats, etc.), there can be snack messes, tracked in dirt, and all kinds of other miscellaneous items. Your car will never be as clean as when you drove it off the lot, but there are things you can do to keep the mess a little more manageable.
Here are some tips to help keep your car clean.
Use trunk organizers.
When you have older kids who are involved in sports, you often times will have all kinds of accessories thrown into your trunk or back part of your car. And how annoying is it to hear a ball rolling around every time you hit the brakes?
Having some kind of organization system in your trunk will help you keep everything sorted out so you can find what you need when you need it. You can buy hard-sided canvas totes, but even a couple of larger plastic tubs are relatively cheap and will do the trick.
Try to clean your car out at least once a week.
I know we all live super busy lives and cleaning your car out does not sound like a fun way to spend your Saturday. But if you can take even 10 minutes a week to do a quick clean out, that will help keep the mess at bay. Empty the garbage and restock any needed supplies (wipes, Kleenex, etc.)
If your kids are old enough, have them help you! After all, they contributed to the mess!
Try to do a more thorough clean out once a month.
If you have a good vacuum that you can easily plug in and use, fantastic! I usually take my car to a car wash and spend a few bucks to use one of their power vacuums. Those things will suck up anything (so be sure to move things out of the way that you don’t want sucked up!)
Vacuum or spray off floor mats, vacuum seats and clean out the side pockets on each door. You might even consider removing car seats if you are feeling really ambitious and want a more thorough cleanout. Wipe down everything with a microfiber cloth or rag to get rid of the dust that has accumulated. Clean out consoles.
Maybe doing this once a month isn’t realistic for you. Even if you can only do this every other month or every few months, taking the time to more thoroughly clean your car will be worth it!
Keep a trash bag in the front and back.
It is way too easy for garbage to accumulate in side pockets and on the floor. Having a trash bag easily accessible helps contain some of this mess. Most cars have adjustable headrests on the driver and passenger front seat that can be moved up. An easy trick is to raise up the headrest and tie the handles of a plastic garbage bag around the rods on the headrest. Then you can lower the headrest back down.
This way there is a garbage right in front of your kids’ seats that is easily accessible. In the front, I like to just loop the handles of a plastic bag around the gearshift that is in between the driver and passenger seats. (If your gear shift is near your steering wheel, you need to find something else to attach a bag to.)
Make your kids swap out toys instead of adding to the clutter.
My kids are notorious for bringing toy after toy into the car. I don’t mind them bringing toys into the car (as long as they aren’t super loud toys). Eventually, it reached a point where there were just too many toys cluttering up the seat in between them and then eventually ending up on the floor.
I instituted a new policy. If they want to bring a new toy into the car, they have to first bring one back inside the house. I do have to allow a few extra minutes for this exchange to happen, but it is worth it to me to not have so much toy clutter in the car. Same rule applies to books. When there are too many in the car, they just end up on the floor and get stepped on.
Consider investing in rubber or plastic floor mats.
Let me share a little story. Growing up, my mom’s car had carpeted floor mats. We lived in the country, so during the spring season, they got very muddy. My prom date didn’t yet have his driver’s license, so I told him I could drive us, and another couple. I took the car to the carwash the day before prom and sprayed off the muddy mats. However, I didn’t allow them to dry properly.
The next day, I got in the car to pick up my date and the car reeked of mildew smell. I was mortified. I tried rolling down the windows (just enough to not mess up my recently styled hair, of course), but I could not get the smell out of the car. Thankfully, my date and our other friends had a good sense of humor and we powered through our stinky drive. But I never made that mistake again!
When you get a new car, I recommend changing out any carpeted floor mats with rubber or plastic ones as soon as possible. This is especially helpful if you live in an area that gets lots of rain or snow. Inevitably, you will be tracking mud and other debris into your car.
Your kids will probably end up spilling something on the floor mats or grinding goldfish crackers into them. Carpeted floor mats are really a pain to try to keep clean and looking nice. Rubber or plastic floor mats are easily washed off and dry quickly. Easy peasy!
I hope this list has given you some new ideas to help keep your car as clean as possible during the messy “kid” years. The struggle is real!