Fridays are tip days at SimpleProductivity blog.
It seems to be a universal theme: add children to a family, and the family car deteriorates. Little kids are messy; it’s in their nature. Add food, crayons and sippy cups to little kids in the car, and you will have a mess.
It is possible to rein this in. And even if you don’t have kids, or have older children, it is possible to keep a car clean enough that you never have to apologize to your co-workers when you are driving a group to lunch.
Here is how I keep my car in this “visitor-ready” state:
Have a Designated Place for Trash
Trash happens. Whether it is old receipts, granola bar wrappers or used tissue, having one place to keep the trash really keeps it in control. In my old car, I didn’t have a trash bag, and everything ended up in the door side pockets or under the seats. In the new car, I have a re-usable trash bag hanging from the passenger seat, and all trash goes in there.
Cars get dusty. Driving through dust (or in my case, pollen) brings it into the car. Having a way to clean this out really makes a car look clean. I keep a small duster (similar to The Original California Mini Duster) in my side pocket, and on Fridays while I’m at stoplights, I dust the car.
I don’t live in an area of the country that deals with winter salting, so sometimes washing the car gets forgotten. However, I find that if I run the car through the (eco-friendly) car wash once a month, the car looks better.
I also try to vacuum the car at least once a month. Most car wash places have the super-duper vacuums you can use, but as a homeowner, I highly recommend a Shop-Vac. I honestly don’t know how we got by without one.
At the time that I vacuum, I also move the child seat and clean under it. I don’t know what it is about kids, but they seem to ooze crumbs in a car. I also take care of any mystery substances that have appeared in the car since the last time. This lesson was learned after we neglected to remove a crayon from my husband’s car and it then melted into the seat.
Limiting the Mess
I keep my car fairly clean by trying to limit the mess. We have rules: no eating in the car, and upon exiting, you remove everything you brought in.
While these rules are not set in stone, they do limit the junk the accumulates. If we do have an occasion where we eat in the car, we try to park somewhere so spills are not caused by bumps in the road, and I’m not afraid to ask for extra napkins.
I keep a package of baby wipes in the car at all times. Not only does this help with personal cleanup, but baby wipes get just about any substance out of clothing and seats if the substance is fresh. (Including chocolate and coffee) Used wipes get put in the trash.
I keep at least two plastic bags in the car: one in the seat back in front of my daughter, and one in the hatch area. The hatch area bag is used under messy purchases (like plants, soil, etc) so that I don’t have to scrub it up later. The one in front of my daughter is for the inevitable (sorry to be gross) puking. Even a non-carsick child like my daughter can be stricken with a sudden “stomach bomb” and it’s best to be prepared.
When I do have extra napkins from a food purchase, I keep them in the door pocket. It can help with sudden spills, like the time I got into the car with my Starbucks cup and the top popped off and spilled all over my leg and the runner board (see Baby Wipes tip above for getting coffee out of clothes).
I find that my clean car is appreciated by my co-workers. I usually drive when we go out for coffee, and my car never has the funky smell of old food (or worse). I can quickly put the child seat in the back and not have to worry about someone sitting in a mess. It’s a little bit of effort, but it’s well worth it to me.
Photo by danuqui