Ask UfYH

Ask UfYH: Baby, You Can Clean Your Car

For those of you who have a car, when was the last time you cleaned it out? Does thinking about the state of the inside of your car kind of make you want to push it off the side of a cliff so you don’t have to deal with it? Never fear, we have five easy steps for transforming your car from a mobile trash can back into a vehicle you can be proud of (or at least not grossed out by).

Supplies needed:

  • Trash bags
  • Cleaning wipes or multi-purpose cleaner approved for car use and some rags
  • Car glass cleaner
  • Several medium-sized boxes
  • Vacuum cleaner (or a bunch of quarters to use the vacuum at the car wash)

Step 1: Find a space

If you don’t have your own driveway or parking spot, find a place where it’s safe (and legal) for you to park and have a little room to work.

Step 2: Take everything out

Everything. If it’s not part of the car itself, it comes out. The only exceptions are necessary paperwork that’s kept in the glove compartment (like your registration and insurance card). You absolutely don’t want to lose track of that stuff, so keep it where it is. Everything else comes out.

Step 3: Sort and trash

Here’s where your trash bags and boxes come in handy. Anything that’s garbage goes in the trash bag or in a box for recycling. Anything that belongs in your house goes in another box. Anything that stays in the car goes in a box of its own. Throw the trash away or take the recycling to the appropriate container. Bring the house stuff inside the house and put it away.

Step 4: Start de-gross-ing

There’s probably going to be surfaces in your car that fall into one or more of the following categories: sticky, dusty, crunchy, smelly, greasy, or damp. Starting at the driver’s side interior, wipe down all hard surfaces with a cleaning wipe or rag and cleaner. Take out the floor mats and shake all the crap out. Clean out and wipe down the door pockets, door handles, any knobs, buttons, and controls. Wipe down the center console, and cup holders. Vacuum the seats and floors. Repeat around at each seat and then in the trunk. Clean the windows. Make the decision if cleaning off the inside of your windshield is worth the frustration and agony and streaks it invariably causes. (Everyone has a “foolproof” system for cleaning windshields, and they all only work for some people, some of the time.)

Step 5: Prevention

Now that you have a clean, empty ride, it’s time to take a few steps to keep it that way. That box of stuff that stays in the car (mine has jumper cables, an umbrella, a first aid kit, and hand sanitizer wipes)? Find a logical place for everything and put things away accordingly. Make a trash bag. For the love of all that’s clean and holy, make a trash bag. If you want to keep food wrappers and random bits of paper and whatever else ends up on your car floor off of said car floor, make it very very easy for you to throw stuff away. Keep the trash bag somewhere you can reach it, and make it small enough that it’s not in the way and that it gets full and needs to be emptied on a regular basis. Every time you exit the car, take all of your stuff with you. If you have kids, do a quick sweep for trash, food bits, and random stickiness. If your kid is old enough, hand them a damp paper towel and have them go to town. It won’t hurt anything except maybe make the windows a little streaky. (Save the cleaning wipes for kids who are old enough to know not to put them in their mouths.) And make car cleaning a regular thing. The more often you do it, the less terrible it is.

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4 replies on “Ask UfYH: Baby, You Can Clean Your Car”

I clean trash out of my car whenever I’m pumping gas. I go through and grab papers and stuff and just toss them. I also keep a thing of wipes and if I’m stuck at this long stop light I always get stopped at, I wipe down whatever is within reach. I try to vacuum and go to the car wash once a month, but that doesn’t always happen.

On first glance, my car looks clean. However, hair and crumbs and dirt and crud collect so easily, especially hair. And a few weeks ago I tried cleaning the inside of my windshield. It looked fine while I was cleaning it, but I don’t know, maybe the drying rag got dirty at some point? Ick.

There are two crumpled tarps in my trunk. Two! Although the bigger problem with my trunk is the organizers aren’t attached to anything, so they roll around aimlessly and spill their contents.

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