One question I keep hearing from readers is how can you get your car interior clean and keep it organized without spending a lot of money. It’s a great question, too, because detail cleaning can be expensive and few people have the spare hour or half it takes to do the job themselves.
After all, let’s face it: unless you are very fortunate, you spend far too much of your time in your car, truck, or SUV on your way to or from work, clients, school, or waiting for kids to finish a game or practice. The result, unless you are also very careful, can be a car interior that looks less than spiffy.
The problem isn’t always short term either. A failure to maintain a good car interior is apt to cost you in resale value down the road. Once you begin to let the auto interior fall into disarray, the more likely the situation will turn permanent. At the same time, you may feel embarrassed to have clients, co-workers, friends, or family see even the occasional fast food wrapper or a pile of assorted matter laid out in the back seat.
But, embarrassed or not, our cars are becoming secondary storage. A recent study showed that the average American driver sometimes carries in excess of twenty extra pounds – and some far more – of everything from spare clothing or dry cleaning to toys, CDs and DVDs, work gear, and junk they simply don’t know where else to place. Extra weight in a car always translates into reduced gas mileage. The more you lug around in the passenger compartment or trunk, the more fuel you waste. Who wants that?
However, you may not be able to part with everything you currently store in your vehicle. For example, there are some items you feel obligated to carry around because you may need them when you are away from your home or office. Other things are just more convenient to stash in the trunk or back seat even though the more you store there, the harder it becomes to clean around the chaos.
Here are some tips for getting your car interior both clean and better organized. You can mix-and-match suggestions according to your particular situation and your budget.
First, start by deciding what absolutely must stay in your vehicle and what items can be safely stored elsewhere. Be ruthless in your choices.
Once you make this decision, you need to address how you store the things you cannot part with. While you can go into auto parts and specialty stores and spend a fair amount of money on automobile organizers, I find it’s usually less expensive to shop around for better storage solutions in a general store that will fit inside your car, truck, or SUV. For example, buy an auto coin caddy and you can easily pay $10. Purchase a small coin wallet with sections at a dollar store instead, and you have $9 in change left over to put in your wallet for parking and road tolls.
There are many things you can press into service as a car litter bag, including a small plastic shopping bag that you can toss into the trash when full before you replace it with a clean bag. Compare that to some of the fancy alternatives you buy special; you should save at least $10.
Likewise, you can find cheap organizers to hold clothing, CDs and DVDs, maps, books, and assorted other goodies. A canvas tote bag (a freebie from a fundraiser) that rests out of the way behind the driver’s seat in my car serves as the catch-all for my spare shoes, obligatory water bottle, any magazines I read in the car as I wait, and a box of dog treats plus a spare leash for my pup who frequently rides along. All of this stuff used to roll around loose on the backseat floor area where any passengers would have to cope with them.
The beauty of these organizers is that you can more quickly remove a canvas bag or a small plastic milk crate box than you can a dozen or more individual items when it is time to clean. Even if you have multiple containers like this, you still shave time off the job because it’s so easy to pull them out to vacuum the floor and seats.
The vacuum idea brings us to the next part of the work. Make a point either once a week or twice a month to do a thorough wipe-down and vacuuming of your interior. This includes shaking out floor mats, removing trash, and using a good all purpose cleaner to remove dust and dirt from the dashboard, panels, and accessories. Find a cleaner that is safe for car interiors rather than buy several different specialty solutions unless you have a fair amount of money to spend.
Every other vacuum and wipe-down, wash the interior windows as well. You may need to do this more frequently if you or someone who uses your car smokes or you have small children who leave fingerprints everywhere.
Do this cleanup regularly enough and you can drastically reduce or perhaps even eliminate the need for the kind of deep and thorough cleaning that can take hours or a big bill to have someone else do it for you. If you spot clean weekly, the job should take no more than 10-15 minutes which leaves you with plenty of time for more enjoyable ventures like taking the kids out for more fast food.
Yet, before you consider the job done, understand the importance of tackling the glove compartment on a regular basis. This area becomes another catch-all for anything small. In reality, however, you only want to store important items that need to be in the vehicle and out of sight. Get rid of the ketchup and mayo packets that can melt or burst in summer heat. Trash the ancient straws and broken toothpicks as well as the multiple pairs of sunglasses you never wear. Make this space neat and keep it so.
Also inventory the contents of your glove compartment regularly. Be sure your key papers and manuals like your vehicle registration and insurance cards, owner manual, and emergency numbers are present along with a flashlight. Anything else stored there probably needs a better home.