Keeping a Clean Car with Young Kids


    While driving should be a relaxing, stress-free experience, having kids in the car can turn it otherwise with your young ones leaving trails from clothes to toys, food wrappers and bits, spilled drinks, and bodily fluids. Adding the sibling wars, the constant battle against boredom during long trips, and your cute children’s innate curiosity, don’t be surprised to see your car transform into an instant disaster zone.

    Well, let’s accept it: kids are messy and it’s an inevitable part of parenthood. Luckily, there should be no stopping you from minimizing the mess they create. It’s entirely feasible and shouldn’t be a daunting task at all. Are you wondering how? Read on below as we’ve rounded up the best tips you can try to keep your car clean even with young kids.

    1. Use a trash can.

    Trash cans are present nearly everywhere. You’ll see one in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, offices, and restaurants to name a few. That’s because trash is also everywhere, even in your car. So, it’s only fitting that you should be keeping a trash can in there, too.

    What’s great is that there are lots of compact trash can options available whether ones you can find online or DIY waste buckets you can quickly do yourself.

    The idea is if you have a trash can in your car, your kids will likely use it. What’s left for you to do is to take that trash often. Perhaps, you can toss the trash while waiting for your car to fill up at the gas station. Trust us, it’s easy to grab the trash can rather than exhausting 10 minutes of your precious time to gather all the trash scattered in your car.

    2. Cover your seats. 

    Cleaning the messed-up seats of your car can be a backbreaking exercise no parent wants to ever experience. To save you from such a scenario, all you need to do is cover your seats temporarily with a cloth sheet or opt for a fixed solution with a plastic cover.

    Cloth sheets are easy to place and remove, but you need to wash them more often. Plastic covers are cheap and easy to clean, as you can simply wipe off any mess without having to remove them. However, if you’re planning to resell your car in the future, purchasing specifically designed seat coverings for your vehicle can protect the value of your car by ensuring that your kids do as little damage as possible. 

    3. Wipe surfaces more frequently.

    Kids, no matter what age, are anxious to place their hands on whatever catches their attention. It won’t be a surprise if your car’s interior and windows are dirty due to the oil from the greasy burger, stains from the chocolate ice cream, or spilled soda.

    With that, it’s best to keep some baby wipes or multi-surface wipes in your car. Having them allows you to give a quick, 30-second clean of your car’s surfaces. Do it more frequently and you’ll see the huge difference it can make in how your vehicle looks and smells.

    4. Vacuum regularly.

    Vacuuming regularly isn’t the most convenient thing to do. However, if you have extra time to vacuum any mess in your kids’ seats, do it as soon as possible. Allowing smashed biscuit crumbs, small chips, sand, dirt, or juice boxes to sit for days or weeks will attract more bacteria. The worst case is when mold starts to build up in the interiors of your car if it’s not well-maintained. As such, make it a habit to vacuum stuff up. Purchase and keep a handheld UV sanitizing vacuum in your car trunk or garage. It’s easy and convenient and will only require you a few minutes to clean up any messes.

    Vacuuming a car seat

    5. Use organizers. 

    Consider putting a travel organizer or a tiny portable shelf in the back of your car. They are a way to keep your kid’s toys, books, extra clothes, tissues, and whatever your young ones’ need instead of these things ending up on your car’s floor. Choose organizers with multi-compartment to keep different things all together in a properly arranged manner. Of course, everything will be a hundredfold easier if your kids can learn how to place their things back in there, too.

    6. Keep bad odors away. 

    With mess, comes bad odors. Not to mention that kids themselves, with lots of playing around, can also get stinky. A car easily traps all those odors, making it uncomfortable to stay in. A good, simple tip to keep bad odors away is having a box of baking soda underneath your car’s seats. It’s a miracle in a box as it is great at absorbing smells and is chemical-free. Adding an air freshener and using a non-toxic odor eliminator will also make your car smell nicer and improve its environment.

    7. Clean your car’s carpet.

    Your car’s carpet is perhaps one of the dirtiest parts of your car’s interior. After all, it’s the receiver of the fallen food bits, the dirt and grass from your kid’s shoe after a soccer practice, or the sand from your family beach getaway. So, one of the quickest and easiest ways to keep your car clean is to keep your carpets fresh.

    Once you’ve gotten rid of all the dirt, mix two cups of baking soda and 10 drops of your preferred essential oil. Shake them in a container and sprinkle them on your vehicle’s carpet. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then vacuum them up to make them fresh again! You can also spray a fabric freshener for a boost of feeling clean.

    8. Keep the cup holders clean.

    Your car’s cup holders are one of the fastest areas in your car that can become gross. A single spill can result in a sticky, stinky mess. Plus, they also feel hard to clean!

    One of the things you can do is to use Q-Tips to reach those deep-down edges. Simply dip into a cleaning solution and scrub all the grimy things away. Alternatively, you can take a towel and soak it in water with detergent soap. Insert it into the cupholders and twist them to clean the insides thoroughly.

    Once clean, you can consider using ceramic coasters or silicone cupcake holders as inserts into your car’s cup holders. They’ll catch any spills or crumbs and you simply need to remove them and toss them into the dishwasher the next time around. 

    A car’s cup holder

    9. Limit food mess.

    This tip is hard, given that kids are messy. Yet, there are many cool options available to limit your children’s food mess as much as possible. You can utilize art caddies, food storage with dividers, trays, or any other stuff where your kiddos can eat properly while keeping their food somewhat contained.

    But, regardless of whatever you have your kids use, you also have to think of what you let them eat in the first place. Try to assess how smelly or messy a certain food can be if it gets under the seat of your car and remains unseen for weeks.

    10. Keep plastic bags at all times.

    Plastic bags are versatile. You can use them for dirty clothes, diapers, trash, or for accident situations like your kids having to throw up while inside the car. You can also use them if you bring your dogs with you and you need an instant poop bag. To save up, you can even reuse grocery bags and store a stash in your car. That way, you can quickly grab one in times of need. Develop the habit of throwing the bags whenever you get out of the vehicle or return home, so they won’t accumulate in your car.

    11. Clean up spills right away.

    Spills happen, especially with your little ones around. Going a single bump on the road can mean juice or milk all over the backseat. While it can be hard and irritating, cleaning spills ASAP can do wonders in keeping your car clean. Doing so prevents liquids from sipping deep in your car seat or carpet and reduces the development of pesky odors. Just always have your paper towels or old towels ready to absorb any spills right away.

    12. Get a stain remover.

    No matter how much you try to avoid it, your kids will stain their clothes, your sofa, and of course, your car. Instead of freaking out and trying to rush home to clean up stains from your kid’s pizza, peanut butter sandwich, or fruit juice, you can save yourself by having a spray-on stain remover in your car. Various DIY stain remover recipes are available online using a blend of ingredients like dish soap, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and vinegar. Check them out and choose which you deem will work for you.

    A woman cleaning a car’s interior

    13. Set time for deep cleaning.

    For at least once a month, make a date with your car for about half an hour and have it deep cleaned. Clean out all the clutter, wipe down all the surfaces, and vacuum the car’s interiors thoroughly. If you have time, you can even do this weekly. Through that, deep cleanings won’t take that long. Deep clean for only about 15 minutes and you’re ready to go.

    14. “What goes in must come out!” 

    Often, the cleanliness of your car comes down to this rule: “what goes in must come out!” If you bring your kids’ raincoats, jackets, shoes, or other items inside the car, never let them sit in the back of your car after returning home. Spend a few minutes gathering what you brought inside your car. Then, get them out of the car and bring them back inside your home. Learn the habit and you’d be grateful later! 

    15. Have your kids help.

    Lastly, the best way to keep your car clean is by teaching your children to help and making them responsible. Assign the seats in your car, so they can easily distinguish who forgot to throw their trash or to carry his backpack. Gradually, you can also have them join in cleaning sessions and let them do simple tasks like picking up trash or wiping surfaces. Have them understand their responsibility and why you need to keep your car clean in the first place. It’s a win-win scenario and children as young as 1-2 years old can already help out!


    That’s the rundown of the best tips on keeping your clean car with young kids. Just follow these tricks and we hope all these can do a lot in making your car mess-free, making every trip with your kids happy and enjoyable.

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