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What’s the best way to keep the inside of your car clean?

It doesn’t take long after you first pick your car up from the dealer for it to start getting grubby in the interior. An assortment of discarded parking tickets, chocolate bar wrappers and plastic water bottles always seem to end up floating around in there.

Keeping your car clean makes it a more pleasant experience for you and your passengers. It’s easier to do it if you have your own garage or driveway, but less easy if you have to park on the road or you have parking in an underground car park at an apartment block. However, you can always take your cleaning products to a petrol station to take advantage of their water supply and bins.

Clean from the top down and you’ll find it easier; this way, dirt from above will fall onto the floor and you can capture it all effectively

Clean the windows and mirrors using a commercial glass cleaner or a 50:50 solution of hot water and distilled vinegar. The smell of vinegar will hang around a while, but it is more environmentally friendly. Use a microfibre cloth for streak-free results. It’s best done in the shade rather than strong sunlight.

Clean the surfaces. Use a vacuum cleaner to get in all the nooks and crannies – the cup holders and door pockets as well as the air vents – then use a microfibre cloth with soapy water. An old toothbrush can be used to clean in corners. Remember the glovebox and any other storage areas. Clean the clear plastic on the dashboard and any screens.

Next, clean the seats. If they are cloth, vacuum them and spot treat any stains with a stain remover. Spills should be addressed as soon as possible before the sun bakes them in. If they are leather, vacuum them and then either clean with mild soapy water or use a specialist leather cleaning product. Some people recommend toothpaste for cleaning some stains off leather, possibly due to its mild abrasive nature.

The floor mats are next. Good floor mats are a must as they protect the carpet underneath from dampness, dust, dirt, stones and vegetation. Take them out and shake any loose stones and vegetation off them. Vacuum them thoroughly using the crevice tool (the pointy attachment which gives the best suction). You may want to wash the mats, particularly if they are rubber.

Now clean the footwells and under the seats. Remember areas like the seat runners.

Finally, let’s address the boot: take everything out of it and vacuum the carpet. Take the boot floor out and wipe down any surfaces around the spare wheel.

Long-term car care

Keeping your car clean might just involve a change in habits.

Avoid smoking and eating in your car if you want to reduce the effort you’ll need to clean it. Tobacco smells linger a long time in the upholstery while food crumbs make their way down the sides of your seat and can start smelling funky in hot weather. In some areas, food in your car can attract ants – you don’t want to end up having to call an exterminator to get rid of an ant infestation.

Limit the number of children’s toys you carry in the car.

Use a pet blanket and proper restraint, or a cage, when transporting a dog or cat.

Keep your air conditioning clean – it’s responsible for the air coming into your vehicle. You can use a commercial air conditioning cleaner. Get the pollen filter checked periodically, too.

Protect your dashboard and car seats from fading by using window shades. Side window shades are semi-transparent and are good for keeping the sun off passengers while a reflective front window shade is great for keeping the car cool when parked.


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Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

Posted in Advice