How to Keep Your Family Car Clean and Tidy

If you have a family vehicle, you know it’s not always easy to keep clean and tidy. There are a lot of different moving parts in the equation, each one with its own agenda, and usually that agenda doesn’t have spare room for cleaning and picking up.

A clean environment is as important for our physical health as it is for our psychological health. Exuding a sense of structure can help us build the confidence we need to tackle our daily tasks and become better at what we do. It is important for the vehicle as well, so the interior doesn’t deteriorate or become prone to foul smells or even mold.

If you have a family vehicle that is in need of cleaning, you can get the whole family involved. Follow the steps below to learn how to clean and tidy up your family vehicle, and keep it that way.

Part 1 of 1: Clean and tidy your family vehicle

Depending on the state of chaos inside your family vehicle, you will have to allocate a certain amount of time to quell the disorder and get your vehicle back in pristine condition. Plan on at least an hour, if not more. Depending on your family schedule, you might want to allocate a day on the weekend to get everyone involved. Divvy up tasks and you'll have it all done faster than you might expect.

minivan with stuff inside of it

Step 1: Take everything out. Remove all the stuff inside that’s accumulated.

You might have clothes, bags, books, toys, and whole bunch of other stuff, trash included. Set it all outside the vehicle and sort through it.

It might be handy to have a trashcan nearby so you can quickly get rid of the stuff you don’t need or want. Set all clothes and other washable material aside for cleaning.

  • Tip: You might have a vehicle, like a minivan, that has all sorts of compartments like drawers under the seats and back-seat pockets. Don’t forget those places.

trunk organizers

Step 2: Organize more. You might discover that you have a lot of stuff you need to keep in the vehicle and that there isn’t a lot of room to keep it all organized and accessible.

It might help to purchase a trunk organizer or a back seat organizer. If you have young children, you can keep toys and larger items in it.

Why not have a separate compartment for trash? It would be much easier if all the trash was in one place all the time so you could empty it seconds and not have to worry about it later. A simple cardboard box would do.

family washing car

Step 3: Wash and dry the exterior. Clean the exterior as best you can.

When you’re finished soaping it down and spraying it off, use a chamois or some other car safe drying towel and dry the vehicle completely so you don’t leave water spots. Clean all the windows inside and out with window cleaner and a microfiber cloth

vacuuming inside of family car

Step 4: Vacuum and clean the interior. Depending on the level of cleaning you need to do, you will need to adjust your cleaning methods accordingly.

You might just need to get in there with a vacuum and some disinfectant or surface cleaner to suck up all the dirt and crumbs and to scour the plastic, metal, and/or vinyl surfaces.

If your job is more than just a simple vacuum and wipe, consider renting a steam cleaner to tackle deeper dirt, stains, and pet hair and taking your vehicle to a professional cleaner who has all the tools needed to get your family vehicle sparkling again, inside and out.

Step 5: Create a cleaning schedule. Have the entire family commit to a consistent weekly cleaning schedule to help piece apart the cleaning process keep the vehicle clean at all times.

Have the schedule rotate so no one gets bored with the same weekly tasks, and so no one complains about one job being easier or harder than another job. Set certain standards and rules for behavior and maintenance within the car, and be strict about how you enforce those rules.

Don’t let anyone throw trash on the floor and not pick it up afterwards. Make sure everyone takes all of their belongings with them when they leave the car, or organizes them in a compartment before they leave the car.

If someone creates a mess, or spills something like food or a drink, hold them responsible and have them clean it up every time. Nobody likes cleaning up messes, and the more they commit to having to clean them, the less they’ll want to make them, which means being more careful next time.

mechanic inspecing check under hood of car

Step 6: Have the engine checked. If you’ve neglected the interior of the vehicle, you might have neglected the engine as well.

Make sure you have a professional mechanic do an inspection of the engine to see whether or not it needs certain basic maintenance, like changing engine fluids, spark plugs, hoses, and belts. While they’re at it, they might as well check the condition of the tires and brakes as well. Make sure you let them know what you want them to check, or have them be clear about what inspections they are going to perform.

Once you have cleaned and organized your car, you will feel as if a load has been lifted off your chest and riding in your car will be much more pleasant. It is equally important that your car is in good mechanical order, so have one of YourMechanic’s certified professionals change the oil and inspect the brakes.


The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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