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How to Prevent Spills in Your Trunk

grocery bags in trunk

The purpose of a car trunk or hatch is simple. Its purpose is to carry or store items securely, including groceries, large items, and spare fluids. There is virtually no limit to what you can carry in your car’s trunk as long as the lid closes. Even if your trunk lid doesn’t completely close, you can tie it down with a strap, carrying items even bigger than your trunk.

If liquid items leak in your trunk, they can leave stains that are difficult or impossible to remove. Organic fluids like milk can spoil, causing a foul odor that is extremely hard to get rid of. Your best course of action, then, is to prevent spills from occurring and prepare for spills before they happen.

Method 1 of 2: Prevent spills from happening in your trunk

You can prevent spills from occurring in your trunk in the first place, which will save you time and money cleaning your trunk of the odors and residue left over from the spill.

Step 1: Use a trunk organizer. Find a flat-bottomed organizer that is waterproof to keep your car items in.

This is good for a spare container of oil, your washer fluid, spare brake or power steering fluid, and transmission fluid. You can also keep your cleaning sprays in the trunk organizer. If spills happen while fluids are in the organizer, they won’t leak out onto your trunk carpeting.

  • Note: Some fluids such as brake fluid are corrosive and can eat away at materials they come in contact with. Clean spills in your trunk organizer thoroughly as soon as you notice them.

hackback full of white plastic bags of groceries

Step 2: Use plastic grocery bags for your liquid groceries. Either the disposable plastic grocery bags or reusable plastic grocery bags will do.

If the groceries or cleaners you buy at the store begin to leak, they will be contained and will not cause a stain or spill in your trunk.

cargo net holding groceries upright

Step 3: Keep your trunk items upright. Whether you are carrying groceries or other fluids, keep them upright in your trunk.

Use a cargo net to keep items upright and to prevent them from toppling over or sliding around in your trunk and use a bungee cord to keep liquids or messy items in place at the side of your trunk.

Step 4: Don’t underestimate dry messes. Place messy dry items in bags as well and prevent them from sliding around in your trunk.

Method 2 of 2: Prevent stains from setting in your trunk

Materials Needed

  • Baking soda
  • Brush
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Clean cloth
  • Stain protector
  • Wet/dry vacuum

It seems that sometimes, no matter what you do to prevent it, spills can happen in your trunk. When they occur, be prepared to deal with it quickly and easily.

person spraying the hatch area of car

Step 1: Treat your trunk carpet with a stain protector. You can get spray pump or aerosol cans of stain protector to easily treat your trunk’s carpet before stains occur.

Apply the stain protector when the trunk carpet is clean and dry, preferably when the car is new. Reapply stain protector to your trunk at least annually for continued protection against stains.

If you need to clean a stain from your trunk carpet, reapply the spray after the stain has been removed and the carpet has dried for optimal protection. Stain protector sprays inhibit liquids from absorbing into the carpeting in your trunk so they can be cleaned up easily without intensive work. In many cases, fluids will bead on the surface of the carpet, making cleanup a breeze.

Step 2: Clean up spills as soon as they happen. Use a wet/dry vacuum to suck up any spills that happen in your trunk as soon as you notice them.

The longer a liquid sits on the carpeting, the more likely it is to cause a stain or a deep-set odor that can be difficult or impossible to remove. If you don’t have a wet/dry vacuum, use absorbent paper towels or microfiber cloths to absorb the spill.

Dab at the spill to absorb the liquid, and don’t rub it or it can get embedded deeper in the fibers of the carpet.

Step 3: Treat spills with common household items. Sprinkle baking soda on spills in your trunk to absorb fats and oils to prevent odors from forming.

Rub it in with a brush, let it sit for 4 hours or more, ideally overnight, then vacuum it out.

Step 4: Use a carpet cleaner spray to remove stains or embedded dirt. A carpet cleaner spray like Mothers Carpet and Upholstery Spray can be applied liberally to the area.

Agitate the area with a brush, then blot it with a clean cloth to remove embedded dirt and stains. You can re-treat the area several time to remove tough stains. After the area has dried, vacuum it once again to remove any dirt that has become loosened by the spray.

If stains become set in your trunk carpet before you have a chance to clean them up, you may need to use a carpet cleaner to remove the spill or stain from the trunk. In the worst situation, you can replace the carpet liner in your trunk for a reasonable cost.

Protecting your trunk from stains and odors is a great way to keep your car in top shape and smelling nice. This can be a source of pride to yourself and will pay off in the long-run, as a fully functional trunk serves many purposes. If your trunk will not open properly, however, have one of YourMechanic’s certified technicians perform an inspection.

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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