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Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean (When You Commute With Your Kid)

Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean (When You Commute With Your Kid)

I have a confession to make, one I’m not proud of. My car is gross. From dust to crumbs to strewn granola bar wrappers to discarded toys, it looks like we might live out of it. Overall, I think I keep a pretty tidy home particularly given that I work full-time and have no outside help to keep it clean and organized. But the car, that’s a whole different story. Liam and I commute together five days a week to work and school and while I love having that time together to talk to him about his day and what’s going on in Liamland, it clearly takes its toll on the car.

Until recently, I kind of just accepted that this is part of the life of a mom who commutes with her kid. In exchange for time with your child, your car is going to be gross. But a few weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore. The reality is that the amount of time we spend in the car (between 1-1.5 hours each day) is far too much time to spend somewhere that you hate looking at or getting into. I started by giving the car a good purge, vacuum and wipe down so we’re starting from a (mostly) clean slate. And I pulled a few ideas from Pinterest in terms of keeping the car clean and organized. Here are some ideas I’m trying to keep the car clean, even with a little guy in tow.

Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean

  • We’ve got our cereal container as a trash receptacle and a handy little basket with dividers for keeping a few different car-friendly snack options. After years of personal testing, I’ve found apple sauce packets, dried fruit and Cliff Z bars to be the least messy car snack options so that’s what we keep in there plus a few KIND bars for me to fuel up on for the nightly routine on the way home.
  • I’ve got an organizer in the back with some Liam essentials (diapers, wipes, sunglasses, a change of clothes, a few emergency water bottles, etc.) and a few cars, toys and books to keep him entertained – although he usually just talks or sings the whole ride.
  •  I’m committing to giving the car a weekly once over every Sunday for a quick vacuum and wipe down as necessary, changing of the trash bag, and restocking of snacks and toys for the following week.
  •  I’m hoping to make better use of our trunk space for other essentials that would be good to have on hand. One mom recently told me she keeps a bag with old sneakers and sandals for her too in case they decide to make a pit stop at the park after work. GENIUS.

Toddler sitting in a car seat during commute

Anyone else have good tips for keeping your car clean when you commute with your kids?



  1. Organized Mom April 9, 2014 at 11:26 am

    I added canvas trash bags to the back of each seat. My daughter can put her trash in it as she’s in a regular seatbelt. My son (4) can also now reach it so they both put their trash right in the bags. I also try to clean out regularly and since the trash bags are right there it makes it easier. I found pretty bags with flowers on them. I also keep wipes in the glove box and napkins for quick wipe downs. As for toys, I used to keep a plastic bin of toys in between the seats – until a police office told me it wasn’t safe (he was checking the carseats for proper install). Any object not tethered down in your car becomes a weapon in an accident. So now we keep car toys to a minimal and store them tucked into the back of the seats. Another idea is to have a hand held vac in your garage in plain sight. Makes it easy to grab and give a quick vacuum.

  2. Cindy April 14, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Some child care centers are installing a device called The Zono It uses ozone to sanitize. They not only sanitize the “stuff” at the center (toys, mattresses, computers, teddy bears) but they will let you bring in things like that nasty car seat!! Or the older siblings hockey gear! It comes out sanitized, odor free and I don’t mind if my toddler puts the toys in his mouth because there are no chemicals used (like bleach)!! Awesome!!

  3. Media Mom April 14, 2014 at 10:22 am

    I most certainly can’t profess to having a clean car, however, in the trunk with those old shoes, I’d throw in a roll of paper towels, extra wipes, a bottle of some sort of all purpose cleaner (some sort of febreze-esque product), and a bottle of baby powder — excellent for getting sand and dirt off little bodies (and big ones). I put it all in a bunch of plastic bags from the store (recycling at it’s best) and then you have those bags to collect trash, wet, muddy, or pooped on clothes.

  4. Angela Bagnara September 10, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    My car is never clean….But one thing I do have is an emergency kit. In my kit I have a blanket, first aid kits, jumper cables, snacks, water, and a flashlight. Of course a book and some toys so your little one does not get scared.

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