Does the interior of your car look like a tornado ripped through it? Is the floor covered with cracker crumbs, discarded wrappers, and broken crayons? Circle of Moms member Megaly P., who has two preschoolers, says that every time she takes her car to be washed she's embarrassed by "all the crap" the attendants find in, under and around her kids' car seats. Not to be outdone, Tracey T. claims her car is "sooooo bad" she avoids valet parking situations altogether. Is it possible to rein in "the madness," as Megaly calls it? And if so, what's the secret to keeping the family car clean and organized? Here are four ideas to get you started.
1. Getting Organized
The first step to getting your car organized is to get it down to what I call "baseline." Wash the exterior, remove everything from the interior and clean and vacuum surfaces. Then decide what kinds of cleaning supplies you need to keep in the car all the time, and devote a specific space to each item, either in the body of your car or in a bin in the trunk.
My family uses a lot of paper towels, so we keep a roll in a little storage bin on the floor of the rear passenger's side along with a bottle of water for cleaning up spills right away. You may also need a hand-held vacuum or a lint remover.
Kids definitely make for car chaos, but they can also be part of the solution. If your kids want to help with clean-up but won't put the clean-up gear back in its proper place, just tell them, "This is Mommy's work." If they really want to help with clean-up, they'll learn to put the tools back when the job is done.
2. Staying Organized
Now what about all the stuff — snacks, drinks, activities — that your kids are constantly littering the car with? Circle of Moms member Sharon G. gave each of her kids a drawstring bag with instructions to "Pack it in, pack it out." They now tote their wrappers, juice boxes, and toys back out using these handy bags, and have developed a sense of responsibility for helping to keep the family car in order.
Circle of Moms member Casey has another suggestion for organizing kids' belongings in the car: keep one big bin for each child in the car and instruct your kids to stash all their stuff in it. Casey suggests plastic or fabric bins from WalMart; spacesavers.com carries similar gear. This way, they don't have to constantly drag things in and out, and they can find what they're looking for if they need to. She cleans the bins out every week or so, which beats the daily struggle of trying to clean up after every drive.
3. Removing Stains
Kids are messy. They track dirt and food into the car on a daily basis. While you can try to teach them good habits, such as not stepping on the back seat to get into the booster while wearing muddy boots, you can't always control the cracker and cookie crumbs, juice spills, and sandwich smears.
One product that I've found useful for treating food stains is Bac-Out Stain and Odor Eliminator, a natural cleaning product made from enzymes and botanical extracts. It works on mustard, ketchup, and other common food spills, and it has a pleasant lime smell. It even works on blood!
If you have a grease stain, skip Bac-Out, and head straight for CitraSolv, a natural orange-based de-greaser that works amazingly well, even on older stains. (This product is also good for carpets and rugs in the house.)
4. Removing Odors
Even kids who are potty trained have accidents, and urine leaves behind a strong odor, so you don't want it trapped in the fabric of your car upholstery. Nature's Miracle works well for removing odors from both upholstery and carpet without toxic chemicals. I discovered it when our cat was spraying the walls around her litter box, and now we keep a bottle in the trunk to use in the car.
If the smell or mess is confined to your child's car seat, read the tage to see if it's machine-washable. Many moms are afraid to wash car seat inserts that have foam backing, but Asia C. tried it after her daughter threw up in the car. Faced with the choice of throwing out the soiled cover or attempting a machine cleaning, she went ahead and put it through the machine. She now does it regularly and advises that the occasional run through the washer won't hurt a car seat cover as long as you air-dry it.
What tricks help you keep your car clean and organized?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.