Ideas, Information & Inspiration

Tips to Keep Your Car Clean

10 mins
What You Will Learn
  • Why it’s Important to Keep Your Car Clean
  • The Benefits of Keeping Your Car Clean
  • How to Keep Your Car Clean
  • Tips to Maintaining a Clean Car
by Marcus Life Learning Team

“Eww! What did I just step in?” Those aren’t the words you want to hear when a friend, or worse, a date, jumps in your car. You can avoid this awkward situation by keeping your car clean. Still, sometimes the process of cleaning can feel overwhelming because, let’s face it, cars go from spotless to earthquake-level messy in the blink of an eye. Here are some tips and tricks to make the whole operation easy and manageable.

Man smiling while receiving keys to car

Your Car is Talking. Can You Hear What It’s Saying About You?

The condition of your car says a lot more about you than any bumper sticker could. Not everyone can afford a brand new Jaguar, Tesla, or Lamborghini, and that’s okay. Not everybody wants to pay a small mortgage for a fancy car that’s always in the shop! Everybody can keep their vehicle clean and present themselves as a hygienic, organized person who values their purchases.

Plus, very few people hold onto their cars until the engine blows or dissolves into a pile of rust. In fact, the average American owns between 9 and 14 cars in their lifetime. By keeping your ride clean, you will boost its resale value. You get to enjoy a sparkling-clean car that’s also going to help you recoup more of your hard-earned money? Now that’s a win-win!

Car covered in dirt with “wash me” written in the dirt

You Wouldn’t Walk Around With a Mustard-Stained Shirt, Right?

When you take a look at the back seat of your car, what do you see? If you can barely spot the seatbelts through a clutter of backpacks, lunch wrappers, soda cans, and shopping bags, you’re not alone. But, think about how much happier you would be if all of those things had their own places. There are lots of benefits to keeping your car clean, and happiness is at the top. Here are our top three reasons to maintain your vehicle.

1. You’ll Feel Way Better. You know the stress of having clutter. You’ve probably felt it in your bedroom when laundry piles up, there are plates on your desk, and empty water glasses are strewn across every flat surface. When you finally devote a little time to cleaning and organizing your room, you feel like a million bucks. Suddenly, you can focus on homework. You can watch a movie on your laptop without guilt. You can actually find your contact lens case! Keeping your car clean will give you the exact same peace of mind, and since it’s not nearly as big as your room, it’s ten times easier.

Man buffering car

2. It’ll Make Your Car Last Longer. A little stain here, a torn piece of carpet there – soon you’re looking at a heap of junk rather than your shiny pride and joy. By keeping your car clean, scrubbing it, and occasionally waxing the paint, you’ll keep the grime from building on door seals and moss from growing under the hood. By wiping down the dashboard, you’ll stop dust from entering the cabin air filter. A little bit of maintenance upfront will keep your car operating at peak performance for a long time to come. Think about it this way, you know how you want to replace your cell phone after the screen gets smashed? Take care of your things now, and you’ll be able to hold onto them longer.

3. It May Not be a Maybach, But It’s Yours. Your car is an accessory to your personal style, and people associate it with you. Like a cool vintage tee from a second-hand shop, your car doesn’t have to be expensive to look great. If you have a lifted 4×4 pickup splattered in mud, it might make sense to walk around in mud-covered boots. But, if you have a fresh, new pair of Jordans, it’s going to look weird getting out of a Honda Civic that looks like you just went off-roading in it. Take pride in your car’s appearance and let it make the first impression for you.

List of reasons why you should maintain your car
List of reasons why you should maintain your car

Six Genius Tips for Cleaning Your Car Like a Pro

1. This First Step is Easy-Breezy. A cool alpine breeze! Or, it’s lemony freshness, cinnamon sticks, or teakwood and cedar. An air freshener is a handy way to keep your car smelling great even after the new-car smell has faded. If you’re imagining a little green tree hanging from your mirror, you should look into the new products that are out there. Some attach to your air vents to give you a burst of scent whenever you switch on the air conditioning. Some are mini versions of expensive oil diffusers that come in a wide variety of fancy, mature aromas. And, if you’re sensitive to smells and think most air fresheners smell like a can of Axe body spray, then there are other options. Try an air-purifying ionizer that grabs smell particles out of mid-air and cleans them.

Cleaning inside of car with cloth

2. Wipey-Wipey! Oh, no! You spilled your La Croix in the cupholder. Well, if you keep a pack of wet wipes handy, you can soak up the offending liquid quickly and easily. Before you chuck whatever wipes you have under the kitchen sink onto the passenger-side floorboard, take a look at the label. Disinfecting wipes are good for sticky cleanups, but they can stain leather and dry out the vinyl on your dashboard. Baby wipes are safe for keeping your car clean. If you want to get really fancy, you can pick up specially made wipes that moisturize dried out components of your car’s interior.

3. Knock it Off! The dirt, that is. Before swinging your feet into your car, stomp your shoes on the ground to knock off any bits of debris or mud. This may seem like a small step, but there’s a reason why people keep a doormat in front of their house. You’ll be surprised by how much cleaner your carpets look after making this step a habit.

Cleaning dirty cup holders in car

4. Everything Should Have a Place. You might not know this, but there are as many car organizers as there are days in the year. There are hairbrush organizers, CD organizers (remember those?), shoe bins for the trunk, and more recycling and trash cans than you can imagine. When everything has a place to go, there’s no reason to throw it on the ground.

5. Keep the Change…Together. Have you ever found yourself scrounging for a few quarters for parking or to hand to a hungry person? Sure, you could spend a minute frantically rooting around for coins while you’re stressing out about the light turning green and everybody honking at you.

Or, you could take a deep breath, reach down to the change jar in your door pocket or cup holder, and casually hand your money out of the window. Which one sounds better? Keeping your car clean cuts out all of that anxiety.

6. You’re the King (or Queen) of Your Car. Consider making a few rules about what you expect of your passengers. Some rules will be easy, like insisting that people do not smoke. Some might be harder, but as the car owner, you are in charge of enforcing them. If it’s a rule, though, keep in mind that you have to follow them, too. If you ask people not to eat in your car, then unwrap a fast-food burger to chomp down on while they’re watching you, you’re sending mixed signals.

Six tips for cleaning your car
Six tips for cleaning your car

Process Makes Perfect

Now that you have a few pointers on keeping your car clean, it’s time to fit those steps into a process. And then “trust the process,” like Marcus always says. Some people find that when they don’t schedule things and have structure, they push off tasks they need to complete. Here’s how we recommend you build your process.

1. What to Do Every Day. Something that may fall into this step is throwing away trash and recycling. It also may include removing homework or, if you live in a cold place and it’s winter, removing snow from the carpet. This step is about building repetition. If we take removing trash as an example, ask yourself where you can park your car where there’s easy access to a trash can. Also, maybe you can place your cell phone next to your car’s recycling bin, so before you exit, you’ll remember to grab both things.

Cleaning the engine of the car

2. What to Do Every Month. Just like changing your car’s oil, you don’t have to do this step every day. Heck, you don’t even have to do it once a month. But, it helps to have a set schedule for deeper cleaning just as you have for oil changes (every 3,000-7,000 miles depending on the car, oil, and driving habits.) On these big cleaning days, think about using a carpet shampooer, taking a toothbrush to the running boards and door frames, and shining up the exterior plastic and vinyl pieces. These are examples of things you don’t need to do daily.

3. What to Do For the Unexpected. By keeping a milk crate or a dedicated organizer full of cleaning supplies in the trunk, you can quickly clean up any minor accidents instead of waiting for your end-of-the-day cleaning or your monthly deep-dive.

Couple driving around in their car

Remember How Excited You Were When You First Got Your Keys?

Your car was shiny, and everything was clean to the touch. It smelled good, and you could go anywhere you wanted. Your friends were jealous. Every component looked sleek and exciting, even something as boring as an air vent. It was new to you, even if your car was bought used. You can reawaken that enthusiasm by keeping your car clean. It will help you have peace of mind, give your vehicle a longer life, and offer you a sense of personal satisfaction.

  1. What are some things you currently do to keep your car clean?
  2. What tips from above do you think you can use to keep your car clean?
  3. When will you clean your car next?
Photo of Marcus Lemonis