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Yes, It Is Possible to Keep Your Car Clean When You Have Kids!

It’s pretty much a given that you have to live with messes when you become a parent, but that doesn’t mean your car is doomed to being permanently covered in crushed Cheerios and sticky juice stains. You can have a clean car if you do some strategic preparation before your next trip with the kids.

1. Get an Organizer (or Two!)

The same over-the-door caddy you use in the closet to keep your shoes organized works great for stowing your kids’ favorite car activities. Hang one over the back of the seat, and use the pockets to hold coloring books, crayons, CDs, water bottles and lidded cups. If you’d prefer a more stylish way to organize, there are plenty of car organizers available with pockets of various sizes, some of which are made just for kid stuff. Switch up the activities from time to time to keep everyone entertained, and remember to put things back in the caddy when you get home from an outing!

2. Carry a Trash Bag

Whether it’s a hanging bag specifically designed for the car, a regular garbage bag or a plastic grocery bag, make sure you have something in which to put trash when you’re driving around with the kids. By

the end of the trip, they’ll inevitably have an empty package or wrapper from a snack and at least one napkin or tissue. Without a trash bag handy, these are likely to end up on the floor or wedged between the seats, only to be discovered weeks later when they start to smell funny.

3. Embrace the Cordless Vac

You can pick up a cordless or car vacuum for less than $50 from somewhere like Amazon, and you’ll be glad you made the investment. Even with a trash bag nearby, some of your kids’ messes will wind up on the floor and seats of the car. Miniature vacs suck up crumbs, seeds, bits of crayons, paper shreds and anything else too small to pick up by hand. Look for a model with attachments designed to go between seat cushions so that nothing gets missed.

4. Invest in Sturdy Containers

Cups with tight-fitting lids and containers with compartments keep drinks and snacks from spilling during car rides. Avoid beverages that come in boxes and pouches, and have older kids transfer drinks from cans or bottles into closed cups before getting into the car.

5. Teach Good “Car Manners”

Most kids don’t really understand the value of a car until they start to drive. To them, car rides mean entertainment, a good snack and maybe a stop at a store where they can get something fun to play with on the way home. Use your efforts to maintain a clean vehicle as opportunities to teach the importance of caring for what you own.

You don’t have to be uptight about it; in fact, you can make cleaning a game to get the kids involved. Simple rules like remembering to use a napkin or paper towel when eating something messy and gathering up trash when you get home are easy for even young kids to follow, and helping you take care of the car might make them feel more grown up!

The most important tip for keeping your car clean when you have kids, though, is to not stress out too much. Kids are going to be kids, and it’s a lot more fun to enjoy your outings together than to try and make everyone be neat freaks all the time. When you’re prepped for trips and armed with a few tools for cleanup, you can chill out about keeping the car tidy.

About the Author

Theresa “Sam” Houghton is a writer, speaker and health coach from Troy, NY. She’s a regular contributor to, and her work has appeared in the Honest Weight Food Co-Op Coop Scoop, Natural Awakenings Magazine and the 2017 Daily Dozen calendar. She has been a featured guest on Focus on Albany, WMAC’s Food Friday and the Just Ask David podcast. When she's not writing or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, cook tasty plant-based food and knit socks.You can find out more about Sam at

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