Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be restricted to your house. The warmer months often encourage drivers to head outside and give their vehicles a thorough cleaning. Many people enjoy giving the outside of their car a good scrub-down, but dread facing the inside. Here are some cleaning tips for vehicle interiors to make that job a bit less intimidating.
Take Out the Trash
The first step for spring cleaning inside your car should include removing the car of all trash or items that don’t belong. Grab some boxes or bags and label them with “trash”, “keep”, and “back in car”. Remove larger items, like car seats, first. Empty your garbage — wrappers, old pens, and scraps of paper — into the “trash” bag. Sort the items you want to hold on to — loose change, important documents, winter hats — into the “keep” bag so you can bring them in the house and put them where they belong. Fill the “back in car” bag with your car insurance, sunglasses, and any other items you need in your vehicle. After you thoroughly clean your car you can put these back where they belong.
The next step in spring cleaning your vehicle’s interior involves taking out the car’s floor mats. Shake these to remove excess dirt, then lay them out and vacuum them with a hand vacuum or a shop vacuum. If you haven’t previously invested in a good cordless hand vacuum, now is the perfect time to do so. Remove seat covers and throw them in the washing machine, or clean them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Grab a paintbrush or other small brush to clean dirt out of tiny cracks and crevices that a vacuum won’t be able to reach. If you have an excessive amount of dirt left over from the winter months, use a broom to sweep out the majority of the mess. Then use the vacuum to clean the floors and seats of the vehicle; make sure you vacuum all of the crevices between the seats. Vacuum up dirt and bugs that have accumulated on your dashboard and on the back of your car, underneath the rear window. Dirt collects on the ceiling of the vehicle as well, so be sure to vacuum from top to bottom. Take out the trunk liner and vacuum the trunk to remove dirt, grime, and bacteria that might eventually mold. After you’ve vacuumed the whole car, use a window cleaner and soft rag to shine your windows, mirrors, and dashboard.
The Wonder of Baking Soda
Baking soda is an amazing compound that is very effective in neutralizing odors, making it an excellent addition to your vehicular spring cleaning toolbox. If your car carries a stench, sprinkle baking soda all over the upholstery and scrub it in with your hands or a soft brush. Let it sit for at least 24 hours. Vacuum the upholstery thoroughly to remove all the baking soda. If you’re a smoker, remove the ash tray and wash it in a mixture of half water, half baking soda. If your ash tray isn’t removable, simply scrub it down with the water and baking soda mixture, then dry it with a rag.
If possible, scrub stains right away with a mild detergent and water (1 part detergent, 20 parts water). If you’re not at home, a baby wipe makes an effective stain remover. Since it’s not always possible to tackle stains right away, some more rigorous cleaning may be involved. You may not be able to completely remove stains, but you can make them less noticeable. Mixing 1 part distilled white vinegar with 1 part water creates a more heavy-duty stain remover. This mixture is also effective in removing gum from the upholstery. To remove gum or another sticky residue, scrape away what you can with a spatula or putty knife. Warm up the vinegar and water mixture, apply it to the gum, and let it sit until the mixture cools off. Scrub off the residue and repeat if necessary. Invest in a good fabric protector spray for vehicle interiors to avoid future stains and upholstery damage.
For the rest of the car’s interior, such as the steering wheel, cup holders, and consoles, use a basic mixture of soap and water to scrub everything down. Wash from top to bottom, and try not to get anything too wet, so as to not damage any electrical components. Dry everything as quickly as possible (think: wax on, wax off). You may wish to disinfect some of the areas of your car that get touched more often, such as the shifter, door handles, and radio controls. Have a few cotton swabs on hand to clean out the smallest nooks and crannies.
Even car interiors can benefit from fresh air; roll down the windows on a nice day and let your vehicle’s interior air out (make sure no rain is in the forecast). Put all of the items you previously removed back in place. You can add an air freshener or potpourri to your car for a fresh spring scent. Keep a small plastic bag in your car to put trash in right away so it won’t accumulate on the floor, or throw trash in a garbage can while getting gas for your vehicle. The best way to make spring cleaning your vehicle’s interior an easy task each year is by maintaining the interior throughout the passing seasons.