Between kids, pets, friends, and little ol' you, the sanctity of your car's interior is always in peril. So, how do you keep it clean when you've got kids spitting up and spilling, pets drooling and tracking in dirt and people eating four-course meals in your car?
With a full-size family myself, I know how hard it is to keep everything clean without going crazy. Here are some tips to sustaining your sanity when it comes to keeping your car interior clean and organized.
Bring It In, Take It Out
Some families have an "if you can carry it into the car, you can carry it out" policy when it comes to car rides. Make your kids responsible for their books, cups, backpacks, balls and papers. Also, keep clutter to a minimum by limiting by limiting them to one item per car ride or make them keep their junk in backpacks.
Bag It Up
Always have a kitchen-sized trash bag on hand in the car. You can keep it in the trunk or in the pocket on the back of your seats. It is great for keeping fast-food bags, cups, trash, even occasional wet clothes or muddy shoes from doing harm. If you have older children, the child who is in charge of the house trash can also be in charge of the trash bag in the car.
Also, have small resealable sandwich bags on hand and within reach for pet treats or food, you never know when Sparky might get hungry.
For families with toddlers, think about buying spill-proof cups and snack holders. A busy mother invented these "anti-spill" cups and holders for finger foods such as Cheerios and Goldfish crackers. With the "Snack Trap," kids reach through soft plastic slits to grab a bite. Once the child removes his or her hand, the slits close so the snack stays contained if the cup is dropped or thrown. The company's "Sprout Spouts" are specialized lids that screw onto wide-mouth bottles of Juice, Gatorade and other drinks to avoid liquid spills. You can find these products at Babies-R-Us and Burlington Coat Factory or visit www.snacktrap.com.
Stop to Smell the Roses
Instead of eating while driving, think about stopping to eat. We are all in a hurry, but it is safer and provides more quality family time when you park and then eat.
Toothpaste to the Rescue
Stains on your car's upholstery can add to the day's stress level. A white, non-gel toothpaste can be kept in the glove box for a quick response to stains like lipstick, ink and ketchup. Rub gently and then wipe with a clean, damp cloth.
Protect Your Carpets
Buy a cheap set of rubber mats to put on top of your carpet mats. You can even turn your carpet mats upside down if they have rubber bottoms.
Keep an emergency cleaning kit in the trunk. Here are some items to keep on hand: small plastic grocery bags, large plastic trash bag, hand towels, paper towels, carpet cleaning solution, glass cleaning solution and a good general cleaning solution like Fanastik.
Parents know that one of the most indispensable items to keep on hand is baby wipes. Always stash a portable-sized container of wipes in your glove box for those frequent spit-ups and other messy situations.
Fast Cleaning Action
For some real speed cleaning, you will be happy to hear about a new lineup of car care items. Called Blink, these five cleaning wipe products claim to "help quickly eliminate clutter, litter, spills and fingerprints in minutes." Designed by Honeywell Consumer Group, the products were designed to "offer clean and quick results in five minutes or less."
Even better, perhaps, is these products come in innovative, car-friendly packaging, some of which is designed to clip onto your door pocket, seatback, center console, seat organizer or to be stored in the increasingly-small glove box. You can find Blink Spill Grabbers, Mess Lifters, Smudge Cleaners, Trash Tossers and Tidy Toes in retail, drug and grocery stores.
For some other good advice, Stacy DeBroff, author of 'The Mom Book' and founder of Mom Central, Inc., provides these tips on how to make over today's home on wheels:
Keep Things Organized
Use collapsible trunk storage bins to organize emergency kit items as well as sports equipment for your kids. They hold things in place and transport easily.
Invest in a backseat organizer designed with older kids in mind. They can hold everything from juice boxes and healthy snacks to CD players and small games.
Pre-pack a bag for each activity your child participates in regularly and have it in the vehicle.
Designate a few toys special "car toys" that stay in a small tote bag beneath your child's car seat.
Instead of carrying a big roll of paper towels in your vehicle, take advantage of products that absorb spills and removes stains, and clip to your dashboard or backseat pocket.
Stash menus from the top three area restaurants in the glove box for calling in orders on the go on those days when carpools or work leave you no time to cook.
Keep a small booklet in your glove box that can hold your owner's manual, registration and proof of insurance inside of it, as well as any emergency contact numbers you may need. Hide a small amount of cash in it as well to have on hand if needed.