If you’re wondering how to keep a car clean with kids, well, you’re not alone — many a parent has thrown up their hands and decided a tidy ride is just another sacrifice they’ll have to make until the kids turn 18. But it doesn’t have to be that way thanks to all the helpful products and car hacks available today. While it may take more work to keep your car in good shape these days, it’s not impossible to keep it tidy (between and during day-to-day errands and
family road trips), with the right help.
messy as your house may get with children, your car may have it even worse — it’s the first thing wet shoes and dirty cleats touch when you pick up the kids from practice, the place where cups tip over most often when you take your turns a little tight, and where French fries have a way of slipping into cracks never to be seen again, only smelled. As much time as your family spends in transit, you deserve a clean ride. That’s where these products come in.
The basics of how to keep your car clean with kids include preventing spills, whether it’s drinks or backpacks, protecting cloth interior details, like the backs of your seats, and staying organized so your child’s items don’t shift in flight... or, in drive.
We at Romper only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. 1 MISTAKE: Letting bags and lunchboxes tip over while driving. SOLUTION: Hang them to secure their contents.
If you’re sick of your child’s backpack never being zipped and everything inside flying out when you take a turn, hanging it up might just save your sanity. The Amooca
Universal Car Headrest Hooks install in seconds, fit any make and model of car, and are sturdy enough to hold backpacks, handbags, and lunchboxes up to 13 pounds. Choose from four colors to match your interior perfectly. Review: “I saw that a friend of mine had hooks over her driver's head rest to hold backpacks for school drop off. I found this less expensive version (she bought hers at a boutique) and bought them for the same purpose. I really like them for keeping the backpacks off the floor. It's easy for my kids to grab them in the carpool like. I've also used the hooks to hold my bag and other shopping bags. Overall, I'm really happy with the purchase.” 2 MISTAKE: Trying to vacuum sand out of your car’s carpet. SOLUTION: Leave the sand at the beach.
The most common sense advice for how to keep your car clean with kids is to make sure their feet are spotless before hopping in. Using a handheld
Rubbermaid Commercial 8-Inch Counter Brush, just swipe sand off your little one’s legs and feet after the beach so you don’t have to try in vain to vacuum it all out later. Its bristles are specially shaped to grab fine particles without scratching. This would work for any kind of dirt, clay, or other shoe-transmissible crud too. Review: “This item is made for commercial environments. However, it's very useful for home use. The handle is solid and sturdy. The bristles feel like a soft tooth brush.” 3 MISTAKE: Stuffing trash in nooks and crannies. SOLUTION: Keep a car trash can handy.
You’ve probably been there: driving down the road and your kid hands you their empty fruit snacks wrapper or a half-eaten bag of Goldfish. Instead of cramming it in your car door and forgetting it, consider using a
Car Trash Can, like this one from HOTOR. It comes in eight colors to match your car’s interior, has a two-gallon capacity, and is 100% leakproof to ensure it keeps even the grossest messes contained. Reviews suggest it’s easy to clean and even doubles as a snack cooler for road trips. Review: “I purchased this out of frustration with my kids. As a single mom of 3, budget can get a little snug so we were using recycled shopping bags for trash in our van. Of course, I was usually the one switching out the bag, and cleaning up the overflow. Moms, you know what I'm talking about! I didn't think this would be a save all, but so far it's amazing! We tested the leak factor before installation, and it held a gallon of water overnight with no problem. I hung it on the back of the console so everyone can reach it which was a breeze with the attached straps. Mesh pockets on the front and both sides, easily store whatever you might need readily available. In our case, it fit loose sanitizer, sunscreen, chapstick/lip gloss, tissues, wipes, on the go snacks, a reusable water bottle and some spare plastics cutlery that used to be scattered through the second rows, with room for more. Ride share folks could store waters, chargers, snacks etc.” 4 MISTAKE: Letting the kids’ stuff clutter up the backseat. SOLUTION: Organize it all within their reach.
Any car ride with a kid requires supplies: wet wipes, water cup, snacks, toys, or a tablet. The SURDOCA
Backseat Car Organizer, which drapes over the back of your front seat, corrals all those items to keep the clutter contained (and in your child’s reach so you’re not turning around to hand them everything). These organizers are machine washable and sewn with durable seams so it will hold up to wear and tear. Review: “Love this organizer, it is affordable and great quality. As a mom I needed a place to hold my car tissues, hand sanitizer, and extra stuff that would be at reach for my kids. Extremely easy to put on the back of my car seat and has enough pockets to stay organized. A must have!” 5 MISTAKE: Letting wet, soiled clothes saturate your interior. SOLUTION: Keep a wet bag on hand for spills and accidents.
Kids = messes. Whether it’s a spill,
potty accident, or a car sickness episode, these ALVABABY Cloth Diaper Wet Dry Bags are designed to keep moisture inside (and away from all the cloth in your car). The bags come in a set of two and are made of 100% waterproof polyester. They measure 11.5 by 14 inches, making them small enough to keep in the glovebox but big enough to hold an entire outfit if need be. Review: “These work wonderfully. I use them to keep my baby girl’s wet swimsuit and reusable swim diaper and my swimsuit after her swim class. Sometimes the reusable swim diaper gets soiled and after rinsing it too goes into the bag. I have never had a problem with leakage from the compartment I put the wet gear into from outside of the bag or between compartments. It holds the wet in and keeps the dry from getting wet. After each use I empty the contents of wet items into the tub and turn the bag inside out to clean the inside. They are extremely easy to clean. The wet stays in the lining of the bag so well that The outside of the bag is never wet when I clean it. Definitely recommend these bags.” 6 MISTAKE: Being unprepared for messes when they happen. SOLUTION: Staying stocked with car cleaning wipes.
Protectant, Glass and Cleaning Wipes come in portable containers so you can keep them in your car for convenient cleaning. The wipes are lint-free and won’t leave a weird residue on your hands, so they’re great for on-the-go. Use the glass wipes to remove smudges and fingerprints from windows, cleaning wipes on seats and surfaces, and the protectant wipes to restore shine to rubber and plastic areas. Review: “Great purchase. I keep these close at hand to keep the windows and interior of my car in great condition. I have dogs, so things can get out of hand quickly. I am able to grab one wipe and clean the glass easily. Love this set.” 7 MISTAKE: Accepting that your seat backs will be scuffed. SOLUTION: Line your seat backs with protectors
Is your kid a seat kicker? Aside from it being annoying, it can seriously scuff up the back of your seats. Enovoe’s
Back Seat Protectors are designed to fit any make or model of car, covering the entire seat back after a few minutes of installation. They’re waterproof so wet shoes won’t hurt them, and they wipe clean so you don’t have to remove and reinstall them to clean. Review: “I first bought a pair of these in 2016. I bought another pair in April 2018 when our other child became forward facing. By December, one of the mats had come loose at the seams, but the other 3 were still like new. I took a picture and emailed the company. In less than 24 hours, I had a response from one of the founders of the company apologizing for the mishap. He made it right more than I expected with a full refund and replacement mats! All that to say, the mats work great! They have held up since 2016, and the company stands by their lifetime guarantee noted in the listing.” 8 MISTAKE: Waiting to get gas to vacuum your car at the station. SOLUTION: Sucking up spills when they happen.
The longer you let the crackers and Cheerios ride around in the floorboard, the more likely they are to get crushed and really ground into your car’s interior. So, don’t wait until you can use a vacuum at the gas station — this HOTOR
Car Vacuum Cleaner can ride along with you to clean as you need. It plugs into your car’s lighter outlet, includes four attachments for nooks and crannies, has an 11-foot cord so you can reach the whole interior, and includes a washable HEPA filter. Review: “I've bought a few car accessories from this brand and thought why not! I'm glad I got it! It's compact and has great suction and I love that I plug it right into my car to use it instead of having to recharge it like my other handheld vacuum. That vacuum is convenient for the house but not so much for my car because I'd take it in to charge it and wouldn't have it in the car when I needed it. With this little guy I've been able to clean crumbs and sand from my seats and floorboards. Definitely one of my favorite car accessories.” 9 MISTAKE: Trying to entertain your kids from the front seat. SOLUTION: Keep their toys within reach on road trips.
If your kids aren’t big enough to reach the seat in front of them, or other organizers tend to slide around in your car, this Lusso Gear
Car Seat Organizer is for you. It secures into any seat using the seatbelt so it’s held in place, within your child’s reach. It’s large enough to hold tablets and coloring books, and has pockets for smaller items and cup holders for drinks. It comes with a lifetime warranty, so you know it’s made to last (and if it doesn’t, you’re covered). Review: “Normally on longer trips with the kids, I sit in back and help with snacks, drinks, games, etc...This helps keep everything organized. I've tried cup holders, pencil boxes, the organizers you put on the seats in front of them. None of them really worked. This fixed all the issues we had with previous products and then some. With this, I filled it up in the house. Brought it out to the car, and looped the seat belt through the loop. No fuss to install what so ever.” 10 MISTAKE: Rolling with the fabric floor mats your car came with. SOLUTION: Opt for rubber mats for easy cleaning.
Next time that cup of juice hits your floor, you won’t have to cringe, because you were ready with the king of all car hacks: rubber floor mats. The Armor All
All-Season Trim-to-Fit Floor Mats grip the carpet below to stay in place, and are easy to wipe clean or remove for scrubbing in the event of a major mess. They’re made to withstand temps below zero and over 100 without warping, so no worries about the climate where you live, and you can trim the edges to fit your car like they were custom made. Review: “I like their newness and cleanliness. I already had a spill and couldn't get to it right away (something my kid left in the back seat that fell forward onto the floor). When I got to a rest stop, I used rags to sop up the moisture and took the mat into the bathroom and ran it in the sink and everything came right off. I put some soap on it and rinsed again to make sure nothing sticky would be on it and put it back in the truck. When I went back to check on it the next day, the mat was dry and not sticky, keeping it Armor All shine.”
Would one of these car hacks help you keep your automobile a bit tidier? Even if your ride isn’t perfectly clean until after your children grow up and move out, keeping it even slightly cleaner will make trips rides less stressful for everyone.