Every parent knows that kids are sticky, messy creatures – a state compounded by strapping them into a confined space, like your beloved car. Cue a glitter bomb laced with yoghurt, sultanas and a half-eaten fruit basket and lo and behold your car now looks like a Jackson Pollock painting. Although your car will never be the same after introducing your offspring to its interior, there are a few things you can do to keep it relatively tidy. These tips fall into three categories: cleaning, preventative and ongoing maintenance.
1. Test your cleaning product
A good place to start when giving your car a clean is the manual as it may have information about the best products for your upholstery. If you’re using any new cleaning products it’s a good idea to do a spot test to be sure there won’t be any unwanted effects. You’ll need to re-test on each fabric type to be sure.
2. Vanish any ink stains
If the kids went a bit colouring crazy and you find ink stains on your upholstery, hairspray or rubbing alcohol with water might do the trick. Spray directly onto the stain and blot with a clean damp cloth.
3. Banish the greasy spots
If the tots have got their hands on greasy foods and the evidence is clear, watered down paint thinner and a cotton cloth could be the solution you’re looking for. A 50/50 mix of thinner and water rubbed over the stain with a cotton cloth should be effective, then sprinkle the area with cornmeal and vacuum the following day. Always do a test spot in an inconspicuous area to be sure you don’t damage your upholstery.
4. Removing coffee stains
The kids might not drink coffee, but they sure can help spill a cup! Dilute the coffee with cold water and carefully blot the stain with a paper towel. If the stain is acting out, glass cleaner and some more careful blotting should help.
5. Cleaning up after car sickness
Car sickness is a fact of life for many parents, and sometimes there’s just not enough time to pull over safely. Baking soda is great for removing the odor, and mixing with cold water should have the stain out in no time.
Prevention is key
Stop the mess before it starts. Easier said than done, as many a parent and grandparent will testify, however, here are five easy tips which will help keep the mess out of your car:
1. Cover seats
You can invest in expensive seat covers, tailor-made for your particular vehicle or, for a more budget-friendly option, put a towel or foam mat on the seat. Just make sure they don’t interfere with the safe installation of your baby/child seats.
2. Rubber floor mats
The carpet in your car is your worst enemy. Buy rubber floor mats to suit your vehicle. They are easily removed and can be sprayed off with a hose or scrubbed with dish detergent for any stubborn messes.
3. Get organised
Don’t let the footwells of your car get cluttered with junk. An over-seat organiser to store your kid’s various belongings (shoes, tablets, water bottles etc.) will do the trick.
4. Choose snacks wisely
Kids get hungry all the time and sometimes, eating in the car is unavoidable, especially on road trips. So, if you must let your little ones eat in the car, choose your snacks wisely to minimise the mess. Avoid anything sticky, moist or squishy. Stick to anything that can be vacuumed up easily like sultanas, rice crackers and muesli bars.
Before you complain that you don’t have the time, we promise, these are easy, quick things you can do to DIY detail your car’s interior every week.
1. Never leave the car empty handed
We know, you need to get your kid, the groceries, possibly a handbag or a laptop bag out of the car, but Lifehacker recommend you to take one extra thing with you when you leave. It may be a coffee cup, or your son’s shoes, or your daughter’s Lightening McQueen – try to take it out of the car when you get out. Enlist you children to help with this – you may not have free hands but they probably will.
2. Keep a trashcan in the car
Another top tip according to Daily Mom is to store a small plastic trashcan (with a little bag in it) in your car to keep it tidy. Tissues, uneaten crackers or a takeaway coffee cup can all find their way into your tidy little trashcan, instead of somewhere on the floor. Empty it frequently- preferably every day, but once a week at the least.
3. Clean weekly
Clean out your car every week. Friday is a great day to do this so your car is clean and ready for the weekend. Remove all the trash and toys, wipe down sticky surfaces and give it a quick vacuum.
4. Wet wipes – your car’s best friend
Wet wipes are every parent’s best friend. They’re like the Swiss Army knife of parenting. Always keep a pack somewhere in your car. They’re great for cleaning up sticky messes, dirty children and wiping down the dusty surfaces of your vehicle.
5. Invest in a cordless vacuum cleaner
This is a more expensive tip, but well worth the investment. Get a cordless hand vacuum (or a stick vacuum that converts to a hand vacuum); your car will thank you for it. Do a quick vacuum of your car whenever you are able, aiming for at least once a week says Quick and Dirty Tips.
Extra Tip: Plan for the unexpected (and keep it organised)
You never know what life will throw at you; car breakdowns happen. Keep your car well stocked with a basic first aid kit, emergency snacks, a change of clothes, nappies, wet wipes and rubbish bags. A flashlight, blanket and bottled water wouldn’t go astray either, so make sure you keep these emergency essentials in a well-organised box in the boot of your car.
If you do break down with kids in the car, you’ll thank your lucky stars you’ve got car insurance with breakdown cover. There are few things worse than being stuck on the side of the road with tired, hungry kids in the car.