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Spring cleaning your car is a great way to get your vehicle tidied up after a long, cold—not to mention wet and messy—winter stretch. However, finding the motivation to clean can be a little easier said than done. This is where these easy spring cleaning chores for your car interior can come in handy, especially since they can be done in super-quick spurts for when you’re short on time or just patience.
In this post…
- Tips to Get You Started
- Phase 1: Declutter & Organize
- Phase 2: Vacuum & Dust
- Phase 3: Clean, De-Funkify, and Polish
Tips to Get You Started and Motivated
Assess the Situation
If your car is pretty dirty, we suggest decluttering and trying to clean it in layers—especially if there’s a lot of dirt involved, such as from off-roading, construction jobs, kids, pets, sports practice, etc. That usually means systematically cleaning up the dirtiest areas first or moving in an order that makes the most sense, rather than just diving in and cleaning randomly.
Depending on the level of mess involved, you may need to repeat some steps to get the best overall clean. For instance, you could do a light dusting and vacuuming when you first get started and then repeat the steps but with more detail when you’re close to being finished.
If your car is relatively clean, you may want to move in an order that will save you steps, such as working your way from the top down or whatever method works best for you. Otherwise, clean in an order that works for you.
Plan Your Steps
No matter how you choose to do spring cleaning chores on the interior of your car, it’s always a good idea to plan your steps. This way, you’ll be able to move and work more efficiently throughout the process, potentially saving yourself a lot of time and effort in the long run.
That’s why we took the liberty of breaking things down for you by using a 3-Phase system, which focuses on:
- Declutter and Organize
- Dust and Vacuum
- Clean, Polish, and Protect
Breaking It Down
We also broke the tasks down further and into more manageable, bite-sized pieces under each phase. For most of the tasks (or steps), we also provide instructions and tips for those who are looking for a little more instruction or advice. And we even offer some suggestions on products or tools that might help you out along the way, but they’re also 100% optional.
Try a Timed Challenge
If you find that you’re really lacking motivation, you can try doing the 5-Minute Challenge on your car as we have mentioned in our other Spring Cleaning Series posts. This simply means setting a timer to work on your car in 5, 10, 15, or even 20-minute intervals.
Timing yourself is an excellent way to hold yourself accountable and to challenge yourself. Above all, you can use it to keep yourself focused and to avoid procrastination. You can also turn it into a bit of a game by finishing x-amount of tasks on the list within a certain amount of time. Whenever I don’t feel like doing something, especially if it’s built up in my mind, I always set a timer for a few minutes, pick a task and go.
Phase 1: Declutter and Organize
Taking the time to declutter before you begin spring cleaning chores on the interior of your car is usually a good first step. Fortunately, it’s also something you can break down into baby steps if you feel the need to or lack the time. However, if you want to do it all at once, then please do so.
1. Declutter the car floor.
Decluttering your vehicle will ensure that you don’t get distracted as you clean other areas of the car. It will also help you clean the surfaces around you and it should only take a few minutes.
If you feel like you could take on more, you can also declutter the seats, as mentioned in the next step.
Make sure to have a trash bag and a recycling bag with you. This way, you’ll avoid having to make extra trips. It might also help to have a bag, box, or even a portable hamper with you if you need to grab toys, pet items, sports gear, etc. You can set any decluttered items you find aside and deal with them later.
Consider making it a habit to clean out your car every week, or at least once a month.
You can also keep a trash bin or bag in your vehicle to keep the mess contained on a day-to-day basis, rather than dumping it on the floor, the door compartments, backseat, passenger seat, glove box, or center console if you do already or are just prone to forgetting. #NoJudging
These days, you can even find plenty of trash cans specifically designed for cars that might be helpful.
2. Declutter the front seats and doors compartments.
Just as with the floor, take a few moments to clean up the door compartments and car seats, making sure to get rid of any trash or debris. This is also the time to separate items you plan to keep and need to put away from trash.
Again, try to prepare by having trash, recycling, and keep bags or boxes with you to save you time and extra steps.
- Check and declutter the seats.
- Check and clear out the door compartments.
- Check in-between the seats.
- Check beneath and on the sides of the front seats.
If you notice that the same mess keeps occurring in your car regularly, see if there’s a way you can prevent the mess from forming or how you might be able to contain it to save you trouble later on. For instance, you can easily store items like toys, work gear, or school gear in a collapsible bin as they enter the car.
Containing the clutter will help you wrangle the items better and can make them easier to transport in the future. It will also keep your car far tidier and may even help to reduce stress while on the road.
3. Declutter, clean, and organize the glove box.
From housing crucial documents down to ancient plastic forks, some questionable-looking napkins, and that well-expired packet of hot sauce you keep meaning to toss out, the glove box can be a hotspot for clutter and dirt and could use a little TLC now and then.
Just as with the following steps, make sure to keep easy-to-access bags for trash, keep items, and recycling. Try to only keep the things you genuinely need to have in there, feel you’re most likely to use, or need in the event of an emergency.
4. Declutter, clean, and organize the center console storage and rear console.
Ah, the spiffy central command console! It’s like a 2nd purse or wallet, only it comes with the occasional USB port or some other fun gadget to entice us at the dealership that we may or may not use in reality after buying the car, like exercise equipment.
And, sometimes, it’s got it even worse than the glove compartment when it comes to clutter, dirt, and scary things. That’s exactly why it’s good to give it a little decluttering, organizing, and cleaning ever so often if you’re in the habit of using it—more so if you’re in the habit of using it as the trash can.
5. Declutter the visors and overhead console.
If you’re prone to tucking away a lot of clutter or those fast-food receipts you’ll never need to see again in your car’s visors, try to clean them out and deal with the paperwork accordingly once you’re done straightening the car up.
Rather than keep your receipts in your visor, console, or glove compartment, consider having some sort of filing envelope or folder setup in your car. Sometimes even a regular mail envelope or manilla envelope can work.
This can be useful for keeping auto records safe or when you’re trying to stay on budget. They’re particularly helpful if you run a business and need receipts for a business write-off.
Best of all, your documents will be all ready for when it comes time to track and record, which is what I had my ex do with his plumbing outfit, and we loved it.
Also try to get into the habit of throwing away whatever receipts or things from your car that you don’t need, and keep a trash bag or bin your car to clean out regularly. If you struggle to stay on top of this regularly, it may help to have a set day to do this before you get out of the car. You can also set a reminder on your phone. Try to stick to it and it may eventually become a habit.
6. Declutter any backseat and back storage areas.
Straightening up the backseat should be pretty easy and straightforward to do. Just make sure to have boxes and bags ready for separating if you have a lot of stuff, such as donations, to put away elsewhere, or to throw away and/or recycle.
- Declutter and clear off the seats.
- Clean out the crevices in between the seat
- Clear any rear console of clutter.
- Declutter the door compartments.
- Check the back pockets behind the driver’s seat and front passenger’s seat.
- Check and declutter the floors and underneath the seat if you haven’t already.
7. Declutter the cargo or trunk area.
Take time to declutter and clear out the rear cargo or trunk area. Even if you plan to keep some items in there, it’s best to clear it out if you plan to vacuum and clean back there on the same day.
Again, make sure to prep if you have a lot of stuff by having bins or bags for trash, donations, and items to put away where they belong ready.
Phase 2: Vacuum and Dust
Vacuuming and dusting after you decluttering is a great next step. However, if your car is fairly dirty, you may need to vacuum and dust more than once throughout the process of cleaning your car, treating it in layers. This is due to dust and dirt often getting scattered in the air as we clean, only to land everywhere as it settles. In the end, do what works best for you and do the best you can.
1. Do initial dusting of the cabin interior (optional).
If a lot of dust and dirt has accumulated in your vehicle, it may help to do an initial dusting of your car to help loosen debris and trap as much dirt as possible before vacuuming. Again, this is optional and can be done after vacuuming as you detail dust too.
2. Vacuum the ceiling.
Take a little time to vacuum your vehicle’s ceiling. Doing this first will help you to avoid dust and dirt from falling onto other surfaces below later on.
However, try to avoid using too much suction on older cars, particularly if the fabric seems to be coming loose. You can also use a clean handheld broom or upholstery brush if your vacuum’s suction might be too much.
3. Vacuum the front of the car.
In most cases, you can make quick work of vacuuming the inside of the car, but if you need to break it down into sections, try splitting it up from front vs. back vs. trunk/cargo.
Remember, it’s often best to work from the top on down due to dust, debris, and dirt falling when disrupted. Therefore, you may find it easier to work your way from the top of the doors to the dash, seats, and console, followed by the floor last.
Make use of your vacuum’s upholstery and dusting attachments. You can also find car vacuums for an affordable price so that you can easily keep up on vacuuming the car out on a more regular basis.
If, however, you don’t have a vacuum with attachment, you can try to use something like an upholstery brush on fabric seats and carpet to loosen trapped dirt and dust before vacuuming.
4. Vacuum the back of the car.
Just as with the front seat section, try to work your way from the top of the car and down to avoid giving yourself extra work due to falling dust and dirt.
And don’t forget to get the back of the front seats, any compartments, and underneath seats as well as in front of the rear windshield.
5. Vacuum the trunk.
Repeat the same process as you did in the front and back seats. This is also a great time to organize the trunk area unless you have an SUV or Crossover with cargo space or you plan to clean the trunk in the next phase.
6. Dust the front.
Because vacuuming doesn’t always pick up fine dust particles and some things can be missed, now is an excellent time to make sure that anything else left behind by the vacuum is picked up. It’s also helpful to make sure any dust or dirt caught in tight crevices is seen to also.
For areas such as cars or detail dusting, using a dusting cloth is often more efficient than a handheld stick-style duster. Either way, try to make sure that whatever duster you use traps dust rather than scatters around, such as a Swiffer or well-made microfiber duster. I love to use Swiffer dry mop cloths as well as Ecloth’s dry dusting cloths or E-Cloth glove.
If your car isn’t very dusty, you may be able to just skip to the Cleaning Phase.
For tight crevices, you can use anything from toothpicks and Q-Tips for vents as well as a soft-bristled toothbrush or cleaning brush.
Phase 3: Dust, De-Funkify, and Polish
People tend to overthink the cleaning process, but with the dusting, decluttering, and vacuuming out of the way, the next step shouldn’t take too long at all.
- Clean surfaces and seats according to the material involved.
- Polish (optional)
- Protect (optional)
Use whatever cleaning tools or cleaners you feel comfortable with and based on the materials (i.e., leather, wood, etc.). Some people prefer to use a good quality microfiber cloth with a small amount of water or whatever home-based cleaners.
Others may prefer store-bought car cleaners for the interior since they offer special benefits like polish and protection from the sun’s rays and kind of work as an all-in-one.
1. Clean the dash.
Your car’s dash is an area that gets plenty of abuse, particularly where the sun is concerned, making it a hot spot for germs, dirt, and possible sun damage.
Thus, it’s crucial to keep up on maintaining it regularly to keep it looking and functioning like new, even beyond just working on spring cleaning chores for your car interior.
The amount of time it may take can vary, as well as how much attention you want to give the tasks. You can also break things down into smaller segments, such as doing the major dusting one day and cleaning the more detailed dusting the next. Then follow up by vacuuming the third day, and then wiping everything down with cleaner and protectant on the fourth day, etc.
Choose whichever method works best for your needs and schedule.
Things you might need or find useful:
- Microfiber cloth or lint-free cloth
- Some form of compressed air (i.e., blower, aerosol air duster, etc.)
- A vacuum w/ dust attachments and upholstery attachments
- A duster, dusting cloth, or dusting glove
- Brushes for detail cleaning, like this set here, or:
- A soft-bristled paintbrush or toothbrush (optional)
- An upholstery brush (fabric panels) (optional)
- A brush for leather upholstery (optional)
- Old or unwanted (and clean) makeup brushes
- Your favorite dashboard cleaner or some mild soap and warm water
People typically have their favorite method for doing spring cleaning chores on their car interior, which can often depend on the types of material involved. Therefore, do what works best for your situation and preference.
However, make sure to choose gentle cleaning tools and products so that you won’t accidentally damage the surfaces you’ll be cleaning. It’s also wise to use a protectant designed for the interior of cars so that your dash and other areas of the interior are protected, particularly from the sun.
- Dust and vacuum
- Test whatever products you plan to use
- Wipe things down with your preferred cleaning method, tool, or products. Pay special attention to points of contact, such as the steering wheel, stereo, glove compartment exterior, and signal and windshield wiper controls.
- Detail clean small crevices
- Clean and polish glass, chrome, and other reflective surfaces. We love to use a microfiber cloth and a polishing cloth and water only, but it’s up to you.
- Use your favorite interior protectant, such as Armor All everywhere else, and as instructed.
Note: Always test whatever products or methods you plan to use first. When in doubt, contact the product manufacturer.
2. Clean front door panels and trim.
Clean the door panels and trim with a product of your choosing.
3. Clean the overhead console.
Clean the overhead console with a product of your choosing. If you store your garage door opener or other items here, maybe give them a good cleaning as well.
4. Clean the center console.
Clean the center console with a product of your choosing. If you haven’t already, take time to declutter, clean, and organize any contents within this area as well. Anything that doesn’t belong can be taken inside the house.
5. Clean the front seats (optional).
Clean the door panels and trim with a product of your choice while working on spring cleaning chores for your car interior. Some may wipe surfaces clean with the appropriate cleaner for the material involved (i.e., leather, pleather) and use a product that often protects the material from sun damage.
For fabric seats, it’s common for individuals to spot-clean or to use a carpet cleaner. Some professional outfits may also be able to address the interior. Do whichever works best for you and the amount of cleaning that might be necessary, if any.
6. Clean the rear seats (optional).
Clean the rear seats using the same method as the front. If you have any child car seats or even pet seats, make sure to remove them before cleaning and make that they’re cleaned as well.
7. Clean any floor and door trim.
While working on your spring cleaning chores for the interior of your vehicle, don’t forget to clean the floor and door trim with a product of your choosing.
8. Clean the trunk or cargo area.
Clean the trunk or cargo space with a product of your choosing and using the same method as the front and rear seats, should any upholstery cleaning be necessary.
9. Clean points of contact.
Consider giving frequently touched points of contact a thorough cleaning with a sanitizer or product of your choosing and/or based on the material being cleaned.
- Steering wheel
- Rearview mirror
- Grab handles
- Locks and window buttons
- AC vents
10. Clean and polish interior glass and mirrors.
Clean and polish any glass or interior mirrors using products of your choosing. Some people may do this with glass cleaner or prefer a microfiber cloth and some water along with a polishing cloth.
11. Clean and polish any chrome, wood, or reflective surfaces.
Clean and polish chrome, wood, or any reflective surface using a product of your choosing.
12. Freshen things up (optional).
Even though this is an optional step while doing these spring cleaning chores for your interior, you may find it rewarding to freshen up your car by giving it a clean-smelling or aromatic scent. It’s entirely up to you!
- Car air freshener sprays, gels, or cards
- Fabric or Upholstery odor Eliminators and Air Fresheners
- Bamboo deodorizer bags and seat pouches
- Essential oil mini cupholder water diffusers or vent clips
Generally, while car freshener scent cards and air fresheners are popular choices, we commonly found that fabric-based sprays tend to work best and last longer.
This is usually with odor-eliminators that also provide some tantalizing scent, such as some products by Clorox or Febreze. Or types that come as a fragrance-free odor eliminator, like this Zero Odor product and Febreze fragrance-free option, which we found worked well on seats and floors (when leather is involved).
Regardless if you lack the motivation or time, you can easily break down some of your spring cleaning chores for the interior of your car into more manageable increments, such as with these easy spring cleaning chores for your car interior. Many of them can be done in just a few minutes or spread out throughout the week and tailored to suit your schedule.
As far as car-cleaning chores go, sometimes it helps to treat it in layers, especially if your car is filthy. You break things down into layers by following the 3-Phase method:
- Declutter and Organize
- Dust and Vacuum
- Clean, Polish, and Protect
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