De-Summer and Clean Out Your Car

School is now in full swing, and the long, lazy days of summer have given way to the regularity of school, work, after-school activities, and early bedtimes. You’ve transitioned your home and schedule to autumn’s rhythms. But have you done the same with your car? If it’s still full of July and August’s evidence, then it’s time to de-summer and clean out your car with these five steps.

Step 1: Empty the Car Interior and Trunk

I like to move my car to the driveway so I can work with all the doors wide open. If you’ve got items such as carseats, cargo organizers, sports equipment, beach toys, dog mats, etc., take them out of the car. Create two groups: items that need to go back in, such as carseats, and items that can be stored elsewhere (e.g., beach toys).

Step 2: Take Out the Trash

Take a small garbage bag and pick up all the trash. Inside the car check every door jamb, under the seats (best to move them forward/back to get everything), seat pockets, storage compartments, and the glove box. Chances are you will find all kinds of stuff! Food wrappers, empty ziplock bags, small toys, tickets stubs. You may also find things that were “lost”, such as your teen’s ASB card from last year.

Step 3: Clean It Like You Mean It

Take the mats out of the car. Use a car vac or a regular vacuum with a hose and crevice attachment, and thoroughly vacuum all the seats, floors, and trunk. If the storage compartments and cup holders need it, vacuum them, too. Next, use a damp towel to wipe up any seat stains; use stain remover on upholstered seats if need be. For leather seats I like the Armor All Leather Wipes. Wipe all interior surfaces—dashboard, console, steering wheel, doors—with a damp microfiber cloth. Use another microfiber cloth dampened with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water to wipe all the interior windows and any glass surfaces on your dashboard.

Now for the car mats. Give them a good shake first to get rid of most of the sand, dust, and dirt. Carpet mats can be vacuumed; if they are really dirty use soapy water and a scrub brush to thoroughly clean them. Rubber mats can be hosed down and also cleaned with soap and water. Let the mats dry completely before returning them to the car.

Step 4: Put Your Car Back Together

Before returning items like carseats and cargo organizers to your car, give them a good wipe down with a damp cloth. You don’t want them messing up your freshly-cleaned car interior. If you want to go the extra mile, use a leather conditioner or add a car fragrance.

Step 5: Get Thee to A Carwash

You worked hard and your car interior looks fabulous! Take your sweet ride to your favorite carwash and relax for two minutes while the exterior is washed. It’s a bonus that a carwash is more eco-friendly than hand-washing it at home.


Take pride in your clean, sparkling car—all ready for autumn’s adventures. With as much time as we all spend driving, having a clean, decluttered car makes for a more pleasant and calming space as you head to your next destination. Now crank your tunes—whether it’s Adele, Led Zeppelin, or Raffi—and enjoy the ride.


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