You would think that my family’s schedule would have calmed down since school is out for the summer, but with band camp, swimming lessons and road trips planned over the next few months, our schedule is busy once again. I am finding myself spending just as much time in the car, if not more, which means that soon the car will inevitably be littered with empty water bottles, food wrappers, sheet music and who knows what else. It seems near impossible to keep the car clean AND organized with kids. Is it even possible?
Even if you take kids out of the picture, cars are filthy places. Think about it, we spend a TON of time eating, sneezing and coughing (or worse) in our vehicles. In fact, research has found that the interior of a car contains nine times more bacteria than a public toilet seat. If that doesn’t give you the motivation to change your habits, I don’t know what will.
So, how do we keep our cars healthy, clean and organized on a daily basis? I have shared some ideas that my family uses below that are easy enough for any family to follow, especially if you keep the research above in mind.
Have a trash bag in the car. When I was a kid, my mother always had a small trash bag in her car at all times for discarding food, paper or any other trash that accumulated. I have carried on this tradition as an adult, too, primarily using plastic grocery store bags. I simply hang the bags from the glove compartment knob or place on the back seat floor. When the bag gets full, I simply toss the contents into the garbage bin and reuse, or if the bag is soiled I will replace with a new one.
Keep hands clean. The best and easiest way to keep bacteria out of the car is to keep everyone’s hands clean. I store antibacterial towelettes in the glove compartment so that I have easy access to them after sport’s practice, play dates or eating a meal. I also use the towelettes to wipe down the steering wheel from time to time. (Who knows what is living on that thing!)
Limit food and drinks in the car. Though it cannot always be avoided, we try to limit the amount of time we spend eating and drinking in the car. Instead, we try to eat meals before leaving the house or stop to eat at a park on the way to our destination. If I do allow food inside, I try to offer crumb-free options like dried fruit, celery sticks, baby carrots or string cheese. As for drinks, they must have a lid to enter.
Be ready for spills. Even with all of my food and drink precautions, spills still occur. Instead of waiting to get home to clean it up, I try to handle the issue immediately by pulling over to a safe spot, grabbing my stored (under the car seats) absorbent rag and sopping up the liquid. Once I return home, I then use my carpet cleaner to thoroughly clean the area. If an odor still lingers, I will apply a fabric deodorizer to try to neutralize the smell.
Store a first aid kit. One Christmas many years ago I received two first aid kits from two different family members. Though it was quite an unusual gift to receive on Christmas day, it proved to be much needed at home and in the car, especially after having children. Storing a first aid kit in the car is also another way to keep bacteria and filth at bay, as you can treat wounds immediately and (hopefully) before a mess is made.
Keep the kids busy. Just like at home, if the kids are busy in the car, they are less likely to make a big mess. I keep my kids busy by providing books and magazines in the back seat pockets, as well as a portable DVD player for watching movies. Other ideas include activity and sticker books, crayons and paper or travel games.
Clean your car on a regular basis. Lastly, giving your car a good cleaning every couple of weeks will also ensure that the environment is safe and healthy for your family. I like to get the kids involved in the car cleaning by turning up the radio and giving each child a job duty. They especially love washing the car exterior with the water hose! Now if I can just remember to roll the windows up before they grab the hose…
What ideas do you have to keep your car safe, clean and healthy?