Tips for a Clean Car Interior in No Time

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I spend lots of time in my car so having a clean car interior is important to me. Driving to and from work. Driving to and from errands. Driving to and from kids’ practices, games and activities. I strive to always have a clean car since I spend so much time each day closed up in that small space.

With the arrival of spring and spring cleaning, I focus even more on making sure I have a clean car interior. And because I’m the busy mom of three, it’s key that I can clean my car’s interior in no time at all.

top image - cloth bag filled with cleaning supplies and auto air filter box, bottom image - hand with orange cloth cleaning car dashboard with title text reading Tips for a Clean Car Interior in No Time

Since necessity is the the mother of all great ideas (or mother’s are the source of all great ideas), I’ve figured out how to take advantage of being a busy parent to keep the inside of my car clean.

hockey helmet, hockey gloves and bag of cleaning supplies on passenger seat of car

Busy people need simple solutions. Busy parents need really simple solutions that don’t take much time. I can’t even begin to calculate how many hours I’ve spent sitting at my three children’s sports practices, scout meetings, and other activities. I’d guess that I’ve averaged between two and six plus hours a week.

Because it drives me bonkers when the inside of my car is dirty, I figured out an easy way to find the time to keep the interior of my car clean by cleaning it while I sit waiting for my children. It really takes no time at all to keep my car clean and fresh smelling by using this otherwise wasted time each week.

Tips for a Clean Car Interior in No Time

Make a Clean Car Interior Kit – I have put together a bag with all the items I need to keep the inside of my car clean. I keep this bag in my car so that I have it anytime I find myself sitting in the car waiting.

  • Paper Towels
  • Microfiber Cloths
  • Spray Bottle of Water
  • Glass Cleaning Wipes
  • Car Cleaning Wipes
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Trash Bags – using recycled plastic shopping bags is perfect
cloth bag filled with cleaning supplies next to roll of paper towels on table

I haven’t found a small enough vacuum that really works to keep in my car, yet.  But I have found that if I keep the rest of the car clean, I can vacuum the car well once a quarter and then in just a few minutes as needed. 

collage of 3 images of cleaning top of car dashboard

Clean the Visible Areas First – I start by cleaning the easily visible areas first. Seeing immediate results is motivating and will encourage you to keep cleaning.  A microfiber cloth with clean the dust from the dash board, doors and horizontal surfaces in seconds. Simply spray water on the microfiber cloth or a paper towel for tougher dirt or gunk.

Clean Up Trash – Pick up loose pieces of trash in the car. You can use a plastic bag as a glove to pick up questionable pieces of trash and then turn the bag to hold the trash. Start with the floor then check:

  • Cup Holders
  • Seat Pockets
  • Door Pockets
  • Console
  • Glove Box
  • Under the Seats
  • Between the Seats
  • In the Trunk

Gather Up Stray Items – In addition to trash, gather items that don’t belong in the car. You know, all those items that seemingly sneak out in the dark of the night and hide in your car. Place them in a second bag to take inside when you get home. You can also gather items in a separate bag for each family member and then have each family member replace the items where they belong. 

close up of crumbs in car door handle with crumbs circles to highlight

Clean the Nooks and Crannies – You’ve already cleaned the visible, easily accessible areas. Now it’s time to clean all those nooks and crannies in your car.  Look with a critical eye, looking for areas where dust and dirt hide. The microfiber cloth, paper towel and spray bottle of water work for this task, as well.

collage of 3 images cleaning car dashboard

Be sure to clean:

  • Knobs and Dials
  • Air Vents
  • Seat Pockets
  • Door Pockets
  • Door Handle Wells
  • Cup Holders 
hand cleaning car console with cotton swab

Use Cotton Swabs to Clean Really Well – Before you think I have a cleaning problem, remember, you spend a lot of time in the small space of your car each day. All those hours in the car are much more enjoyable when it’s clean and fresh. Plus, when you spend hours sitting and waitng each week in the car, you’ve got time to clean it well and cotton swabs are the best tool to do that. Moistening the cotton swabs with water helps clean up those stubborn, gunky areas.

left image - dirty car console, right image - clean car console

Clean Interior Windows and Mirrors – Use glass cleaner wipes to thoroughly clean the inside of all windows and mirrors. It’s best to tackle this task on an overcast day or when you’re parked in shade. 

Keep the Interior Fresh Smelling – Having a fresh smelling car makes me as happy as having a clean car. Your car will smell much fresher after your thorough cleaning, but changing the cabin air filter in your car takes very little time to make your car smell even fresher and actually cleans the air in your car.

  • Did you know that the air inside your car can be up to six times dirtier than the air outside? Yikes! Cabin air filters clean the air that you breathe inside your car.
  • Did you know that your car has a cabin air filter than needs to be changed annually or every 12,000 miles? Follow recommended change intervals as noted in your vehicle owner’s manual. The cabin air filter change is in addition to your car engine filter. 
  • Your cabin air filter may not be changed as part of your routine car maintenance. But don’t worry, it’s easy to do yourself. Really.

FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filters are the only filters that use the same ARM& HAMMER® baking soda that I use to clean, freshen and naturally deodorize in my home. Natural deodorizing will help keep my car interior clean and fresh by filtering the air coming into the car cabin.

green box of car air filter held up in store aisle

FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filters can be found at Walmart in the Oil & Air Filters aisle in the automotive section. You can use to find out if your car has a cabin air filter and which cabin air filter your car needs by supplying you with the part number.

Changing your cabin air filter is something you can do yourself. has installation guides that include both written and video instructions. It also has a texting feature that allows you to have the installation and part number that you looked up for your specific car sent directly to your phone. How convenient is that?

collage of changing car interior air filter

To change the cabin air filter on my car, I simply unlock the two clips, open up the compartment, remove the dirty air filter, replace it with a new cabin air filter, close and relock the clips. It takes less than three minutes to accomplish. I can even change my cabin air filter while waiting for my children at a sports practice or activity.

How many hours do you spend sitting in your car waiting each week? Why not take advantage of that otherwise wasted time to clean your car interior? You deserve to spend those hours waiting each week in a clean, fresh smelling car.

Clean and Neat Car Interior Ideas

Find all my best cleaning tips and hacks  in the table below. You can scroll through the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.

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  1. I never thought about using a cotton swab to help clean the small spaces in the car, that’s a great idea. We do need to replace our cabin filter sometime. It’s nice to know there’s one with baking soda. My kids’ allergies don’t allow us to use any nice smelling things in the car so that filter would be a nice way to keep our car smelling fresh.

  2. With two young children, my car gets trashed pretty much daily. It feels so much nicer to cruise around in a clean car, so I may have to follow some of these tips. Thanks for sharing! #client

  3. Susan, I hate to admit it, but I don’t care if my car is messy or not! I do live with someone who loves a super clean car. I will pass these great tips on!

  4. These are great tips! I am going to remember those cabin filters, when I change mine out soon!

    1. Hope they help, Kristi. And changing out the cabin filter really does make a big difference.

  5. Great tips to keep a clean car! I do like having a clean, fresh smelling car and I admit i’m a regular at the car wash. It’s about time I took matters into my own hands.

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