How to Keep Your Car Clean When Your Kids Are Messy Animals

how to keep your car clean

Kids. Man, they mess things up, don’t they? Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids. They are my world. But before becoming a mom I vastly underestimated the amount of damage a toddler can do to a clean car with a snack cup of goldfish. Am I right? Well, keep reading friends – today I am sharing my tips for how to keep your car clean with kids.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Have a trash receptacle in your car.

Parents, let’s just accept our kids are messy. They are! They just are. Let me tell you what you could find in my van right now: empty Sonic cups, art from church, wrappers to fruit snacks, fruit snacks, the aforementioned goldfish, and probably many, many socks.

One thing I highly recommend is to have some sort of receptacle for trash already in the car. I’ve heard of people using plastic cereal bins and lining them with plastic shopping bags. I’ve heard of people using actual (empty) cereal boxes lined with plastic bags. As for me, I keep a diaper bag dispenser in my car. The bags are small and perfect for collecting the trash my kids seem to accumulate each day.

picture of a diaper bag dispenser
I like this because it is small and fits easily into a cup holder. I can use one bag and then I have more for the many more messes my kids will create in the coming days and weeks.

Every day, have your children spend time gathering any trash, cups, or clothing in your car.

Are my kids the only kids that take off their socks and shoes in the car? It never fails. I give my oldest a trash bag and instruct him to bag anything that needs to be thrown away. My other two children are responsible for taking in shoes, socks, books, backpacks – anything that has gathered in the car but really belongs inside.

Keeping clutter out of your car goes a long way towards the appearance of cleanliness and organization!

Line all cup holders will silicone cupcake liners.

I don’t know why, but dirt just seems to accumulate and gather and multiple in my cup holders. This leads to me spending way too much time scrubbing the cup holders with a toothbrush when I detail my car.

silicone cupcake liners

Who needs to spend time doing that? Not this girl. I line the cup holders with silicone muffin tins and then when I clean my car, I pull them out and run them through the dishwasher.

Keep a container a baby wipes in your car.

baby wipes

Not only can baby wipes clean up immediate messes and spills, but you can easily grab a wipe while sitting in traffic or in car line and wipe down your dash.

Remove odors with vinegar.

We’ve all been there. A rouge sippy cup, a diaper you forgot to throw away, a window you didn’t roll up before the rain can lead to some nasty, unpleasant smells. That’s easy to remedy! Just fill a small bowl with white vinegar and place it in your car overnight. The vinegar will absorb the smell.

Create a car cleaning kit and leave it in your trunk.

leather cleaner

My car cleaning kit contains the following items: a roll of paper towels, a package of baby wipes, grocery plastic bags, Windex, Armour All, and leather conditioner. If I’m out and about and want to go through the car wash, I’m ready to really deep clean my car.

Take the car seats out of your car quarterly.

Not only does crumbs, trash, and dirt collect behind and beneath the car seat, but you also need to clean your car seats periodically. I recommend you check your car seat manual for instructions on cleaning. I personally remove the seat, vacuum out any crumbs or dirt, wipe down the entire surface with a Clorox wipe, and spot treat any stains. If needed, I will remove the car seat cover and wash according to my car seat manufacturer’s instructions. I never wash the straps or submerge the straps in water because it can weaken the fibers.

Psst – have you read my post about How to Get Major Stains Out of Upholstery? I’ve used my “recipe” on car seats, car upholstery, and carpet!

Keep pertinent receipts in a small file folder in your car.

I like to keep all my car-related paperwork in my car. I have a file folder with the following tabs: registration, insurance, oil changes, tires, maintenance. I can easily look and see when I last changed my oil, or access my tire warranty if I get a nail in my tire or have a blow out.

Keep change in an old medication bottle.

I keep a couple of dollars worth of quarters in my car in an old medication bottle. This is useful when I need to fill the air in my tires or I’m headed into Aldi and forgot a quarter!

Create a car kit.

I really can’t stress the importance of this enough. I have a 31 tote bag that contains a first aid kit, jumper cables, a few bottles of water, some protein bars, a blanket, sunscreen, and a change of clothing for each of my children. I leave the bag in my trunk and replace the items in it as they expire.

Have a back up key for your car – or a trusty locksmith!

I’ve learned this the hard way multiple times. Jason has a key to my car, but he works over an hour away. The first time I locked myself out of the car, I had to sit in a church parking lot in the 100 degree weather and wait for him to come and rescue me. The second time, I found a locksmith to help me open my car and he quickly got me on my way. STL Locksmith can help you with all your needs: automotive, residential, commercial. Please check them out!

I hope you found this list of car cleaning and organization hacks helpful. What do you do to make cleaning your car (and keeping it clean) easier?

*This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.*

How to Get Major Stains Out of Upholstery

how to get major stains out of upholstery

My kids are major mess makers. It’s true; they just are. I spent approximately 1/3 of their lives thus far being mad about it and then I realized it’s kind of pointless to be upset. They are kids; kids make messes. They are not destructive by any means, but until they are older there will be accidents. There will be stains. There will be mess.

After I came to this realization, I decided that in order to deal I would need 3 things: an awesome vacuum, a carpet cleaner, and a great recipe for how to get major stains out of upholstery.

My vacuum is the Shark Navigator Deluxe Upright Vacuum. We have two, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. It does an excellent job for a fraction of the price of a Dyson.

this is a great vacuumShark Navigator Deluxe Upright Vacuum // $127.99 on Amazon

While we’re on the subject of Shark vacuums, let me mention that they have incredible customer service. One of the prongs popped off the plug of my vacuum this summer. I called customer service and they sent me a brand new vacuum!

The carpet cleaner that we own is the Hoover Carpet Cleaner Max Extract. We’ve owned this particular model for over 12 years. Our original version broke about three years ago, and I replaced it immediately because it is a life saver when you have kids and pets.

this is a great carpet cleanerHoover Carpet Cleaner Max Extract // $213.88 on Amazon

These two items are amazing, but my stain recipe? That is epic, friends. I’ve used it on almost anything – laundry stains, carpets, car upholstery, bathroom scum – it can clean anything. But I especially love it as a upholstery cleaner.

We have this really expensive upholstered chair in our living room. It’s one of the first “nice” or expensive pieces of furniture that Jason and I purchased as a couple. It’s a huge, comfortable chair with an ottoman and I love it. I love to watch TV in it. I love to read books in it. I love cozy movie night, nights in front of a fire… it’s my favorite place to sit and relax in the house.

Well, the problem is that my kids and dog love this chair, too. It was so stained and gross that I used to drape a blanket over it before people would come over. I actually had a carpet cleaning company come out and clean it, for the tidy sum of $100, and it didn’t help at all.

Until my magical stain buster. Stains be gone! Y’all, it is magic.

Enough, enough already! Right? You want me to get on with it.

how to get major stains out of upholstery

Sorry for the poor image quality – I snapped this for an Instastory and it is the only before picture that I have. This chair is in Poppy’s room and it takes a beating. There are water stains, formula stains, spit up, diaper rash cream… and probably other assorted stains I’d rather not think about. I haven’t given it a good cleaning since we got it almost 3 years ago. It was past due! So what did I do? I busted out my tried and true recipe for how to get major stains out of upholstery.

Here are the items you will need.


  • Vinegar
  • Hot water
  • BLUE Dawn Dish Soap
  • Optional, for tougher stains: Borax, OxyClean, or Baking Soda
  • Clean sponge with a scrub side

how to get major stains out of upholstery

I like to use a bowl, but you could use a spray bottle.

These measurements are approxiamate. Use more or less depending on the area you are cleaning. The chair above took me two bowls.

Combine 3-4 tablespoons BLUE Dawn Dish Soap and 1/8 cup vinegar to 3 cups HOT water. Use the hottest water you can stand. I honestly eyeball this; I’ve used more and less Dawn and vinegar with good results. Stir to combine and immediately get to work while the water is still hot.

Dip your sponge into the water until it is soaking wet. Move it to your upholstery and begin to saturate your surface. DO NOT POUR THE MIXTURE DIRECTLY ON THE SURFACE. You don’t want to get the middle layer of your cushions wet; we are just thoroughly wetting the surface. I use the soft side to rub in the water so that the fabric is wet, and then I flip over to the scrub side and begin to vigorously work at any stains.

Cover the entire surface – this is key! Often upholstery can sometimes leave water marks, so you want to wet the entire cushion/chair etc so that it will dry evenly without stains.

Let it dry overnight.

how to get major stains out of upholstery

It looks so much better!


Depending on the stain you are dealing with, you can add either Borax, OxyClean, or Baking Soda to the water mixture. Borax is a stain figher so I’ll add that if I know it is a tough stain. Baking Soda disinfects and that is helpful for smelly stains, such as urine. OxyClean can get out or lighten dark spots. DO NOT USE ALL THREE TOGETHER. (Thank you to my friend Lindsey for her suggestion on using Borox and Dawn as a paste for stains!)

If you have a truly stubborn stain, make a paste of Borax and Dawn and apply it to the stain. Let it sit for a while, wipe away, and then use the method of cleaning I described above.

The vinegar smell can be off putting to some. Jason is super sensitive to smells and he hates when I use this because of the vinegar smell. Your furniture will smell of vinegar as it is wet, but the smell disapates as it dries.

That’s it! Easy peasy. Let me know if you have any questions.

Links are affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small percentage if you make a purchase.