How to Clean Your Vehicle in 15 Minutes

When you open the door to your car, do you feel overwhelmed with the accumulation of random odds and ends strewn from front to back? It doesn’t take long for a vehicle to become a literal dumping ground for papers, crumbs, sippee cups, lost library books and goodness knows what else. The good news is that with just 15 minutes, you can quickly clear out and clean your vehicle and breathe a sigh of relief. The key is to find an uninterrupted 15 minutes for this task so that you can work quickly and efficiently.


QUICK TIP: Take your vehicle through a car wash first and start wiping the dashboard while you’re in the car wash.

Ready to start?

Before you begin, gather your necessary supplies so that they are close at hand. You’ll need a garbage bag, laundry basket and a small storage bin. The bin will remain in your vehicle when you are done cleaning to house items that stay in your vehicle. I like to use baby wipes or a damp microfiber cloth for wiping down interior surfaces. I started keeping my new dusting mitt in my car for quick touch ups while I’m waiting for kids or if I notice the dash is looking dusty.  Choose what you prefer for this task.

Ready for a cleaner car?


Toss and sort

Beginning in the front, throw any trash directly in to the garbage bag. Anything that needs to go inside your home goes directly in to the laundry basket and anything that stays in the car goes in to the bin.

Shake it off

Remove all the floor mats and shake them off outside. Use a handheld vacuum cleaner, Shop-Vac or your vacuum of choice to quickly vacuum the floor and seats. The upholstery attachment is my attachment of choice for this area. Hit any crumb collecting points like the cracks between the seats and built-in cup holders especially well. Don’t forget under the seats. The crevice attachment for your vacuum works especially well on the narrow gaps and areas.

If you are pet owner, you’ll probably notice that a vacuum alone doesn’t get rid of all the pet hair. A lint roller works especially well to remove the hair left behind.


Wipe down surfaces

Using a damp microfiber cloth or baby wipe, clean all the surfaces in  your car including the steering wheel, dashboard, control panels, window and lock panels and cup holders. If you are using a microfiber cloth, be sure rotate the clean surface on your cloth frequently to avoid just smearing the dirt around. I like to have a stack of damp microfiber cloths ready to save time rising and wringing out just one cloth.

Find a Home

The next step is to find a home for all the items that stay in your vehicle. You may want to look in to purchasing some organizers for your trunk or back seat if you find that you store a lot of things in your vehicle. I find that having a small stash of extra plastic bags comes in handy for muddy shoes, garbage bags and little emergencies.

Institute the “what goes in, must come out” rule

The motto in our family is that what goes in the vehicle must come out. This goes for us adults as well as the kids. A quick reminder before the kids get out of the car usually suffices. Younger kids may do well with using whatever they may have brought in car or eaten on the way as their “ticket” to get out the vehicle.

You’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish in such a short amount of time when you put your mind to it. Set your timer and try it for yourself!  Get the family involved – give your kids a cleaning cloth or baby wipe and I bet you’ll have a helper or two (or at least a little driver)!

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  1. Christina Laska says:

    What do you use to eliminate bad odors in the vehicle? Tried many things but as soon as the heat or a/c kick in the smell is back!

    • Does your car have a filter? Maybe try replacing it? I would also look at a car diffuser with essential oil 🙂

  2. Yes! This is such great advice because we seldom remember the car needs cleaning just like the rooms in out home! I am not sure I can use baby wipes on our leather seats if it might dry it out over time but I’m going to keep a microfiber towel or mitt handy inside at all times now!! Thank you!
    An organized home is a happy home

  3. Hi clean mama! Thanks for this great post. Any ideas for my tissue box that always gets squish by the kids stepping or sitting on it? Thanks!!!

  4. shannon says:

    Thanks for the tip! I’ve been overwhelmed looking at the backseat of my car lately, but as usual, you make it seem doable!

  5. Joanna Crookston says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I really like the “ticket”, laundry basket and microfiber & wipes ideas! Will be implementing all of them and set a timer too.

  6. I don’t always get to do this all at once. I usually do what I can when I can. Even if it is just to get all the trash out while I am pumping gas, that is a step in the right direction! Also, sometimes I will clean and organize my car when I am waiting for my kids to get out of school in the car line or when my youngest falls asleep in the car. I keep a microfiber cloth in the car for times like these.

  7. I have ink from a broken pen on my leather seat…any idea on what I can use to get it out? Thanks!

  8. Do you have a suggestion for a vacuum? I feel the floor is filthy but a vacuum with no agitator doesn’t seem to do the trick yet an agitator is too big for some of the smaller nooks and crannies. Suggestions? Thanks!
    One tip I can share- I have a small dust brush (tossed the pan) that I keep in the door pocket. When I stop for gas, I take a few minutes to sweep out as much as I can. I also go through and grab and trash that may have been left behind.

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