How To Have A Clean Car With Kids

Maintaining a clean car as a busy mom can be a challenge, but it is possible with a few simple strategies. Here are ten tips to help you keep your car clean, clutter-free, and enjoyable for the whole family.

clean car is just as satisfying as a clean home. 

We all know what it's like to open up your car door and be greeted by a funky smell. Who knows what it actually is or where it's coming from right? Let's change that!

Your car is likely one of your most valuable assets as a mom!

Without it you are stuck at home going to stir crazy. Let's start treating it with the love and care it deserves!

1. Establish a No Eating Rule

The biggest game-changer for keeping your car clean is establishing a no eating rule. It might seem like a tough sell, but eliminating snacks in the car prevents crumbs, spills, and sticky messes. Not only will this keep your car cleaner, but it will also reduce unpleasant odors.

I used to justify it by telling myself that they were kids. If they were hungry they needed to eat immediately. Plus, snacks can keep a car full of kids quiet. But it just wasn't working.

The places we drive are all within 20 minutes. That is not long enough for my kids to starve. It was tough changing that rule, because they were used to being able to eat as they pleased.  They are still here, and still alive, and have never even felt hunger pains that I know of!

Implementing this has been one of THE best decisions for my sanity on car rides. Which is ironic because I allowed food for my sanity in the beginning and it only made things worse.

2. Limit Toys and Electronics

Avoid allowing your kids to bring toys, games, or electronics into the car. These items tend to get left behind, creating clutter and potential arguments. 

This rule is a little harder for people to understand. I think it's because these don't really make the car stinky or dirty. It does make it messy and cluttered though. Almost everything they bring into the car, they leave there. Or it becomes a hassle reminding them to bring it in. Then they can't remember where they put it, or if they brought it or left it, and it's just annoying and complicated and I end up being that nagging mother that I just do not want to be.

I used to allow them to bring whatever they wanted for the sake of entertainment and my sanity, but again, it really only made things harder. They would fight over things, or complain they had nothing to do.. and again, our car rides are 20 minutes max, and on average only about 10 so they can really handle that short time without games or toys or electronics.

What we do in the car instead

Since we stopped the snacking and games in the car, it has become easy. I know it seems like an oxymoron, but I am serious! My kids observe on our drives. Or we play word games. Or play the question game. We talk about our days. We tell jokes. Listen to our facorite music. It's easy, and it's fun and I actually love the respite it gives us as a family. I also love the ease it gives us!

Some of my best and favorite memories as a kid were in our car driving places and playing silly games with my dad like that alphabet game, or I Spy, or games that we made up.

3. Create an Emergency Box

Keep a small emergency box in the car with essentials like water, a first aid kit, and items to change a tire. Make sure your kids don't know about the snacks in this box to prevent unnecessary “emergencies.”

My kids don't know about the emergency box of food, water, first aid kit, and other items to change a tire. If they knew about it, I can guarantee they would try and convince me their need for a snack was an emergency. Because “I am literally going to starve if you make me wait!” #SoDramatic right? It is important to be prepared, but it is also important to set up boundaries to keep your space running smoothly and easily like you want.

You might also like my mini course, Emergency Preparedness As A Minimalist

4. Establish a Routine for Bringing Items In

Set a rule that everyone must bring their belongings inside after each trip. This simple habit prevents accumulation of clutter and ensures your car stays tidy.

5. Use a Car Organizer

Invest in a car organizer to keep essential items in place. A good organizer can hold everything from registration papers to a pair of sunglasses, making it easier to find what you need without digging through clutter.

6. Regularly Clean Out Your Car

Schedule regular clean-outs of your car. A quick vacuum and wipe-down every couple of weeks can make a big difference in maintaining cleanliness. Consider visiting a car wash for a thorough clean when needed.

7. Engage in Car Activities Without Mess

Instead of allowing toys and snacks, engage your kids with mess-free activities during car rides. Play word games, tell jokes, sing along to music, or have conversations. These activities can make car rides enjoyable and clutter-free.

8. Set Boundaries for What Can Be Brought into the Car

Be clear about what items are allowed in the car and stick to these boundaries. Explain the importance of keeping the car clean and how it benefits everyone.

9. Keep Cleaning Supplies Handy

Store a small kit of cleaning supplies in your car. Items like wet wipes, a small trash bag, and a hand vacuum can help you quickly address spills and messes as they happen.

10. Lead by Example

Show your kids the importance of keeping the car clean by leading by example. When they see you consistently following the rules and maintaining a tidy space, they’ll be more likely to do the same.


By implementing these ten tips, you can transform your car from a chaotic mess to a clean, organized space. Not only will you enjoy driving more, but you’ll also create a more pleasant and stress-free environment for your family. Remember, maintaining a clean car is not just about aesthetics; it’s about creating a space where you can relax and connect with your kids during your journeys together. Happy driving, mama!


Even if you have little time, energy or day to day support