7 Surprisingly Filthy Areas in Your Car You’re Probably Forgetting to Clean

published Jun 11, 2023
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Passenger woman fastening seat belt in the car, safety concept
Credit: Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

Summer’s finally here, which means you’re probably filling your calendar with all kinds of exciting plans. Whether you’re plotting a long drive to the beach, or you’re staying in town and running your kids around to their summer activities, you may find yourself eating and drinking more on the go during the busy summer months — and, as a result, might be struggling to keep your car clean. 

Staying on top of a car-cleaning routine can be time-consuming (and might not even be on your mind), but it can also make your near and far travels that much more comfortable, while keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape for years to come. Not sure exactly where to start? Below, you’ll find all the dirtiest parts of your car you may be forgetting to clean — and the best way to rejuvenate them — according to experts.

1. Seat Cracks and Crevices

Even if your seats don’t look dirty at first glance, all those cracks and crevices could be harboring crumbs, dirt, and other pesky debris. To clean these areas, use a small vacuum cleaner or compressed air can to remove any dirt and debris that has accumulated between the seat cracks,” suggests Lily Cameron, cleaning supervisor at Fantastic Services. “Consider also using a soft brush or toothbrush to loosen any stubborn dirt, and vacuum it up afterwards.”

2. Cup Holders

When was the last time you cleaned out those sticky, crumb-laden cup holders? The good news is, cleaning them is relatively easy. Just squeeze a wet, soapy rag into the cup holder and allow the water to sit for two or three minutes. Then put a dry rag into the cupholder to soak up the water (and scrub if needed). An old toothbrush can help with detail work if needed. To prevent hard-to-clean messes, Cameron recommends lining them with silicone cupcake liners or coasters. 

3. Air Vents

You’re probably running your car’s A/C this summer, so it’s a good idea to remove any built-up dust from the vents. “Use a soft-bristled brush or a foam paintbrush to carefully remove debris from them,” suggests Cameron. “You can also use a compressed air can to blow out any trapped dirt.”

4. Door Pockets

The storage pockets in your car doors can quickly accumulate clutter, and not to mention rogue crumbs (especially if you have kids who eat in the backseat). To clean yours, empty out any clutter and toss any trash, then wipe them clean with a damp microfiber cloth. “Pay extra attention to any sticky residue and use a mild cleaner if necessary,” says Cameron. 

5. Floor Mats

Like the mats in your home, floor mats collect dirt you track in from the outside, and neglecting them doesn’t exactly make for a hygienic vehicle. To clean yours, Cameron suggests removing them from the car and shaking them out to remove any loose dirt and debris. Next, use your vacuum’s hose attachment to get rid of any remaining dirt, and spot-clean any stains with a mild cleaner. Vacuum the floor of your vehicle before returning the mats to their places.  

6. Seat Belts

Over time, your car’s seat belts can accumulate germs, dirt, and sticky splatters. Cameron recommends using a damp cloth or wipes to clean the belts, paying special attention to the areas where the seatbelts retract (and the actual buckle). 

7. Dashboard and Console

Use a microfiber cloth or a duster to wipe down the dashboard and console, removing any dust and fingerprints. For more stubborn dirt or stains, use a mild cleaner specifically formulated for automotive surfaces.

How to Keep Your Car Cleaner, Longer

Once you thoroughly clean your car, it’s worth going the extra mile to keep it clean. Robert Walden, owner of VehicleFreak.com, recommends investing in durable, easy-to-clean seat covers. “They can save your upholstery from a world of stains and, best of all, they can be easily removed and washed,” he says.

Additionally, a good-quality car organizer can be your best friend — especially for long trips. “Not only does it help to keep things tidy, but it also gives a designated place for everything, thus reducing the chances of items ending up scattered about,” says Walden. It may also help, he says, to keep a few key cleaning products in your trunk or glove compartment, such as a portable car vacuum and wipes to clean leather upholstery and the dashboard.