How often do you clean the inside of your car? Even if you keep the exterior spotless and shiny, you may not often tackle the dirt and grime that accumulates on the inside.
Research by Ageas found that while almost half (47%) of car owners clean the exterior of their car at least twice a month, that percentage drops to 39% when it comes to cleaning interiors. For 4% of people, tackling the interior is an annual chore.
Meanwhile, all sorts of germs may be festering inside your car.
The investigation conducted by Ageas in collaboration with a scientific laboratory found that four out of five cars that were swabbed for germs, contained volumes of bacteria above the level at which experts recommend a thorough clean.
You can use our interactive tool to get an estimate of the amount and types of bacteria lurking in your car.
Finding out just how dirty the inside of your car really is may prompt you to give it a thorough clean. If so, here’s some help on how to go about getting rid of those hidden germs.
First get rid of the rubbish
Take a bin bag and put any rubbish or junk into it. Don’t forget to empty the boot, which tends to be the dirtiest part of the car.
Dashboard and steering wheel
Use a soft brush to remove dust from the door trims and dashboard, wiping with a damp cloth as you go.
Don’t forget the steering wheel. Ageas’s research found that steering wheels are often home to hundreds of units of bacteria.
Cleaning the inside of your car windows is important to ensure your visibility is as good as possible when driving - especially if you regularly ferry around kids, who might leave greasy fingerprints on the glass.
Use a glass cleaner and a soft cloth. Car cleaning products maker Holt Lloyd recommends using a figure-of-eight motion to remove streaks, dirt and dust from the windows. Make sure you don’t leave behind any streaks.
Clean the seats before you move onto the footwells and mats, as dust and dirt is likely to fall onto the floor as you clean.
Start with vacuuming, using a handheld vacuum if you have one. Pay particular attention to the crease where the seat back meets the bottom, as dust and dirt tends to accumulate there.
Then give the seats a scrub with an upholstery cleaner; if they’re made from leather, use a leather cleaner. Either way, you need to make sure you buy the right cleaner for the job and check the instructions.
If your seats are covered in dog hair, and your vacuum can’t get them all off, try wrapping some sellotape around your hand, sticky side out, to pick them off.
Child car seats
Child car seats can get particularly grubby, especially as they tend to have plenty of small nooks where dirt can build up. In fact, Ageas’s investigation found that child car seats are sometimes home to a type of bacteria called bacillus cereus, that can cause food poisoning.
Before cleaning your child’s seat, it’s best to check the manufacturer’s instructions. You should be able to remove the cover, harness and buckle and clean them separately. But check the care labels to see whether covers need to be washed by hand or can go in your washing machine.
Allow plenty of time to put everything back properly. Child car seats can be awkward and difficult to attach – in fact, nearly two thirds (59%) of children are sitting in car seats that have been incorrectly fitted or are inappropriate for them, according to 2018 research from car seat experts Child Seat Safety.
Take your car mats out of the car, give them a shake – and a few good wallops – and then vacuum them.
After that, give them a good wash. Gtech recommends soaking them, cleaning them with baking soda or detergent and then scrubbing them with a stiff bristled brush or broom. Don’t return them to the car until they’re dry or they’ll probably get smelly.
With the mats out of the way, don’t forget to vacuum the footwells; adjust your car seats as you go to give yourself more space.
That nasty bacillus cereus - the bacteria that can cause food poisoning - may also dwell in your cup holders and they can be a real pain to clean.
One popular trick is to use a travel cup, with an old sock over the bottom. Spray it with window cleaner, put it inside the cup holder and twist it around so it shifts all the grime.
Other nooks and crannies
Your vacuum cleaner’s crevice tool - the long hard plastic fitting, with a rectangular hole at the end - is useful for getting into tight nooks and crannies.
For spaces where that doesn’t work, try wet cotton buds, an old toothbrush or a makeup brush.
If all of that sounds like too much hard work, the alternative is to go and get your car interior cleaned by a professional.