Having a tidy vehicle interior is important, and not just for the sake of neatness and organization. There are other benefits, too.
"Keeping your vehicle's interior clean can help with resale values when it comes time to sell or trade in the car," says Mike Stoops, senior global product and training specialist at Meguiar's Car Care. Stoops explains that a neglected interior can signal others to think you're also neglecting the car's overall maintenance.
Stoops says dirt can be abrasive over time and wear down the finish on interior surfaces such as leather, vinyl and plastic, including the steering wheel and arm rests, which can make things look old.
A messy car can also be a road hazard, especially if junk on the floor slides under the brake pedal.
"It's far easier to take a couple of minutes once a week, preferably while performing your weekly wash on the exterior of the car, to pick up the stuff that you've accumulated during the week and just toss it out," says Stoops. He also suggests wiping the vehicle's interior with a detailer spray, which can remove dirt and dust, as well as skin oils from touch points.
Stock your car with 100 percent cotton or microfiber towels.
"They're great for spills and general cleaning, and you can also use them immediately after an exterior wash," says Mike Lewis of PFYC, a parts and accessories provider for Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Pontiac vehicles. "Sometimes water can enter your interior through door jambs, windows and the trunk."
In addition to microfiber towels, get a soft-bristle brush to clean seams in seats, air-conditioner vents and the center console. A stiffer brush can help loosen dirt from the carpet.
So many issues, such as stains and rips, threaten to damage your car's interior. Be vigilant to maintain your vehicle's inner beauty.
"The fastest way to address stains is to simply act on them as soon as possible," says Stoops, who cautions that the longer stains sit, set and dry, the harder they'll be to remove.
Be careful of smells, too. Some spills stink, so clean them fast and consider using an air freshener to make the cabin smell better.
The easiest solution? Don't eat or drink in the car.
Avoid rips and tears by being cautious of your habits in the car. Stoop advises checking your pockets for sharp items -- e.g., tools such as screwdrivers or pliers -- especially when you're running to the store while doing household projects.
Travel often with your cat or dog? Protect your interior from your pet's nails, fur and saliva with a slipcover for their seats. The covers can be machine-washed, too.
*Avoid Chemical Cleaners
Steer clear of chemical cleaners for your steering wheel, brake and gas pedals and the emergency brake and shift device.
"These are items you need to grip, and using a vinyl or leather cleaner can reduce friction," says Lewis, who instead recommends cleaning your car's interior with warm water and a small amount of soap.
Invest in quality floor mats to keep the floors clean from dirt and debris as well as weather-related buildup, such as mud, slush and sand. All-weather mats can handle foot traffic throughout the year. Make sure you vacuum and shampoo the mats regularly.
The key to maintaining a clean car is to organize it.
Sejal Shreffler, an interaction and ergonomics engineer for Ford Motor Company, has the following guiding principles to help drivers stay organized and productive on the road.
*Know Your Zones
Shreffler says cars have two main zones: near and far. The near zone, closest to the driver, stores things the driver needs, such as sunglasses and refreshments. The far zones -- the trunk, glove box and rear cargo area -- store other items not used while driving, such as groceries, reusable shopping bags and emergency kits.
He advises putting items in compartments of the correct size. That means small items go in the console area or in a small rear-storage bin. You might add a plastic tray to keep pens or loose change from getting lost. Store large gear in big containers or a laundry basket in the trunk or the cargo area of an SUV.
*Find Your Routine
Shreffler recommends conducting an inventory of all the items you carry every day and figuring out where to put them in your vehicle.
"Consider how best to quickly access smartphone and Bluetooth connections, beverages and ID badges," he says. He reminds drivers to also find an accessible place for trash.
*Clear That Junk in Your Trunk
"Lightweight, collapsible bins are great for organizing items in trunks and truck beds," says Shreffler. He recommends sealable plastic bins for storing a first-aid kit and cleaning and maintenance products.