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15 Things People Who Always Have Clean Cars Have in Common

Does keeping your car tidy seem impossible? With these genius tips from a professional organizer, you can turn that dream into a reality.

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A man cleaning a car with yellow microfiber cloth - car detailing, vale and auto service conceptKritchanut/Getty Images

How to have a clean car

Does keeping your car tidy seem impossible? With these genius tips from a professional organizer, you can turn that dream into a reality. From lint rollers to squeegees, here are the items you should always have in your car. In addition, here are a few handy tricks to make sure you never lose anything again, including your car keys.

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They never leave home without garbage bags


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If you’re super busy or you travel for work, you might end up at your fair share of drive-throughs or grab-and-go sandwich stores. Why can that be a problem? “Those people often end up having messy, smelly cars because food bowls, wrappers, and debris start to pile up,” says Dena Sanowicz, a New York–based professional organizer and the brains behind Instagram’s best-kept secret for organizing tutorials. “If you’re late for a meeting or you’re running somewhere, it’s easy to let these things pile up. You can solve that issue by always keeping car-specific garbage bags on hand and emptying them daily.”

Try an easy-to-use product like Tossits, which you can hang on the passenger-side headrest and tear off with minimal effort. These eco-friendly bags also have adhesive strips to seal away the mess before you make it to a trash can. If you’re always on the go, keep these 14 items in your car and you’ll be twice as productive.

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They don’t use their car as a storage facility


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“When traveling with small children, we sometimes think we need to travel with our whole house for all those ‘just in case’ moments, and after a few trips, we end up having multiples of the same things all over the place,” says Sanowicz. “Instead of reloading the car with doubles of everything, try just keeping absolute essentials in a carefully thought out organizing bin in the back or trunk.” This sturdy organizer from Fortem can hold everything from changes of clothes to sports equipment. Plus, it has a non-slip bottom and securing straps, so it will stay exactly where you need it to. It’s one of the Amazon products you’ll definitely use every day.

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They treat upholstery stains immediately


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Rather than waiting for that annual spring cleaning, tidy drivers treat car upholstery and dirty floor mats with stain-fighting products the very same day they notice an issue. Try a cost-effective spray solution like CLR Stain Magnet, and keep it in your trunk organizer for unexpected spills, accidents, and particularly messy rides. Make sure you also check out this car cleaning putty that will get those hard-to-reach areas.

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They clean handles and knobs every week


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If you have enough people in the car to use the HOV lane, you need to thoroughly disinfect everything in your car more often than you may realize. That includes all of your car’s interior handles, knobs, and vent adjusters, which are particularly prone to germs, dirt, and fingerprints. Try a pet- and child-safe spray like Greenerways Organic All-Purpose Multi-Surface Cleaner, and commit a few minutes one day each week to cleaning all the nooks, crannies, and windows you take for granted.

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A cordless hand vacuum is their best friend


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“Carpools, long rides, and other drives are always off to a better start with a clean space, which is why I always try to take my hand vacuum,” explains Sanowicz. “Clean out the car seats, cup holders, and other areas so that you start off fresh and not feeling cramped.” One great, user-friendly option to consider: the Hoover ONEPWER Cordless Hand Vacuum.

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They always have reusable wipes on hand


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Reusable microfiber wipes are the eco-friendly answer to paper towels and disposable wipes, and once you start keeping them in your car, you won’t know how you ever lived without them. Use them with your favorite cleaning sprays, dust down dashboards, and rescue upholstery from unforeseen soda spills in a jiffy. Casabella Micro Wipes are budget-friendly, reusable, and can be machine-washed between uses.

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07_They love lint rollersvia

They love lint rollers


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If you think they’re just for clothes, think again. Giant lint rollers can easily pick up pet hair, coat fuzzies, and random gunk from car upholstery and other surfaces. Opt for a long-handled version, like this Evercare Mega Roller, that can access hard-to-reach areas. While you’re at it, check out these other things you can clean with a lint roller that you probably never thought of.

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They spray the nasties away

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Organized carpoolers know they can’t control every cough, sneeze, or bacterial nightmare, so they keep their car-cleaning caddy stocked with germ-busting disinfectants that do double duty. This eucalyptus-and-spearmint-scented disinfecting spray from Seventh Generation effectively combats the viruses and bacteria that make their way onto door handles, window buttons, and other highly trafficked interior spots. Plus, just one spray will make your car smell like a spa.

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They use products that do double duty


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You don’t need to fill your caddy with every cleaning product under the sun, according to Sanowicz. Instead, pick products that combine functions, like disinfecting and deodorizing, or cleaning and protecting. For example, 303 Automotive Protectant Wipes get rid of gunk and dust while sealing in UV protection for your rubber, vinyl, and plastic surfaces. Each matte-finish application lasts a month or more, giving you a cleaner car along with UV protection for dashboards and other sun-affected areas. (Still, for a truly clean car, a month is really too long to go between cleanings.)

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They repurpose household items in genius ways


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If you’re diligent about cleaning just one part of your car’s interior each day, make it your cup holders, says Sanowicz. They tend to collect every bit of junk, and they’re notoriously hard to clean. Consider simplifying this task by inserting silicone cupcake liners and taking them out for cleanings. Just dump out any accumulated crumbs, and then pop them in the dishwasher. You can store extra liners in your glove compartment for those just-in-case moments, and they make great snack cups, too.

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They store paperwork thoughtfully


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Don’t leave receipts, car documents, insurance cards, and other important paperwork strewn about your car. Not only might they get damaged or lost, but they’re also an eyesore. Instead, invest in an inexpensive file folder for your glove compartment. You’ll enjoy appropriate sections for all your favorite coupons, manuals, and other must-haves without stressing about keeping track of everything.

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They spot-clean their car’s exterior


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You probably suspected cleaning wipes for your car’s interior would make this list, but did you know that bird-poop-specific wipes exist for your car’s exterior, too? They’re perfect to use in between washes and detailing appointments, and they effectively remove even baked-on bird poo. They can also go to town on sticky residue on the inside of your car.

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They get into a car’s nooks and crannies


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You know that fun hair-teasing brush you probably haven’t used since your prom? It turns out that it’s nearly identical to the car-detailing brushes that professionals use to wipe and loosen debris from hard-to-reach cracks, corners, and car seats. Wash and use your old one, or pick up a new, inexpensive one to stash in your car-cleaning kit. Here are 15 other secrets only car detailers know.

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They squeegee

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Clean cars stay that way because they’re cared for diligently. Investing in your own squeegee can obviously help keep your windows clean, but in a pinch, they’ll help clear pet hair and spilled snacks off seats in under a minute. They’ll also get spilled drinks under control faster than you can grab a towel.

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They’re smart about smells


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Store potentially leaky liquids in an airtight cereal container to make sure mistakes don’t stink up your car (or get it sticky). This inexpensive staple from Rubbermaid is also great for holding garbage and pet items.

Bryce Gruber
As Home Editor, Bryce Gruber is an expert in gift ideas, shopping, and e-commerce at Reader's Digest. You've likely seen her work across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting outlets and on TV shows. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.