Car Cleaning With Kids

Young girls washing car with parents.

Here are the tools and supplies you'll need for car cleaning with kids:

  • Car vacuum or handheld vacuum that plugs into your car's cigarette lighter
  • Hose with power nozzle
  • Bucket filled with warm water and a few squirts of hand-dishwashing liquid
  • Soft, natural fiber scrub mitt or sponge (Old rags will do in a pinch.)
  • Clean, dry towels or a chamois cloth for drying.

The Car Cleaning With Kids Routine

Start the car wash by rinsing the loose dirt from the car with your hose. Kids of all ages love this part! Lift the windshield wipers and spray beneath.

Don't forget - or let the kids forget - a car wash includes the undersides of the wheel wells and the hubcaps. 

Starting with the roof, wash 3-foot (or so) sections using your mitt or a rag dipped in soapy water. Rinse immediately. Continue this routine as you wash the hood, the sides, and the trunk. Don't suds the windows. You'll clean them separately.

Here's how: Use either a mild, home-made cleaner and as little soap as possible to minimize streaks (such as a squirt of dishwashing liquid in a bucket of warm water or one part white vinegar to two parts warm water) or your favorite commercial glass cleaner.

Don't use ammonia-containing cleaners: They can damage the tint on the inside of your windows. Use either a sponge or a clean cotton cloth to do the washing and another clean cotton cloth to dry.

Just make sure there aren't any traces of fabric softener or dryer sheet reside on the towel(s) as these can cause streaks on windows, too. Why make car cleaning with kids any more difficult than it already is?

Finally, grab a section or two of yesterday's news, and we're ready to roll (up your sleeves and down the windows, that is) for the final car wash task.

Sparkling Clean Car Windows

Let's begin by removing that annoying dirt line around the top of your car door window. Lower the window an inch or so. Clean the outside first, dipping your sponge in the bucket or spraying your cleaner of choice on the towel.

Wring any excess from your sponge then gently rub the window using a side-to-side motion, removing road grunge as you go. Roll up the window, finish cleaning the bottom portion; wipe dry with the clean cotton towel.

Move in a clockwise motion around the car, similarly cleaning the outside glass.

Young boy on dad's shoulders washing car.

Next, move inside the car, where we'll use the same tools but an up-and-down cleaning motion instead. That way, when you're finished, you'll know on which side lingering streaks lie.

Be sure to get way down there in the crevices of the windshield. That's where the scary stuff settles. When clean, use the second towel to dry your surfaces.

The piece de resistance? Crumble yesterday's news and polish the windows and windshield to a sparkling clean perfection - inside and out. Mirrors, too!

Road Gunk Removal

To loosen gross gunk such as flicked-on tar, dip a scrub sponge in 1/4 cup of vinegar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of linseed oil and rub it into the stubborn spot.

Rinse the car thoroughly (the kids are probably really getting into this about now) to remove any suds hidden under the door handles and inside the rear-view mirrors. Dry the car immediately with chamois or rags.

Really think twice about it before you wax your car. If you do it once, you'll get to do it over and over. That's because once you start waxing your car, you'll need to keep it up or your finish will begin to look dull.

Wax only if you're really into watching water bead up or tormenting your argumentative teen.

Otherwise, you're just adding more time to your weekly car-cleaning routine. Use a silicone-based polish for plastic bumpers. Spray the tire with a silicone product for a sleek, finished look. 

Don't wait 'til wash day to attack the dreaded tree sap. Wipe it off immediately with a damp sponge or rag before it has a chance to stain your car's exterior.

It's important to spring clean your car just as you do your house. Give your winter-weary car an undercarriage wash each spring to remove road salt, sand, and anything else that might have hitched a ride there during the stormy winter months.

Car Cleaning with Kids: Chores by Age

This list of car chores by age can help ensure car cleaning with kids is a success - and that everyone can adequately complete their assigned cleaning job!

Car Cleaning with Kids Ages 2 and under:

  • Take the toys they brought into the car out of the car

Ages 3 to 5:

  • Previous chores, plus:
  • Take their backpacks from the car into the house

Ages 6 to 9:

  • Previous chores, plus:
  • Pick up trash in car and empty the bag
  • Wipe up spills
  • Vacuum the car with help, depending on the machine's height and weight
  • Help wash the car

Ages 10 to 13:

  • Previous chores, plus:
  • Wipe off the car's dashboard and upholstery

Ages 14 to 17:

  • Previous chores, plus:
  • Wash the car
  • Wash the car's undercarriage each spring.


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