car organizationlead

Keeping the interior of the car clean can feel like a losing battle against fast-food wrappers, spills big and small, dust, hair, spare change and, of course, odors.

You don’t need to pay for expensive detailing services to get — and keep — the interior of your car looking almost brand new: We consulted experts about the best way to clean seats, floor mats, the dashboard and center console, as well as their picks for products to eliminate and absorb odors. We rounded up their recommendations, along with a bunch of our own, to bring you the best products to clean your car, and to keep it organized, all priced under $25.

VacLife Portable Home & Car Cordless Handheld Vacuum ($19.99, originally $24.99; amazon.com)

VacLife Portable Home & Car Cordless Handheld Vacuum

The absolute best thing you can buy to keep your car clean is a handheld vacuum. It will make quick work of cleaning seats, floor mats and even the dashboard. This portable vacuum by VacLife has great reviews and a low price, a practically perfect combo.

Sayonakuaj Portable Vacuum Cleaner ($24.99; amazon.com)

Sayonakuaj Portable Vacuum Cleaner

This portable vacuum is itty-bitty, and that’s what we love about it. It can fit under the seat of the car or even in a cup holder. It comes with three attachments — a wide-mouth nozzle for seats and floor mats; a long-mouth nozzle for narrow spaces; and a brush nozzle for use on vents — to help you get into all of your car’s nooks and crannies.

Kimberly Clark Scott Shop Towels ($4.99; amazon.com)

Kimberly Clark Scott Shop Towels

It’s always a good idea to keep a roll of paper towels stashed in the car, and these super-absorbent shop towels are a great choice for wiping up spills or cleaning up messes big and small.

Chemical Guys Workhorse Professional Grade Microfiber Towel, 3-Pack ($11.27, originally $14.67; amazon.com)

Chemical Guys Workhorse Professional Grade Microfiber Towel, 3-Pack

Microfiber towels are a staple of car cleaning jobs. Use them dry to wipe the dashboard and center console clean of dirt and debris, or with an all-purpose spray or foaming carpet cleaner to remove stains from fabric seats or sticky spills from rubber floor mats.

Shout Auto Multipurpose Cleaner ($5.99; target.com)

Shout Auto Multi-Purpose Cleaner

Shout is one of my go-to stain removing products, and when I saw that the brand offers a multipurpose cleaner for use in cars, my eyes lit up. Shout is especially good at removing food stains from fabric, so if you frequently eat in your car, keep a can of this stuff handy for those inevitable spills.

Weiman Leather Wipes ($4.67; homedepot.com)

Weiman Leather Wipes

For cars with leather seats, Gina Perry, a senior merchant overseeing cleaning inventory at The Home Depot, recommends premoistened leather wipes. “The easy-to-use wipes were designed to clean, condition and protect the leather,” Perry says. “Natural oils rejuvenate, moisturize and restore leather, while the UVX-15 sunscreen protects it from the damaging effects of the sun.”

Armor All Cleaning Wipes ($7.30; amazon.com)

Armor All Cleaning Wipes

Perry also likes cleaning wipes for use in a car to keep surfaces like the dashboard and side panels clean. They’re also great for getting into smaller spaces where dirt, dust and other detritus collects, like the center console or cup holders.

Ozium Air Sanitizer Spray ($6.99; amazon.com)

Ozium Air Sanitizer Spray

When a terrible odor overtakes your car, it’s reasonable to think you’re in for an expensive trip to the detailer. But Perry says that “the average car owner can fix odors with an air spray like Ozium.” Ozium is a spray odor eliminator that works quickly to nuke smells, but caveat emptor: It has a scent of its own that not everyone will like.

Armor All Freshfx Air Freshener and Purifier ($4.98; amazon.com)

Armor All Freshfx Air Freshener and Purifier

Perry also recommends the Armor All air freshener for its convenience. “You can keep it in your cup holder,” she says, which makes it a good product to know about if you find that you frequently use an odor eliminator and want to keep one close at hand.

Breathe Green Bamboo Charcoal Bags Odor Absorber, 9-Pack ($19.99; amazon.com)

Breathe Green Bamboo Charcoal Bags Odor Absorber, 9-Pack

Marilee Nelson, a cleaning expert and co-founder of Branch Basics, recommends using Breathe Green bags in the car to absorb and remove odors, allergens and pollutants. Unlike many other odor-eliminating products, they are fragrance-free and have moisture-absorbing properties, which helps to keep mold and mildew growth at bay.

Power Tiger Hanging Car Trash Bag Can ($9.99; amazon.com)

Power Tiger Hanging Car Trash Bag Can

The car is essentially its own ecosystem when it comes to cleaning, and thinking of it that way can help when it comes to keeping it from becoming filthy. One of the most effective things you can do is to establish a place for trash to go so that it doesn’t go on the floor. This hanging trash can that’s designed to fit on a car’s center console does just that.

Farasla All-in-One Car Trash Can ($18.99; amazon.com)

Farasla All-in-One Car Trash Can

Take the center console trash can up a notch with this all-in-one-style receptacle. In addition to a trash can with two removable liners to make emptying easier, it also has a compartment to hold tissues, napkins or wet wipes — perfect for keeping greasy or sticky fingers from leaving greasy or sticky prints all over the car.

Skyward Seat Gap Filler ($19.97, originally $24.99; amazon.com)

Skyward Seat Gap Filler

Who doesn’t love a storage solution that also solves a frustrating problem? This seat gap filler fits into the space between the front seats and the center console, performing two functions: 1. It provides an extra bit of storage space for slim items like phones, face masks, cash for tolls, etc. and 2. It prevents slim items like phones, face masks, cash for tolls, etc. from slipping into the void between the seat and the center console.

One Pix Back Seat Car Organizer Mats, 2-Pack ($19.99; amazon.com)

One Pix Backseat Car Organizer Mats, 2-Pack

One of the cardinal rules of organizing is to consider and make use of vertical space. In a car, that translates to seat backs. This organizing mat takes the backseat pocket up 10,000 notches by adding eight compartments that can hold everything from bottles to boxes of tissues to an iPad.

FoxBox Tote Car Organizer ($32.95; amazon.com)

FoxBox Tote Car Organizer

Frequent road trippers will love this tote-style organizer. It’s designed to fit over a center console to hold drinks, snacks, wipes and whatever else you might want handy while you’re on the road. When not in use, it folds up so you can stash it under a seat or in the trunk until you need it next.

Amooca Car Seat Headrest Hook ($9.99, originally $11.99; amazon.com)

Amooca Car Seat Headrest Hook

A hook is an incredibly useful organizing tool in any space, and the car is no exception. This car seat headrest hook can hold backpacks, handbags, shopping bags, jackets and hoodies, etc. to free up room on the seats and floor. We especially like the CC L-type model, which can also clamp onto a cell phone, allowing backseat passengers to watch their favorite shows while in transit.

The Container Store Folding Trunk Organizer ($19.99; containerstore.com)

The Container Store Folding Trunk Organizer

A trunk organizer can serve so many functions — we could be here all day listing them. One use we love for them is as a traveling cleaning caddy. Fill the bin with a roll of paper towels, a handheld vac, cleaning wipes and whatever other products you always wish you had on hand when a mess happens in the car. This trunk organizer is as basic as they come, with a divided interior, four exterior pockets and loop handles on either end — and best of all, it’s collapsible, so you can fold it flat when it’s not in use.

Drive Auto Trunk Organizer ($24.99; amazon.com)

Drive Auto Trunk Organizer

This trunk organizer is extremely versatile. It has multiple interior compartments that can be configured in exactly the way you need, side pockets and a nonslip and waterproof bottom to prevent leaks. Plus, it’s collapsible for easy storage.

The Container Store Heavy-Duty Collapsible Crate ($19.99; containerstore.com)

The Container Store Heavy-Duty Collapsible Crate

If you often find yourself transporting tools, hardware, gardening supplies and other heavy-duty items, a super-sturdy crate can help to protect your trunk and back seat from damage. This super sturdy polypropylene bin can hold up to 66 pounds, and collapses flat when not in use.

Rubbermaid Cargo Bin ($15.99; containerstore.com)

Rubbermaid Cargo Bin

Sometimes you just need a bin to hold stuff in the car. This Rubbermaid cargo bin is just that, and not much more — but it has some features that make it a great choice for car storage. It has handles for easy carrying, a non-slip and watertight base, and it’s dishwasher safe.