Healthy Green Car Care – Top Ten “Insider” Tips

When it comes to buying a “green” car, most consumers focus on fuel efficiency. The more miles per gallon, the more eco-friendly the car.

But what about keeping the car clean?

From washing off the grime that accumulates outside to cleaning up the dashboard inside, how you maintain your vehicle matters to both you and the environment. Why not choose the greenest options? In most cases, they’ll save you money, too.

Here’s how:

1) Window Cleaner: There’s enough road rage to go around these days. Don’t make matters worse by using commercial cleaning products whose chemicals leave you cranky or give you a headache. Keep things  cheap, simple and safe. Make your own window wash.


Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar with two cups water in a spray bottle.

 Add a few drops of pulp-free lemon juice for fragrance. 

Apply directly on a lint-free cotton cloth so the cleaner doesn’t spray all over the car.

Once you wipe the windows clean, buff them with a micro-fiber cloth for extra shine. 

Air Freshener: My personal car pet peeve is those creepy little fragrance bobbles that hang from rear view mirrors and completely stink up the car with some sickeningly sweet odor. They give me an immediate headache that lasts long after the car ride is over. And no wonder: most commercial fragrances contain toxic chemicals like benzene and diethyl phthalate that can become particularly insidious if you’re inhaling them in a space as small and closed as a car interior. 

The alternative? If your car stinks, find out why. Usually, it's from something like food scraps (from fast food or snacks) that have started to rot under the car seat or in the grooves of a floor mats.Solution?  

2) Take trash with you. Whenever you leave the car, take a quick look to ferret out the smelly stuff.

3) Open the windows for a few minutes while you’re driving to let fresh air circulate through the car.

4) Use hot soapy water to wipe down interior doors, handles and vinyl seats.

5) Rinse off floor mats (which will force you to lift them up and out of the car, possibly discovering more stink bombs you’ll need to toss).

6) At a car wash, don't let them spray the interior with air freshener when they finish vacuuming. If they’ve done their job properly, the car should smell just fine without it.

Seats and cushions: Keeping a car clean shouldn’t require the use of industrial strength chemicals.

7) Use a whisk broom or hand-held vacuum to remove dirt and dust from floor mats and seat cushions.

8) Keep a cloth napkin within reach so you can wipe up spills when they occur.

9) Dust surfaces with a damp cloth once a week to keep grime from building up.

10) For spots on the steering wheel or console, sprinkle a little baking soda on a wet towel and gently rub. Wipe with a clean damp cloth.

NEXT:  Getting a Green Car Wash

Excerpted from Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World

Want more Green Living Top Ten Tips? Check these out.

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22 Responses to Healthy Green Car Care – Top Ten “Insider” Tips

  1. JD July 1, 2009 at 12:06 pm #

    A few more tips for your readers…
    • if you need a car fragrance, blend your own with essential oils
    • on hot days, thoroughly air out your car before entering. the chemicals contained within car materials (fabrics and vinyl) can completely fill your interior.
    • avoid carpet & upholstery cleaners avoid containing synthetic fragrances, dyes, petroleum solvents or glycol ethers.
    • choose car cleaners which fully list all ingredients such as Eco Touch (

  2. Mustang April 6, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    If you don’t feel like making your own cleaning products, look for ecologo branded ones. They are internationally certified and recognized as being kind to the environment.

  3. Diane MacEachern July 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    Good point on the industrial cleaners. Fragrance-free soap and water work pretty well for cleaning car interiors.

  4. Pinks March 31, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    Yes Look for ecologo branded products for cleaners. For example – Eco-Friendly Car Wash – its chemical-free, steam cleaning process protects both your showroom finish for a cleaner vehicle and the environment.

  5. Darren, Best Auto Detailiing Tips September 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    You can help the eco movement by using the self serve and other types of local car washes. Not only do these places capture water run-off which is critical to the health of our oceans, but recycle much of the water. Washing your car in the driveway sends all forms of dirt and chemical into the storm drains which only leads to the oceans.
    If you must wash your won car, make sure your hose has a nozzle on the end so you can adjust for just the right amount of water to use, as well as shop and use Eco-friendly car care products that are becoming more and more available.

  6. credible upholstery November 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    I agree on avoiding sprays for your car. They may contain harmful chemicals.

  7. Carpet Cleaning Machines May 14, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Great tips! I think it will also help to have a small trash bin or plastic for trash that is always ready to catch the trash. This way, all of the garbage would be in one place right before you step out of the car. No need to find them. You can instruct your kids to use the trash bin.

  8. garage equipment June 8, 2012 at 6:39 am #

    Most greasy carpeting and upholstery stains can be removed by rubbing on paint thinner with a clean, 100-percent cotton cloth. Then cover the stain with salt until the remaining grease is absorbed, and vacuum. Or cover the spot with cornmeal and let it sit overnight and vacuum in the morning.

  9. Diane MacEachern June 11, 2012 at 1:30 am #

    I would never use paint thinner inside a car. It’s a pretty volatile chemical and I’m sure it would give me a headache and nausea to use it, especially in such a small, closed environment.

  10. Used Trucks July 13, 2012 at 2:54 am #

    When it comes to green car care, the solution should be ‘green’ enough and it shouldn’t employ usage of harsh chemicals that are harmful to the environment. This article is written very well and will certainly help people who are buying green cars now.

  11. Mary Hunt July 16, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    I put handfuls of scented geraniums inside mesh bags under the seats.

  12. Lifeguard Swimwear July 21, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    Wonderful tips you have given here.Really appreciating one!!!If you add some more information regarding the swim wear specially then that is more fruitful.

  13. cheapest car insurance in florida August 10, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    Good point on the business purifiers. Fragrance-free water and detergent work pretty well for cleaning car decorations.

  14. garage equipment August 18, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    There are lot of eco-friendly alternative methods that can be used in car cleaning. By following these simple steps, we can reduced the use of chemical that causes climate change and at the same time making are automobile dirt and dust-free.

  15. Driveway Cleaning Birmingham September 16, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    I always use febreeze. Is that environmentally friendly?

  16. Mary Allen September 20, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Your recipe did not surprise me, though. I have been using this long time ago. But, this is not applicable only to car windows. I also use this recipe to clean my kitchen and other parts of the house. This is really effective.

  17. chevelle parts November 8, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    Great tips shared by you in order to maintain our car green and clean. I always keep the air freshener in my car in order to keep the fragrance in my car.

  18. Blaine Smitley December 29, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    An often over looked thing when it comes to keeping an autos interior smelling fresh without using chemicals is the cabin air filter. Not be confused with the engine air filter, the cabin air filter is located in the dash, and is easily replaceable.
    Next time you just can’t get a bad odor out of a car or truck, look in the owners manual to find the location of it and replace it. Anybody can do it and it usually never takes tools beyond a screw driver.

  19. Diane MacEachern January 3, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    That’s a great tip. Thanks!

  20. home care las vegas January 20, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    I do #3 all the time. Always let that fresh air in through my windows! Good list!

  21. Powerstroke Diesel Performance January 28, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    These are some tips you can use to make sure your car is running as eco-friendly as possible. But of course, the standard things apply: carpool as much as possible, walk/take a public vehicle when traveling short distances, and observe traffic rules and regulations.

  22. Tammy Ros August 30, 2013 at 4:16 am #

    Good tips for car cleaning………… Like this we clean our house,offices …………Many professional cleaners are available for these services………..

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