Whether we’re off to discover a new hiking trail or just traveling a few miles up the road to visit Grandma and Grandpap, summertime means more trips in the car with Haley. She loves going everywhere with us, but we don’t particularly love all the hair, mud and mess that’s left behind in the Jeep when we get back home. Over the years, we’ve discovered these tips for keeping your car clean when traveling with a dog. Well, “cleaner” at least!
10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean
1. Groom Your Dog
If it’s shedding season or your dog is a nervous shedder when riding in the car, brush or comb your pup before leaving the house to keep excess hair out of your vehicle.
2. Stick With One Vehicle
If you have multiple cars, pick one to be the dedicated dog hauler so you only have one car to clean and deodorize. Our older Jeep Liberty has become our dogmobile which keeps the other vehicles fresh and fur-free.
3. Restrain Your Dog
Whether you use a crate, seat-belt harness or just keep your dog in the back area of your vehicle, containing your pup in a smaller area means less mess and hair to clean later. Check out Barbara’s recent post on K9s Over Coffee for some safe options for restraining your dog in the car.
4. Protect Your Seats
We’ve always had leather seats in our vehicles which make cleanups easier, but a dog’s toenails can still scratch the leather. Invest in a durable seat cover to protect cloth or leather seats and to keep mud, hair and other unmentionable messes contained. Most seat covers are easy to install and can be easily removed and washed when dirty. Hammock-style seat covers, like this one by Plush Paws, not only protect your seats and floor mats, but they also prevent your dog from falling into the floorboard area if you brake unexpectedly.
5. Protect Your Carpet
SUVs and dogs are a perfect match! I lower the back seats so Haley has plenty of room, then I cover the carpeted area with a heavy, twin-sized quilt. The quilt stays in place well, keeps her hair from getting embedded in the carpet fibers and absorbs any mud or water if she gets wet while hiking. It can be easily removed and washed when needed. Rubber-backed bathmats can be used for smaller dogs and nothing beats WeatherTech floorliners for protecting floorboard carpet. For even more protection, cover carpeted areas with the clear, adhesive carpet film you often see used in model homes.
6. Assemble a Cleaning Kit
Who’s going to clean this mess? Not Haley!
While on the road, it’s handy to have these items when you need them: Paper towels, pet wipes (especially if your dog likes to roll in nasty-smelling things), microfiber towels, a slobber cloth (for drooling dogs), plastic bags, dog brush or comb, lint brush (for you), tick-remover tool/tweezers and a spare bottle of water.
7. Use T-shirts for Heavy Shedders
If your pup is a heavy shedder, have them wear a lightweight t-shirt while traveling in the car. Gather the loose area of the shirt around their lower belly, twist the fabric, and tie into a loose knot so it fits well. It may not contain all the dog hair, but it will prevent most of it from flying around inside your car.
8. Leave Dirt and Critters Behind
After hiking, clean your pup before getting back in the car. Brush off any loose dirt, use the spare bottle of water to rinse muddy paws and towel off their fur to remove any excess water. If you’ve been hiking in an area where ticks are common, comb through your dog’s fur and check for any of those nasty critters.
9. Clean Your Car
This is a no-brainer, right? To keep doggy odors out of your vehicle, clean your car right away when you get home. Remove the seat cover or quilt and wash if necessary and make sure to ventilate the car well if any areas got damp from your pup’s adventure. A small Shop-Vac with a crevice tool is perfect for vacuuming any pet hair left behind and ArmorAll and Windex wipes quickly take care of any dirt or nose prints left on windows. If any odors remain, sprinkle the area with baking soda then vacuum up after 24 hours or use Febreeze spray to freshen upholstery or carpet.
10. Remove Stubborn Dog Hair
Using seat covers will keep most of the pet hair off your upholstery and lint brushes or adhesive lint rollers can help remove any additional stray hairs. If your dog’s fur seems to get stuck in the fabric of your seats, a ScotchGard-like fabric treatment may help seal the fabric and free you from spending an entire weekend using tweezers to remove those pesky stray hairs. For hair embedded in carpet fibers, put on a pair of household, rubber gloves and rub your hands over the carpet to pull up and remove the hair or try the fine-grain pumice stone method used in the video below.
Yes! You can take your dog on car rides and adventures all summer long without your vehicle becoming a stinky, muddy furmobile. With a little planning, and armed with your cleaning kit, you’ll always be prepared for the worst. Then, by taking just a few minutes to clean your car when you get home, your vehicle can still be a pristine, sweet-smelling ride for your next night out on the town.
Got any tips for keeping your car clean? Share them in a comment below!