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The First Things People Notice When They Get in Your Car, Experts Say

Yes, you'll want to keep your car as clean as you keep your house.

We've all had the experience of climbing into someone else's car and having our first thought be: "Yuck." Riding in an unclean vehicle is unpleasant, especially when you don't know the cause of the mess. For example, is the spilled liquid in the backseat a bit of water, or is it something that's going to stain your new dress? Interestingly, we're sometimes laxer with our own vehicles. After all, we know we're going to deep clean it some day, and that its general state isn't a reflection of our overall cleanliness. Well, it turns out that might not be the case. Here, experts tell us the first things people notice when they get in your car. Read on for their tips on how to tidy up to make a good impression.

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The way it smells.


Your car is a small space, so it doesn't take much for it to start smelling like yesterday's lunch. Unfortunately, scent is one of the first things people notice about your vehicle.

"People associate smells with cleanliness and comfort, so keeping your car smelling nice and fresh is important," says Klaidas Kavaliauskas, cleaning expert at Cleaning Express. "You can do this by using air fresheners with natural scents such as peppermint, lavender, or citrus, as they are known to be calming and refreshing."

Hang an air freshener above your dashboard for the best effects. If you're driving with something particularly smelly, crack a window.

If there are crumbs on the seats.

dirty leather car seat, new uses for cleaning products

After a guest takes in your car's general scent, they will likely look at the seat they are going to sit on.

"Is it dirty? Does it have crumbs on it? They are going to want to know if they are sitting in a clean seat or not," says Sara San Angelo, professional house cleaner and founder of The Cleaning Lady. "Make sure the seat looks clean and crumb or dirt free."

You can keep things tidy by cleaning the space with a handheld vacuum. If the seat has stains that won't come out, throw a clean blanket over it, suggests San Angelo.

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If there is trash all over.

A driver leg and mess around his seat, concept of people untidiness

After your guest takes a seat, they'll likely take in the rest of your car. That includes scanning the space for loose trash.

"It can be really unpleasant, especially when there are bits and pieces of food or packaging on the floor or seat," says Kavaliauskas. "The best way to avoid this is not to let your car be your garbage can. Give your car the same respect you give your home, and throw away any trash in any nearby trash cans whenever you have the chance."

Pay special attention to your cup holders. You don't want your guest scrambling to hold their drink because old Starbucks cups occupy every cup holder.

If it's well organized.

PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA - JULY 30, 2017: Interior from Proton Exora at the roadshow in Putrajaya, Malaysia

Your car's general organization is also on display for guests. However, keeping things in order is also a practical necessity. "Glove boxes need to be neatly sorted, so it is easy to find any documents," says Kavaliauskas.

The same thing goes for the compartment between the two front seats, the envelopes on the backs of the seats, and the trunk. If your space is disorganized, Kavaliauskas notes that people may think your home is in the same state.

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If it's dusty.

Hand in rubber protective glove with rag cleaning a dusty car dashboard. Early spring cleaning or regular clean up.

Dust is more difficult to see than some of the other grime on this list, but if your guest is in your car for a while, they'll pick up on it.

"The best thing you can do is to regularly vacuum the carpet and seat, especially when there is visible dust and dirt," says Kavaliauskas. "Do the same for the dashboard with a soft brush attachment for the vacuum cleaner, and finish off with cleaning solutions and wiping down the surface." For tighter crevices, like cup holders, get your car detailed at least twice a year.

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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