Overlanding is a lifestyle that encourages self-sufficiency and resourcefulness, while simultaneously nurturing personal growth, community interaction, and connection to nature. Overlanders must ensure their vehicle stays clean and free from dirt and grime. While this task may seem daunting to some, there are a few tips that can make the task simpler.

In a Nutshell: Overlanding & Vehicle Cleaning

Before you begin cleaning your vehicle, gather all of the supplies that you’ll need. You’ll want to remove all items from the vehicle and vacuum its interior thoroughly. Then wipe down any surfaces with a damp cloth or paper towel to remove dirt and grime.

Cleaning the Interior

  • Wipe down all surfaces. The interior of your vehicle is likely to get dirty and grimy from time to time, so it’s important to keep it clean. Wipe down the seats and floors with a damp cloth or towel, then dry them with another towel.
  • Clean windows and mirrors. While you’re wiping down the interior of your vehicle, you may want to clean any windows or mirrors that need attention as well–they can get dusty pretty quickly! If there are any smudges on either surface, use a microfiber cloth (or newspaper) dipped in water mixed with one teaspoon of liquid dish detergent (not soap) per quart of water; wipe away smudges until they’re gone; then dry off excess moisture with another microfiber cloth or newspaper before moving onto another section of glass/mirror.*
  • Clean leather seats.* For leather seats: use saddle soap every few weeks during overlanding trips if needed; this will help keep them supple while also protecting them from dirt buildup caused by driving through mud or other potentially messy conditions.* Condition fabric upholstery regularly.* For fabric upholstery: apply conditioner once every six months during camping trips if necessary; this helps prevent fading due to UV exposure
  • Use a portable vacuum cleaner. A portable vacuum cleaner is a great tool to have when you’re camping or overlanding. It can be used to clean up dirt and debris from the seats, floor mats, and carpeting. Most portable vacuum cleaners are designed to run off of your vehicle’s power supply (12V), so you don’t need to worry about finding an electrical outlet.
  • Bring a handheld steam cleaner. A handheld steam cleaner is a great tool to have when you’re camping or overlanding. It can be used to clean up spills, stains, and other messes. Most handheld steam cleaners are designed to run off of your vehicle’s power supply (12V), so you don’t need to worry about finding an electrical outlet.
  • Keep a microfiber towel handy. A microfiber towel is a great tool to have when you’re cleaning your vehicle. It can be used to wipe down surfaces, dry off spills, and clean up messes. Microfiber towels are designed to absorb water and dirt, so they’re great for cleaning up messes quickly and easily.
  • Use a car air freshener. A car air freshener is a great tool to have when you’re camping or overlanding. It can be used to eliminate odors from your vehicle, such as cigarette smoke, food smells, and pet odors. Most car air fresheners are designed to be hung from your rearview mirror or placed in your cup holder.
  • Avoid eating in your vehicle. Eating in your vehicle can lead to spills, stains, and other messes. If you must eat in your vehicle, try to keep food and drinks in sealed containers and use a tray or placemat to catch spills.
  • Use a seat cover. A seat cover is a great tool to have when you’re camping or overlanding. It can be used to protect your seats from dirt, debris, and spills. Most seat covers are designed to be easy to install and remove, so you can take them off and wash them as needed.
  • Bring a portable trash can. A portable trash can is a great tool to have when you’re camping or overlanding. It can be used to collect trash and other waste, such as food wrappers, paper towels, and empty water bottles. Most portable trash cans are designed to be compact and easy to store when not in use.
  • Use a windshield sun shade. A windshield sun shade is a great tool to have when you’re camping or overlanding. It can be used to block out sunlight and heat, which can help keep your vehicle cool and comfortable. Most windshield sun shades are designed to be easy to install and remove, so you can take them off and store them as needed.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning and maintaining cleanliness in your vehicle while overlanding and camping is essential for your health, enjoyment, and the longevity of your vehicle. With the right tools and a little bit of effort, you can keep your vehicle clean and tidy no matter where your travels take you. Remember to pack a cleaning kit and to take breaks to clean up spills and messes as they happen. Happy trails!

Sleeping in Your Vehicle & Keepin’ it Clean

Keeping your vehicle clean while sleeping in it is essential for maintaining a comfortable and healthy living environment. Here are some tips for maintaining cleanliness in your vehicle during overlanding or car camping trips:

  1. Designate specific areas: Allocate separate areas within the vehicle for sleeping, cooking, and storage to minimize clutter and prevent cross-contamination.
  2. Remove shoes before entering: Place a small mat or container outside the vehicle to remove shoes before entering the sleeping area. This will help prevent dirt, mud, or debris from being tracked inside.
  3. Clean surfaces regularly: Wipe down surfaces, including countertops, steering wheel, dashboard, and door handles, with disinfectant wipes or a damp cloth to remove dust, dirt, and potential contaminants.
  4. Use seat covers: Seat covers can help protect your vehicle’s upholstery from dirt, spills, and wear. They can be easily removed and washed as needed.
  5. Ventilation: Proper ventilation is important for maintaining air quality and preventing condensation buildup. Crack windows or use vented window screens to promote airflow and reduce moisture.
  6. Store food in sealed containers: Keep food in airtight containers or resealable bags to prevent spills, odors, and pest infestations.
  7. Dispose of trash properly: Use a designated trash bag or container, and empty it regularly to prevent odors and clutter.
  8. Keep a small vacuum or dustpan and brush: Use a portable vacuum, dustpan, or brush to clean up dirt, crumbs, and other debris regularly.
  9. Regularly wash linens: Wash your sleeping bag, blankets, and pillowcases regularly to maintain a clean and comfortable sleeping environment.
  10. Organize your belongings: Keep your items organized using storage containers, cargo nets, or bags. Having designated spots for your belongings will help prevent clutter and make it easier to find items when needed.

By following these tips and maintaining a regular cleaning routine, you can keep your vehicle clean and comfortable while sleeping in it during overlanding or car camping trips.

Dealing with: Dirty & Stained Upholstery

Cleaning upholstery stains in your vehicle requires prompt attention and the right cleaning technique to prevent permanent damage. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you clean upholstery stains in your vehicle:

  1. Identify the type of stain: Different types of stains require different cleaning methods. Common stain types include grease, oil, ink, food, and beverages.
  2. Blot the stain: If the stain is still wet, use a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to blot the area gently, removing as much of the liquid or substance as possible. Avoid rubbing the stain, as this can push it further into the fabric.
  3. Test cleaning solutions: Before using any cleaning solution on your upholstery, test it on an inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration or damage.
  4. Choose a cleaning solution: Based on the type of stain, choose an appropriate cleaning solution. Some options include:
    • Mild soap and water: Mix a few drops of mild dish soap with warm water for most food and beverage stains.
    • Vinegar and water: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water for water-based stains, like coffee, tea, or juice.
    • Rubbing alcohol: Use rubbing alcohol for oil-based stains, like grease, oil, or makeup.
    • Commercial upholstery cleaner: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for stain-specific cleaners.
  5. Apply the cleaning solution: Dampen a clean cloth or sponge with the cleaning solution and gently dab it onto the stain. Start from the outside of the stain and work your way inward to prevent spreading.
  6. Blot the area: After applying the cleaning solution, use a dry cloth or paper towel to gently blot the stain, absorbing the cleaning solution and lifting the stain from the fabric.
  7. Rinse and blot: If you used soap or vinegar, dampen a clean cloth with water and gently dab the area to remove any remaining cleaning solution. Blot the area dry with a clean, dry cloth.
  8. Dry the area: Allow the upholstery to air dry, or use a hairdryer on a cool setting to speed up the drying process. Make sure the area is completely dry before using the vehicle or closing windows to prevent mildew or mold growth.
  9. Vacuum the upholstery: Once the area is dry, vacuum the upholstery to restore the fabric’s texture and remove any residual dirt or debris.

By following these steps, you can effectively clean upholstery stains in your vehicle and maintain a clean and comfortable interior. For persistent or difficult stains, consider consulting a professional upholstery cleaner for assistance.

Dealing with: Unpleasant Smells

Removing unpleasant smells in your vehicle involves identifying the source of the odor, cleaning affected areas, and using various methods to freshen the air. Here are some steps to help you eliminate unpleasant smells in your vehicle:

  1. Identify and remove the source: Locate the source of the odor, such as spilled food, cigarette smoke, or pet accidents, and remove it from the vehicle. Clean the affected area thoroughly to prevent lingering smells.
  2. Clean the interior: Vacuum the seats, floor mats, and carpets to remove dirt, debris, and potential odor-causing particles. Wipe down hard surfaces like the dashboard, door panels, and cup holders with a mild cleaner and a damp cloth.
  3. Clean upholstery and carpets: If the odor has penetrated the upholstery or carpets, use a suitable upholstery or carpet cleaner to deep clean the affected areas. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and allow the surfaces to dry completely.
  4. Replace the cabin air filter: A dirty cabin air filter can contribute to unpleasant odors in your vehicle. Check your owner’s manual for instructions on locating and replacing the cabin air filter.
  5. Ventilate the vehicle: Open the doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate throughout the vehicle. Driving with the windows down can also help remove lingering odors.
  6. Use odor eliminators: Products like activated charcoal, baking soda, or commercial odor eliminators can help absorb and neutralize lingering odors. Place a container of your chosen odor eliminator in your vehicle and leave it for several hours or overnight.
  7. Use air fresheners: After eliminating the source of the odor and cleaning the interior, you can use air fresheners, scented oils, or essential oils to add a pleasant fragrance to your vehicle.
  8. Steam cleaning: For persistent odors, consider steam cleaning the vehicle’s interior, including upholstery, carpets, and hard surfaces. This can help remove deeply embedded odors and bacteria.
  9. Professional detailing: If odors persist despite your efforts, consider taking your vehicle to a professional detailer, who can use specialized equipment and techniques to eliminate stubborn smells.

By following these steps and maintaining a clean vehicle interior, you can effectively remove unpleasant smells and create a more enjoyable driving environment.

Dealing with: Exterior Washing

Touchless Car Washes are a new way of washing your car that is becoming increasingly popular among overlanders. These uses high-pressure jets of water and detergents to quickly remove dirt, grime, and scratches from the exterior of your vehicle. Not only are these safer for the paint on your car than traditional methods, but they’re also much faster.

Touchless car wash systems tend to be more cost-effective than their friction counterparts due to the limited mechanical components they require, helping keep maintenance expenses down and helping businesses avoid revenue-robbing downtime when parts break.

These systems require fewer chemicals than their friction-wash counterparts, since instead of using harsh and toxic products to break down dirt, these car washes employ specialized soaps specifically designed for car cleaning purposes.

Another advantage of touchless car wash systems is their environmental friendliness. They usually utilize sensors to regulate water usage and product output, cutting back on waste while conserving energy.

Furthermore, they are more time-efficient than traditional car washes, saving you valuable moments while on the go. This makes them ideal for overlanders who need to clean their vehicle quickly but still maintain quality.

To maximize the advantages of a touchless car wash, seal your paint with protective coatings like wax or ceramic. Doing this will shield your paint from environmental elements and ensure a long-lasting, high-quality finish.

Finally, always inspect the door handles and windows to make sure they are closed securely before entering a touchless car wash. If your doors or windows remain open, water from the process could seep into your vehicle.

One of the primary drawbacks to a touchless car wash is that it doesn’t completely clean your vehicle. After your visit to a touchless car wash, it is usually wise to follow up with a hand wash in order to eliminate any excess moisture and dry out the surface. Excess moisture on your car could lead to spotting which will be difficult to eliminate later.

Dealing with: Mold – Prevention & Removal

To prevent mold from forming in a car, it is important to limit moisture. This can be achieved by using caution when sipping coffee or other beverages in the car, and always remembering to roll up the windows when parking the car outdoors, especially during periods of heavy rain [1][2]. Additionally, it is important to change out the car’s air filter regularly to keep the air flowing in the car.

To remove mold in a car, there are a few steps that can be taken. One approach is to use a solution of one part white vinegar to eight parts water for new mold, or undiluted vinegar for established mold. Spray the solution onto the mold and leave it for ten minutes. The acid in the vinegar will kill the mold. Wipe away the residue with a damp cloth and leave it to dry. Another option is to use a commercial mold remover, following the instructions on the label carefully. It is important to wear gloves and eye protection when handling these products. Additionally, regularly vacuuming the car and removing soiled or wet clothes, food, and garbage can help prevent mold growth in the first place.