Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Big Muddy: Keeping Stroller Gunk Out of Car Upholstery

As a huge fan of Bryce Courtenay's novel Power of One, it slightly pleases me that there has been an atypical amount of rain in our sometimes drought-prone region since BabyGeek's birth. The symbolism is pleasant until I have to put a wet, muddy, or otherwise gross stroller into my car.

After a few months of stroller use, I found that mud and black wheel tracks had become regular additions to my station wagon's tan interior. On snowy and rainy days, the carpet got damp, so loading in groceries or other clean and dry items became an exercise in peril.

There are rubber cargo area mats for many vehicles, but I couldn't find one shaped for my specific late-90s vehicle. An ill-fitting universal mat seemed like it could be more inconvenient than helpful.

At a rummage sale, I found a Thanksgiving themed flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth. It was large, oval, and in like-new condition. And it was kind of hideous. It was essentially free because they were having a bag sale, and I had room in my bag. These factors made it the perfect test subject.

I laid the tablecloth in the back of my car and traced the outline of my cargo area on it with a Sharpie (I keep two in the glove compartment- a fine and a regular). The desired portion only took half of the tablecloth, so I folded it in half and cut out two floor coverings using household scissors.

Originally, I had planned to sew the edges on a serger, but they seemed to have plenty of integrity without the extra work, so I decided to take my chances. Plus, the Thanksgiving design wasn't exactly something I wanted to keep forever. I bought two lovely solid colored replacements for the Thanksgiving cargo area liner. They both sit untouched in a closet.

The Thanksgiving liner has been in my car for over 9 months and shows no sign of wear. Dry matter (dirt, sand, Cheerios, etc.) is easily brushed or shaken off. Wet, mucky stuff cleans off easily with a sponge, paper towel, or baby wipe.

Out of laziness rather than insight, I stacked both Thanksgiving liners in the cargo area. This turned out to be quite helpful. When one get wet, it's easy to pull it out or fold it around around the icky item (leaving the other liner to cover the carpet).

Vinyl tablecloths
are easy to find at big box retailers, discount stores, dollar stores, and thrift shops. They come in a huge range of styles, prints, and solid colors. They are reasonably indestructible (if the Thanksgiving liner is any indicator). Even at full-price, they cost only a small fraction of the price of a commercially produced cargo area or trunk liner.

Please add your own clean car hacks to this post. My car is a perpetual mess since BabyGeek's arrival, and I can use all help I can get.

BabyGeek (at 16 months) actively despises going through the car wash (not alone, of couse; I'm in the car too). Is that normal? Can I hope it's a phase?


lulubird6 said...

this is ab-sooooo-freaking-lutely brilliant! my dh cut that icky spike-backed plastic carpet runner stuff for the back of my sedan. It is horrible. This is much better, plus, cheaper, plus, big enough for my trunk. thank you thank you thank you!

adrienne said...

Yay! (Always glad to be of assistance.)

Send me photos if you like the outcome, and I'll add them to the post.

I saw some Halloween and Christmas tablecloths on deep discount. I'm rapidly becoming tempted to change them seasonally (which is funny as I don't tend to decorate for the holidays at home).

Anonymous said...

In regards to hating the car wash - my son used to hate the car wash too. He would almost go into hysterics when the water started spraying. Every few months I would try again, and about six months later he decided that he LOVED the car wash. Don't give up hope!
My best car cleaning hack is to stuff some plastic grocery bags in the glove compartment or somewhere in the front of the car so that it is easy to fill them with garbage whenever you have a minute, like while filling up the car with gas or just anytime you are getting out of the car. Also, I've been known to use a baby wipe to clean the dashboard during a long red light.
Other uses for vinyl tablecloths - turn upside down and cover with a blanket for a picnic on damp grass. Lay on floor before letting kids play with playdough, clay, or paints.

Anonymous said...

Nice innovation on your cargo liner area... It is really cheap plus giving your car flooring some protection in unnecesary spills, leaks, scratches, scrapes, and other types of damage... I'm gonna try it this coming week... Thank you for the great idea...

Unknown said...

Does this vinyl ever get hot to touch during the summer time?

adrienne said...

It never really got hot. That might be because it was light colored.