Dog lovers don’t have to deal with a messy car. Here are some car cleaning tips to keep your vehicle neat when your pooch rides along.

Chances are if you have a dog, you’re looking for ways to spend more time with him. And even though Fido is such a good dog, bringing him along in the car can turn into a major headache. So, what can you do to keep your car in good shape and friendly to human passengers? The best way to keep it clean and odor-free boils down to a four-pronged approach, and the car cleaning tips within can be adapted to your specific needs based on the size, fur, or slobber factor.

Plan Ahead

If you already know that pet transport is going to be a major use of a car, consider the type of vehicle you use. SUVs and hatchbacks are ideal. If you can flatten the back seat and otherwise confine the dog to one area, that’s a great start. Think about the interior materials. Leather and vinyl seats are far easier to clean, but you’ll still have to guard against claws, in some cases. Also, in addition to cordoning off a specific area of the vehicle, designate only one car from the beginning if you have multiple vehicles to choose from.

Protect Everything

Get your car ready well before a single furry paw sets foot inside. Bigger, active dogs need more heavy-duty seat protectors that will stay in place, while smaller and medium-sized pups can handle a sheet from the house or a hammock-style cover. If you have fabric seats, treat them with stain repellent.

Don’t forget floors and windows. A sheet can also work on the ground, but you should invest in plastic floor mats—they’re easy to hose off and guard against human messes, too. To prevent nose and slobber smudges, cover the inside of the windows in plastic wrap.

Limit Shedding and Reduce Accidents

Regularly groom your pet to keep shedding to a minimum. Then, if your dog will tolerate wearing a t-shirt—knotted to tighten the open end—this will go a long way in keeping the fur and dander from flying. Importantly, don’t forget to give your puppy a bathroom break immediately before getting into the car.

Clean Up Immediately

Don’t wait for stains and smells to set in. Clean up accidents as they occur with an on-the-go kit, and make a big clean as soon as you reach your destination. A wet-vac works wonders, but other hacks use static electricity or sticky surfaces to pick up loose fur. Rub an inflated balloon, rubber glove, or window squeegee over the fabric to corral fuzz, or try a lint or Velcro roller to really get into the cracks. For stubborn odors, pour a light layer of baking power on the fabric and leave overnight, vacuuming it up in the morning. If you have to wet the interior to get a good clean, make sure to leave your windows down to dry—preferably in the sun—or you risk replacing your pet problem with a mold problem.

In the end, there’s no reason why your pup can’t go with you on big adventures or simple errands. And come on, you know he wants to. As long as you stay on top of the potential for mess and take care of it as soon as you can afterward, everybody can have a tail-waggin’ good time.

Blair Lampe

About the AuthorBlair Lampe

Blair Lampe is a New York-based freelance writer and mechanic.  She travels frequently and on a budget, which she documents on her website TheGreyBeyond.