Woman washing red car

How clean is the average UK car?

Cazoo surveyed 2,000 car owners to find out the nation's car cleaning habits.

We clean our kitchens and bathrooms on a regular basis, but how often do we clean our cars?

From using your car as a moving wardrobe to somewhere you leave umbrellas and even empty coffee cups, our cars aren’t always just used to get us from A to B. Due to the recent increased importance on hygiene we conducted a study of UK car owners to ask them about their car cleaning habits.

We also teamed up with a driver who admits struggling to find the time to keep her car clean, to find out just how unclean cars can get. We carried out a swab test on the car and sent it off to a lab for testing which gave us some quite surprising results!

Car cleaning habits: The results are in

Our study revealed that when it comes to cleaning cars, we are a nation of DIYers, with over three quarters (76%) of car owners washing their cars themselves rather than using a car wash or asking or paying someone else to do it for them. 

On average, Brits thoroughly clean their car inside and outside themselves once every 11 weeks. Many of those surveyed admitted to cutting a few corners, though. Nearly half (46%) said they used quick fixes such as simply hanging an air freshener, while over a third (34%) confessed to spraying their car's seats with odour-eliminating spray.

Splashing the cash

With many preferring to clean their car themselves, it came as no surprise that over a third (35%) of car owners have never had their cars professionally cleaned. However, looking into those who pay for a professional to do the dirty work, Gen Z (those under the age of 24) are the most likely age group to pay for a professional to do the job, doing so once every seven weeks on average. This means they’re shelling out £25 per month or £300 per year to have their car cleaned. In comparison, baby boomers (those over the age of 55) only opt for a professional clean once every 10 weeks, equating to £8 per month on average.  

Items commonly left in cars

We know that clutter in the car can build up, so we asked respondents which items they most regularly left in their cars for long periods of time. Umbrellas are top of the list (34%), followed by bags (33%), drinks bottles or disposable cups (29%) and food wrappers (25%) – which explains why 15% of respondents said their car could be mistaken for a dustbin. Almost one in 10 (8%) leave sweaty gym kit to fester in the car, while 5% of people even leave the dog basket inside.

Putting on a show for passengers

When it comes to sprucing up the car before taking other passengers, we were interested to find out the nation's habits. It seems many drivers could do with some decluttering tips as we found more than one in ten (12%) admits that a passenger has had to move rubbish out of the way to sit down when getting in their car and 6% even say they’ve had someone refuse to get into their car due to how dirty it is!

Pride and joy

When it comes to lack of time, shockingly, nearly a quarter of car owners (24%) admit to sneezing on their steering wheel and not cleaning it up afterwards. 

Despite this there are also some clean freaks among us, with nearly a third (31%) priding themselves on keeping their cars clean and over two fifths (41%) wishing they had more time to do so. 

Putting an everyday car to the test....

Taking our research one step further, we worked with a microbiology laboratory to identify where dirt can build up in the everyday car. We visited one car owner, Elysha, and tested 10 different areas of her car to see where the dirt was lurking.

Watch what happened when we paid her a visit…

Tips and tricks to keep your car clean at home

1.   Declutter first

With 86% of Brits admitting to leaving items in their car for a long period of time, the first step we recommend is to simply clear out any mess before you start cleaning. Clearing away unnecessary items won’t take long but it will make a huge difference without you even needing to get out a vacuum cleaner or duster! Just grab a bin bag and get rid of the clutter so you have a blank canvas to work from.

 2.   Start with the roof

When it comes to washing your car, do yourself a favour by starting from the roof. By starting from the top you can rely on gravity to do some of the work for you as the soap and water runs down the outside of the car. It’s also much easier to track where you have and haven’t cleaned, preventing the annoying dirty patch that you always notice right at the end. Similarly, on the inside, starting high means any dust or dirt that falls will only fall onto the uncleaned parts so that you catch every last bit of grime.

3.   Remember to roll down the windows

If you’re washing the windows, don’t forget to roll each of them down when you’re finished so that you’re not left with a dirty strip at the top, where the window has been hidden in the door seal. If you don’t have any window cleaner to hand, it’s easy to make your own. Just get a spray bottle and mix one-part water to one-part white wine vinegar, being careful to make sure you don’t get any on your paintwork.

4.   Tackle hard-to-reach areas 

Some of the hard-to-reach places, like the inside door pockets, can be difficult to clean out. You can get right into the corners by using a pen or pencil with a small piece of Blu Tack on the end to help you reach every nook and cranny. A cotton bud or old make-up brush would work just as well. 

5. Squeegee away the dog hair

If you’re a dog owner, you’ll probably know how hard it can be to remove dog hair from your car. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use a squeegee or washing up glove to help sweep up the dog hair from your seats or carpet. It’s really effective and takes no time at all!

6. Dust and vacuum at the same time

It can be frustrating to find leftover dust or dirt in your car once you finish cleaning it. A simple yet effective tip is to dust and vacuum at the same time. For example, with a duster or brush in one hand lift the majority of stubborn dust/dirt from your car and keep the hoover in the other to instantly remove dust/dirt.

7. Keep the anti-bac wipes to hand

Our research showed that 41% of Brits wish they had more time to clean their car, but it doesn’t need to be a big job. Keeping a pack of anti-bacterial wipes in your car is handy for any spillages on your seats and saves any unnecessary stains. Cleaning little and often can help make all the difference – spending just five minutes regularly wiping down the dashboard can stop your car from getting too dirty.

Every Cazoo car is completely sanitised inside and out

We deep clean everything, from the backseats to the boot and even the engine. We also use Ozone gases to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. Find out more about how we’re keeping our Cazoo cars clean and safe for you and your family.

Methodology

[1] Market research was conducted by Research Without Barriers between 21st August 2020 and 24th August 2020 asking 2,008 UK adults who own cars.