How To Dog Proof Your Car

Cleaning Car Carpet

A couple of years ago, a fellow detailer and myself were discussing the dirtiest interiors we had ever had to clean.  He told me about a Honda whose back windshield was covered in an unidentifiable substance that appeared to have been smeared across the entire glass, completely blurring visibility. Whatever it was came off relatively easily but he was baffled by what the substance was until he drove off the parking lot. Two hefty Bassett hounds immediately jumped up to look out at him from the back rear window, both with their noses pressed lovingly to the glass.

From dog snot and projectile vomiting to dog hair and that musty, au natural dog-smell, pooches have not a smidgeon of propriety or manners. They do not wipe their feet before leaping into the front seat, and after giving their coat a good shake after coming in from the rain, they never entertain the thought of wiping down the drenched dashboard, console, or seats of the grime they just discarded.

We always tell you the truth here at Behind the Detail, so we are giving it to you straight. If Fido is a regular passenger in your vehicle, it is virtually impossible to dog proof completely – short of imprisoning them in a crate in the back, of course.

However, we do have a number of recommendations, some of them thanks to advanced technology, to help you control the after-effects of inviting Snoopy along, every time you go for a ride!

Start with a complete and thorough interior detailing to rid your vehicle of any traces of dog to start out. Use a wet/dry vacuum or European steam cleaning method for purging your vehicle of the dirt, fur, and dander that hides in the fibers of your upholstery and carpet/mats. Make sure your wet vac removes all traces of dampness and moisture from the cloth or carpet to prevent the build-up of mold and mildew. Finally, request an odor and bacteria removal system to remove (not just cover up) the source of pet smells such as urine or vomit. If you do not eliminate the source, the dog smells will return after a few days.

Now that you are starting afresh, let’s look at ways to protect your clean interior against Marmaduke. Starting with protecting your fabrics and carpet, the most economical solutions come in the form of removable plastic or cloth seat covers. Without something covering your cloth seats, they are like Velcro for dog hair. Even with vinyl or leather seats, fur flies off onto the carpet, or catches in the seams, piping, bolsters, and leading edges.

Plastic seat covers are easier to remove and clean, although not always attractive. Cloth seat covers are more attractive but harder to clean unless they are machine washable.

For your mats and carpeting, the most economical solution is hard plastic floor mat covers or heavy-duty WeatherTech floor mats and floor liners. Made of durable, non-slip rubber, they actually have grooves to catch spills and accidents of any kind and prevent it from seeping out onto the carpet. These mats and covers can be left at home when your pet isn’t traveling with you, but WeatherTech mats are also great for catching your own messes.

Looking at other options, you may try coating your fabrics with a water and stain-resistant fabric guard, or better yet, spend the extra money to have a protective coating applied to the interior.

Coatings are one of the hottest ticket items on the automotive aftermarket right now. Durable, long-lasting and impossible to wipe off because they bond to the surface on which they are applied, interior coatings are made specifically for leather, hard plastics like your dash and console, metal, wood, trim, glass, and fabric.

For your windows, some dog owners improvise the racecar driver’s method of tear-off plastic window guard sheets, using clear plastic wrap stretched across the area where your dog likes to look out the windows. Our preference is for glass coatings. Although they are on the pricier end of the spectrum, glass and other interior coatings are more cost-effective in the long term and a much better investment. Most glass-coating applications repel dirt and water, and last significantly longer than traditional protectants like Rain-X.

On the more mundane front, you should keep a supply of lint-rollers, an old blanket, and a never-ending supply of air fresheners and odor eliminators close by at all times.

Be careful about using over-the-counter spot removers. Moreover, never try to clean urine, vomit, or other pet spills using a sponge with soap and water. Without suction to remove the moisture, the bacteria in the spill will spread. Unfortunately, it makes the smell, and stain, worse.

Let’s face it, with a dog, car owners have many preventative options for dog-proofing their vehicles, but the truth is, dog owners need to have their vehicles cleaned and detailed, especially on the inside, more often that people who do not take their pets with them in the car!

  • Paul

    Any secrets to getting dog hair out of the carpet and cloth seats? Even with everything covered some dog hair sneaks past and is a bear to remove. I bought the stickiest lint roller I could find and along with my shopvac it’s still a bear as the hair is like needles and just sticks stubbornly.