Keep it clean! Why you ought to drive a tidy truck and the tools you need to do so

Updated Mar 24, 2021

As a kid, you no doubt heard your mom tell you, “Clean your room!” That’s one of those things they have to say; it’s part of being a mom.

We trust mom’s not around these days to say, “Clean your truck!” Still, It makes sense for a lot of reasons, especially in these days of the COVID-19 coronavirus. But good hygiene is just one reason to tidy up your truck on a regular basis.  

Prevailing wisdom in the trucking world says a clean truck can keep you out of trouble if stopped by the cops, especially for an inspection. The thought process is said to go something like this: Good drivers keep their trucks clean. Good drivers also play by the rules and keep their trucks well maintained, and don’t tinker with their hours of service. Good drivers are less likely to need to be inspected. 

Besides, it’s not a good first impression if you have to dig through three days’ worth of fast-food wrappers to find your paperwork when asked for it.

RELATED: See more trucker tips and the latest devices and gadgets in the newest edition of the Overdrive and Truckers News Truckers' Gear Guide from the RoadPro Family of Brands. 

Honestly, keeping your truck -- and trailer -- clean is part of the job, and you need to have a workable routine and the right tools to be successful at it.

Dickies canvas bag keeps your cleaning gear organizedDickies canvas bag keeps your cleaning gear organizedOne of the keys is to always be cleaning a bit at a time: don’t let trash accumulate, don’t let stains set, don’t allow dust to build up, and don’t let leftovers or dirty laundry linger until it’s what you first smell when you open your truck’s door to get in.

That means having the basic tools handy and easy to use. Your cleaning kit can be corralled in a canvas tool bag like one from Carhartt or Dickies, making everything accessible.

Helpmate broom and dustpan for your truckHelpmate broom and dustpan for your truckOne of the basics ought to be a brush and dustpan, which can make short work of dirt and gravel on the floor of your truck or crumbs in your sleeper berth. RoadPro’s HelpMate line offers two: a small one and one that is a bit bigger. Either ought to do just fine. A nice feature of each is how the handles lock together for convenient storage.

The mechanized version of that is a portable, handheld, battery-operated, or 12-volt vacuum cleaner. There is a slew of them on the market so you ought to not have a problem finding one that suits your needs. 

RoadPro 12-volt wet/dry vacRoadPro 12-volt wet/dry vacRoadPro offers a 12-Volt wet/dry canister vacuum to tackle most road messes. Whether you’re cleaning up spills or vacuuming up dirt the heavy-duty 12,500 RPM motor with a 36-inch flexible hose comes with several attachments that are perfect for carpet, upholstery, or those hard to reach crevices. The 17' power cord plugs directly into your cigarette lighter socket or other 12-volt port. The vacuum includes reusable filter bags. It draws 12 Amps/ 120 Watts.

Worx, a brand best known for its hardworking yard and garden tools, has a 20-volt, battery-powered vacuum that weighs just three pounds. It comes with a four-foot-long hose that takes a small brush or crevice tool. The $99 price includes the battery and charger.

Black & Decker’s FLEX is a compact handheld vacuum designed to reach under seats, into crevices, and between cushions. Cordless portability combined with a four-foot-long hose and four detail accessories gives you access to every bit of your truck. It also features three-stage filtering.

You can't have too many cleaning cloths like these from HelpmateYou can't have too many cleaning cloths like these from HelpmateYou’ll also need some absorbent cloth towels that can perform any number of cleaning tasks. Helpmate delivers a set of three that are 12” x 16” that can be used for cleaning your dash, sopping up spills, or drying the dishes after an in-cab dinner. The nice thing about these, they don’t leave behind lint, which itself will need cleaning up.

There’s no getting around it, even as we try to be more environmentally sensitive, you’ll need a roll of paper towels in your truck.

A favorite truck tool to tuck in your cleaning bag is a simple soft-bristled paintbrush. No, you won’t be touching up paint in your truck’s interior, but a three-inch-wide paintbrush is great for cleaning in small, hard-to-access places like the air/heater grates on your truck’s dash.  

Cleaning your truck’s interior will often take more than a damp cloth and plenty of good old elbow grease. Fortunately, there’s Armor All’s long line of products that will clean, shine and protect many of your truck’s surfaces.

ArmorAll a cleanliness must-have for your truckArmorAll a cleanliness must-have for your truckArmor All’s Original Protectant is as close to a “must have” for any truck cleaning as you’ll find. It:

    • Cleans away dirt, dust, and debris
    • Helps prevent cracking, fading, discoloration, and premature aging
      • Helps revitalize vinyl, plastic, and rubber surfaces
        • Can be used on exterior rubber and plastic to protect against damaging UV rays

          Armor All wisely adds this caution: “Not for use on floors, vehicle controls (pedals, grips, steering wheels), bench or cycle seats, cycle tires, brake drums and other surfaces where slipperiness may be hazardous.”

          Armor all also makes a variety of other truck care products including wipes for cleaning glass, special cleaners for leather, cleaners for tires and wheels, and air fresheners.

          (Note: Before using any cleaning product on your truck’s interior, check the owner’s manual or with your maintenance shop to be sure what you use is compatible with the materials you’re cleaning. You don’t want to accidentally damage anything or void a warranty.)

          Helpmate makes a variety of brushes to keep your truck cleanHelpmate makes a variety of brushes to keep your truck cleanOften, cleaning your truck is more than simply wiping down the dash, taking out the trash, and tidying up your bunk. Your truck’s exterior takes quite a beating and you need to be prepared to clean it as well. That often means breaking out some heavier firepower, like the variety of brushes from Helpmate.

          Your truck will benefit if you have Helpmate’s tire and bumper brush, wheel brush, squeegees, and other brushes to clean the road gunk off your truck's exterior.

          Another “must-have'' is a sturdy push broom for sweeping out your trailer.  Helpmate’s broom has a 60-inch metal handle, and 24-inch wide head, and three-inch-long Helpmate push broom to sweep out your trailerHelpmate push broom to sweep out your trailerbristles. This is the sort of broom that works hard so you don’t have to.

          (Some truckers believe a suitable alternative to the push broom for cleaning your trailer is a battery-powered leaf blower. Just be sure to wear eye and ear protection as you will kick up some dust and debris in the process.)

          But, getting rid of the grit and grime that comes with life on the road is just one part of the cleanliness equation. Staying clean also means staying organized, and in short, that means keeping small items, digital gadgets, chargers, and paper under control.

          A backpack, briefcase, messenger bag, or similar carrying case can keep your office supplies properly organized. It also keeps them mobile if you can find a place outside your truck to sit down and do your paperwork and have a cup of coffee.

          Duluth Trading cab organizerDuluth Trading cab organizerIf you drive solo, a true organizing godsend can be a cab organizer that hangs over the passenger seat. With numerous pockets of various sizes, an organizer like this keeps pens, paper, tablet, laptop, chargers, paperwork, and permits within arm’s length. It also keeps them from sliding off the seat and onto the floor.

          Roadpro has a 14-pocket seatback organizer that’s like having a supply closet in your truck. Its open pockets keep everything from a bottle of water to a flashlight to your favorite snacks at hand. 

          Duluth Trading’s Cab Commander has a large main compartment to hold a laptop or your trucking atlas, several smaller pockets including a padded one for your smartphone, and loops for pens and pencils.

          Duluth also has a similar, larger organizer that hangs on the back of the seat and is accessible while you’re in your sleeper.

          RoadPro permit binder keeps your paperwork organizedRoadPro permit binder keeps your paperwork organizedAnd, to keep your paperwork in order, you can use a convenient permit holder from RoadPro. The vinyl binder has 18 plastic sleeves to keep and protect permits and other documents. It has a Velcro closure to keep things secure.

          Finally, here are seven essential tips for cleaning your truck and keeping it clean:

            1. Have a routine and stick to it. Carry a cleaning cloth and a small spray bottle of cleaner as you do your pretrip inspection.
            2. Always take any trash with you and properly dispose of it anytime you leave your truck at a rest area, truck stop, or terminal.
              1. If you cook and eat in your truck, stow or toss leftovers, wash the dishes and dispose of wrappers or containers before you hit the road again. 
                1. Make your bunk when you get out of it for your driving day. Not only does it keep your sleeper berth in order, but it also lets you start the day with a positive accomplishment under your belt.
                  1. Plan to use part of your 34-hour reset to do a thorough cleaning so when you start driving again, you’re in a clean truck. 
                    1. If possible, have a pair of boots or shoes you wear when you leave your truck and a pair you only wear when you're driving. This cuts down on the amount of dirt you track into your truck. (And no, that indoors-only pair cannot be a pair of flip flops or fuzzy slippers!)
                      1. Clean all your glass fanatically. Clear visibility is a must, so wash your windows and mirrors as often as time allows.

                        Do those things, and you won’t hear Mom’s voice in your head telling you to pick up after yourself because she’s not your maid.