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Home » The Vine

The Vine: September 9, 2011

Submitted by on September 9, 2011 – 10:12 AM37 Comments

On my drive to work I often drink coffee and eat cinnamon graham crackers. Sometimes during my lunch hour, I’ll go out to the parking lot and sit in my car, reading a book and eating crackers and cheese.

I’m pretty good at brushing the crumbs off my face, hair and outfit once I get out of the vehicle, but the car’s interior is much harder to get looking tidy again. When I take it for a wash and detailing, they’ll vacuum the floor rugs and wipe down some of the flat surfaces inside. But this still leaves crumbs and floury dust embedded in the seat cushions, dashboard, steering column, gear shifter, cup holder, and so on.

I’ve considered buying a small battery-operated vacuum device (Dirt Devil?) but my boyfriend says these aren’t worth the price and don’t work all that well and break easily.

Any suggestions for crumb-eradication are welcome.

Cracker Addict




  • Melanie says:

    I don’t what kinds of thing your BF is thinking of, but I’ve owned a couple of items in the Dust Buster genre, and they’ve all worked great. I assume that’s what you’re thinking – something you’d charge inside your house and bring out to the car for a clean up every couple of days or whatever? If you’re thinking of something smaller to stash in the car, I can see why your BF might be skeptical; I’m not sure something that small would have enough power to be effective.

    Each of the hand vacs I’ve owned (both of which are actual Dust Busters – the one I have now is here: came with various attachments, including a crevice tool which should help get in the cracks of the car upholstery.

  • amanda says:

    if the place you take your car to get detailed isn’t doing your upholstery/cup holders/all surfaces, you should find a new detailer! Especially with how much getting your car detailed can cost, for them not to do those is practically robbery!

    I nanny, and while I ferry the kids around, they eat in the backseat~I’ve found just taking my normal vacuum outside and using the brush meant for my couches gets a good amount of debris up. I live in an apartment, but the parking bays have outlets every few spaces, and I just bring an extension cord.

  • Sophie says:

    Unfortunately, I have no advice for you, but I come from the land of public transportation, and I must say that I find your routine delightful and charming and it made me smile.

  • attica says:

    Oh, yes, buy one. You won’t regret it. Since the Dustbuster was invented, these kinds of machines have really improved, both in suction power and in battery life. Most even have attachments now that’ll get down into seat cushion crevices.

    And they’re cheap, too, so even if they break in a year (which isn’t my experience, I should add), who cares?

    If somebody you know has a shop-vac, on the other hand, that’s certainly a good way to go. Them things suck so hard. (In a good way!)

  • Jessi In GA says:

    I loved this question, because I have a similar routine. I like to get to work early and sit my car, reading a book and eating bagels and coffee. It really throws off my day when I don’t have time to do that and have to eat at my desk. (I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who does this! My friends all think it’s weird. I should point them to this letter.) I’m looking forward to reading all the suggestions here. My car upholstery is always dusted in crumbs and sesame seeds.

    Darn it, I kind of want a bagel now.

  • JMR says:

    I agree with Melanie – I have a Black and Decker DustBuster handheld that I love, and it has held up through YEARS of sucking up cat hair tumbleweeds and stray kitty litter. It is powerful and I haven’t had any problems with loss of suction. You just have to make sure to wash the filter regularly. Also, it is expensive (retails for $220, though you could probably find it a bit cheaper on Amazon or Ebay), but if you have the means and feel like splurging, Dyson makes a handheld that is everything you could dream of, and more.

  • JMR says:

    I should clarify that the Dyson is the expensive splurge; I believe the DustBuster I own cost around $40.

  • Sandman says:

    @attica: It only occurs to me NOW that Shop-Vac or Dyson or Black & Decker or somebody should adopt the slogan “We suck really hard. And that’s a good thing!” Genius. But probably not the most, er, family-friendly tag line ever.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Sandman, see also: leaf-blower manufacturers, Conair, etc.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    My brother works at a car dealership and often details. Here’s his helpful suggestions:
    1. Find a new place to do your detailing. If they aren’t cleaning cup holders, wiping all the flat surfaces, etc. they’re not doing their job. (I edited his loooooonnnnnngggg rant about doing a job properly! Really, he took this just a bit personally! He could also write a book on how to get various bodily fluids out of car interiors.)

    2. Between detailings, once a week or so get a hair dryer with LOTS of blowing power on the low heat setting and blow out the cracks and crevices to the floor where it’s easy to vacuum or tape-pick (see number 3) the contents.

    3. Packing tape or duct tape. Keep a roll in your car and pull off a strip when you’re done eating and pick up any stray crumbs.

    4. Prevention: put a big dish towel in your lap that you can shake outside the car when you get to work.

  • M. Nightingale says:

    The coin-op car wash I visit also has a bank of vacuums, which are also coin-op. I’ve had good results using those vacuums, especially in the crannies of the car. Combine that with a little bit of swiffing to knock some of the dust out of the column and some Armoral on the dash, I’ve been able to keep my car quite clean.

    I have not had good results with hand-vacs.

    If it’s really bad, you can also use carpet cleaner, like Woolite, before you vacuum.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    While we’re discussing this…I wasn’t joking about the $46 of quarters that have slid under Campbell’s seat carriage. Any thoughts? Big magnet? Anteater? Anyone?

  • Quarter Solution says:

    Privately-owned, completely clean Shop-Vac? And empty it on the ground?

  • Sandman says:

    see also: leaf-blower manufacturers, Conair, etc.

    So I’m not the only one to come up with “John Deere: This totally blows,” either? Dang. So much for retiring in comfort on those massive residuals.

    “Anteater,” heh. But I got nothing on that one. Is there even enough ferrous content in coinage anymore to make the magnet solution feasible?

  • Andrea the Cracker Addict says:

    Thanks for great suggestions so far,

    going to lunch now.

    Bringing with me the roll of packing tape that I keep in my desk (used to remove orange cat hair from black pants before meetings.)

    Having quarters stuck in unreachable car-seat junctures is frustrating but not as bad as losing a piece of Morbier there.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    To retrieve quarters: (from my brother again) Get a vacuum with a hose attachment and lots of sucking power. Pull a leg of panty hose or a knee high over the end of the hose or crevice attachment (you may have to use it depending on the opening width) and secure with duct tape or a good rubber band. Start vacuuming under the seat. Try having a wooden spoon or some other tool to help pull the stuff through the crack. If possible, park on an incline so the widest opening is pointing downhill and let gravity help out.

    Bro also joked (I think) about asking a big strong guy to pick up Campbell and shake her upside down like a piggy bank.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    shake her upside down like a piggy bank

    hee! Aw.

  • Rachel says:

    Quarters: double-sided tape on the end of some stick-ish implement. Grab quarters, hold your breath as if you’re playing Operation, retrieve quarters, one-by-one. It might be a long, crumb-filled activity, but aside from lifting Cam up by the bumper and letting gravity help, I am not sure what else you can do.

  • Jenn says:

    How old is Master Stupidhead? Send him under to pick up all the quarters. This is why God makes children so small – to do the tasks we big people can’t.

  • Annie says:

    For the quarters under the seat, you might try a ruler with some sticky-tack stuck on the end. I’ve used that before and it got fuzzy/unsticky more slowly than tape did, and was effective.

  • StillAnotherKate says:

    I don’t own a car (the wonders of NYC living) and don’t really plan to. But if I do, I am TOTALLY getting it detailed by Nanc’s brother. What doesn’t that guy know?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Okay, so I’m supposed to cover Master Stupidhead in double-sided tape and shake him upside-down like a piggy bank. Got it!

  • JeniMull says:

    These are the best comments ever. I have been strangling on my choked laughter at my desk.

  • HielanLass says:

    If Master Stupidhead balks at becoming human velcro — positively howling with laughter picturing him covered in double-sided tape a la Letterman’s velcro suit, by the way — you can always have them take the seat out the next time she’s in the shop. Of course, if you have Torx 45 bit hanging around, feel free to DIY.

  • Sandman says:

    Please post pictures of Master Stupidhead, immediately post-crumb-dusting/coin-agglomerating mission.

  • Kathleen says:

    ok back to crumbs for just a sec… It might be worth getting a car seat slip cover. Sure it loks a litte dumb, but you can just wash it and when it’s time to re sell the car, pretty new seat! Alos get some of those rolls of tape like stuff for removing cat hair etc. That gets all the litte crumbs off you.

    Sars I think you should call Car Talk, just for fun…

  • Meg says:




  • Jo says:

    I own a regular-size Dyson, so I don’t know how good the hand-held is, but I can state from experience that it does indeed, suck super hard. I think one would work great in your car. And I second the person who said that if you’re paying someone to detail the car and they aren’t making sure the crevices and upholstery are clean, you should take your business elsewhere.

    Also: I am now craving cinnamon graham crackers.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I should have my own show: Half-Car Talk, with Frick OR Frack.

  • Kim says:

    Just popping in to say that the quarter-retrieval trick with the nylon over the hose is also excellent for picking up tiny little invisible-to-the-aged-eyes things in the house, like an earring back or a contact lens.

    Also, I look forward to seeing Master Stupidhead clad in his Swiffer Sleeper. Bring him to my house and we can bowl him up and down the length of the kitchen like a slip-n-slide!

  • Theresa says:

    For quarters (or anything else small, yet valuable, hiding in a cave beyond a narrow hole), a mechanical pickup (sold at hardware stores) is a godsend. You have to be able to see the thing you’re grabbing, or have a pretty good idea of where it is, but it does the job. It rescued my daughter’s favorite toy from a hole in a parking barrier once, and now it lives in my car, ready to serve again.

    The lighted one sold by Home Depot is called “General Tools 24 in. Lighted Mechanical Pickup” and is model #70396, internet #202025673, and store SKU #457038.

    (No, I don’t work for Home Depot, but I did run back to the store and thank the guy who sold me the pickup after I rescued the favorite toy :-)

  • PJ says:

    Swiffer Sleeper! They should totally make those!

  • JenV says:

    I have a mini set of car tools, and one of the items it came with is a small magnet at the end of a long collapsible metal stick. It looks almost exactly like a metal stereo antenna, actually. I think it’s intended for picking up screws and bolts when they’ve been dropped inside an engine, or under a car, where a human arm can’t reach. Anyway, I’m pretty sure something like that would be easy to find at an auto parts store and would pick up the change under Cam’s seat.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Oh, why did I have to spend this week out of town? I could have been laughing about Master Stupidhead gurgling with joy as he wears a stickytape onesie and rolls beneath Campbell while the local musclehead shakes her like a maraca! Stupid cabin on a Maine lake with its unutterable peace and loons calling to each other! (Not really, it was great, but you know. STICKYTAPE ONESIE.)

  • CindyP says:

    Unless you have some WWII steel pennies in the mix, no US currency contains iron, so a magnet would not pick up any change (I’m not even sure the steel pennies would work…I know magnets don’t stick to stainless steel appliances…).

  • Bronte says:

    Kinda off topic but here in New Zealand there used to be a vacuum ad with the vacuum turned on and a Sumo wrestler trying and failing to pull it off the floor. The tagline was “Hitachi. Very Sucky Motor”

    So it has been done, and well enough to stick in my head a decade later.

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