March 29, 2013

Licence To Spill

Many parents would jump at the idea of a vacuum cleaner built into the car. When children occupy the back seat, it may soon look like an unruly horde of fairies have been by sprinkling, not fairy dust, but an assortment of crumbs, bits of paper, mud, pieces of toys and other debris. The backseat could look worse than their rooms, that make you wish you had a giant vacuum cleaner to pull it all out in one go and start over.

Well, now you can. Honda offers a van-sized vacuum cleaner, in the shape of an Odyssey minivan with a built-in vacuum hose. The hose is said to reach every nook and cranny of the van's interior. I have seen no specifications on the suction power, but it had better be good if it's to deal with the backseat debris. Certainly if it has to do that within eight minutes, the amount of time it can run on the car's battery.

If you need more than eight minutes, you need to turn on the minivan's engine to power the vacuum cleaner, so yes, now you have what amounts to a 248 HP vacuum cleaner. To put that in perspective, the engine in my trusty Miele has 1200 Watt, or 1.6HP. Even that is too much for most household jobs.

"Where's the common sense?" It's something CelloDad says often. (I reckon if he gets exasperated enough he'll start his own blog). I suspect that the very presence of a vacuum cleaner encourages more littering, crumbs and carelessness.

You don't need a vacuum cleaner built into your car. All you need is a switch of perspective inside your head, and that of your children: Stop thinking that the car is a living space.

Your car is a box that gets you from A to B and back. It's not your second living room. Not a play room. And certainly not your dining room. Its mostly-plastic interior, especially when new, is too toxic for you to be spending more time in it than the absolute minimum necessary to get from A to B.

Once the hormone-disrupting flame retardants and plastic softeners have done offgassing (after a year or two), the slow process of decay begins that releases small bits of upholstery and plastic foam stuffing, still laced with those same nasty flame retardants and plastic softeners. If you eat in the car it's hard to avoid ingesting those.

So I minimise the time my children have to be in the car, especially when they were tiny. For short rides, they don't need to bring toys, and they don't need to be eating anything. For the occasional road trip, they are responsible for bringing their own entertainment of books, beeswax, colour pencils and such, all packaged into a backpack or a shoe box. They're expected to pack all of it out of the car when we arrive.

I discourage eating in the car; one should honour one's food by enjoying it sitting at a table and eating from a plate.

And for the rest, I try to stay on top of things. See my post on car interior cleaning: I use my home vacuum cleaner with its HEPA filter - I doubt it costs more than the price differential for the Odyssey's built-in vacuum hose. To avoid introducing any extra nasty chemicals, I don't use car-specific cleaners, and I stay away from fragranced products like those things called "air fresheners". It's all soap and water, some lemon juice, essential oils like peppermint or thyme: home stuff, nothing over the top, especially price-wise.

It shouldn't be expensive to clean a car.



  1. Love this post! When I first saw the Odyssey's built-in vacuum I thought "Why?". I can think of several more beneficial add-ons for a minivan.

    1. Yes, this one has a high gimmick coefficient....

  2. Hahahaha! I'm sorry but this is so very funny. Why in the world would you need a vacuum in your car? Actually, when I read the first paragraph, I was like no. My husband is a neat freak - seriously. He would want me to clean the car, and I don't have the time or energy. This would be a reason I would not buy the car.

    Seriously, what a waste. The kids will get back in and litter just as much or even more. It's a waste of time and the extra dollars, in my opinion.

    1. I know, right? Another reason to make the children take responsibility for their own seats and haul out their litter. It's a good life lesson.


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