February 24, 2019 4 min read

Like death and taxes, emptying out, and then actually cleaning the garage is an inevitable part of life. Clutter in the garage tends to grow and expand until it fills all the space in the garage. Clutter tends to multiply and split like cells in the body splitting.  Although in the case of a garage, the only thing that may actually split is the walls!


How do we start work on a messy garage? Start by taking everything out. I mean it, take out everything. A proper clean involves ceiling, floor and walls. The most important of garage cleaning tips; remove all items stored in your garage and start organising them into piles. It’s important to determine what you must keep and what should be thrown out or sold.

Once you’ve removed every possible object in the garage that was not bolted down, take a good look at what you have piled up outside. Ruthlessly examine every item to determine if you must keep it, should throw it out, or don’t need it but could possibly sell it.

“If an object isn’t bringing you joy”…then get rid of it.

If you haven’t used it in a year, you probably don’t need it. Start to sort your piles into three categories; keep, sell and throw away. Before you go any further with the garage clean up, get rid of the throw away pile. A lot of these objects may sell.  You can sell items on Trademe, or by running an “old school” garage sale. This helps you in 2 ways.  First, you know things are going to a new home.  Second, you can make money to cover the cost of organising. Carefully put the other two piles somewhere safe, until the garage clean up is done. We’ll come back to these things later after we’ve completed the actual cleaning, and are ready to begin the process of organising a garage.

Depending on how long the garage has been neglected, this could be a daunting process.

For the next step, you need a bucket, brushes, brooms, sponges, and cloths. You may also need a wire brush, oil stain remover. The ability to use your family as “volunteered labour” is helpful.

How to clean a garage? Start from the top and work your way down. A messy garage tends to collect disorder on the floor; we will work with that fact, as well as the law of gravity. From the ceiling, use a broom to clear any cobwebs. Check light fixtures, garage door hardware and windows for any defects, then give it all a good wipe down. Now give the walls and windows a good soaking with a car washing sponge. Use old towels to wipe everything dry. You should have a proper mess on the floor by this point. Starting from the back, use a push broom to sweep every bit of debris toward the front and out the door. Getting things literally out of the garage has 2 advantages.  First, you have to address the issue, or the neighbours will complain.  Second, you can now reach the hard to reach places. Water figures prominently in my garage cleaning tips, so now get the bucket. Give the floor a thorough mopping.  You may have to scrub hard to remove many years of gunk. After drying, if there are oil stains on the floor, you can try brushing them.  You may be able to get away with brushing the spot with a wire brush.  But don’t hurt yourself.  You may need to get a commercial oil stain remover.  This remover will pull out stains so you can easily clean it.

If you don’t have the floor on your garage carpeted, I do recommend it.  It makes the garage feel like a “real room.”  A high quality floor carpet will extend the life of your garage floor, cover cracks, and prevent further damage from moisture getting into the concrete.

How is organising the garage going so far?  Next you must handle the items you’ve chosen to keep. Now is a good time to install shelving to organise items.  Shelving is great at both organising garage items, as well as freeing up floor space.  You can also mount ceiling hooks to hold sports equipment, bicycles or camping gear. Buy stacking containers to maximize your vertical space from floor to ceiling. You’ll be amazed how much more your organised garage can hold. First, focus on long term storage items.  These are items that you won’t need for a long time, like keepsakes, documents, or old clothing. Next, work on seasonal items.  These include lawn care equipment, holiday decorations, and Christmas outfits. Lastly, you should work on items that are used at least monthly. These items will now be easily found and accessed. The idea is to put the items used most frequently towards the front of any storage spaces.  Items used less frequently will be more hidden. By focusing on making it easy to put things away, you make it more likely that you will be successful at maintaining the garage.

Once you’ve restored cleanliness and order to your garage, you’ll realise what a valuable space it is. Think of the possibilities! You could actually keep your car in there, for example :). Some people transform the space into a “mancave” or gym.

What have you done to clean or organise your garage?  Do anything fun with the extra space?