Disinfecting a Car to Protect Against Germs, Coronavirus

Disinfecting your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser was crucial in preventing the spread of the new coronavirus that is causing COVID-19.

Since the virus has been shown to survive on surfaces for hours to days, much has been done about disinfecting your home and business.

But many people get in and out of vehicles all day and do not sufficiently disinfect surfaces that have been touched and on which germs can hide. If you are a carpooler or taxi company driver, keeping your vehicle clean is even more important to prevent the virus from spreading.

Disinfecting a vehicle can be more difficult than cleaning a house because of the many types of surfaces and all of the crevices and openings. Vehicle surfaces are also not designed to withstand a constant onslaught of harsh detergents and can wear out if cleaned too often.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), soap and water and alcohol solutions that contain at least 70 percent isopropyl alcohol are the most effective products for killing the coronavirus. These products are also safe for vehicle interiors.

Products containing bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and ammonia can be effective in killing coronavirus, but can damage upholstery and leather, and discolor fabrics. They can also cause skin and eye irritation, as well as burns. Cleaning with bleach could create indoor air pollutants, according to new research.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), natural products like vinegar, tea tree oil, and vodka have not been shown to be effective against the novel coronavirus.

Make sure not to use any aggressive cleaning agents on infotainment screens and other touchscreens. You should use screen cloth or a soft cloth dampened with soap and water and wipe dry. You can also attach a wipeable cover to the electronics to make cleaning and disinfecting easier and safer.

Isopropyl alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol should contain at least 70 percent alcohol. Alcohol disrupts the virus membranes and can kill coronaviruses on contact.

Soap and water

Soap and water alone are enough to destroy that outer layer that the virus needs to cause infection. However, this requires friction, so you really need to scrub the surface you are trying to sanitize.

As you prepare to disinfect a vehicle interior, in addition to the cleaning solution, you will need to collect some consumables. These include:

  • Gloves
  • mask
  • vacuum
  • Screen wipes (if your vehicle has a touchscreen)
  • Microfiber cloths (for cleaning and drying)
  • Bucket for mixing soap and water
  • Disposable or work clothes that you can wash immediately afterwards
  • Brush for scrubbing stains
  • Window / glass cleaner for cleaning glass after disinfection
  • Leather care product if you have leather seats

Keep doors and windows open while cleaning, as some detergents can irritate the eyes or throat. Follow these steps to thoroughly clean your car:

  1. First wash your hands and put on disposable gloves. You should also wear a face mask when cleaning to protect yourself from dust, chemical inhalation, and possible virus exposure.
  2. Remove all floor mats and shake them out.
  3. Vacuum gaps thoroughly to remove dirt and debris.
  4. Mix warm water and soap in a bucket.
  5. Dip a microfiber cloth in the soapy solution and wipe the seats thoroughly. You should really scrub, but don’t saturate the upholstery or leather with too much solution. Too much water can seep into the pillows and cause mold to grow.
  6. Scrub the previously removed floor mats with the soapy solution. Wipe with a second damp cloth and dry thoroughly with a towel.
  7. Use a damp, soft cloth to wipe dirt, dust, and anything sticky off any other surface on the vehicle.
  8. Dip a microfiber cloth or a soft cloth in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol or wipe touch-sensitive surfaces (steering wheel, buttons, handles, levers, etc.) with alcohol-based cloths.
  9. Let dry for 5 to 10 minutes. The surface should remain damp with cleaner for a few minutes so that viruses and bacteria can be effectively killed.
  10. Disinfect windows and mirrors with soap and water or alcohol. Conventional window cleaners do not kill the coronavirus. After disinfecting, you can spray a window cleaner solution on the windows and wipe it with a microfiber cloth.
  11. Discard all gloves and other disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) used for cleaning.
  12. Immediately after disposing of your gloves, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  13. Wash clothes that you have worn during cleaning and disinfection in warm or hot water.

Leather is a natural material and is prone to drought. When leather loses its natural oils, it can become less flexible and crack.

You should avoid bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and other leather seat abrasives.

When cleaning, use a microfiber cloth to avoid scratching the leather and do not scrub too hard. Soap and water are best for cleaning and disinfecting leather, as alcohol can damage the leather over time by stripping off its moisture. Avoid using excess foam and water.

It is a good idea to apply a leather conditioner afterwards to maintain the leather’s moisture, strength, durability and appearance.

There are some touch-sensitive surfaces inside a car. Here’s a checklist to make sure you don’t miss a thing while cleaning:

If someone in your household has COVID-19 or any other infection like the flu, it is especially important to sanitize and clean high-contact surfaces in your home and vehicles.

If so, it might be a better idea to just have the car professionally cleaned and detailed.

Many professional detailing centers have updated their processes for disinfecting the vehicle interior using an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered product to kill the coronavirus and other viruses and bacteria without harming your car.

Just like washing your hands and cleaning the surfaces in your home or work place, cleaning your car is an important way to stay safe and prevent the spread of viruses like the new coronavirus.

Soap, water and alcohol solutions such as disinfectant wipes or sprays that contain at least 70 percent isopropyl alcohol are effective at killing the coronavirus, according to the CDC. Avoid bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and ammonia-based products in your car.

At a minimum, disinfect all touch-sensitive surfaces such as door handles, steering wheels, commonly used buttons and levers, seat belts and armrests.

Soap is the safest way to clean fabrics and leather. Take particular care that no aggressive cleaning agents are applied to touchscreens in the vehicle. Whenever possible, use voice commands to avoid touching these screens completely.

It is also a good idea for you and your passengers to wash your hands before entering a vehicle. Cleaner hands can keep your car cleaner for longer.

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