How to Disinfect a Car to Protect Against Germs, Coronavirus

Disinfecting your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer has been crucial in preventing the spread of the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

Since the virus has been shown to survive from hours to days on surfaces, there has beeb a lot of focus in the media about disinfecting your home and business.

But many people enter and exit vehicles throughout the day and don’t adequately disinfect commonly touched surfaces where germs can be hiding out. If you’re a driver for a rideshare or taxi company, it’s even more important to keep your vehicle clean to stop the virus from spreading.

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

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

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

Natural products like vinegar, tea tree oil, and vodka haven’t been shown to be effective against the novel coronavirus, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Take care not to use aggressive cleaners on infotainment screens and other touch screens. You should use screen wipes or a soft cloth dampened with soap and water, and wipe dry. You can also place a wipeable cover on electronics to make cleaning and disinfecting easier and safer.

Isopropyl alcohol

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

Soap and water

Soap and water alone are sufficient to disrupt this outer layer that the virus needs to cause infection. This requires friction, however, so you’ll need to really scrub the surface you’re trying to disinfect.

When preparing to disinfect a vehicle interior, you’ll need to gather a few supplies in addition to the cleaning solution. These include:

  • gloves
  • mask
  • vacuum
  • screen wipes (if your vehicle has a touch screen)
  • microfiber cloths (for both cleaning and drying)
  • bucket for mixing soap and water
  • disposable gown or work clothes that you can wash immediately afterward
  • brush for scrubbing stains
  • window/glass cleaner for cleaning glass after disinfecting it
  • leather conditioner, if you have leather seats

While cleaning, keep the doors and windows open as some cleaning products can irritate the eyes or throat. Follow these steps to thoroughly sanitize your car:

  1. First, wash your hands and put on disposable gloves. You should also wear a face mask as you clean to protect you from dust, chemical inhalation, and potential virus exposure.
  2. Remove all floor mats and shake them out.
  3. Vacuum crevices thoroughly to remove dirt and debris.
  4. Mix warm water and soap in a bucket.
  5. Dip a microfiber cloth into the soapy solution and wipe down the seat surfaces thoroughly. You should really scrub, but don’t saturate the upholstery or leather with too much of the solution. Too much water may seep into the cushions and cause mold to grow.
  6. Scrub the previously removed floor mats with the soapy solution. Wipe clean with a second damp cloth and dry thoroughly with a towel.
  7. Use a moistened soft cloth to wipe up dirt, dust, and anything sticky from all other surfaces of the vehicle.
  8. Dip a microfiber cloth or soft cloth in 70-percent isopropyl alcohol or use alcohol-based wipes to wipe down high-touch surfaces (steering wheel, knobs, handles, levers, etc.).
  9. Let dry over the course of 5 to 10 minutes. The surface should remain wet with cleaner for several minutes in order for it to be effective at killing viruses and bacteria.
  10. Disinfect windows and mirrors with soap and water or alcohol. Traditional window cleaners don’t kill coronavirus. After disinfecting, you can spray a window cleaner solution on windows and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.
  11. Dispose of any gloves and any other disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) used for cleaning.
  12. Right after you dispose of your gloves, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  13. Wash any clothing worn during cleaning and disinfecting in warm or hot water.

Leather is a natural material and is vulnerable to dryness. If leather loses its natural oils, it may become less flexible and start to crack.

You should avoid bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and any other abrasive cleaner for leather seats.

When you’re cleaning, use a microfiber cloth to keep from scratching the leather, and don’t scrub too hard. Soap and water are best to clean and disinfect leather since alcohol can damage the leather over time by stripping its moisture. Try to avoid excess foam and water.

It’s a good idea to apply a leather conditioner afterward to help preserve the leather’s moisture, strength, durability, and appearance.

There are quite a few high-touch surfaces in the interior of a car. Here is a checklist to ensure that you don’t miss anything while cleaning:

If someone in your household has COVID-19 or another infection, like the flu, then the need to disinfect and clean high-contact surfaces in your home and vehicles is especially important.

If this is the case, it may be a better idea to just have the car professionally cleaned and detailed.

Many professional detailing centers have updated their processes to disinfect the inside of your vehicle using a product registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to kill the coronavirus and other viruses and bacteria without damaging your car.

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

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

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

Soap is the safest way to clean fabrics and leather. Take extra care to avoid harsh cleaning products on any touch screens in the vehicle. If possible, use voice commands to help avoid touching these screens altogether.

It’s also a great idea for you and your passengers to wash their hands before entering a vehicle. Having clean hands can keep your car clean for a longer amount of time.

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