You may be driving less due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but did you know a typical car is home to more bacteria than a public toilet seat? In the current era, keeping your car clean is more important than ever, and thankfully, it is relatively easy to do so.
Coronavirus Essential Facts
According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus, also called COVID-19, is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets through contact with an infected person or contaminated surface. The length of time that the coronavirus can survive on a contaminated surface depends on many factors including temperature and humidity.
When it comes to your car, we know that the coronavirus can survive up to five days on glass and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The good news is that simple cleaning products, such as soap and disinfectants, mixed with a little bit of elbow grease, can help reduce the spread of the virus.
What Should You Clean?
‘High touch areas’ are the points of your vehicle that see the most contact. Virtually, anytime you get in your vehicle to go somewhere, you come into contact with these surfaces. Given their high usage, these areas are most likely to become contaminated and should be cleaned or disinfected regularly.
Examples of high touch areas include:
- Inside and outside car door handles
- Steering wheel
- Touchscreens such as entertainment and navigation consoles
- Keys and start/stop buttons
- Transmission shifter
- Sun visors
- Cup holders
- Indicator and windshield wiper stalks
Set A Goal: Are You Cleaning or Disinfecting?
Cleaning means physically removing germs and visible stains, dirt, and debris from a surface. You can clean a surface using soap and water or detergent. While cleaning doesn’t effectively kill the germs, it does remove them, which ultimately helps reduce the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting works by using chemicals, such as EPA-approved disinfectants, to actually kill germs on surfaces or objects. While disinfecting may not clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, it kills germs and can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
When it comes to choosing between cleaning or disinfecting your car, it’s best to do both. Not only will your car be squeaky clean, but it’ll be safe, too.
Which Cleaning Products Should You Keep In Your Car?
The next step is to identify cleaning products that will kill bacteria and COVID-19 without harming the interior of your vehicle. Your car interior is likely made up of a few different materials. You will need to use different cleaning products to safely clean each type of material without damaging it.
You’re likely already sitting on a good supply of cleaners and sanitizers that can be safely used on the inside of your car. Avoid using any products that contain harsh cleaning agents such as hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, or bleach as these will strip coatings and protective layers off interior surfaces.
For simply cleaning a car interior, a few drops of liquid soap and water is safe to use on most surfaces, and it’s been proven to be effective at killing the coronavirus. Ensure your liquid soap is vegetable-based as dishwashing soap can cause damage.
A microfiber cloth can be safely used to wipe down touchscreens. Do not use paper towels or any kind of tissues as these may scratch the display. Avoid using alcohol-based cleaners and disinfectant wipes on any touchscreens at all costs. If you’re aiming to sanitize or disinfect a touchscreen, an alcohol and ammonia-free screen cleaning solution can be used.
Cloth & Leather
For cloth materials and surfaces, a cleaning product such as Lysol is safe to use. However, as it is only effective by direct contact, be careful to get all those hard-to-reach spots.
Leather can easily dry out and show discoloration and wear if not treated properly. First, give leather seats and surfaces a gentle once over with a microfiber cloth to clean it. For sanitizing or disinfecting, you will need to use a special wipe that is completely alcohol-free. Soap and water can be used in a pinch, but it’s recommended to use a leather moisturizing kit afterward to maintain that premium look and feel.
Keep disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer in your car to use as you go. Be sure to clean these items regularly, as well. If you have small children, be sure to store any cleaners and disinfecting products in lockable storage, away from their access.
Is It Safe To Pump My Own Gas?
Driving your car, or even ridesharing increases your potential exposure to coronavirus more than you might expect. Even if you’re not using your car as much as you used to, a trip to the gas or charging station is still inevitable.
Many gas stations will have either disposable gloves or hand sanitizer for their customers to use while pumping gas, in addition to their own disease control measures. Despite this, the fact remains that both the gas pump handle and payment keypads are both high-contact or high-touch areas.
Ideally, you should wipe down both the pump handle and payment keypad before you make contact with them. If you don’t have access to alcohol wipes, a paper towel will do in a pinch. Sanitize your hands afterward, or wash them with soap and water to avoid transferring any bacteria to your car interior.
- Soap is your best friend – it’s doesn’t contain harsh chemicals and is effective at killing the coronavirus
- Prioritize all high touch areas
- Avoid products that contain alcohol or bleach
- Pay attention to the “wet time” listed on your cleaning products; many products must be left for several seconds before wiping in order to be effective
- Don’t let moisture sit for too long or it will leave a musty smell
- Paper towels and tissues may scratch surfaces and should be avoided
- You may need to use a leather moisturizing or reconditioning kit to prevent it from drying out