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Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Car

Author of the article

By Saoirse McClure Fisher

calendar 10-05-2021 tag MAINTENANCE clock 8 min read

Let’s face it, it’s on everyone’s mind at the moment. What are we talking about? You guessed it. Viruses. We are sure by now you are an expert on ‘keeping yourself safe’. When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting your car, we could all use a little guidance. After all, there’s plenty of nooks and crannies, not to mention the fact that it might have multiple occupants all in a crowded space. Hey, look on the bright side, who doesn’t like sitting in a nice clean car?

This article will go through some great tips on cleaning and disinfecting your car, including; where to clean, how to clean, which materials to use, and what to avoid.

Cleaning and Disinfecting your Car | Why Do it?

Whether you’ve had a drive out to visit a castle, you wanted to test your eyesight or someone in your family is feeling a bit under the weather and has been in the car, you may suddenly feel the need to give it a good deep clean and disinfect?

Think about what gets touched in your car, by you… and others. What’s the one thing you do straight after going to the supermarket? That’s right, you get in your car. Anything which you touch often will be bound to pick up germs, bacteria and bugs from your hands such as:

  • The steering wheel
  • Door handles
  • Numerous switches
  • The gearstick
  • The handbrake

These are all touched often and regularly. How often do you clean any of these things? If you are anything like us, not regularly enough, and there has never been a better time to make sure that they are spotless.

How Long can Viruses Survive on Surfaces?

Germs can survive for a surprising amount of time on hard and shiny surfaces. For most surfaces in a car, it could be anything up to 4 hours! Even if you haven’t seen anyone outside of your own house, the risk of transmitting a virus is high when you consider that someone will get in and touch exactly the same areas as you did (or vice versa) especially when driving.

Face mask off and a bag of crisps anyone?

Fortunately, it is relatively quick and easy provided you have the know-how. Let’s take a look at how to keep your car clean and free of bugs.

Where to Clean Your Car

Generally, the interior is more important than the exterior (however don’t forget exterior door handles). Have a careful think about areas that you often touch (top tip, there’s a list just above at the start of this article). Focus on these areas as a priority. Essentially it is anywhere that you may touch.

For those with younger children anywhere that you see fingerprints is bound to be a hotspot.

A really useful exercise is to get in your car and have a little simulated ‘practice’ drive for 30 seconds. Did you miss the seatbelt buckle and release button? Do you hit the radio as soon as you get in? By doing this, you’ll be able to identify areas that are commonly touched.

If you are particularly concerned and want to give the car a deep clean. This might include taking out removable objects such as floor mats, seat covers and carpets.

How to Clean and Your Car

This is a two-stage process. First clean and then later disinfect.

With regards to cleaning, try not to use anything too abrasive. Most viruses are removed by the act of ‘rinsing’ them away instead of ‘killing’ them. It’s one of the reasons why washing your hands is so effective.

Don’t be too zealous in your efforts either. A wipe is as effective as a scrub, provided you are using the right products.

As a minimum, we would suggest a mild soap and a soft cloth. A soft cloth, such as a microfibre cloth is great for getting down into those hard-to-reach places really easily.


What Cleaning Products to Use When Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Car?

Avoid using any product that is corrosive or abrasive. Sure, you want to kill any virus, but destroying the leather trim in the process won’t make you too popular.

As you’ll already know, car interiors are made up of many different types of surface. As a bare minimum opt for the following:

  • Soap and water
  • Fabric cleaner
  • Plastic cleaner
  • Leather cleaner (maybe... get you, Mr/Mrs Posh!)

Start by reading the recommendations on the products. If you are in doubt either go for a milder option, such as soap and water or alternatively test the product on an inconspicuous area before using on the wider surface.

With regards to where to start, we would recommend starting in the cleanest areas first. That way you aren’t spreading dirt (or any contamination) to areas that didn’t have it in the first place.

How to Disinfect Your Car

There are a whole host of products on the market to disinfect surfaces. One of our favourites (and most convenient) is disinfectant wet-wipes. Once the car is clean, you can adopt the ‘belt and braces’ approach and wipe down any commonly touched areas. They are also great when you are ‘on the go’ or want to give the car a quick ‘once over’.

Make it part of your routine to give the car a ‘spritz’ with a wipe when you get in, it takes all of 2 minutes. Then you can relax and enjoy your drive.

Disinfectant sprays are also effective at killing germs. However, a word of caution. Some contain a high proportion of ethylene. This is about as friendly to plastics and car interiors as it is to viral particles.

Alcohol-based disinfectant sprays can also damage leather if left sitting, so if you are going to use it, do so sparingly and be sure to treat the leather afterwards.

What to Avoid when Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Car

Don’t get us wrong, we love bleach. However, your chestnut leather would like a word. Bleach will stain any fabric that it comes into contact with, so we’d advise against it.

Ammonia-based products are also to be avoided. Ammonia has a tendency to dissolve plastics, so unless you want a tacky steering wheel that you definitely won’t want to touch, give the ammonia a miss.

Chlorine-based products can tend to degrade fabrics too. One key area where these mustn’t be used is on seatbelts and safety straps. If these were to be weakened, you’d be in danger long after we are released back into the wild once this current ‘pandemic’ has passed.

Now Wash Your Hands

Most viruses spread as a result of people transferring them from a surface by touching their face. In fact, you may be amazed to learn that the average person touches their own face 23 times every hour (don’t ask us how many times they touch someone else’s, that’s their business).

Therefore, it stands to reason that if you’ve got clean hands, you stand less chance of picking up a bug or virus from something you’ve touched.

When you get in from the car, give your hands a decent wash with soap and water. 20 seconds of washing should do it.

FAQ about disinfecting and cleaning your car

Can you contract coronavirus by touching a surface?

According to advise from the NHS coronavirus is caught much in the same way as the common cold. They state that a person can also catch the virus by touching contaminated surfaces if they do not wash their hands.

What surfaces should be cleaned after asymptomatic person use?

Any surface that a person has come into contact with should be cleaned and disinfected. With regards to a car, this is particularly true of high contact areas. Essentially this is anything likely to have been touched. Door handles and the steering wheel are areas that should be really focussed on.

How can I protect myself and others when using disinfectants?

If you are using strong disinfectants, it is always worth preparing them in well-ventilated areas. Disinfecting wipes and fluids can often be very harsh. You must keep all disinfecting fluids, (even wipes) away from children. Disinfectant wipes should not be used to clean your hands, they can often cause significant irritation.

Which Surface disinfectants are recommended to reduce the spread of Covid-19?

The government advice is to use sodium hypochlorite. The non-technical name for this is bleach. If you do need to use bleach, do so sparingly and carefully. It doesn’t need to be too strong either. The current advice recommends using 1 part bleach to every 50 parts water.

Final Thoughts on Cleaning and Disinfecting your car

For current medical guidance on Covid-19 it is worth visiting the UK government website, and for health advice the NHS. Cleaning and disinfecting your car is only half the battle and must be done alongside other precautionary measures to be effective. Remember, if at all possible, try to avoid driving during periods of high risk. Thanks for reading and stay safe.


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