CAR CARE: TIPS FOR SANITIZING YOUR VEHICLE’S INTERIOR
When you think of a clean car, you may imagine one that’s free from trash, dirt and spilled snacks. And while regular vacuuming and detailing is an important part of vehicle maintenance, even a spotless cabin can become a reservoir for germs. If you’d like to keep your ride free from pathogens, consider these tips for sanitizing your vehicle’s interior
Use appropriate products
While upholstery cleaners and carpet shampoos are great for cleaning your vehicle’s cabin, you can also use household products as an alternative. Alcohol solutions that contain at least 70 percent alcohol are effective against coronavirus, according to the CDC. For the most part, nearly every interior surface of a vehicle can be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol, says Jeff Stout, executive director global innovation at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors. However, be sure to use a designated cleaner for leather seats, since cleaning them with alcohol can cause drying and cracking. The American Automobile Association recommends using disinfectant wipes for most surfaces, as well as plain old soap and water for upholstered surfaces. However, be cautious about how much water you’re using — if your vehicle doesn’t dry out properly, it can end up smelling musty.
Chemicals to avoid
While bleach and hydrogen peroxide can kill viruses, they can damage hard surfaces and upholstery in your vehicle. Also, avoid using ammonia-based cleaners on touch screens — they can permanently damage these displays. Instead, using a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth. And no matter what kind of cleaner you’re using for your car’s interior, be sure to test it for discoloration on a small, hidden area before dousing your cabin.
Identify high-touch surfaces
The dirtiest spots in your car are the ones that you lay your hands upon the most. These high-touch surfaces include the steering wheel, shifter knob, audio and climate controls, infotainment system, window buttons, door handles, turn signals and seat belts. If you have a truck or SUV, make sure to clean your tailgate or lift gate handle. Also, don’t forget to clean your keys or push-button ignition. It’s a good idea to sanitize these parts of the cabin regularly to avoid spreading germs. In addition to high-touch surfaces, clean areas that catch the brunt of your sneezes and coughs, such as the windshield and driver-side window.
Don’t forget the kids
Between schools, daycares, playgroups and extracurricular activities, kids come into contact with a lot of germs — and these germs can wind up in your car. When sanitizing your vehicle’s interior, pay attention to the areas that your children touch. This includes handles, armrests, windows, buttons and the rear-seat infotainment touch screens or remotes. Kids may also touch, cough and sneeze on surfaces that you may not think about, such as the back of the front-row seats and headrests, so be sure to clean these areas. It’s also a good idea to remove and wipe down any toys, books or electronics you keep stashed in the car. Most hard plastic toys can be sanitized with a soak in a mild bleach solution. The CDC advises cleaning them with four tablespoons of bleach for every quart of water.
Even mild cleaning products can lead to dry, cracked hands over time. Protect yourself from chemicals and germs by wearing gloves while you clean. If you can’t get ahold of disposable gloves, make sure to thoroughly wash or throw away the gloves that you’ve used for cleaning purposes. And whether you’re using disposable or reusable gloves, remove them by pinching the wrist and turning them inside-out. This prevents them from contaminating other surfaces. And although gloves provide protection, it’s still a good idea to wash your hands after removing them.
With a little vigilance and elbow grease, you can keep your vehicle’s interior clean and safe. For more information on which cleaners can kill viruses, visit the CDC and EPA website.