For a few months now, the world has been reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everywhere you turn, from social media to TVs to friends and neighbors, it's all coronavirus-talk. As you may know, the best defense against the spread of this deadly virus is to wash our hands with soap and water and disinfect surfaces often. But, have you given much thought about disinfecting the inside of your car? Of course, you have. But the problem is, are the sanitizers and bleaches that we use in our homes safe to use in a car interior? An automotive interior uses a variety of materials and some might be too sensitive for some chemicals. So, how do you disinfect your car interior without damaging it? Keep reading to find out.
Where to Start
Before anything else, it's best to wear gloves, especially if other people have been in your car recently. Our cars’ interiors have so many surfaces that we can come in contact with and you might be wondering where to start sanitizing first.
Choose the Right Materials
The first step is to choose the cleaning agents and materials with which to clean the interior of your car. Some chemicals may damage your leather interior or the fabric and you don’t want that. What to use:
- Soap and water
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Leather conditioner
- Microfiber towel What not to use
- Bleaches like hydrogen peroxide, thinners, benzene, and other harsh or abrasive cleaners
- Ammonia-based cleaners can damage the anti-fingerprint and anti-glare coatings on infotainment screens
Start with Vacuum
Before you start disinfecting your car interior, remove anything that gets in the way of cleaning the car. After that, remove dust, dirt, and other types of debris. A vacuum will do the best job here, sucking in all types of dirt and dust that normally you wouldn't succeed getting to with an ordinary cloth. While this will not kill the virus, it will make sanitizing the surfaces way easier. Remember to vacuum your carpets as well. If you don’t have a vacuum, don’t sweat it. Simply soak a cloth in a solution of soap and warm water, wring it out completely and then use it to wipe off the dirt and dust.
Sanitize High-Touch Points
You’ll want to spend more time on the hotspots for germs. These include the steering wheel, seatbelt buckles, gear selector, infotainment buttons, cup holders, interior and exterior door handles, key and remote fob, start button, windshield wiper controls, armrest, turn signal lever, all dashboard controls, and rearview mirror. Soap and water is usually a mild solution and will rarely hurt your car interior. However, be careful not to put too much water on your fabric seats. The cloth upholstery may soak through with water, and it can get to the cushion beneath. Using too much water will cause a build-up of moisture and that will lead to a musty smell or the growth of mold. Just make sure to soak the cloth completely and wring out any excess water before wiping the surfaces. Take note of where you touch – it's best to work your way down from the sun visors to dashboard, and then to the armrests and center console, and finally the interior door panels before moving to the back of the car. This way, you won’t recontaminate the surfaces that you've already sanitized.
When dealing with leather, leather imitations, or fabrics, take care not to scrub too hard as you may damage the materials. After cleaning leather, you may want to use a leather conditioner to prevent fading or discoloration.
Test Before Use
The key to killing all germs is to allow the product enough ‘dwell time’ to do its job. Each product has a different dwell time and it's best to read the instructions first before using it. However, you may want to test a small patch on your car interior, say behind the steering wheel, before using the disinfectant spray. After the dwell time has elapsed, check for any discoloration or fading. If there’s none, then the product is safe to use on your car interior. Don’t forget the car windows. Since they are pretty durable, you can use soap and water, alcohol, or disinfectant sprays. Just make sure to wipe off anything you wipe down.
When to Disinfect Your Car?
Unless you use your car as a taxi, you don’t need to disinfect it every day. Be especially careful if one of your passengers shows symptoms of COVID-19. In which case, use gloves and disinfect immediately to kill the viruses before they spread to other surfaces.
Stay Safe and Keep Your Car Safe
To keep your car infection-free after thorough sanitization, always wash your hands before getting in. If for whatever reason you can't wash your hands, use gloves whenever you want to use the car. Lastly, and most importantly, once you're done disinfecting and sanitizing your car interior, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Remember to keep a hand sanitizer in your car because you’ll need it, for example, after using the gas pump.
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