Disinfecting your Car

Cleaning the car is a task we all should undertake regularly. Regular cleaning maintains your car’s appearance, but it may not kill or remove the germs that can harbour in the nooks and crannies of your car’s interior.

If not cleaned properly, your car can become a hotbed of germs. For this reason, it is worth disinfecting the high-touch areas of your car’s interior on a regular basis.

The following will help guide you through the process.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

We recommend that suitable PPE is worn such as gloves, glasses and facemask.

  • The gloves can be single use disposable (preferred) or washable dishwashing type.
  • A breathing mask is always a good idea for dealing with any dust and fumes during the cleaning process.
  • The glasses are to protect your eyes from any chemical splashes or debris.
  • However, should you suspect the vehicle has been exposed to something that could present a significant health risk, please refer to the government’s guidelines here.

Chemicals and Cleaning Equipment

It is important to check the suitability of the products you are intending to use. Some manufacturers will list on the container what their product is designed and effective for. It will also list a contact or dwell time the product must be left on that surface to complete its task, this is particularly important when it comes to disinfectants.

  • Soaps and detergents designed for the purpose of cleaning car interiors. Washing your car over grass helps reduce the amount of contaminated run off that ends up in our waterways.
    - Available from most automotive parts and accessories retailers.
    - Plain soap will work, just not as well.
  • Disinfectant wipes will work so long as it has disinfecting alcohol in it, check the label as it may also say what the disinfectant is formulated to be effective against.
  • Cloths like domestic cleaning wipes which can be purchased inexpensively in a roll.
  • Microfiber cloths are the best for cleaning, but not cheap. If you suspect your car is contaminated, you might want to choose an inexpensive cloth you can throw away when you’re finished.
  • Vacuum cleaner.
  • Small scrubbing brush.
  • Cheap hard bristle toothbrush.
    - Purchase it new for the job and throw it away when you are finished.
    - A used toothbrush will have soft worn bristles that won’t clean as efficiently.
  • Two clean buckets, preferably different colours.
  • Clean water.
  • Leather conditioner for treating any leather surfaces after you are finished
  • Garbage bag for immediate disposal of any waste or contaminated items.

Priority High-Touch Areas

  1. Keys
  2. Steering wheel
  3. Switch stalks, wiper, indicator and light controls
  4. Gear selector
  5. Door handles inner and outer
  6. Touch displays
  7. Audio and climate control systems
  8. Arm rests
  9. Anywhere directly in the firing line of a sneeze or cough

As these surfaces can be quite textured for grip, they may require extra effort to clean.

Setting up

  1. Park the car in a safe well-ventilated spot where you can open all doors and boot at the same time with plenty of room to move around it.
  2. Make sure you have access to nearby water without having to open doors or gates to get to it. If you can’t avoid having to open doors and gates, remember to disinfect where you touched when you’re finished.
  3. Bring out all the gear you intend using for the job and have it ready.
  4. Cloths - if you purchased a roll, tear 12 or so off first and put the roll aside. If you must get more, remove your gloves to avoid contaminating the roll, put fresh gloves on once you have what you need.
  5. Half fill the buckets with water, adding detergent to one following the directions on how much to dilute it to clean any equipment you are using as well as areas of your interior by dampening the cloth.
  6. Fill the other bucket with just plain water for any dampening and rinsing duties.

First the clean

Important: Use products designed for cleaning car interiors in the manner they were designed to be used and follow the instructions carefully. It is also worth noting different products are made for different surfaces. Also, test the products first on out of the way spots of the different types trim, to make sure it will not harm any of your interior. Disinfecting will be more effective if you clean the car first.

  1. Vacuum first before you wet any surfaces and your work area.
  2. Pay attention to the steering wheel and gear selector; they are textured surfaces that have the most frequent hand contact.
  3. Keep away from any electronics as moisture of any kind can cause some very expensive problems.
  4. As you soil the cloths either thoroughly rinse or throw them away and grab fresh ones from the pile.
  5. Dwell time will change with temperature - the higher the surface temperature is of what you are cleaning, the less dwell time is generally needed.
  6. Give all the high-touch areas a good scrub except for touch displays.
  7. Touch displays are loaded with electronics and quite delicate. They are easily damaged by chemicals and aggressive cleaning, so be gentle,
  8. Wipe down the interior with a clean, dry cloth once you are finished and throw that cloth away.

Then Disinfect

Alcohol based disinfectants can be effective in automotive applications. However, you need to follow the products instructions for proper use. Again, test the products on different trim surfaces, in discrete locations first, keeping an eye on the required dwell time to see if it causes any damage to those surfaces before using in larger areas.

  • Disinfectants designed for automotive use are likely to be the safest. Depending on what you can source, use sprays and wipes with alcohol type disinfectant.
  • Temperature can affect the performance of these products. Check the label for the manufacturer’s advice.
  • If using a spray, first spray into a clean cloth then apply the lightly moistened cloth to the surface you are wanting to disinfect.
  • Note the dwell time, how long to leave the disinfectant on to kill the germs, then wipe off with a dry, clean cloth.
  • Pay most attention to the high touch areas as listed above.
  • Do not forget your keys too, just a wipe with a lightly moistened cloth, trying not to damage any of the electronics living inside modern keys and their remotes should suffice.
  • Wipe down the interior again with a dry clean cloth once you’re finished.
  • Throw away the rubbish when you are finished.
  • Give your hands a good wash once you are done cleaning up.

What not to use:

Read the contents of the bottles you are intending to use and remember:

  • Do not use any products that list any type of bleach, ammonia or hydrogen peroxide in them on your car’s interior.
  • These chemicals will put an end to germs, but they will also cause damage to the vinyls, plastics and dyes used in most modern cars today.
  • Besides, with recommended contact or dwell times of at least 10 minutes or more, most of these disinfectants would kill your interior’s finish before the germs.

Final Thought

Once done properly, it is just a simple case of keeping it clean and giving the high-touch areas a wipe to keep it hygienic.