As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread throughout the country, many people are looking to disinfect anything and everything they come into contact with on a regular basis. In addition to household items, devices and doorknobs, don’t forget to clean and disinfect your trusty vehicle!
It’s important to ensure that you’re properly sanitizing all aspects of your ride. To stop the spread of germs, it’s crucial to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and EPA standards.
Without a doubt, when cleaning and disinfecting the interior of your car you should exercise more care than you do with many items around your house, such as a light switch or bathroom counter. It’s important to ensure you’re effectively cleaning all your interior surfaces while at the same time not damaging materials such as vinyl, plastic and upholstery.
According to the CDC, cleaning removes germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces, rather than killing them, and reduces the risk of spreading infection by lowering the number of germs on a surface. Disinfecting, on the other hand, kills germs on surfaces and takes the work of cleaning one step further.
You may be thinking, where should I begin? Luckily, properly cleaning and disinfecting your car is not super complicated and with just a few key steps, you can accomplish it in no time!
First, to effectively clean and protect, you should begin with a thorough vacuuming of the entire interior. It’s important to spend time getting into the areas that accumulate the most dirt and dust, which will make cleaning and disinfecting much easier and more effective when you reach that step. If your vacuum has attachments for getting into crevices and tight spots, use them!
Once that’s complete, assess your cleaning products and check the EPA’s list of registered disinfectants that meet the criteria against coronavirus.
Now it’s time to find the proper products, depending on your vehicle’s interior and the materials found there. A very important tip: do not treat all these surfaces as one and the same. While there are combination cleaners that can cover more than one area, it’s important to identify your interior’s material and select the most appropriate and effective cleaning products for the type of material.
- Vinyl and synthetic interiors. Since this material doesn’t absorb anything, it’s easier to disinfect. To be cautious and prevent damage, avoid using cleaners that contain alcohol or bleach. Be especially wary of plastic compounds, which are used frequently in consoles, dashes and door panels. They are especially vulnerable to alcohol-based cleaners.
- Leather interiors. If you are using an alcohol or detergent-based cleaner on leather seats and dashboards, don’t forget to apply a leather conditioner afterward to restore moisture.
- All interiors. As a best practice across the board, it’s worth avoiding all solvents, which include acetone, kerosene and alcohols, when possible.
With that, it’s critical to be especially cognizant of frequently touched items. Make sure to give your steering wheel, seat belt buckle, door handles (inside and out), shift knob and dashboard controls a thorough wipe down with antibacterial products. If you have a touchscreen, do not overly wet it, and use a product specifically for screens.
If you have any doubts about how certain surfaces will respond to harsher cleaners and disinfectants, test the product first on a less-conspicuous spot to ensure it won’t cause damage before performing a more thorough cleaning.
Overall, it’s important to routinely sanitize all surroundings you have access to in order to do your part in reducing the spread of germs and infections. If your vehicle is regularly driven by more than one person, each driver should share in the cleaning responsibility (or appoint one person to be in charge).
Lastly, of course, always defer to the CDC’s guidelines for personal and environmental hygiene to learn more about how you can do your part to keep yourself and those around you safe and healthy!
Richard Reina (above, left) is product training director at CARiD.com, an aftermarket parts and accessories specialist.