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How to Make the Used Car You Just Bought Less Germ-Infested

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Tips for cleaning a used car that's filled with festering mold, bacteria, and critters

man washing cleaning car interior wiping leather seats

You’ve spent months looking for the used car that’s within your budget and meets all your expectations. As you exchange the money for the title and drive your new car away, don’t forget one very important fact: this car was previously driven by someone else.

Studies show that car interiors are crawling with bacteria, so if the car’s previous owner was even half as messy as you are,  you can be sure that your new purchase is a haven for germs. Seriously, would you buy a used toilet seat or utensils without cleaning them?

In addition to all the legal and mechanical boxes to check when obtaining a used vehicle, make sure you don’t neglect another important step: cleaning!


Car Cleaning Hacks: Make cleaning your car even easier with these useful hacks


Cleaning a Used Car so You Don’t Get Sick

Wipe the Steering Wheel: Most drivers don’t wipe down their own steering wheels after they pick their nose or sneeze, and all that gunk gets rubbed across the wheel for you–the next owner–to touch. Before you drive this car even for a test drive, wipe down the steering wheel with disinfectant cloths.

Watch with the Headrest:  On your way home or to the DMV after buying the car, remove the headrest or drape a towel over it. If there’s any lice or parasites living in the car, there’s a strong likelihood they’d be hanging out in the headrest. Once you get home, scrub and sanitize all headrests.

Vacuum and Scrub the Upholstery: Following the headrests, vacuum the rest of the upholstery (including in between the seats, the floors, and the headliner) and thoroughly wash it with an upholstery shampoo, preferably using a portable spot cleaning machine (even if you have to rent one). Set the car in a hot place so any lingering moisture can evaporate.

Mop the Mats: While trying not to think of all the trash and feces that has been smeared on the floor mats, remove them and lay them where you can shampoo them and spray them with a power-washer. Or, buy completely news ones to replace the grungy old fabric ones.

Change the Cabin Air Filter: Any smoke or particulates which were floating around the cabin will have been sucked through the ventilation system. Replace the filter with a brand new one. While you’re at it, spray disinfectant into the intake vent while running the AC so the whole system is sanitized.

Wash the Plastic: Non-fabric surfaces can also house disgusting Substances. Thoroughly wipe the dashboard, gear stick, levers, buttons, handles and leather seats with disinfectant wipes. Afterward, polish them with conditioners.

Don’t Forget the Keys! After washing the car itself until it’s fresh and spotless, don’t forget to wipe down the keys and fobs that the previous owner kept in their pocket and smeared their fingers on.


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