How to Make the Used Car You Just Bought Less Germ-Infested
Tips for cleaning a used car that's filled with festering mold, bacteria, and microscopic critters
You’ve spent months looking for a used car that’s within your budget and meets all your expectations. As you exchange the money for the title and drive away in your new car, 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!
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Wipe the steering wheel
Most drivers don’t wipe down the steering wheel after they pick their nose or sneeze, and all that gunk builds up for you — the next owner — to touch. Before you drive this car even for a test drive, wipe down the steering wheel with disinfectant.
Don’t touch the headrest
On your way home or to the DMV after buying the car, remove the headrest or drape a towel over it — particularly if it’s cloth upholstery. If there are 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 rigorously.
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 upholstery shampoo, preferably using a portable spot cleaning machine (even if you have to rent one). Park 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 new ones to replace the grungy old fabric ones.
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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, especially any leather surfaces.
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.
If you take the time to clean out your used car after you buy it, you won’t have to fret about all the gross bacteria and nasty substances that were left behind by the prior owner; you can just hit the road in your new ride!
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.