Kimiko Kidd

Tips for Sanitizing Your Car Against Coronavirus

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Car Cleaning
Photo: Pxhere via CC

Update 4/24: Article has been updated to discuss cleaning leather surfaces.

In the midst of the global COVID-19 outbreak, it’s always a good idea to take precautions to safeguard yourself and your family. Cars are high-traffic areas that can easily become a reservoir for the coronavirus, so consider these tips to help keep your vehicle — and your loved ones — free from COVID-19.

Safety Comes Standard: The 2020 Mazda CX-5

Get ready to scrub

Cleaning Supplies
Photo: Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker via CC

Use disinfectant wipes or regular soapy water to clean hard surfaces throughout the cabin. The soap doesn’t need to be antibacterial — regular hand soap or dishwashing soap is effective against the coronavirus. While it’s a good idea to give your entire cabin a thorough cleaning, it’s easy to overlook certain areas. Don’t forget to clean the exterior door handles. And to guide your efforts when cleaning the cabin, think about where droplets would fall when you sneeze or cough. Do you turn your head to the side? Then consider putting a little more effort into cleaning the area around the driver-side window or center console. Also, consider where droplets of spit and snot would fall when your passengers sneeze and cough.

High-touch surfaces

2020 Mazda CX-9
Photo: Mazda

Make sure to clean high-touch areas throughout the cabin. These include the infotainment touch screen, the climate and audio controls, the steering wheel, the shifter knob, the turn signal, and any power window, mirror, and locking buttons, as well as your keys or the push-button ignition. To avoid damaging the electronics in some of these items, use disinfecting wipes. Avoid using ammonia-based cleaning products on touch screens since they can degrade the display’s anti-glare coating. Instead, lightly spritz an alcohol-based cleaner onto a microfiber cloth and give the screen a quick wipe-down. For the rest of the hard surfaces in your car, here’s a list of EPA-approved products that are effective against COVID-19.

Don’t forget fabrics

2020 Mazda CX-9
Photo: Mazda

When cleaning your car, don’t overlook soft surfaces, such as the carpet, seats, and the headliner. Don’t forget to clean the backs of your seats. If you’ve got kids, your little ones may sneeze and cough with reckless abandon, spraying germs onto the backs of the first- or second-row seats.

The CDC recommends using a cleaner that’s appropriate for the fabric in question. In other words, you can use leather cleaner, vehicle carpet, or upholstery shampoo to sanitize these surfaces. However, if you don’t have these handy, there are plenty of bleach-free sprays and wipes that can be used on your car’s interior. As always, test a new cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area before cleaning the rest of your car’s interior. Here’s a list of products that can be used on soft surfaces, as recommended by the American Chemistry Council and the Center for Biocide Chemistries. Just avoid using bleach-based cleaners, and if you wash your leather seats with a non-leather-specialty cleaner, make sure you condition the seats afterward to prevent cracking.

Think of the children

Child playing with toys
Photo: FeeLoona

If you have kids, pay attention to surfaces that your children handle regularly. Take the time to wash items like car seats, car blankets, the rear-seat entertainment system, any climate controls or remotes, and any books or toys your children keep in the car. Check the care instructions on stuffed animals, but many can safely take a spin in the washing machine if you use a gentle setting. Hard plastic toys, on the other hand, can take a dunk into a dilute bleach solution. The CDC recommends mixing four tablespoons of bleach into a quart of water, or five tablespoons of bleach into a gallon. Just be sure to never mix bleach-based cleaners with ammonia-based cleaners.

Prevent reinfection

Photo: qimono

Keep yourself healthy and your car clean by carrying hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Make sure that you’ve purchased a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content, and regularly disinfect your steering wheel, shifter knob, and any other surfaces you regularly lay hands on. If your steering wheel or shifter knob is made of leather, use a specialized leather cleaner.

The Safety Your Family Deserves: The 2020 Mazda CX-9

Glove up

Photo: Praewnaaaaaam via CC

Disposable gloves can protect your hands against harsh cleaning chemicals, but when disinfecting your car, they can help prevent the spread of viruses. They’re especially helpful for picking up trash — like used tissues that your kids may have left in the backseat. After performing a dirty job, dispose of the gloves by peeling them off your hands, turning them inside out in the process. The CDC recommends washing your hands immediately after removing the gloves. Furthermore, avoid reusable gloves. They can hold onto the virus and spread it to other surfaces.

These are just a few ways you can protect yourself and your family from this contagious virus. Stay safe!