posted on April 7th, 2020

Tips for ridding your interior of the coronavirus

So just about everything is closed these days, there’s really nowhere to go, and it’s best to stay home and avoid other people as much as you can. But if you do have to run some errands or your job requires you to show up, a car is the best way to go. Whether you’re a Turo host trying to responsibly share your car with neighbors who still need to get around town or simply want to be as clean as possible, it’s important to include your car in your sanitizing habits. Cars are almost always dirtier than we realize — your steering wheel alone carries more bacteria than a toilet seat.

A recent study conducted at UCLA found that the coronavirus can live on some surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for up to three days — guess what has lots of plastic in it? To give the coronavirus no chance of lingering in your car, it’s a great idea to do a thorough once-over on your interior right now, then regularly revisit to disinfect touch points and surfaces. If you’re a Turo host, you should already be taking extra measures before and after trips.

Follow these steps for properly disinfecting your car’s interior, and remember to rinse and repeat as often as you can so that you’re driving cleanly and safely.

Clean and disinfect touch points regularly

Protect yourself

Before jumping in, make sure you’re protecting yourself. Many of the stronger cleaning products contain chemicals that can irritate your skin, eyes, or throat, so make sure you’re wearing a mask or something to keep yourself from breathing in any dust or cleaning products. Gloves and some form of eye protection are also highly recommended.

Remove dirt and dust

Dirt can hide in all types of nooks and crannies, and can harbor bacteria and viruses. Start by taking your floor mats out and vacuum them and your carpet thoroughly, then use a basic rag with disinfectant cleaner or soap on large surfaces such as dashboards. One really handy way of getting dust out of the tight places is to use compressed air cans, which are usually used for cleaning things like keyboards but they work great on cars.

Focus on high-contact surfaces

Spend a good amount of time on high contact areas such as your steering wheel, door handles (inside and outside), buttons, screens, and seatbelts. These are the most important areas to clean as they are the places that you make contact with each time you get in the car. All you need is a disinfectant wipe or spray and some attention to detail. Right now these things can be hard to find in stores so antibacterial soap or rubbing alcohol diluted with water and a rag can do the trick.

Be careful with leather and fabrics

If you’re using high-strength cleaners or products with alcohol, you should be careful which products you’re using on different surfaces so that you don’t damage them. That being said, there are plenty of safe multipurpose interior cleaners available at auto parts stores or online. Just build a habit of always reading labels.

Don’t forget carpets and headliners

When it comes to headliners it’s best to avoid using a vacuum; you can end up either cutting a hole in it or pulling the fabric away from the adhesive underneath, as I have in the past. Instead, use a rag and your multi purpose interior cleaner or a fabric/carpet cleaner like Angelwax Absolution. A carpet cleaner or shampoo with a scrubbing brush is a great combo for getting any stains or deep-set dirt out of fabric seats and carpet.

Change your air filters

Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure you have clean air circulating through your vehicle. This means clean air vents and filters are a must, but they can be tricky to clean. The best way to reach down into the pipes is to spray compressed air into your vents to clear the dust out, then run a vacuum over them and wipe down the outsides.

Next, locate the air intake for your A/C system, which is usually below your windshield under the hood of the car. Take out the vent and filter, and with your A/C on full blast, spray a disinfectant in to disinfect the system. Lastly, locate your interior air filter. You can typically find it under or behind the glove box and it should be pretty easy to get to. Replace the filter with a new one from an auto parts store or online (it should only be around $20).

Bonus tips

To clean your windows use any kind of glass cleaner such as Windex, and wipe them down with newspaper to save on using paper towels.

When visiting the gas station, make sure you wear gloves or at least use a towel when handling the fuel pump. And keep a sanitizer or some wipes in your door pocket to regularly use on your touch points.

Danny Benson is a car fanatic and writer from rural Northern California (aka Bigfoot country). His friends are hoping that his being able to write about cars for a living will get him to stop talking their ears off with useless car trivia.