While everyone is encouraged to stay home right now, some of us still have to be out and about, whether you’re an essential worker who is commuting to work or someone going to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment (both of which have been deemed “essential errands”). No matter the reason, if you’re driving your car during the current coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to clean it often to keep yourself—and those around you—safe and healthy.
But what should you use? And how often you do really need to clean your car? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides specific guidelines on its website for how to disinfect every inch of your car. Below is exactly what you need to know to prevent the spread of coronavirus in your vehicle.
The best way to clean your car to reduce the risk of coronavirus
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Your car could be dirtier than you think.
For hard, non-porous surfaces (like the steering wheel, dashboard, cupholder, seatbelt cover, etc.), the CDC says to first clean off any visible dirt and debris with soap and water. Then apply an appropriate disinfectant—like one of the products approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a diluted household bleach solution, or any alcohol solution that contains at least 70 percent alcohol. Our senior lab testing technician, Jonathan Chan, warns, “Do not use ammonia, undiluted bleach, or hydrogen peroxide cleaners. They can damage your interior or worse, trap you in an enclosed space with noxious fumes.” (The CDC advises everyone to open your car doors or windows while you clean.)
For soft surfaces—like fabric carseats—the CDC recommends using a cleaner made specifically for those surfaces followed by one of the EPA’s approved products (check that it’s okay for porous surfaces first). Jonathan adds, “If you have a leather interior, use a light touch, as scrubbing can remove the topcoat and make your seats look dingy.”
And as for any electronics in the car—like touchscreens—the CDC says to follow the manufacturer’s directions for disinfecting or, if that information isn’t available, use wipes or spray with at least 70 percent alcohol. The CDC also recommends wearing gloves as an extra precaution and, of course, washing your hands after cleaning your car.
How often to disinfect your car
According to the CDC, you should disinfect “high-touch surfaces” daily. If you’re driving every day, that likely includes your car door handles, steering wheel, gearshift, carseat, and seatbelt. Jonathan also notes, “If you share a vehicle, especially with non-household members, I’d suggest disinfecting when switching drivers and passengers to lessen the risk of cross-contamination.” After all, you can’t go wrong being too cautious.
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