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5 Steps to Keep Your Car Clean During the Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Follow these five simple tips to keep your car clean during the Coronavirus outbreak.

With the rise of COVID-19 cases around the country, many are disinfecting everything they come in contact with. Along with household items and devices, don’t forget about your car and the unknown germs you could be bringing in and out. Properly sanitizing the most frequently touched parts of your car is important. However, your interior is made up of a number of materials which should be treated differently.

Before we get too deep into this, let me start by sharing that, as a best-practice across the board, I always recommend deferring to the cleaning standards set by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the EPA. These are good guidelines to follow, and will help you keep your car clean during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting

Just like doorknobs, counters, smartphones and everything else you touch, it’s important to extensively clean and disinfect the interior of your car. According to the CDC, cleaning removes dirt, germs and other impurities (rather than killing them), and reduces the risk of spreading infection by lowering the number of germs on a given surface. Disinfecting DOES kill germs on surfaces and is a very necessary step when you’re trying to avoid the spread of illness, especially during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Luckily, properly cleaning and disinfecting your car is not super intricate and, with just a few key steps, you can do your best to greatly reduce all threats in no time!

Follow these five simple tips to keep your car clean during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Follow these five simple tips to help keep your car clean during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Step #1: Select The Right Products

Check the EPA’s list of registered disinfectants that meet the criteria for the Coronavirus outbreak. Ideally, you want an EPA-approved cleaner or disinfectant that is also appropriate for addressing each type of material found inside your vehicle. Yes, this might mean using more than one product!

While combination cleaners can cover several or multiple areas, any car lover will tell you it’s better to use specifically catered cleaners. This is the best way to protect and preserve your interior. You don’t want to ruin your interior while you are in the process of cleaning and disinfecting. For quick reference, check out the guidelines below:

  • For all interiors: Across the board, always try to avoid any and all solvents including acetone, alcohols, and kerosene. They can be very harsh and aren’t a good fit for your car’s delicate interior materials.
  • For vinyl and synthetic interiors: These are both easy to disinfect, as they don’t absorb anything. But, as always, avoid using cleaners containing alcohol or bleach. Be extra cautious of plastic compounds, which are used frequently in door panels, dashes, and consoles. Those guys are especially vulnerable to alcohol-based cleaners which can soften and discolor them.
  • For leather interiors: If you choose to use an alcohol or detergent-based cleaner on leather interior panels or seats, it’s helpful to apply a leather conditioner afterward to restore moisture so your leather doesn’t dry up. Some kits, like this one from Chemical Guys, have both the leather cleaner and conditioner.
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Use the attachments on your vacuum to “get between the cracks.”

Step #2: Vacuum Thoroughly

Spend time getting into the difficult, narrow, and cramped areas of your vehicle. Look for areas that often accumulate the most dirt, debris, and dust. Getting rid of that stuff first will make cleaning and disinfecting the surfaces of your car much more effective. Another helpful tip: if your vacuum has multiple attachments, use them to really gain access to those deep crevices.

You don’t have to drag your house vacuum out to the garage either. There are handheld units, like the HOTOR Car Vacuum Cleaner, that are more portable and easier to use.

Step #3: Consider What You Touch Most

Give your seat belt buckle, shift knob, all door handles, steering wheel, and dashboard controls a generous wipe down with antibacterial products. For touchscreens (another high-contact spot!) you need to be mindful of too much moisture, which can damage electronic components. Use a microfiber cloth that’s made for screens and spray disinfectant on the cloth, rather than directly on the screen for more control.

If you’re uncertain about how specific surfaces will respond to harsher cleaners and disinfectants, test the product first on less visible areas before performing a more thorough cleaning. This may take more time, but it will save you unwarranted trips to the shop and unnecessary spending!

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The shifter is one of the most commonly touched parts of your car. During the Coronavirus outbreak, make sure to wipe it down, along with other frequently touched areas, inside your car.

Step #4: Keep Your Hands Clean

Especially during this time, it’s crucial to sanitize all surroundings and practice good hygiene on a daily basis to reduce the spread of germs. When you’re going in and out of your vehicle, apply hand sanitizer when you can.

Step #5: Limit Your Travel if Possible

When you’re running errands, limit the amount of stops you make, which will also minimize how frequently you’ll need to clean your interior. If you are using a car sharing service, then it might be a good idea to carry sanitizing wipes with you and give everything a once-over before taking off.

When in doubt, check in with the CDC for the latest guidelines surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak. Although it may sound obvious and overstated, avoid touching your face and try to be mindful of all best practices you can take to keep yourself and those around you as healthy as possible.

Richard Reina is the Product Training Director for, and Automoblog’s resident expert on the classic and collector car market. He enjoys restoring and driving old cars with a special love for anything Italian. Richard is also passionate about music and is a huge Beatles fan.

More Info About The Coronavirus Outbreak

From the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention: Steps to avoid infection.

From the World Health Organization: Understanding the Coronavirus.

From our home state of Michigan: Recommendations from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (PDF).