Car COVID Cleaning: How to sanitise your car interior

We’re now a nation of mask-wearers and hand-sanitizers. But have you considered that the interior of your vehicle can also harbour the virus? Careful car COVID cleaning can dramatically reduce the chance of lingering coronavirus being a transmission risk.

We’ve already written about cleaning the interior of your daily driver. This post discusses the best practices that not only make your car interior gleam but make it a safe haven too.

Before You Start

There are a few important points to understand before we start. The first is this: safety.

The latest WHO advice suggests that the virus can last for up to 72 hours on various surfaces, so you might want to consider wearing appropriate PPE. A mask (worn correctly) disposable apron and gloves are a must if you have even the tiniest suspicion that a person with COVID has been inside or touched your vehicle.

It’s also highly advisable to use disposable cloths. If you’d rather not, then be sure to wash them (and your clothes) as soon as you’ve finished. A hot wash at 60oC will kill any virus that’s on them. 

No matter how fastidious you are in your car COVID cleaning efforts, you can never guarantee that the car is virus free (or even that any of the methods mentioned below are confirmed to work). So you should continue to wash/sanitize your hands every time you use your vehicle, refrain from touching your face and follow all the government advice to prevent catching, and the spread of, COVID.

Car COVID Cleaning Best Practice

The following all need to be actioned to ensure the best chance of total sanitation.

Car COVID cleaning #1: Vacuum

Remove the mats. Vacuum the car thoroughly. This means using a variety of the vacuum’s utensils to reach every nook and cranny. 

Don’t forget to:

Move each seat to its furthest points to gain access to all the carpeted areas. Push the nozzle right into the creases of the seats themselves. Pull out the seatbelts and vacuum in the crevices.  Once the initial dirt has been removed, treat with an antibacterial carpet cleaner.

Clean rubber mats outside the vehicles, hoovering first and then scrubbing them with an anti-bacterial cleaner. If you don’t have the latter, then a soap and water combination will do the trick (the coronavirus has a lipid membrane that’s dissolved by soap). Carpet mats should be cleaned in the same way as the car’s interior carpeted areas.

Car COVID cleaning #2: The seats

If the material is fabric then use an appropriate antibacterial fabric product. 

For leather seats, a combination of soap and water is a safe and sufficient way to clean them. Don’t scrub hard when cleaning your leather interior, and avoid excess suds and water. Hand washing has been recommended as a primary way to protect oneself against infection by COVID-19. This is not only because soap can kill the virus, but also because the friction of washing contributes. This holds true for washing your leather interior as well. You might also consider a specialist leather cleaner to keep the leather soft.

If you use car seat covers, remove them and wash at 60oC.

Car COVID cleaning #3: Disinfect all the touch points

This is, perhaps, one of the most important aspects of a deep coronavirus car clean. Touch points are the most likely place for the virus to lie so should be thoroughly wiped with an anti-bacterial cleaner or soap & water combination. The areas include (but aren’t restricted to) the:

  • Steering wheel (see leather cleaning above)
  • Hand brake
  • Seat Belt clasps and clips
  • Hand brake
  • Gear stick
  • Indicators and the other control stalks
  • All switches and buttons
  • Central console
  • Touch screen for sat nav/media etc
  • USB sockets
  • Cup holders

Don’t forget all the areas in the rear of the cabin too. You should also clean your car keys. Although not technically the interior of the car, be sure to wipe all the car handles, bonnet release catch and boot handle as well.

Car COVID cleaning #4: The boot

Be sure to pay attention to the boot. After all, this is where you put your shopping bags after touching the trolly, bags, checkout and other areas within a supermarket. Follow the same steps as above regarding the carpeted areas and the harder surfaces.

Car COVID cleaning #5: Disposal of materials

Any cloths that you don’t want to bin should be washed at 60oC. Everything else should be bagged and binned safely. Be sure to change your clothes as soon as you’ve finished and wash them separately from your other laundry.

Car COVID cleaning #6: Other considerations

You might consider a professional ozone treatment. A professional car detail shop, will place a special machine within the car that releases ozone, just like we do. It’s known as a powerful steriliser that kills many bacteria and viruses. While there’s no conclusive proof (yet) that ozone kills coronavirus, there’s some promising research. An ozone treatment reaches into every tiny area of the car that regular cleaning is unable to get to, including inside vents and into the fibres of the seats and carpet. It also removes any lingering odours from pets, smoke or anything else.

it’s easy to overlook your car when it comes to coronavirus cleanliness. While the above methods can’t remove the risk of virus transmission completely, weekly car COVID cleaning goes a long way to reducing it. Just think of it as another step to keeping you and your family healthy during the pandemic.

Stay safe and happy motoring.


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