Wash hands. Rinse. Alcohol. Repeat.

It's a routine that's even more essential now that we're faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. We've even come to a point where we spray alcohol on almost everything we touch, our car interiors included.

But here's the thing: can dousing our car's interiors in alcohol have long term effects on them?

The short answer: Yes.

Here's why.


For the most part, the materials used for your car's interior are different from the ones in your house. These parts may be plastic or vinyl, but they have different properties to ensure that these can withstand extreme heat and abuse. However, it could also mean that it won't react well with continuous exposure to rubbing alcohol.

As mentioned, vinyl, polyurethane, and vehicle plastics do not bode well with alcohol, more so if you have leather trimmings. Another part that can get damaged is the painted trims, particularly 'piano black' panels. Why? Notice that isopropyl alcohol dries out your skin? It can also seep out the moisture out of vinyl which, over a period of time, can crack. The same goes for using ethyl alcohol in your car.


If you have genuine leather in your car, the alcohol dries out the moisture from it, which will cause accelerated wear and tear. Plus, the dye on your seats can get rubbed off if you're a little too vigorous with the washcloth or microfiber. Well, it doesn't matter if your leather is genuine or synthetic; if it has dye, it can (or will) wear off.

As for plastic trims, the alcohol can also leave spots and stains on the surface. That 'piano black' trim or any colored trim is also susceptible to damage from alcohol.

Wood trim

What about wood trim? If it's genuine wood, the alcohol attacks the lacquer and will cause it to crack. Open-pore wood trims will get even more damaged as there is no lacquer to protect it in the first place. Wood-effect trim, on the other hand, can get rubbed off or stained and ruined. While we're on the subject of wood, don't use rubbing alcohol on your wooden furniture too.

Can ordinary rubbing alcohol damage your car

By this time, you probably get the picture that alcohol, while good for household use and your hands, isn't exactly ideal for car interiors. It also goes without saying that it won't be good for your exterior either.

So, what can you use for disinfecting your interior? In the case of your car, nothing beats good ol' soap and water.

With mild soap, water, a spray bottle, and a microfiber towel, you can disinfect your cabin without having to resort to strong chemicals which can lead to marks and damage. Of course, don't put too much soap as it can leave residue and leave your interior feeling sticky, leading to more cleanup. The same goes for your seats.


Be it fabric or leather, apply a mix of mild soap (a drop or two of anti-bacterial hand soap) and water in a spray bottle then gently scrub it down.

Of course, we're not telling you to prioritize your car's interior over your own personal health. In this time of crisis, always put yourself and your family ahead of everything else to ensure their safety. This is another reason why we discourage using rubbing alcohol in your car because we'd rather you use it for your family and household.

Keep safe. Stay indoors. Keep washing those hands. These three pieces of advice will go along way.