You may not realize it but you bring a whole load of them in your car every time you get in and out of it. Sure, you can wipe down dirt and dust, but that doesn't mean you took out these microbes. What you need is to disinfect your car because germs are stubborn little beings you won't be able to get rid of in a simple clean.
But how does one properly disinfect a car? Read on and make sure you have a bit of time on your hands because it does require a fair amount of elbow work. You wouldn't want to rush clean-up, wouldn't you?
Protect yourself first
Before you head straight to your car and start scrubbing away, it's best to protect yourself first. No, we're not telling you to wear a biohazard suit, but you are dealing with germs and allergens here. If you don't have much in the way of cover, you're breathing these things in, touching it, and spreading it throughout your body. You might even end up with allergies.
To prevent that from happening, get a pair of disposable gloves and a mask at the very least. No, the mask doesn't have to be of the N95 variety, a surgical mask will be more than adequate for this task. Besides, we'd rather you use that N95 mask for more serious situations. Rubber gloves are okay too but make sure to disinfect them after use, inside and out.
What you'll need
Now that you've prepped things for yourself, it's time to bring out what you'll need for your car. We recommend using disinfecting wipes for vehicle interiors but if that's not available, a drop (or two) of anti-bacterial hand soap diluted in water will suffice. Put that mix in a medium-sized spray bottle, it will come in handy later.
While alcohol is a good disinfectant for the body and household, it isn't exactly the best for cars. It's not because it will be ineffective, but it can damage surfaces such as polyurethane, vinyl, and plastic.
If you want to take it a step further, bring out your interior detailing products so not only is your cabin disinfected, it'll look good too. Also, don't forget to bring out the vacuum as dirt, dust, and other debris can be home to different kinds of bacteria and germs.
What are the parts you usually touch inside a car? If you said steering wheel, air-conditioning controls, radio/touchscreen, window switches, and gear selector, those are the things you must focus on. In fact, the whole driver's side is the most susceptible to germs because, well, it's the area where someone always sits.
Start rubbing your disinfectant wipes in the driver's area first, then move to the passenger side next. If you don't have disinfectant wipes, spray the soapy water solution and wipe down with a microfiber towel after. While you're at it, clean the handles, storage pockets, and visors. Don't forget to clean the windshield and windows too. They may not be common touchpoints but germs can cling on to those surfaces.
Aside from the usual touchpoints, take time to disinfect the seats too. It's easier for those who have leather or leatherette seats. Again, you can either use interior wipes or use the soap solution to clean them.
If you have cloth seats, the soap solution is more effective in the cleanup. Don't soak the seat though as it will be tough to dry it out later on. Spray the solution, scrub it down with little suds as possible, then dry it by dabbing it with a clean piece of cloth. Do the same for the vehicle's headliner and door panels with fabric trimmings.
As for floor mats, that will depend on the material. Rubber and dirt-trapping mats can be washed with soap and water. Carpets, on the other hand, must be washed with a bit more care. Nonetheless, it's similar to cleaning fabric trims.
If you have access to sunlight (don't live in a condo), you can give your floor mats a free UV light treatment by leaving them under the sun for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
If you have children...
But what if you regularly use your car for the school run too? That means you also have to scrub down the back seats with even greater effort. You don't want your kids getting sick from your own back seat, right? The procedure is pretty much the same as the front: Spray. Wipe down. Repeat. If you have a baby seat in the car, take it out and give it a good clean too. The same goes for stuffed toys and pillows in the car.
That said, you should still give the back seats of your car a good scrubbing regardless if you frequently carry passengers at the back. If you or your kids eat in the car, you'll also want to spend some time inspecting the floor mats and carpets, particularly the little nooks and crannies. Don't be surprised if you find crumbs or even the odd french fry there.
For those with three-row MPVs and SUVs, take the extra effort to clean those too. If you're a TNVS driver or operator, practice this as often as possible as you load up dozens of passengers day in and day out.
Clean air is healthy air
So you're done with the interior. All that hard work will be for nothing if you don't clean the air-conditioning though. Mold and spores can build up in the system over time and if you don't clean it, you're practically breathing those in too. At the very least, replace your cabin air filter; you can consult your owner's manual as to how. After that, let professionals clean and flush out your system. Not only will your air-conditioning be cooler, but you're also breathing in much cleaner air too.
You can also opt for professional services with special devices (AKA: antibacterial misting services) but you may have to wait after the lockdown to do it.
Can an exterior be disinfected? For the most part, yes. Simply give your car a wash and get rid of animal droppings or urine as soon as you see it. Animal excretions contain a whole host of bacteria and that could spread throughout the car.
Also, give the door handles a little bit more attention because that's the part that's touched the most on the outside. DO NOT use alcohol to disinfect the door handles because colored surfaces will not react well to its chemical composition. Car shampoo will do but if you want to be extra cautious, you can use the soapy water solution as it is not abrasive on paint.
Rolling germ lab no more
We told you it's a lot of work disinfecting your car but it will be all worth it knowing that it's no longer a germ factory on wheels. Yes, it will get dirty and germ-infested in there again, but if you keep practicing vehicle hygiene regularly, your car will be a safe, heathy environment not just for you but also for your family, friends, and other passengers.