We don’t often see the deep cleaning of our auto interiors as a risk management case. However, in the wake of COVID-19, most of us are rightly paying more attention to getting the inside of our cars clean and sanitized than we normally would. Throughout this exercise, we’ll take an in-depth look at the dos and don’ts of proper automotive interior cleaning and disinfecting.
It’s important to recognize that our car, truck, and SUV interiors use a wide variety of materials that we come into contact with on every trip. Whether you find yourself surrounded in supple leather and metallic trim or sun-kissed vinyl and hard plastics makes no difference; the novel coronavirus can live for days on certain materials. While a general cleaning of your entire interior is recommended, we’ll focus the majority of our attention to the areas we come into contact with most, which we’re calling “touch points.”
Start with the Vacuum
If you find yourself in the all-too-common situation of not having cleaned your car recently, you may want to start this off by vacuuming and generally cleaning any heavy debris from inside your vehicle. The focus is germs, but we’ve got time on our hands and way fewer excuses. If you believe the inside of your vehicle was directly exposed to a virus, it may be best to wear gloves during this initial cleaning.
An automotive interior is a collection of various fabrics and hard surfaces, and while things like bleach wipes and hand sanitizer would succeed in killing a virus, it could also risk damaging the various materials in your car. If you have car care products specifically made for interiors, you can use these now to remove any large amounts of dust, dirt, or heavy deposits of “just don’t think about it.” Although this step won’t sanitize surfaces, it will make it much easier for the effort later to thoroughly clean.
Sanitizing All the Touch Points
In normal times, you could be forgiven for thinking this was the end of the exercise. The vehicle’s interior undoubtedly looks better now than when we started, but there’s still the chance that a virus is thriving in key areas. This is where we’ll focus on sanitizing the touch points. The simplest way to attack COVID-19, experts have said, is with soap and water, and since most dish soaps use only mild detergents, it is a much less stressful cleaning agent on your car’s interior, and more than likely a cleaning agent you have readily available.
This coronavirus in particular does not discriminate against cold or hot water, just as long as it is combined with soap. You can use a rag or washcloth; however, a microfiber towel might prove more useful. Making sure to soak the cloth completely, and take care to wring out any excess water before wiping anything down. You don’t want the water to pool up anywhere, or you’ll be dealing with moisture buildup below the surface later on.
Touch points in your vehicle extend beyond the door handles and steering wheel. You’ll want to be conscientious of all of the things you do while spending time in your car. You touch the radio, the cupholders, the glove box, the seatbelts . . . Think of working your way down, starting with the sun visors, then moving down the A-pillar, and then your dashboard.
After you’ve worked your way through the main cockpit area (you scrubbed it all, right?), consider your arm rest and center console as being on deck. Our subconscious actions of getting in and out of a vehicle might seem inconsequential under normal circumstances, but your hands can harbor sickness in this case, and they leave few breadcrumbs to make it obvious which areas require immediate attention. Make sure to hit the interior door panels and seatbelts before you decide to move any farther toward the rear.
Think of this as a spring cleaning, albeit one that will need to be done routinely now to keep abreast of spreading the risk of contamination. You can take all of this a step further if you happen to be equipped with a steam cleaner and a UV light to reveal areas you missed. But the basic element of combating a virus is simple: adequate use of soap and water. While an interior cleaning has always been good car-care practice, it is imperative now more than ever to keep yourself healthy and free from any viruses that are making their rounds through the world.