April 13, 2020

The effort you’re making to clean and sanitize your home to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus should extend to your cars, say experts.

The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces such as a steering wheel, door handles and seat belts, according to public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A study by found that an unclean steering wheel can be four times dirtier than a public toilet seat. Bacteria and fungi hide in concealed areas and thrive in sun-filled, enclosed vehicles.

Stop eating in your car, remove noticeable debris, vacuum the seats and mats, and disinfect everything you touch, experts say. Don’t overlook wiping down cupholders, keys and fobs as well as window, radio and climate control buttons.

It isn’t possible to remove bacteria from everything you touch, but soap and water, household cleaners and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved household disinfectants are effective on hard surfaces.

However, unlike in your home, don’t use any kind of bleach, hydrogen peroxide or ammonia-based cleaning products on your vehicle’s interior since they can damage the vinyl and plastics, says Bob Bauer, owner of Mr. Transmission–Milex Complete Auto Care of Wilsonville.

Ammonia can also discolor the dashboard and make it sticky when exposed to heat and sunlight.

“If you can’t find a sanitizing product, you can make one using rubbing alcohol as a base,” says Bauer. Isopropyl alcohol is the most common and widely used disinfectant.

Other household cleaners should work on most surfaces or use a product designed for carpetleather or vinyl found at automotive supply shops or general retailers.

Wear disposable or washable gloves, and open windows to improve ventilation when using cleaning and disinfecting products.

Follow manufacturer’s care instructions, test the cleaner in a small area first, use products with the EPA’s Safer Choice logo or just play it safe and use a little dish soap and water.

Here are more ways to improve the hygiene inside your car offered by Mr. Transmission–Milex Complete Auto Care, Consumer Reports’ “How to Clean Practically Anything” publication, manufacturers and other reliable resources:

Use soap and water or disinfecting hand wipes to frequently clean everything you touch.

Carry a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer and use it on your hands every time you enter the car. This is especially important after touching a pump handle and buttons at a gas station.

Don’t keep a large pump bottle of hand sanitizer in the car. Warmer temperatures may cause the alcohol in the sanitizer to expand the plastic container, which can then crack and leak.

Deep cleaning solutions

Tools: Cotton swabs and makeup brushes are sized for cleaning vents and corners, and around knobs and controls. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to scrub out dirt in tight spots, and barbecue or wood skewers can pick debris wedged between seats and sill lips.

Cupholder: Put a clean sock over the bottom of a travel cup, spray the sock with window cleaner and twist it inside the cupholder. Then clean out the corners with a wooden barbecue skewer and wipe up the debris with a microfiber cloth. To make it easier next time, install cupholder liners that can be removed and washed.

Windows and mirror: Dilute an ammonia-free window cleaner and wipe with streak-free microfiber cloths. The split-type microfiber towels have fibers that create crevices to trap water and debris.

Sealed wood: Mix water and a little mild liquid dish detergent and spray the surface, then wipe with a damp cloth and dry with another clean, lint-free cloth.

Mats and fabric seats: Vacuum then spray carpets and cloth seats lightly with a foaming cleaner, and vacuum again as it dries. Or rent a carpet extractor from a home center or grocery store, or buy a small upholstery extractor.

Leather upholstery: Vacuum crevices and dust with a soft, white cloth dampened with water and a little dish soap. Test before using saddle soap or another leather cleaner, which may remove some color.

Grease: Use dish soap to dab up spots.

Mold: Pull out the carpet and pad, vacuum both sides and spray with a bleach solution or other fungicide to kill mold spores, then let it bake in the sun. Rinse off with water before drying.

Odors: Toss out leftovers and trash. Vacuum any tracked-in dirt and blot up a spill before it seeps into the fabric or mats. Room fresheners mask a smell, but industrial-strength odor eliminators at home or auto-supply stores can chemically neutralize the odor and remove it. Or leave an open container of baking soda in the car and sprinkle some of it on dry carpet and under the floor mats, then vacuum.

Article originally posted on Oregon Live:

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