Corona-Free Driving: How to Clean Your Car During the COVID-19 Global Pandemic

wiping down the interior of the car with a microfiber cloth prevents scratches from dust particles during cleaning

COVID-19 is now a global pandemic with our 3 main weapons against contagion, 1) frequent washing of hands, 2) not touching our faces, and 3) limiting contact with others through social distancing. Reports vary as to how long the virus can live on surfaces, so it’s particularly important to clean frequently touched surfaces in the home such as doorknobs and light switches. Car owners should also be thinking about cleaning the parts of their cars that are often handled, for instance, door handles, steering wheels, shift levers, wiper and turn signal stalks, arm rests, grab handles, seat adjusters, and any buttons and touch screens. It’s safe to clean these car parts with household cleaners or alcohol solutions that are at least 70 percent alcohol.

According to Jeff Stout, executive director of global innovation at Yanfeng Automotive interiors, just about every interior surface of your car can be safely cleaned with isopropyl alcohol. Yanfeng makes interior parts for automobiles from just about every major car manufacturer and isopropyl alcohol is what they use in its own factories for cleaning parts. Stout says that all of Yanfeng’s products have been tested to make sure they hold up to cleaning with pure isopropyl alcohol. You can use it to wipe down cloth upholstery, plastic trim, painted chrome, and imitation leather, without fear of damaging these materials.

What you shouldn’t do, however, is use bleach or hydrogen peroxide on any part of a car’s interior. These may kill corona virus germs, but will probably also damage your car. By the same token, avoid using ammonia-based glass cleaner on car touch screens, as these can damage protective anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings.

Friction Kills the Virus

The corona virus is surrounded by a protective outer layer that helps it survive to infect other cells. Destroying that protective layer can render the virus useless. Friction in the form of rubbing hands during washing, or scrubbing with a sponge or brush and soapy water does the same thing. It’s safe to use a small amount of soap and water on your car interior, but you don’t want to scrub too hard. Vigorous scrubbing may fade the dye in older leather car upholstery. When you clean leather upholstery, follow up with some quality leather conditioner.

Before you clean your car, wipe it down with a microfiber cleaning cloth. The loops in the fabric help to sweep away dust and dirt that might stick to interior surfaces and leave scratches.

Drivers are advised to wash their hands both before and after driving. This will also help keep your steering wheel and other high-touch surfaces in your car, sparkling clean.

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