Ultimate Guide: 25 Tips on How to Safely Clean Your Car During COVID-19

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How to clean and disinfect your car, truck or suv to reduce the spread of Covid-19

Most Americans driving patterns and transportation needs have drastically changed as a result of the pandemic. People are now using personal cars, trucks and suvs as their primary mode of transportation since the Covid-19 outbreak has caused subway, rail, bus, ridesharing and air travel to be less attractive. The preowned vehicle market is booming as car shoppers needs have evolved. While private vehicle ownership is perceived to be a safer alternative to mass transit it is critical that drivers understand how to properly clean and disinfect their vehicles on a regular basis. This guide has been compiled to provide car owners with best practices for reducing the risk of Covid-19 transmission within their vehicle.

Prevention and car travel tips

  • Drive with a facemask or N95 respirator if available.
  • Use eye protection while inside a vehicle as long as they do not create a driving hazard.
  • Vehicle occupants should avoid or limit close contact within the vehicle and consider a larger vehicle that allows greater distance between passengers.
  • Utilize regular hand hygiene and avoid touching their nose, mouth or eyes while in the vehicle.
  • Avoid picking up multiple passengers or carpooling with people you do not live with.
  • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on children under the age of 2, people with breathing issues, or those unable to remove a mask without assistance.
  • When driving with multiple occupants keep windows open as much as possible to increase airflow and exhaust air from your vehicle.
  • Set your vehicles air circulation to use fresh air instead of recycling cabin air.
  • Replace your cabin air filter regularly if you have one.

Cleaning and disinfection tips: how to protect yourself

  • Clean and disinfect areas of the vehicle that are frequently touched before and after each trip.
  • Ensure cleaning is thorough and consistent and proper ventilation is available when utilizing chemicals by opening doors and windows during the process.
  • Wear disposable gloves while cleaning the vehicle and dispose of after each use. Do not reuse gloves. Consider using a disposable gown as well if available.

Cleaning and disinfecting: how to clean hard surfaces within the vehicle interior

  • Hard surfaces within the vehicle interior including seats, arm rests, door handles, seat belt buckles, switches, controls, doors and windows can be cleaned with detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. This step improves the effectiveness of the disinfection process by removing debris.
  • To disinfect the vehicle use one of the EPA’s registered antimicrobial products. Follow each manufacturer’s specific instructions for dilution, application, and disinfection time which differ depending on the product.
  • Diluted household bleach solutions can also be used however this option can damage many vehicle interior components depending on the material and finish used.
  • Lastly, alcohol solutions that contain at least 70% alcohol are widely available however always test a new cleaning product in a small, less visible area of your vehicle to determine how it impacts the material.

Cleaning and disinfecting: how to clean soft or porous surfaces within the vehicle interior

  • Prepare the surface by removing any visible material that has collected.
  • Use a disinfectant that is approved by the EPA however closely inspect the products and their compatibility with the materials you will be disinfecting. Certain products can significantly damage your vehicles interior so always read the manufacturer instructions and test the product on less prominent areas before applying throughout your vehicle.

Cleaning and disinfecting: how to clean electronic surfaces, touchscreens or displays

  • Remove visible contamination and clean with an appropriate electronics cleaner first prior to the application of a disinfectant.
  • Use alcohol based wipes or sprays that contain at least 70% alcohol to disinfect. Some electronics can be damaged so always read your manufacturers requirements especially for expensive electronic components like the primary touch screen in the dashboard of your vehicle.

Cleaning and disinfecting: how to clean surfaces on the exterior of your vehicle

  • Don’t forget to clean and disinfect the exterior of your vehicle including door handles, doors, trunk and hood latches, gas tank access points and caps, and any other exterior features that have been in contact with passengers in your vehicle. Be very careful with cleaning products applied to painted areas of your vehicles exterior as they can damage your paint or trim.

Protecting yourself after cleaning a car

  • After cleaning your vehicle dispose of your gloves without touching the exterior of the gloves and wash hands immediately. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Any clothes used during the cleaning process should be put in the laundry using the warmest water setting and dried completely. After handling laundry wash hands again to ensure contact with potentially contaminated clothing is addressed.

Quick cleaning

  • Proper cleaning and sanitization is takes time so it is also recommended that drivers carry wipes, hand sanitizer and disposable gloves in your vehicle so you can clean on the go.

Extreme temperatures and virus survival

  • Extreme heat or cold do not substantially reduce virus survival and therefore are not effective methods of keeping your vehicle interior and occupants safe. In fact certain temperature ranges may actually increase virus survival. Whether your vehicle is parked in cold or hot climate it is important to regularly clean and disinfect your vehicle.

Stay informed

Take responsibility for your own health as well as your passengers and regularly clean and disinfect your vehicle to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The extra time will ensure your personal vehicle continues to be an effective alternative to mass transportation through the duration of the pandemic. This guide has been compiled as a resource to educate drivers on proper vehicle sanitization but drivers should always follow official CDC advisories as we continue to learn more about strategies to combat the virus.