Spring Cleaning: How to Disinfect the Interior of Your Car

by Lori Straus

COVID-19 has shone a new spotlight on disinfection and a new layer to spring cleaning your car. But disinfecting your vehicle differs from disinfecting your home.

Two words of warning: First, please remember that we are neither doctors nor infectious disease experts. However, we ensured that the information we are presenting here—as we always do—is from trusted and reliable sources.

Second, if the interior of your vehicle is warm, cool it down first or wait until the evening or the next morning. Using disinfectants on a warmed interior can damage it.

Put on GlovesProtective Blue Gloves

Wearing gloves while you clean not only protects your hands from chemicals but if you pick up any germs, they’ll land on your gloves instead of your skin or under your fingernails (just don’t touch your face, even with gloves). When you’re done, throw out your gloves. If they’re reusable, wash them in hot soap and water immediately.

Remove Everything

Emptying your vehicle will let you thoroughly clean in the corners and all your surfaces. Throw out any garbage and also take out any kids’ toys. Even if your kids haven’t been in your car for a while, remove their toys and set aside time to disinfect them, too.

Wash the Interior with Your Preferred Car Cleaner70% alcohol spray for protection against Coronavirus

Warm water and soap not only help kill the coronavirus, they also remove dirt. By removing any dirt that has collected in your vehicle, you’re helping protect it from damage later, when disinfecting could lead you to rub that dirt into the fabrics and materials.

Choose the Right Disinfectant and Not Bleach

Bleach and hydrogen peroxide can damage your car’s interior, but thankfully, they’re not the only disinfectants available. For a product to call itself a disinfectant, it must be approved by Health Canada for that purpose. Anything that has not been registered through Health Canada has not been tested to properly disinfect surfaces.

Choose a solution that contains at least 70% isopropyl alcohol. Health Canada lists on their website 21 products containing isopropyl alcohol that are “likely to be effective for use against coronavirus (COVID-19).”

Test for Damage and Discoloration First

These cleaners have other chemicals in them, too, so carefully read the instructions on the label of the disinfecting product you’ve chosen and wipe some on the underside of the steering wheel to check for colorfastness and damage. If you don’t see any changes to the material, then you’re good to continue.

Open wet wipes flow pack, isolated on white backgroundStart Wiping

Thoroughly wipe down all the hot spots in your vehicle: the steering wheel, cup holder, seatbelts, inside door handle, gearshift, and the radio buttons. Do not use ammonia-based cleaners on touch screens, because they can damage the anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings. Also, never spray any kind of liquid on any electronic parts: spray a microfibre cloth instead and use that to wipe those surfaces.

Remember that not all surfaces in your vehicle are the same as the back of your steering wheel, so keep an eye out for any damage as you clean. The headliner, for example, is usually very delicate material and won’t react well to being soaked.

Keep Your Hands Clean Whenever You Use Your Car

Properly cleaning and disinfecting a vehicle is a lot of work, and so long as we have to watch out for this virus, we need to be extra vigilant with disinfection. That starts by making sure your hands are clean, to begin with whenever you enter the vehicle.

Ideally, so long as public health officials tell us to stay home, stay home. Take care of your car while it’s parked, but if you must drive, regularly disinfect your vehicle to reduce your chances of catching and/or transmitting COVID-19.