The recent COVID-19 pandemic has really shone a light on the importance of sanitation. While we all use more disinfectant than we have in the past and try to wash our hands more thoroughly and frequently than before, we should also give some attention to the cleanliness of our vehicles.
For some, their vehicle is just a way to get to work and back. For others, it's a shuttle to get the kids to school and practice. For others still—like Uber or Lyft drivers—it's a means to an income. Whatever you use your vehicle for, keeping it clean and sanitized just makes good sense.
In this post, we are going to look at ways you can keep your vehicle safe and sanitized all year round.
Sanitizing the Outside of Your Vehicle
When sanitizing the outside of your vehicle, you'll want to focus on the high-touch surfaces. This is mainly going to be the door handles and, to a lesser degree, the trunk or hatchback pulls.
One of the most common disinfectants on the market is isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). While alcohol is great for cleaning many surfaces, including skin, it is terrible for cleaning painted surfaces. If your vehicle has painted door handles or trunk pulls, avoid rubbing alcohol. Hand sanitizers are also out, as they are about 70% alcohol in most cases, which is still too much for painted surfaces. If your vehicle has plastic door handles and trunk pulls, rubbing alcohol is fine.
A good option for painted and plastic exterior vehicle surfaces is—get ready for it… soap and water! That's right, the standard carwash soap you use for washing your vehicle works wonderfully. After all, if soap and water are recommended for preventing the spread of germs on your hands, it makes perfect sense that it works for your high-touch exterior vehicle surfaces.
Take a Seat
There's no dancing around it: people are gross. Whether it's kids with runny noses, sweaty teens after soccer practice, or passengers sneezing and doing who knows what else in the back of your Uber, the interior of your vehicle can quickly become a petri dish.
An ideal solution—pun intended— for carpet and the interior is a simple surfactant. Acting like combination of detergent, emulsifier, and foaming agent, a surfactant is an all-purpose solution for the fibrous surfaces on your vehicle's interior. Several well-known brands (e.g., 3m, Turtlewax, Shout, etc.) make sprays for your vehicle. You can find them at just about any auto parts supplier.
If you have leather interior, your best bet is to stick with a leather cleaner / conditioner.
Beyond carpets and seats, there are plenty of high-touch areas in your vehicle, such as the steering wheel, interior door handles, navigation system, gear shift, and the like. Rubbing alcohol works well on those plastic and faux leather surfaces; simply apply and wipe down. Of course, just like the vehicle exterior, basic soap and water works well, too. Soap and water is also CDC approved for disinfecting surfaces of your vehicle's interior.
A Word About Bleach
Bleach has been a popular cleaning agent since the late 18th century because it works. While it can be a very effective disinfectant, it has no business being anywhere near your vehicle's interior. Same goes for hydrogen peroxide. That's because these cleaners can cause damage and discoloration to the materials inside your vehicle, including fabrics and leather.
Stick to cleaning products specifically designed for cleaning your vehicle's interior, as there is no shortage of them on the market.
Take a Deep Breath
Because many viruses and bacteria are airborne, having a plan for keeping the cabin air in your vehicle clean is also a good idea. This usually involves upgrading your vehicle's cabin filter.
Standard cabin filters do a great job at removing dust and similar particles from the cabin air. What you really want, though, is a HEPA filter. HEPA filters are made with binders, glass, and plastic to filter much finer particles. In fact, they are designed to filter particles as small as 0.3 microns, which is the same as an N95 mask. That accounts for 99.97% of all particles. Still, the diffusion process that takes place in a HEPA filter makes it 100% effective against viruses and bacteria.
Despite our best efforts, we can't control what kinds of pathogens make it into our vehicles. With smart planning, we can take steps to filter those pathogens from the air and clean them from surfaces. While COVID-19 has shined a light on how easy it is to transmit pathogens, keeping your car clean and sanitized even after COVID-19 is a great way to deter the spread of other illnesses (e.g., influenza, common cold, etc.) that we continue to face every day.