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Car hygiene in the time of SARS-CoV-2

How to keep your vehicle as virus-free as you possibly can

Are you sure you're entering a clean car? PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

As we all observe enhanced community quarantine, our cars can definitely be a safe means of getting essential supplies while minimizing coronavirus transmission—provided we keep them sanitized. Here are simple ways you can keep SARS-CoV-2 out of your car.

What you’ll need:

  • Disinfecting/sanitizing wipes (bleach-free)
  • Microfiber towels
  • Interior detailing solution
  • Gentle dishwashing liquid
  • Distilled water
  • Air purifier
  • Disinfecting aerosol (or Lysol)
  • Good old sunlight
The materials you need for cleaning your car are readily available at most stores. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizers are extremely difficult to find these days. Fortunately, many stores still carry sanitizing wipes. These wipes provide a decent amount of cleansing when handwashing isn’t available. They clean your car’s interior quite well, too.

Before moving forward, let’s point out the parts of your car that are most prone to contamination. Of course, any part of your car’s cabin can be affected, but we’d like to focus on those surfaces that are most likely to cause viral transmission. These are:

  • Door handles
  • Door panels and armrests
  • Seats (including seatbelts)
  • Steering wheel
  • Gear lever
  • Dashboard and instrumentation
  • Windows
  • Air-conditioning vents
  • Car key
Some parts of the car get touched far more regularly than the others. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

To begin, grab a few sheets of sanitizing wipes and gently clean the above-mentioned parts. If you feel the wipes may adversely react with your car’s bits as some contain certain amounts of alcohol, you can always do a spot test first. Though bleach-based products do the trick, they are not ideal for car-interior materials and may cause irreversible damage. After wiping down the areas in question, you can let them dry under the sun or you can wipe them dry with a clean microfiber towel.

Leather seats are very easy to wipe with sanitizing wipes, but you can also use these wipes for fabric seats. Make sure to disinfect seatbelts, too. Just allow these spots to dry with good ventilation and sunlight.

Sanitary wipes are here to save the day. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

To take cleaning a step further while maintaining the beauty of your car’s cabin, an interior detailing solution is the next step. This can be sprayed directly on interior surfaces, but we suggest spraying product on a clean microfiber towel first before wiping anything. Use a dry microfiber towel to absorb excess detailer when needed.

A good interior cleaner is a versatile product that can be used to clean leather, plastics (glossy, matte or textured), glass, wood and other trim. Look for one that breaks down organic waste or dirt safely. Read the labels on such products for more important details.

Nothing beats a proper microfiber towel and a good detailing solution. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

When sanitizing wipes and interior detailing solutions aren’t available, another effective hack is using a quality dishwashing liquid (preferably pH-balanced) diluted in distilled water (approximately one to two teaspoons per 500mL of distilled water). Mix well in a clean container. And then soak a microfiber towel with the solution and wipe away. When in doubt, always do a spot test first. Make sure to wipe off excess solution with a dry towel.

You should be familiar with this if you wash the dishes in your household. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Now that your interior is clean, a good air purifier can sterilize your cabin’s breathable air and also purify areas that are out of sight and reach, such as air-conditioning ducts. You can get either an aerosol or plug-in type. When used right, such a product can improve the quality of circulating air in your cabin. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on proper use.

Aerosol-type air purifiers are very good at sterilizing impossible-to-reach areas. Give them a try. PHOTO FROM GEN TIU

Let’s not forget the power of sunlight. Though we don’t usually recommend getting your car exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, natural sunlight and the heat it produces can definitely stop viruses dead in their tracks. Just don’t overdo it to prevent any damage to your interiors. Thirty minutes to one hour of full exposure to the noontime sun should suffice.

If you don’t have access to direct sunlight or an air purifier, a can of trusty Lysol or something similar is a great way to disinfect your car. Spray in controlled bursts while avoiding sensitive interior parts. Close all doors and windows after spraying while keeping the air-conditioning on for maximum effect.

Loose coins and paper bills carry germs. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

As a friendly reminder, do not leave unnecessary items inside your car that may carry viruses. These include loose change, receipts and plastic/paper bags from commercial establishments. In addition, make sure you have a dedicated waste container whenever you travel—and then remove and empty it at day’s end.

Stay safe and do your part by driving your car only when absolutely necessary. Let’s win this battle against the coronavirus.

Manskee Nascimento

Manskee is a music-loving petrolhead who specializes in car care. He finds peace in long drives to and from his home in La Union.