Killing the Coronavirus Inside of Your Car Without Damaging the Interior

Washing hands and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces are two of the best ways to defend against spreading the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As COVID-19 spreads, you’ve probably already learned the proper technique for washing your hands and which household cleaners can destroy a coronavirus.

But what about the inside of your car?

If you or someone else who has been in your car shows symptoms of the illness, you should clean frequently touched surfaces, including the steering wheel, door handles, shift lever, any buttons or touch screens, wiper and turn signal stalks, passenger and driver door armrests, grab handles, and seat adjusters.

A car’s interior is less durable than, say, a kitchen counter or bathroom sink. So how do you protect those surfaces without damaging them?

With a few notable exceptions, many of the same household cleaners that kill coronaviruses on hard surfaces at home can also clean a car without damaging its interior. Chances are, you may already have some of these products at home. Alcohol solutions that contain at least 70 percent alcohol are effective against coronavirus, according to the CDC.

Whatever you do, don’t use bleach or hydrogen peroxide on the inside of your car. While they can both kill coronaviruses on surfaces, they will likely damage your car’s upholstery. And do not use ammonia-based cleaners on car touch screens, as they can damage their anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings. Vigorous washing with soap and water can also destroy a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are surrounded by a protective envelope that helps them to infect other cells, and destroying that envelope can effectively disarm them. Soap and water are also safe for most car interiors—especially fabrics and older leather that may have begun to crack. Just be sure not to scrub too hard. Most leathers are dyed, and cleaning too vigorously can remove the dye.

Once you’re finished cleaning, don’t forget to wash your hands before and after driving. It’s a good habit to get into even outside of the spread of COVID-19, as it will keep your steering wheel and other frequently touched surfaces in your car from looking dingy.

“The number one thing is to clean your hands - clean your steering wheel, but if you have dirty hands, you put that dirt back on.”

Washing your hands is still one of the best ways to defend yourself against COVID-19.

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