Some are more paranoid than others during the COVID-19 crisis, but you don't have to sit at either extreme when it comes to protecting yourself. You can either be hypervigilant, not care at all, or better yet, take the right precautions without seriously impeding daily living. You likely have to venture out to get food, necessary supplies (and some adult beverages can't hurt), so make sure you clean your car's cabin regularly. Here are some important steps you can take that won't take a serious bite out of your already hectic day.

1. Keep Disinfectant Handy... and Make Your Own

steering wheel

We know you have to battle to find disinfectant these days, but it is important to get some because not everything will work against COVID-19. Vinegar doesn't quite have what it takes, even though it is a good general cleaning solution. If you can't get Lysol Disinfectant spray because there's been a run on it at the stores (or Amazon), just use about 70% isopropyl alcohol and keep it in a spray bottle. 

Keep in mind that alcohol dries out surfaces, so be careful how much you use on your vehicle's more delicate areas like leather, vinyl, and soft-touch plastics on the dash, door, and center console.

  • Spray disinfectant on a clean rag and wipe down instead of soaking the surface.
  • Do not spray directly on control knobs and buttons, as you could damage them.
  • Give it several seconds to do its work, and then wipe clean ensuring not to leave puddles of it or thick layers.
  • Every week, you should use leather, vinyl, plastic protectant to make sure you're not damaging materials.

2. Focus on Key Areas

kia forte steering wheel

Your steering wheel is actually dirtier than your car's pedals (unless you just came out of a rest stop bathroom, that is). Tons of germs live on the surface and COVID-19 can survive for hours, even days on hard surfaces. According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is viable for up to three days on plastics and up to a full 8 hours on stainless steel, two materials often found inside today's vehicles.

Here are high-touch areas you should regularly wipe down if you're going in and out of public places:

  • Door handles
  • Steering wheel and shift knob
  • Climate control, audio, and infotainment buttons
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Handbrake
  • Seat adjuster levers/buttons

3. Clean/Wash Your Hands Before Entering a Clean Car

woman opening car door

Just because you clean the inside of your car doesn't mean you've done everything right. Keep in mind that if germs are living on your hand, the mere act of opening your car door means you've likely transferred those germs onto your door handle.

Not to make you paranoid, but if you've cleaned the inside of your car but repeatedly use your door handle on your errands, you're just bringing those germs into the car. So, if you're able to use a disinfectant wipe on your hands before entering your car, that will help matters. Better yet, wash your hands with warm water and soap before getting in. Then, you can feel confident that your disinfected car interior will remain clean for longer. 

4. Use Disposable Rags or Replace Cloth Ones Often

car cleaning rag

Just because you wipe down your car's interior surfaces well doesn't mean it's ready for prime time. Using the same rags day after day just means your putting the germs back on the surface. Sure, the disinfectant will help, but it's wise to use paper towels. But if you're low on supplies (since everyone is hoarding!), then consider using microfiber cloths, clean cotton rag/t-shirts, and was them after one or two uses. Wash them in hot water and reuse them. 

You should be able to scrounge up clean rags in your home or buy them at the local auto parts store, which likely haven't been depleted yet by the panicked public. Be mindful of how often you use your cleaning cloths, and wash or replace them often. This will keep your efforts worthwhile and your car's interior will be clean enough to eat off of (but don't do that).