Man cleaning a car

How To Ensure Your Vehicle Is Hygienically Clean

Suffice to say, we're all washing our hands now. But what about our cars?

By Shell on Apr. 08, 2020

Just like our hands and homes, our cars can harbour all kinds of nastiness and potentially even contribute to the spread of sickness if we don’t keep them clean.

That makes now as good a time as ever to pencil them for a good once-over. Here's what you need to do to create a healthier in-car environment for you, your family or your workers.

Where should I be cleaning?

Cleaning efforts should be focused on the cabin’s most common touch points, otherwise known as ‘high-touch’ areas. You can probably name two straight away – the steering wheel and gear shifter – but our hands come into contact with a lot more than those.

Think about it. Every time we drive, we’ve got to open or close a door, put a seatbelt on or take it off and release or apply the handbrake. We might move the seat, adjust the mirrors, crank the volume on the stereo or turn down the air-conditioning.

That means cleaning should be focused on pretty much everything you can see and plenty you can’t, from the dashboard, door panels, armrests and seats to the door handles (inside and out), seatbelt buckles/handles, handbrake handle/switch, indicator stalks, seat adjusters, cupholders, control buttons/knobs, mirror switches (or the mirror itself) and any touch-screens. And don’t forget the keyfob.

What products should I use?

Don’t use household or exterior cleaners as they can damage or break down a vehicle’s plastics, vinyls and other cabin materials. Glass cleaner, for example, can damage a touch-screen’s anti-glare coating.

Instead, get hold of some isopropyl or cleaning alcohol (available at supermarkets and chemists). This well-established disinfectant is suitable for cleaning pretty much all of a cabin’s hard surfaces and is commonly used by car companies, fleets and detailers to do just that.

Team a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol with a good microfibre cloth – the latter is not only great at picking up gunk but stopping scratches – and you’ve got all you need to keep on top of bacteria and viruses. Just spray it into the cloth, give those high-touch surfaces a good wipe-down and the job is done.

The only things you really don’t want to use isopropyl alcohol on are leather (it can damage the protective coating or even fade the colour) and upholstery (it won’t damage it but it’s not really practical). Instead, just use soap and water, and clean with a cloth or sponge in a gentle circular motion. Remember that steering wheels and gear shifters tend to be leather-bound on many modern cars as well, not just seats.

If you don’t have isopropyl alcohol on hand or can’t get hold of it, soap and water can be substituted for all of your cabin’s high-touch surfaces.

For on-the-go cleaning once the job is done, keep some disinfectant wipes handy in the glovebox. A quick wipe down after each drive will keep things hygienic between ‘big’ cleans.


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