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The best ways to disinfect your car to protect yourself from COVID-19

Posted at 5:42 AM, Mar 24, 2020

Washing your hands and sanitizing surfaces are important in the fight against the coronavirus. But one area you might have overlooked? Your car.

Disinfecting your ride goes far beyond the steering wheel.

You're going to want to clean the surfaces in your car, but be careful with what you use so you don't cause any unintended damage.

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“Think about how many surfaces in your car get touched on an average trip: door handles inside and out, control knobs and buttons, the touchscreen, even your directional and wiper control stalks are touched virtually every time you drive your vehicle," said Jon Linkov, Consumer Reports Automotive Editor.

Linkov says since the interior of most cars are made up of a number of different materials, it’s important to use the right products, and techniques, to disinfect your vehicle properly.

"You definitely want to stay away from using bleach or hydrogen peroxide inside your car. Those products could easily do damage to your car’s upholstery," said Linkov.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol solutions that contain at least 70 percent alcohol should be effective at killing coronavirus. This means nearly every interior surface of your car can be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol-based cleaners you already use around the house.

Consumer Reports recommends focusing on disinfecting these vehicle hot spots:

  • Your steering wheel
  • Door handles inside and out
  • Your car’s shifter
  • All window and control buttons
  • Wiper and turn signal stalks
  • Door armrests
  • Any grab handles
  • Seat adjusters.

“And if your car has a touch screen, don’t use anything that has ammonia as an ingredient, since it can strip off anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings on the screen," said Linkov.

Low on cleaning supplies? Soap and water are also a safe bet for most surfaces. But no matter what you use, a gentle touch is recommended.

“The surfaces inside your car are usually going to be more delicate than something like the countertop in your kitchen, so take care in how you apply the cleaning products," Linkov said. "Wipe down leather gently with a microfiber cloth -- rubbing too vigorously could start to remove the color from the dye in the leather.”

And when wiping down fabric upholstery, avoid using too much water. It could end up creating a musty smell or encouraging mold growth in the cushions.

And outside of coronavirus concerns, Consumer Reports suggest always doing your best to drive with clean hands to keep the surfaces in your car from collecting dirt over time and looking prematurely worn out.