How to Properly Disinfect Your Car During the Coronavirus Outbreak

While it’s safest to stay home, some people still need to drive to get supplies or commute to essential jobs.

Studies have given us some insight into COVID-19’s lifespan on surfaces, with plastic and stainless steel harboring the virus for two to three days in some instances. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has outlined proper disinfecting measures for the household amid the pandemic.

But what about the inside of your car?

First and foremost, it’s worth stating the importance of washing hands before and after using the car, as well as keeping your hands away from your face. And when you clean the car, be sure to focus on the steering wheel, door handles and any knobs and buttons, touch screens, gear shifts, seat belts — even keys and keychains.

If EPA-recommended disinfectant products are out of stock, or if you are cleaning more sensitive surfaces in the car, vigorously wash with soap and water. Add a few drops of dish soap to a bowl of water and use a soft sponge.

The simple mixture is effective in breaking down the virus: “The virus has an outside coating, and the stuff inside — DNA or RNA — is what actually causes the disease. It’s kind of like the casing on a bomb or torpedo,” Richard Sachleben, an organic chemist, told NBC News. “For a virus, that coating is a protein, and the soap or detergent break up that coating, so the virus spills its guts and falls apart.”

As noted by Consumer Reports, it’s not advisable to use bleach or hydrogen peroxide since they can ruin upholstery, as effective as they may be on the virus. The outlet also warns that ammonia-based cleaners, when used on touch screens in a car, can tarnish coatings that prevent glare and fingerprints.

One car expert, Jeff Stout, executive director of global innovation at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, told Consumer Reports that isopropyl alcohol is generally safe on car surfaces. As noted by CDC guidelines, the solution must contain a minimum of 70 percent alcohol to combat COVID-19.

“We will use that to clean smudges [on car interiors] ” Stout said of utilizing pure isopropyl alcohol.

Car care experts also suggest drivers make use of microfiber cloths, since paper towels and some other wipes can cause scratching.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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