Keep your car’s interior clean during COVID-19, experts advise

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/28/20

With a statewide stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Roy Cooper Friday for North Carolinians effective this coming Monday, residents are still allowed to travel for essential needs like grocery shopping. Car care experts remind those who do venture out for essential errands to be mindful of keeping their cars clean to lessen the chance of contact with the novel coronavirus.

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Keep your car’s interior clean during COVID-19, experts advise

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Posted

CARY — With a statewide stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Roy Cooper Friday for North Carolinians effective this coming Monday, residents are still allowed to travel for essential needs like grocery shopping.

Car care experts remind those who do venture out for essential errands to be mindful of keeping their cars clean to lessen the chance of contact with the novel coronavirus.

“For everything you touch, you have to consider that the virus could be on the surface, and that includes many commonly touched areas on the inside of our cars,” said Steve Sargent, owner of Mr. Transmission/Milex Complete Auto Care in Cary.

“Alcohol-based cleaning solutions are great for sanitizing,” Sargent said, “and they won’t hurt your car’s vinyl and plastic surfaces. It is most effective in killing germs when you allow it to sit on the surface for a few minutes.”

A recent survey by CarRentals.com found that 32 percent of people clean the inside of their vehicles only once a year, while another 12 percent say they don’t do it at all.

Without periodic cleaning, Sargent said, germs and bacteria can build up on high-touch surfaces such as steering wheels, door handles and seat belts.

According to CarRentals.com, approximately 700 different strains of bacteria dwell in the average vehicle, including Staphylococcus (“Staph”), which can lead to complications such as skin infections and food poisoning. Other findings: the average steering wheel has four times more bacteria and germs  than a public toilet seat; and, though not part of a car, gas pump handles are also likely to have bacteria present (they are “6,428 times dirtier than public elevator buttons,” according to the website) and those can be transferred to a car’s interior after motorists refuel.

During this time of increased sanitizing precautions, Sargent said it is important to clean the common touchpoints inside vehicles to combat potential exposure to bacteria carrying COVID-19 and other infections.

Sargent recommends these “Do’s and Don’ts” for properly sanitizing the interior of your car:

DO: Carry a packet of disinfecting wipes and frequently clean common touchpoints such as the steering wheel, door handles, seat belts and buckles, keys and fobs, window button, radio and climate control buttons.

DON’T: Eat in the car. Although we often eat on the go, even the smallest particle left in the car can become a breeding ground for bacteria, particularly in a warm, enclosed environment.

DO: Use a sanitizing wipe or alcohol to clean the most commonly touched areas inside your vehicle. They are rife with bacteria and you will likely be surprised by the amount of dirt the wipes will pick up. Soap and water will work too.

DON’T: Use any kind of bleach or hydrogen peroxide on your vehicle’s interior. Both will kill germs but can damage the vinyl and plastics used in most modern cars.

DON’T: Use ammonia-based cleaning products, since the ammonia breaks down the vinyl on the dashboard, making it sticky when subjected to heat and light.

DO: Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer and use it every time you enter the car. This is an especially important practice after touching a pump handle and buttons at a gas station.

DON’T: Keep a large pump bottle of hand sanitizer in the car. Warmer temperatures in the spring and summer months can cause the alcohol in the sanitizer to “boil,” causing the bottle to expand and resulting in a crack or leakage of the plastic container.

Randall Rigsbee can be reached at rigsbee@chathamnr.com.

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