Washing your hands and sanitizing surfaces are important in the fight against germs and viruses -- including COVID. But one area you may have overlooked is your car. We got expert advice from Consumer Reports on what to clean and how to clean it -- before you pack up and hit the road for the holidays.
Disinfecting the inside of your car
Consumer Reports says disinfecting your car goes far beyond the steering wheel.
“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 Consumer Reports Auto Editor Jon Linkov.
Linkov said that because the interior of most cars is made up of a number of different materials, it’s important to use the right products and techniques to disinfect a 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,” he added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol solutions that contain at least 70 percent alcohol should be effective at killing the 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, your car’s shifter, window and control buttons, wiper and turn-signal stalks, door armrests, grab handles, and 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,” Linkov said.
If you’re 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. Wipe down leather gently with a microfiber cloth -- rubbing too vigorously could start to remove the color from the dye in the leather,” explained Linkov.
When wiping down fabric upholstery, avoid using too much water, because it could end up creating a musty smell or encouraging mold growth in the cushions.
Cleaning your child’s car seat
For many surfaces, experts recommend a bleach solution as one good defense against COVID and other germs and viruses, but bleach and other disinfectants may not be the best for your child’s car seat -- as car seat manufacturers are pretty specific in allowing only mild detergents on many car seat components.
Each component must withstand high forces and repeated use in order to keep kids safe during a crash so you don’t want to use any cleaners or disinfectants that could compromise any of the seat’s components in any way.
So, what should you use? To find out what you need, refer to your car seat’s owner’s manual. There you’ll find washing and drying instructions that are specific to not only your car seat model but for each of the seat’s components. If you no longer have your manual, many offer an online version.
Most manufacturers say it’s OK to machine wash and air dry the car seat cover, but you should NEVER put the harness in the washing machine. Instead, follow manufacturer instructions to clean the harness by hand. Most specify using a mild soap and water mixture. The plastic components can be wiped down with mild soap and water.
If you have already cleaned your car seat incorrectly, reach out to its manufacturer for replacement covers and parts.