Coronavirus Cleaning Tips: How To Disinfect Your Vehicle

Coronavirus Car Cleaning Arizona

As we adjust to life during the COVID-19 outbreak, we must adapt to the circumstances and adopt society’s new motto: “There’s no such thing as ‘too clean.’” We wash our hands more regularly now. We sanitize our kitchen counters and doorknobs. We quit itching our noses – or have at least tried. But what’s the best way to disinfect and kill the coronavirus in your car, while also protecting the vehicle’s plastic, leather, cloth and touchscreen materials?

How Long Can the Coronavirus Live on Surfaces?

The virus can linger in the air for up to 3 hours, which is why wearing a facemask is now recommended by the CDC. But what about the common surfaces of your home and vehicle?

According to new research and recent studies published in April 2020 and March 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can survive on surfaces for anywhere from a few hours to a week. Below is a breakdown of how long researchers believe the coronavirus can live on each type of surface:

  • Paper – 3 hours
  • Copper – 4 hours
  • Cardboard – 24 hours
  • Wood – 24-48 hours
  • Cloth (and Leather) – 24-48 hours
  • Glass – up to 4 days
  • Stainless Steel – up to 7 days
  • Plastic – up to 7 days

However, properly disinfecting surfaces will kill the coronavirus within minutes. So, get to cleanin’!

Vehicle Disinfectant Tips

With plenty of plastic and glass, the inside of your vehicle is a potential breeding ground for germs like SARS-CoV-2. Although you can’t feasibly disinfect every surface you touch in the vehicle, a thorough car cleaning and disinfecting spree can go a long way in reducing your risk of infection. Here are some tips to get you started:

A note about cleaning products

  • Soap and Water – Unfortunately, your car’s interior is fragile when it comes to chemicals. Solutions like bleach, hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), while excellent at killing coronaviruses, will also do a number on in-car materials like plastic and touchscreens. However, there is one way to disinfect without damaging the inside of your car: Soap and water. Scrubbing your vehicle with a mixture of soap and water can break down the coronavirus’s fatty exterior entirely. Much like washing your hands, this method of cleaning your car requires a significant time investment, which may not be an option for some car owners. However, it’s the best way to disinfect your vehicle, and it’ll keep your pretty things pretty.
  • Isopropyl/Rubbing Alcohol – A solution of 70% rubbing alcohol will work on high-touch areas like the steering wheel, seat belts, buckles, levers and shifting column. Touchscreens can be tricky as alcohol-based wipes, along with bleach, hydrogen peroxide and ammonia, can peel away the anti-glare coating on these displays. A small (very small) amount of water and soap, paired with a soft microfiber cloth, is usually safer.
  • Bleach – A diluted bleach solution will clean some hard surfaces, including your key fob, though it’s best to test-clean an inconspicuous area of your car before going all-in. Never use bleach on fabric – it will stain.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – Similarly, hydrogen peroxide will clean some hard surfaces and metal in a pinch, but it will stain seats and upholstery. It’s best to keep this in your medicine cabinet.
  • Ammonia – Ammonia can be good at removing some smelly soils, but it will degrade leather, vinyl and rubber quickly, as well as damage any window tint or touchscreen coating.
  • Aerosol Sprays – Something like Lysol, with anti-viral chemicals, can usually be safely sprayed on seats and upholstery, and left to dry naturally. Steam cleaning is another option, as is the use of an iron.
  • Disinfectant Wipes – As an alternative, you can use a disinfectant spray or multi-purpose wipe on most non-painted plastic materials without causing any short-term damage. Be sure to let the area dry per the product’s instructions.
  • Ozone Cleaners – There’s no evidence to suggest Ozone air cleaners, purifiers or products with HEPA filters kill coronaviruses.

Review EPA’s list for a full rundown of the products that have been deemed effective coronavirus-killers.

A note about leather upholstery

Untreated leather should not be treated with alcohol, bleach or hydrogen peroxide; these products will damage and stain. No matter what product you use, after cleaning leather seats, apply a coat of leather conditioning to help avoid cracking.

A note about child seats

These things are nasty even without the risk of coronavirus. Cleaning and sanitizing (disinfecting) a child’s safety seat can be a nuisance – there are so many moving parts that just don’t seem like they belong – so it’s a good idea to re-read the instruction manual before dismantling it for a wash.

Once you’re prepped, scrub the car seat’s plastic “shell” with soap and water. Do the same for all belt straps, head restraints, cushions and buckles. Then leave the carseat to dry outside in the sun. UV rays help to kill germs, as a bonus.

A note about safety

Wear disposable gloves and a mask, for safety’s sake. Wash your hands well after the job is finito.

A note about your Valley Honda Dealers

Our Arizona Honda dealerships are taking the current COVID-19 outbreak seriously. In addition to implementing new standard practices and sanitation methods in our dealerships, many of your Valley Honda Dealers are also offering customers the option to shop from home and have vehicles delivered to their driveways. If you’d like more details about our convenient new processes and options, or if you want to learn about our 90-day deferred payment program* for new Honda vehicles, contact your nearest Honda dealer in the Phoenix area.


*90 Days to First Payment Program: Deferred payment on the purchase of all new Honda Models. For well-qualified buyers. Subject to availability through 5/4/20 on all new and unregistered Honda models on approved credit through Honda Financial Services. 90 days to provide first payment. Not all buyers will qualify. Finance charges will accrue on the full amount financed during deferment; in FL and PA, finance charges start to accrue 60 days after initial contract date. See participating dealers for details.