It seems like the Coronavirus is everywhere these days. The virus is at the top of headlines every day, all day. New reports of the illness keep stacking up and it appears to be all but inevitable that the virus reaches a community near you or even your own neighborhood. In addition, the stock market has dropped significantly; folks are trapped in cruise ships in quarantine – it goes on and on. Is it really that bad?? At the time of writing this article, the common flu is still more deadly and widespread. And at the end of the day, simply washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding touching people are still the best ways prevent spreading diseases like the flu and Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Everyone knows that bacteria and viruses are often transferred from one person to another when an infected person touches things, sneezes, or coughs. When you have people in and out of your car regularly, chances are good you will get sick. Unfortunately, the beautiful interior of your car is a perfect place for germs and bacteria to hang out too. But most disinfectant products on the market are not intended for automotive use. So, what's the best way to disinfect your car without ruining your interior while protecting yourself from the common flu and Coronavirus? We did some digging, here's what we suggest.
The Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Disinfecting Your Car
First off, the standard Clorox wipes might be great for door knobs in your house or countertops but they are Not the best solution for your car. Keep them in your trunk, but don't use them on your dash! You should always avoid using products that contain alcohol on the interior surfaces of your car. Alcohol will dry leather and plastic, leading to discoloration or cracking. Most hand sanitizers on the market today are alcohol-based. Don’t use hand sanitizer to clean your car or any other alcohol based products!
Many products that are designed for killing germs and bacteria in your home use bleach. Like alcohol, bleach is also not safe to use on automotive materials. Bleach will discolor your interior over time and may ruin many materials.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking “of course I wouldn't use bleach or alcohol on my interior” but the fact is, in many cases you may not even know that the product you're using is alcohol based or contains small portion of bleach. Check the labels!
Great Products for Disinfecting/Protecting Your Car from Corona Virus and Other Illnesses
One of the best sanitizing and disinfecting products you are likely to find out there is made by Sani Professionals. They sell multi-surface disinfecting wipes that are both bleach and alcohol-free. The wipes are a convenient way to quickly disinfect most of your car surfaces. Use these on door handles, knobs and buttons, keys, steering wheel, and shifter to kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria. They've also listed Human Coronavirus among the list of viruses and bacteria that it kills in their info sheet.
The Sani Pro wipes are preferred over other brands because of the lack of alcohol and bleach that are typically used by other companies. Sani Pros uses a common chemical called Quaternary Ammonium Chloride. This stuff is so strong, it kills H1N1, E. Coli, Coronavirus, and many of the viruses that cause influenza. And all without damaging fabric, leather, or plastic.
Quats are known to remain on a surface for weeks and even months. Sani Pros uses a low .14% concentration that is well below the 3% concentration level that is considered hazardous. Some people may experience rashes and respiratory problems when using Quats for sanitizing.
Lots of people don’t like using chemicals in their cars. If you don’t want to use sanitizing wipes, you have other options. A chemical-free and convenient way to sanitize your car uses ultraviolet light. Portable UV lights allow you to kill germs and bacteria in minutes.
The Germ Reaper is a high-quality portable UV-C light intended for killing bacteria, germs, and bad smells. UV light at frequencies between 260nm-270nm causes the destruction of DNA within microorganisms. This simple-to-use wand lets you get into tight spaces and is highly effective.
UV lights work best in low ambient light conditions. You should not look at the bulb with the device turned on. UV lights are particularly handy for disinfecting parts of your car that should not be exposed to moisture, like key fobs, touchscreen monitors, and other sensitive areas.
Carpet Cleaning Products
Nasty germs are just as likely to hang out in your car’s carpet as they are anywhere else. Fortunately, sanitizing carpets is easy. Most commercial carpet cleaning solutions will provide at least some degree of sanitizing.
One of the best carpet disinfecting solutions on the market is produced by Nature’s Miracle Disinfectant Stain and Odor Remover. Marketed as a product that eliminates pet urine from fabric, Nature’s Miracle also kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria found in your carpet.
You should use caution when using Nature’s Miracle, as the primary active ingredient is Chlorine Dioxide, which can harm some plastic surfaces. It is sold in a spray bottle or a 64 oz. jug. It can be used to sanitize fabric seats, headliners, and other soft areas. Always test in a small, inconspicuous area before going all in.
The best way to use Nature’s Miracle is with a carpet steam cleaner. Steam does double duty to make sure germs and bacteria are eliminated. Nature’s Miracle prevents mold and mildew for months after use. The formulation leaves no odor or residue in your carpet. If you have kids or dogs, this carpet cleaner is your best friend.
Sanitizing Air Vents and Air Conditioner
The surfaces of your car can be cleaned and sanitized to pristine condition, but if you don’t also treat your A/C and air vents, your efforts to prevent germs and bacteria will be short lived. There are a few ways to go about sanitizing vents, including professional services that average about $200. The professionals use an ozone-producing machine that kills germs and bacteria. The ozone generator that is used by professionals typically costs several hundred dollars, but ozone generators for home use are much cheaper.
The Alpine Air Commercial Ozone Generator is a great, relatively inexpensive option for sterilizing air vents. The unit plugs into your 12v accessory socket. All you have to do is turn the car on, set the AC to high and on the recirculating air cycle. Turn the machine on and walk away. Five minutes later, your air vents and most of your car will be sterilized. A huge plus in using ozone is the ability to remove really nasty odors.
This one puts out 6,000 mg/hr of ozone, enough to shock and kill bacteria in your car quickly. Smaller units are available and are cheaper. Some units on the market are intended to be plugged in and left, but it should be pointed out that the amount of ozone produced is so small that it probably does not help.
You will need to follow a few precautions if using ozone generators. First, never operate the unit in the car while you are inside. Ozone is corrosive and will cause problems with your lungs. You should use a powerful ozone generator for short periods of time rather than a smaller unit for longer periods of time. The best way to sterilize a car with an ozone generator is several, short operations, then allow the car to air out for a little while.
Don’t forget to change your cabin air filter regularly. The cabin air filter is often overlooked, and is a natural harbor for germs, mold, pollen, and bacteria. Your repair manual will show you where the cabin air filter for your car is located.
Everyday Steps to Protect Yourself
Despite the numerous sanitizing products on the market and the mountains of claims made about killing germs and preventing the spread of illnesses, the best thing you can do is regularly wash your hands with soap and water. Keeping your hands clean is the first and most valuable part of preventing germs and bacteria from setting up shop in your car.
The products and procedures here are effective at killing germs and bacteria in your car without damaging surfaces. Always follow safety precautions from the manufacturer when using products to sanitize your car.
Disclaimer: Although we researched these alternative products to help you disinfect and prevent spread of viruses and illness and they very well Might work (many of them specifically list Human Coronavirus in their product documentation), COVID-19 strand may not have specifically been tested with these products (like most products) and these products aren't guaranteed to kill it.