How to keep your car clean & germ-free

Posted by mustard.co.uk on July 8th, 2020

Cars have all sorts of nooks and crannies, which can make them difficult to clean and keep germ free at the best of times. With Covid-19 at the forefront of all our minds, it’s a timely reminder of how important it is to get to all those tricky to reach places and not just focus on the dirt you can see. So, to help you keep your car spick and span, here are some of our top tips.

Before you start

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that Covid-19 can remain on some hard, non-porous surfaces for up to 72 hours. This can include plastics and metal – both of which you’re more than likely to find in your car. With that in mind (and if you can) it’s a good idea to leave three days between using your car and starting your deep clean. That way, you can minimise contamination if there are any traces of the virus.

Get organised

It helps if you can organise everything you need so that it’s all to hand. Doing this will reduce the number of trips you make between your car and your home or garage – in turn cutting the risk of spreading any germs.

The good news is you don’t necessarily need any special cleaning equipment to combat Covid-19. You can of course use specially formulated car cleaning solutions from petrol stations and car accessory stores, but household cleaners and disinfectant are just as good. If you’re self-isolating, you can buy these quickly and easily online.

If you don’t have any products to hand, warm water with washing up liquid is also just as effective at removing traces of coronavirus and other germs. Remember to be careful around expensive car electronics as damage you cause might not be covered by your car insurance.

Your checklist of cleaning equipment might include:

  • Specialist car cleaning solution or any other bleach free disinfectant
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Cloths, wipes, or kitchen roll, if you’re using non-disposable cloths remember to wash these afterwards too
  • Scrubbing brush to clean mats
  • A bag for rubbish and an extra one if you have items that will need to be cleaned separately (for instance, items the kids have left in the car or cloths that you’ll need to wash).

Use the correct equipment

If you think someone with Covid-19 has been in your car (or you suspect you have it) it’s sensible to take a few extra precautions. If that’s the case, you might want to consider wearing gloves and an apron at the very least. If you can, disposable options are a practical choice to minimise further risk of cross-contamination. To protect yourself even more, you might also consider goggles and a face mask (which should cover your mouth and your nose).

If you only have access to non-disposable equipment, you’ll need to wash these separately when you’ve finished. There are no official guidelines about laundry temperature but washing garments according to the manufacturer recommendations should be sufficient.

Remove stray items

For a really thorough clean, it’s best to remove items that don’t belong in the car – like children’s toys or spare shoes. Under normal circumstances, it would be tempting to simply clean around them, but removing everything that doesn’t belong in your car means you stand a better chance of getting to all those hard to reach places.

Remember that if belongings are coming back into the house, you’ll also need to clean and disinfect these.

Wash your car properly

Keeping your car clean and germ free on the outside is equally important as the inside, particularly if you don’t have a private driveway and if your car’s parked in a public place.

Before you step in with the car shampoo and mitt though, make sure you rinse your car first. Paintwork and glass can be easily scratched by grit and dirt so remove these with a pressure washer or hose.

Don’t be tempted to skip the pre-wash rinse – even if your car looks clean. It might not feel like it, but this extra step can actually cut the amount of time you spend cleaning the car as it’ll get rid of dust and grime you can’t see and minimise smearing.

Remember exterior contact points

If you don’t have time to give the outside of your car a proper wash and wax, you should focus on exterior touch points instead. Car valeting experts recommend wiping contact points twice over with a forward and backward movement. Areas most likely to be touched and come into contact with the novel coronavirus include:

  • Door handles
  • Door and window frames
  • Side mirrors
  • Boot latch and edge
  • Fuel cap and fuel flap
  • Bonnet and anything underneath that has come into contact with someone (washer cap, dipstick, oil cap).

Focus on these interior contact points

Needless to say, the inside of your car will need a lot of time and attention so a methodical approach works best and will help prevent missed spots. Just like outside contact points, aim to wipe down areas twice using a forward and backward movement.

If you have a leather interior and you’re using a shop bought detergent, check that it’s suitable. Key areas to clean include:

  • Driver’s console area – don’t forget radio and stereo buttons as well as heating and air conditioning switches
  • Infotainment screens and buttons
  • Steering wheel
  • Gear stick
  • Window and wing mirror switches and rear-view mirror
  • Seat adjusting buttons and levers
  • Air vents
  • Glovebox (and anything inside that may need cleaning)
  • Interior light switches
  • Seatbelts and buckles
  • Headrests
  • Boot floor tab.

Consider mats and immobilisers

Research from China revealed that Covid-19 could be carried from place to place via people’s shoes. However, the study was conducted in a hospital setting where the virus (and other germs) were present. So, while the data shows that shoes can spread germs and Covid-19, the risk to most of us from this, is minimal.

Of course, if you’re doing a deep clean, your car mats also deserve some care and attention in which case, vacuuming mats to remove visible dirt and dust should be the first step. Next, you can scrub mats using an interior car cleaning solution, your regular household cleaner or a solution of water and washing up liquid.

If your mats have a rubber backing, it’s not a good idea to put them in a washing machine or a tumble dryer as the rubber can be distorted or even melt at high temperatures. If your mats are completely made of rubber front and back, be mindful of the cleaner you’re using. Some may not be suitable and could leave you with slippery finishes, posing a safety risk for the driver and potentially cause an accident.

If you have a physical immobiliser like a steering wheel lock don’t forget to clean this too.

Keep it neat

A large part of keeping the inside of your car clean and germ free for longer, is to ensure everything has its place. From loose change, make-up essentials, pens and phone chargers, it’s easy for clutter to accumulate.

To prevent that and to make future cleaning easier, organise all the odds and ends into jars or small boxes. Small jam or spice jars made excellent containers for loose change allowing you to see at a glance what you have – plus the jar can be quickly removed when you want to clean.

A mini washbag keeps essentials like hair bands, paracetamol or basic first-aid equipment all in one place and can be easily topped up when needed.

If you’ve got small children, the backs of seats can end up being a kicking board. Adding car organisers can help discourage this and also offers an easy solution for keeping bits and bobs accessible. Car organisers can also be removed instantly and in most cases, are machine washable too.

Contain food

If snacks are a must have on journeys, you could invest in spill proof snack boxes for the children. The lids are often silicone flaps which little hands can still reach through but should minimise spills.

You can also reduce the risk of sticky spills in cup holders by fitting each holder with a silicone muffin case. These are usually just the right size to neatly fit in the cup holder and can collect drips and crumbs. As an added bonus, you can slip the muffin case out and clean it with soap and water.

Dispose of rubbish properly

This applies to both any actual rubbish you find in your car as well as any disposable clothing and equipment you’ve used (like gloves). Rubbish bags should be tied or sealed and thrown directly into the bin.

If you’ve worn a non-disposable apron or used reusable cleaning cloths, these should be washed immediately or bagged and sealed until they can be.

Wash your hands thoroughly

Washing your hands and not touching your face remain important ways to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 regardless of how thoroughly you clean your car. Official advice from the NHS is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

If you don’t have immediate access to soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is a good alternative.

Minimise long-term mess

One tip to take away, is to always remove at least one thing from the car when you get home. While jars and bags can help you contain what you need to keep in the car, taking away larger items like gym bags or kids art projects helps prevent mess from building up.

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To stay updated, take a look at our motor insurance blog which is full of tips and advice to keep you and your vehicle stay safe and protected.