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May 21, 2020

How to Keep Your Car Clean, Hygienic and Germ-Free

The COVID-19 crisis is changing the world and impacting everyone’s lives. It’s also raising awareness of all the ways we can make the touchpoints of our lives cleaner and more hygienic. Dr. Jenny Dodman, Ford’s chief medical officer, explains why it’s imperative now more than ever, with the Coronavirus outbreak, to keep the car clean when we use it.

It’s worth clarifying that germs can take many forms. There are micro-organisms around us all the time and that’s normal – only a very small proportion of these have the potential to be harmful to us. The aim of cleaning should be to remove any potentially harmful micro-organisms, such as viruses like COVID-19.

When someone who is infected with COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, they produce droplets containing the virus and these droplets fall onto a surface around that person. That surface becomes contaminated and when someone touches it with their hands and then touches their face, this can transfer the virus to their eyes, mouth or nose, where it enters the body. This is why washing our hands is so important. Ideally, we should use soap and hot water, or if soap isn’t available, a hand sanitizer containing at least 70 per cent alcohol.

It is possible to contract the virus when someone coughs or sneezes directly onto someone else’s face. However, this is thought to be a much less common way of becoming infected, especially when social distancing is in place because the droplets are relatively large and they fall to the ground or a surface; they don’t linger in the air.

The risk posed by a surface contaminated by COVID-19 decreases over time. It is not yet clear how long the virus can live on a surface and it is likely that this varies depending on the surface and conditions, but studies of other viruses in the same family suggest that, in most circumstances, the risk is likely to be reduced significantly after 72 hours.

How to clean your car interior

When cleaning your car interior, never use products containing bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Also, avoid ammonia-based products, which can damage some specialist coatings such as anti-glare and anti-fingerprint. For each car, the manufacturer will be able to provide advice about what specific products are safe to be used on each part of the car.

Interior view of Ford to keep germ-free

Best way to clean your car interior

  1. Door releases/locks
  2. Electric window/mirror switches
  3. Door pockets
  4. Steering wheel with horn and control stalks
  5. Air vents
  6. Dashboard
  7. Power button
  8. Multimedia screen
  9. Heating controls
  10. Gear stick

Clean these too

(not shown)

  1. Parcel shelf
  2. Boot floor tab
  3. Sunroof switch
  4. Seatbelts and seatbelt buckles
  5. Seat adjustment controls
  6. Keys
  7. Handbrake
  8. Glovebox/storage compartments
  9. Operator's manual
  10. Cupholders
  11. Rear-view mirror
  12. Interior lights
  13. Head rests
  14. Seat pockets

The advice from Public Health England is that normal household disinfectant is effective against COVID-19. Particular attention should be paid to frequently touched areas such as the steering wheel, handles, gear stick, any buttons or touch screens, wiper and turn signal stalks, armrests, and seat adjusters. Seatbelts should also be high on every driver’s cleanliness check list. The seatbelt sits across you and is likely to bear the brunt of any coughs and sneezes.

For washing outside of your car exterior, if you go to a hand car wash, you’re more likely to have people within a two-metre distance than with an automatic car wash, where you’re inside your own car with the windows up. I expect that many of the hand car washes will be closed for now. Ultimately, it’s a case of making a pragmatic decision based on the process that best allows you to observe the two metre social distancing requirements and hygiene measures.

Exterior view of Ford to keep germ-free

How to clean your car exterior

  1. Door handles
  2. Door frames and roof
  3. Boot/Trunk release
  4. Fuel cap
  5. Wheel valves and dust caps

You might see people wearing gloves as a form of protection. However, please note that your gloves can still become contaminated if touching a contaminated surface, which can then be spread by touching your face with the gloved hand.

You shouldn’t share a car with anyone you don’t live with, because that would overstep the social distancing guidance from experts.

There isn’t a set frequency for cleaning your car other than to clean frequently, including when a surface has become contaminated, and always between different drivers. If you must drive, it’s advisable to keep hand sanitizer in your car and to store some disinfectant wipes or spray in the glovebox.

Please always remember to maintain social distancing, wash your hands frequently and follow the government guidance.