Larry Kosilla, a professional detailer and chemist for Ammo in New York, knows as much as anyone about cleaning cars. But in the COVID-19 crisis, Kosilla offers a reminder:
Cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting vehicles require different methods.
As Kosilla details in a post and video for Hagerty: “Cleaning a surface physically removes dirt and germs, but doesn’t chemically kill any of those germs. Sanitizing and disinfecting a surface may or may not remove dirt and grime, and each denotes a different intensity.
“When you sanitize your hands (for instance), you aren’t killing all of the germs, you’re simply knocking down their numbers to a safe, lower level as determined by public health standards,” Kosilla says.
COVID-19 thrives in gas stations
“There’s a reason we disinfect things with bleach, and don’t wash our hands with it; disinfecting is a take-no-germs-as-prisoners method. A realistic approach for your car’s interior, then, is to clean and then sanitize.”
Kosilla reiterates what the Center for Disease Controls recommends: focusing on hotspots for germs. The list includes: climate/radio controls, cupholders, door handles, gear shifter, seat buckles and steering wheels.
The process should begin on hotspot surfaces with a wiping spray. A sanitizer with an EPA registration on the back label is recommended.
Leaving the spray for the recommended time, known as “dwell time.” If a vehicle is wiped down too soon, the effectiveness of removing germs and the coronavirus will be lessened. Allowing the product the time it needs to do its job — whether sanitizing or disinfecting — is key.
When the “dwell time” is done, test a small, inconspicuous panel in your car like the back of a steering wheel or the side bolster of the seat. If there’s no fading or discoloration on the surface, it’s save to continue.
COVID-19 means hand-washing diligence
To preserve your hard sanitizing work and avoid introducing germs back into the environment, wash your hands before entering your vehicle. Keep some hand sanitizer in a compartment. If all else fails wear a clean pair of rubber gloves and dispose them after each drive. The interior handle and keys should also wiped down.
Kosilla also recommends avoiding direct contact with a gas pump handle or buttons whenever possible. Both areas area month the dirtiest public places. During a pandemic, gas pump handles and ATM equipment can carry COVID-19. Always use a glove or a paper towel with refilling fuel, using a windshield wiper stick or touching an other exterior gas station equipment.
According to report on carrentals.com, a steering wheel can have four times the amount of germs found on an average toilet seat.
And although “hotspots” for cleaning is imperative for a germ and virus-free car interior, use disinfecting wipes to also clean the radio control, voice control, cruise control, navigation and paddle shift levers. And don’t forget about the gear selector lever or the turn indicator stalks.
Also clean the door and center console armrests, display screens, cupholders, cubbyholes, air conditioner vents.
A combination of soap and water is a safe and sufficient way to clean leather steering wheels, seating, and trim Do not scrub hard when cleaning your leather interior, and avoid excess suds and water.
All wiping and cleaning should be done with a microfiber cloth if you have one available. Not only do they do a great job of trapping dirt, but they also prevent scratches.
If you’re not sick an no one sick in your car, don’t fret over repeatedly the process. But take the first time you clean the interior seriously.
And you have cleaned and disinfected your car, it is important to wash your hands and practice good hygiene before getting in from now on. This will help keep your car a clean place, and reduce the chance of a virus making it into your vehicle.