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How to Disinfect a Car Interior

Front-seat view of a clean car interior

It’s important to know how to disinfect a car interior when it comes time to clean. Vacuuming dirt and wiping dust from hard surfaces makes your car look clean, but a little extra effort will help remove bacteria, viruses and other germs that you can’t see. Here are some tips for giving the inside of your car a thorough cleaning.

What Not to UseCar interior

Harsh chemicals are not a good choice, as they can damage many surfaces. Stick with cleaners and disinfectants specifically designed for cars, which will clean your car’s interior without ruining delicate materials.

Break Out the Disinfectant Wipes

One of the easiest ways to disinfect your car is with disinfectant wipes that kill germs and clean at the same time. You can use them on many hard surfaces, but focus on the areas you touch the most.

How to Disinfect a Car Interior

Here’s a step-by-step guide for wiping down your car interior to ensure you don’t miss any of the spots your hands touch the most.

  1. Start with the steering wheel. You can’t drive without touching the steering wheel, so make sure it’s clean. Pay extra attention to areas where dirt and bacteria can hide, like seams and the buttons used for everything from cruise control to adjusting the volume. Wipe these areas thoroughly.
  2. Disinfect door handles and buttons. Another area that can use a good disinfecting is the door, since you touch the handles every time you get in and out of the car. Don’t, however, use a wipe on exterior handles as this could damage paint. While you’re working on the door, take a moment to wipe down buttons for the windows and side mirrors — don’t forget the buttons on the rearview mirror, too.
  3. Wipe down the infotainment system. This is a spot frequently touched by you and passengers. Wipe down the knobs and buttons to remove grime and germs. For the touch screen, use a microfiber cloth to remove fingerprints and surface dirt and then an ammonia- and alcohol-free cleaner. Harsh chemicals, paper towels and tissues can harm the screen.
  4. Clean the cup holders. Cup holders collect dirt and crumbs and are often damp from cold drinks and accidental spills. Clean the visible dirt first and then break out the wipes. Your hands touch the cup that sits there, and you bring that cup up to your face, so make sure those cup holders are squeaky clean.
  5. Soap fabric seats. Before cleaning any leather or fabric surface, do a spot test in an inconspicuous area and let it dry to be sure it doesn’t leave a mark. Old-fashioned soap and water is a great way to clean fabric, just don’t completely soak the seats. Wipe down fabric surfaces with an antibacterial soap, then rinse promptly and dry as much surface water as possible with a clean cloth.
  6. Be extra careful with leather. If you have leather seats, look for a product specifically designed to clean and disinfectant leather surfaces. Both wipes and sprays will clean, disinfect and even condition your leather seats at the same time.
  7. Don’t forget the floor. Remove floor mats and wash them with antibacterial soap and water. Use the same solution on carpets, but don’t soak the carpet as this can cause mold. Let the carpet and mats dry thoroughly before putting everything back together.

Take the time to learn how to clean and disinfect a car interior and not only will your car look better, you’ll also reduce the possibility of passing along germs to yourself and your passengers.

Check out all the cleaning products available on NAPA online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to disinfect a car interior, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Nicole Wakelin View All

Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.

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