How to sanitize your car without damaging the interior

Even without the coronavirus, the steering wheel of the average car is four times dirtier than a public toilet! Here are some simple steps to properly clean the inside of your car. To ensure it is properly sanitized when you are worried that it might be contaminated with the coronavirus. The Covid-19 virus is spread through droplets. Meaning someone coughs or sneezes inside
your car, and the interior of the car is infested with little droplets. And these can stay contagious for up to 7 days

Make sure of your own safety first!

Before you start, do some simple checks to ensure your own safety.

  • Careful of the heat
  • Don’t pick up the virus!
  • Don’t run down your car battery
  • Use the handbrake
  • Watch out for fumes
  • Wash your hands often

Watch out for the heat

Even though it is getting closer to autumn now, your car can still get dangerously hot if it is parked in the sun. So when you clean the inside of your car, make sure you got it parked in the shade. Or that you have all the windows open when you work inside the car.

Don’t pick up the virus!

If you are cleaning your car interior because you are worried it might be infected with the coronavirus, then you must take precautions to ensure YOU don’t pick up the virus when you clean the car.

The basic rules to protect yourself are:

  • Wear gloves if you can
  • Wear a face mask, or wrap a scarf or t-shirt over your mouth and nose
  • Don’t touch your face!
  • Wash your hands properly once you are done with the car
  • Don’t touch the outside of your face mask
  • Don’t touch the outside of your gloves

Don’t run down your car battery

If you have your car doors open when you clean the car, that might automatically switch on the interior lights. Having the radio or music on can also run down your car battery. So check that the interior lights are switched off.

Use the handbrake

Ensure the car cannot accidentally roll or move, make sure to properly use the handbrake. Even on a flat surface, there might be a slight incline that is not easy to see. So rather be safe and make sure the car cannot move.

Use the handbrake

You might use cleaning fluids that create fumes. So make sure you have the doors or windows open. Good ventilation is the best way to prevent a build-up of fumes.

Don't damage your car

Some cleaning fluids and materials can damage the interior of your car. Car interiors can be made of leather, vinyl, plastic, metal or chromed surfaces. So you need to make sure you use cleaning liquids and materials that won’t damage any of those surfaces.

Here is a short list of safe cleaning products:

  • Soap and warm water
  • Cloth or towel (microfibre is best!)
  • Disinfectant wipes
 Here is a list of cleaning products to avoid, because they can damage the interior of your car:

  • Petrol
  • Brake fluid
  • Jik (bleach)
  • Acid
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Ammonia-based cleaning products (Blue glass cleaning spray you use in the bathroom)

Simple and fast

The steering wheel, cup holders, safety belts and buckles, lock buttons, window buttons, inside mirrors, radio, climate control buttons, gear lever, armrests, rearview mirror and door handles are the areas of your car where you are most likely to pick up or deposit germs. So if you only have 5 minutes, make sure you clean those surfaces first and clean them well.


A vacuum is the best way to get rid of old hairs and dirt that might be on the seats and the floor. Also, vacuum the other surfaces in your car. Especially cup holders and door handles and armrests.


Make a mixture of hot water and soap. Properly wash the areas listed above. Then wash again with clean hot water. Make sure no water or soapy residue is left behind.


You can wipe all the surfaces in your car with disinfectant wipes. This is the fastest way to disinfect a surface quickly.

Check points that are touched a lot

Check all the points in your car that get touched a lot. Door handles, mirrors, gear lever, music buttons… anything you know gets touched a lot. These are the most dangerous places where you can pick up the virus.

Let it stand in the sun

Heat and especially direct sunlight is a disinfectant. So leaving your car out in the direct sunlight for an hour or more will certainly help kill the germs.

When you are finished - one more step

When you are completely finished, make sure to properly wash your hands. And dispose or disinfect your gloves and face mask. Remember, if you touch the outside of your mask or gloves when you take them off, then you have infected your hands.
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.

Last Updated: 6/4/2020