AAA: Keep Your Car Clean and Help Prevent Spread of COVID-19

Posted on September 14, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio (September 14, 2020) – Cars can get dirty very easily. Car exteriors seem to be magnets for dirt and other contaminants.

At the same time, vehicle interiors suffer from dirt, dust, pollen, moisture, food particles, bacteria, viruses, fungi and more.

As many Ohioans head back to school and fall sports, AAA offers families advice and a new service to help maintain a clean, sanitized car.

“Vehicle steering wheels, gear shift handles and trunks are laden with germs, which is scary when you consider that many infectious diseases are spread by our hands,” said Steve Lee, AAA Car Care Plus manager and SAE certified automotive technician. “Maintaining a clean vehicle can help keep you and your family healthy, and also improve the resale value of your car.”

Exterior Cleaning:

AAA recommends washing a car every one to three weeks and waxing it two to four times a year, depending on vehicle use, road conditions and weather. When cleaning the exterior of your vehicle, remember:

.Cleaning tools such as wash mitts, sponges, towels and brushes should be made of soft materials that will not scratch the paint or other surfaces.

.Cleaning products should be specifically designed for automobiles; household cleaners often contain ingredients that can damage the vehicle finish and other parts.

.Pay attention to the vehicle’s underbody. Removing dirt and other deposits helps prevent rust and corrosion.

.Wheels, tires and the wheel wells that surround them are often the dirtiest parts of a car. As a result, most professional detailers recommend cleaning them first, with dedicated sponges and wash mitts for the tire and wheel surfaces and soft bristle brushes for tougher deposits and harder-to-reach areas.

.To prevent water spots, dry your car immediately after washing.

Interior Cleaning:

Confined spaces frequented by people are prone to microbial activity, and vehicle interiors are no exception. Microbiologists at Queen Mary University of London, England found that many parts inside vehicles, including the steering wheel, rear seats and gear shift lever contain more bacteria than public toilet seats.

To prevent potential health risks, experts recommend properly cleaning the interior of the vehicle, including the trunk on a regular basis. Interior cleaning begins with removing all loose items from the car and trunk. Then, vacuuming out any dirt or crumbs. Once the car is free of debris, it’s time to apply an interior cleaner.

Conveniently, most household cleaners that kill coronavirus are safe to use on a car interior without causing damage. Cleaning solutions that are at least 70% alcohol are effective against coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they are generally safe on car interiors. The CDC’s full list of disinfectants that kill COVID-19 is available here.

Follow these steps to disinfect your vehicle’s interior:

.Avoid using bleach, hydrogen peroxide or ammonia-based products, as they can damage upholstery and other surfaces inside the vehicle.

.Soaps or detergents, specifically formulated for vehicle interiors are also good options.

.Check your vehicle owner’s manual for cleaning unique surfaces, such as suede or synthetic suede.

.Wipe all surfaces, paying most attention to high-touch surfaces, such as door handles, steering wheel, turn signals, wiper signal levers, seat belts and buttons on the radio or dash.

.You can follow up by applying protectant to the interior surfaces. Professional detailers use products that preserve the original factory finish, which usually has a natural matte or satin appearance. Avoid silicone-based protectants that leave a shiny, “greasy” finish that tends to attract dust.

.Use an alcohol-based window cleaner for all window surfaces. This should work for touchscreen displays as well but consult your car’s manual to be safe.

.To be thorough, clean the carpets and floors. Carpets can be cleaned by spraying a suitable detergent solution on spots, using a brush to work it in, then rubbing with a towel to remove the stain and cleaner.

.Cleaning dirtier areas, particularly floor mats and cargo area carpeting, may require the use of a carpet “steam” cleaner equipped with a hand-held attachment. Cloth upholstery is cleaned in much the same manner as carpets.

.To prevent mold and mildew, allow damp carpet and upholstery to dry completely before reinstalling floor mats or other coverings.

Maintaining a Healthy In-vehicle Environment:

Social distancing is nearly impossible in most vehicles, and with the windows closed fine respiratory droplets can accumulate in the cabin. Cracking at least one window a few inches can help improve ventilation and air flow, and protect passengers riding in ride-share vehicles or with others.*

Between vehicle cleanings, drivers can also carry disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer to clean surfaces and hands; disposable gloves or plastic bags to use when pumping gas; and masks for everyone in the family.

“As people start spending more time in the car again, it’s important to take steps to maintain a healthy environment for the driver and all passengers,” said Lee. “This will help keep everyone on the go this fall.”

AAA provides more than 61 million members with travel-, insurance-, financial- and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

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* Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Portland State University Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science

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