Even as people around the country are avoiding large public gatherings, they still must get in their cars for necessary trips, whether it is by those who still must go to work or those heading to the grocery store for essentials. People are taking precautions in public, such as using hand sanitizer or wiping down carts. But what about avoiding dangerous germs and bacteria that lurk in many common areas inside your car?
According to a recent survey by CarRentals.com, 32 percent of people clean the inside of their vehicles only once a year, while another 12 percent say they never clean the inside of their car. Germs and bacteria build up on high-touch surfaces such as steering wheels, door handles and seat belts without regular cleaning.
Here are some of the other dirty details of the survey:
• There are roughly700 different strains of bacteria living in the average vehicle, including Staphylococcus (“Staph”), which can lead to complications such as skin infections and food poisoning.
• The average steering wheel is four times dirtier than a public toilet seat.
•Although it is not part of the car, gas stations are a cesspool of bacteria. The average pump handle is 6,428 times dirtier than public elevator buttons.
During this time of increased sanitizing precautions, it is just as important to clean the common touchpoints inside our vehicles to combat potential exposure to bacteria carrying COVID-19 and other infections.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for properly sanitizing the inside of your car.
DO: Carry a packet of disinfecting wipes and frequently clean common touchpoints such as the steering wheel, door handles, seat belts and buckles, keys and fobs, window button, radio and climate control buttons, and more.
DON’T: Eat in the car. Although we often eat on the go, even the smallest particle left in the car can become a breeding ground for bacteria, particularly in a warm, enclosed environment.
DO: Use a sanitizing wipe or alcohol to clean the most commonly touched areas inside your vehicle. They are rife with bacteria and you will likely be surprised by the amount of dirt the wipes will pick up. Soap and water will work as well.
DON’T: Use any kind of bleach or hydrogen peroxide on your vehicle’s interior. Both will kill germs but can damage the vinyl and plastics used in most modern cars. Do not use any ammonia-based cleaning products, as the ammonia breaks down the vinyl on the dashboard, making it sticky when subjected to heat and light.
DO: Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer and use it every time you enter the car. This is an especially important practice after touching a pump handle and buttons at a gas station.
DON’T: Keep a large pump bottle of hand sanitizer in the car. Warmer temperatures in the spring and summer months may cause the alcohol in the sanitizer to “boil”, causing the bottle to expand. This may result in a crack or leakage of the plastic container.