Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Car Interiors

Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Car Interiors

In these times where a small virus has taken control of our lives, it is important to take precautionary measures especially at home and other places where we spend our time like our cars. Especially more so now since this virus threat is something that we will have to live with. In India and especially in cities like Mumbai, the car interiors are the most ignored place to clean by most of us. While we clean our houses every day, it is well ventilated too. But our cars are always in AC mode and the recycled air within the cabin is what we breathe! How important it is then to make sure our car interiors are always clean.

While it is a reality that most of our car interiors are way too dirty with food pieces strewn across, papers, files, water bottles, toll receipts, valet receipts, keys, coins, dust, a never ever cleaned glove box etc. spread all over inside the car, your car interiors becomes a deadly area with an environment for viruses, bacteria and germs to thrive.

Keeping in view the virus’s ability to survive on different surfaces for extended periods, it’s essential to keep one’s car clean and disinfected, for the safety of oneself and their family.

First, let’s take a look at how dirty the average car could be.

Here’s some information from a survey reported on

Roughly half the drivers surveyed neglect cleaning their car on a regular basis. But just how dirty does that make the average car? We pulled the numbers for the average amount of bacteria per square centimeter, or colony-forming units (CFU), to see which commonly touched surfaces of an average vehicle harbor the most bacteria, then compared them to public surfaces many of us touch on a daily basis.

The average steering wheel, which was found to have 629 CFU per square centimeter, was far dirtier than some of the most frequently touched spaces, including:

  • Six times dirtier than an average cell phone screen at 100 CFU
  • Four times dirtier than a public toilet seat at 172 CFU
  • Two times dirtier than public elevator buttons at 313 CFU

Assume the gear lever to be as dirty as the steering wheel in the Indian context, since we have a way higher number of MTs on road than America.

So how do we go about keeping our car interiors virus and bacteria free?

First, one needs to know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.

Know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing

Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.

What’s the best way to clean your vehicle to reduce the existence of coronavirus?

Alcohol works best in your automobile or SUV’s cabin. It is the cleaner most used by manufacturers of most automotive interiors today. All it takes is a quick wipe to clean most germs and fingerprints. Soap and water will work, too.

We suggest spending extra time on the steering wheel. The steering wheel has four times the amount of germs found on an average toilet seat, thanks to all the cracks and crevices on the rim and spokes, according to Expedia Travel Group’s website, For this reason, we suggest using disinfecting wipes to clean all the surfaces on the steering wheel. These include the redundant controls for radio, 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, cup holders, cubbyholes, air conditioner vents and even the door “grab handles.” You touch them more than you realize and are rife with bacteria and could carry coronavirus. You will very likely be surprised by the amount of dirt your wipes will pick up.

What not to use

We would advise against using any type of bleach or hydrogen peroxide on the vehicle’s interior. Both chemicals will put an end to the coronavirus germs, but they will also cause damage to the vinyl and plastics used in most modern vehicles today. Many garage owners and service providers are advertising this, but do not fall into the trap.

Under no circumstances should you use any ammonia-based cleaning products. These can be found in “blue glass cleaners.” (You know which we are talking about.) The ammonia breaks down the vinyl on the dashboard, making it sticky when subjected to heat and light. Additionally, to avoid damage to anti-glare coatings, the glass cleaner should not be used on touch display screens.

Finally, if you find yourself without any alcohol or other cleaners, a good scrubbing with soap and water will fill the bill. The coronavirus resides in a protective pocket that acts as a facilitator to infect other cells, but is broken down by soap. Heavy-duty cleaning will weaken the coronavirus. It just may take a little bit longer to effectively clean it properly. Don’t scrub too hard, though, as you might find you are removing some of the surface coatings or dyes.

Here’s a rather simple procedure one could follow.

  • Dilute Dettol handwash soap in a spray bottle and get to work on the ‘hotspot’ areas, with a soft bristle brush. The steering, gear knob, door handles, cup holder, seatbelts, AC vents, grab handles, window switches & doorpads. A bottle with a stream & spray nozzle would be helpful. Wipe down post cleaning.
  • Do not directly spray onto the touchscreen and buttons. Rather spray onto a cloth and then agitate and wipe down the console.
  • For fabric seats, spray on a certain area, scrub with soft scrub pad and blot the area with a microfiber towel.
  • For pure leather seats, steering wheels, door pads spray, scrub very gently and wipe down with a MF cloth. As per Volvo, a solution of soap and water is enough for cleaning leather. IPA or Sanitizer can discolor leather by damaging the coating on top of it.

The above cleaning method is quick and fairly reliable. You can even carry it out in case you have to rent out a Zoomcar or Revv.


Once done cleaning, you can move on to disinfecting. Do not use any disinfectant available from the store shelf. As mentioned above, you cannot use disinfectants containing ammonia or bleach. The most commonly available disinfectant which I would recommend is a diluted solution of Dettol or Savlon antiseptic. Dilute it per instructions on the bottle. Spray a bit on a microfiber cloth or a normal cloth and gently wipe off. Leave it to dry on door knobs and other metal surfaces
For safety, see to it you do this when all the surfaces of your car interiors are cool. Preferably in the morning/evening or under shade.

Do not use disinfectant on leather, or any other non-porous surface. As mentioned above, proper cleaning with soap and water would be enough for pure leather surfaces.

Lastly, use a water based dresser for the vinyls and plastics to maintain the sheen.


For car service, technical repairs and any other mechanical work, you can visit EXPRESS AUTOCARE or give us a call for car pickup/drop service. We at EXPRESS AUTOCARE will ensure complete precautions with our technicians and other staff who will handle your car. Before handing over the car to you, we will ensure all touch points are cleaned & disinfected.

Some important points to recap:

  • Do not rush to car wash centers post lockdown.
  • Clean & disinfect the interiors of your car yourself using the above mentioned process and materials.
  • Ensure proper service and technical repairs of your car at the proper time to avoid breakdown and being stuck at unknown places with unknown people.
  • Remember, we at EXPRESS AUTOCARE will ensure proper handling of your car with all precautions in place and disinfect all touch points before handing over the car to you.

Remember, cleaning your own car is a privilege. Make use of that privilege and ensure total care for yourself and your family….

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Article compiled by Joel D’Souza (Founder – EXPRESS AUTOCARE) with inputs from

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