We are now living in a post-lockdown world, and with infection rates on the rise again, it’s essential to make sure that everyone is doing their bit in the fight against the pandemic, and to prevent the spread of the virus even further.
While everyone remains extra vigilant of their hygiene practices, including washing hands and wearing masks, it’s crucial not to forget about your vehicle. Most vehicle owners tend to spend a lot of time in their cars; whether that’s going to work every day, to the shops, or an important appointment, and it is crucial to make sure that it is a clean environment for you and your friends and family.
Even though nothing will physically happen to your car, SUV or Lorry, should the virus happen to find itself on board as a passenger, if not cleaned thoroughly, your auto vehicle can quickly turn into a hotspot for the virus and propel the spread even further.
As most vehicles tend to be private property, it can be easy to become complacent, especially if it’s only you, or the same family members or friends as passengers. However, it’s important to disinfect your car the same way you would your hands.
With infections spreading, there is no way of knowing if you or one of your passengers doesn’t bring it back into the car, whether on your mask, hands, or clothes. Take the time to cleanse and sanitize your car with these simple steps.
Know the difference
You may think that because you wash your car often that you’re safe and have nothing to worry about, but it is vital to know the difference. Cleaning with soap and water physically removes germs, but does not kill them. That’s why in times of the pandemic, it is important to sanitize and disinfect using chemicals to kill viruses as well as bacteria and fungus, lowering the number of germs and, therefore, the risk of further spreading the virus.
What to use
While they are easy to get hold of, avoid using cleaning products that are particularly harsh, such as ammonia-based cleaners. These will break down the vinyl on your dashboard and can cause other materials in your interior to become brittle, faded or stained, and sticky when under light and heat.
Isopropyl alcohol is safe to use on most interiors and vehicle surfaces and is known as a proven disinfectant. A two-in-one, it kills viruses and bacteria while also removing stains and smudges. Just be vigilant when using it on leather seats and surfaces, as it could potentially cause some problems and damage.
Soap and water are also beneficial when used correctly. They can get rid of the virus in precisely the same way as when washing your hands with soap – a highly proven and effective way to protect yourself against infection. No matter which product you choose to sanitize and disinfect, make sure to give it time to take full effect, as some require several more minutes of application than others.
Spend extra time disinfecting and cleaning the steering wheel, since this is one of the dirtiest places and most-touched surfaces in the entire car, and use disinfecting wipes to clean all surfaces such as the controls for the radio and indicators. Other frequently-touched vehicle surfaces that require special attention include the brakes, gearstick, armrests, and cup holders, as well as the door handles. These areas get touched more often than you think and could be potential hotspots for the Coronavirus.
Watch out for, and replace, your ventilation system filters, particularly if they are a microfilter, as these are very effective when it comes to trapping airborne pathogens and viruses such as Covid-19.
Lastly, remove the residue with a clean, soft cloth to avoid surface damage and dispose of it quickly and safely.
Even in your own private vehicle, social distancing is key if you are not in quarantine or self-isolation and depend on your car to get around. A car is an excellent way to maintain this distance as opposed to public transport; however, if you find yourself with passengers, things become slightly trickier, especially in such a close environment.
If you have to share your car with other people, it is advised that you avoid all physical contact with your passengers, which includes shaking hands or hugging. As you can never be too safe, to adequately protect yourself, it is advisable to wear a facemask while in the car with other people at all times. However, this wouldn’t be required with other members of your household. The mask will protect you from anyone who might need to sneeze or cough, but if a face mask isn’t possible, do so in your arm or tissue and ask your passengers to do the same. If at all possible, ask your passengers to sit in the back to protect them and yourself just in case and don’t drive if you are displaying symptoms or feeling unwell. Remember to follow any guidelines regarding driving during the pandemic in case you are restricted to a certain number of passengers, or those you live with only.
How to maintain a virus-free vehicle
Once you have disinfected your vehicle, it’s essential to keep it that way. Wash your hands as frequently as possible even once you have finished cleaning, as otherwise, you will be putting the germs right back onto your clean surfaces, rendering your cleaning efforts useless. Make sure to wash them before entering the car and after vacating to reduce the virus’s chance from entering.
If it isn’t possible to wash your hands with water and soap, keep some hand sanitizer in your car so that you have it with you at all times, and also buy sanitizer for vehicle to keep your car protected.
If you suspect that you have had someone with Covid-19 in your vehicle or someone who may have had contact with someone who has the virus, disinfect all surfaces immediately and call your doctor. The virus can survive for hours at a time on surfaces, so it is best to be prepared and cautious if you think that your car might have been exposed.
Maintaining good hygiene is key to preventing further infection cases, and your car and surfaces are no exception. While unfortunately no amount of vigorous cleaning can guarantee that you won’t catch the virus, all of these suggestions are a step in the right direction when it comes to helping minimize the spread and your risk, as well as the risk of your loved ones.