Coronavirus: how to clean, disinfect and sanitise your car

Special care is needed when keeping your beloved wheels free of Covid-19 contamination

A worker at Al Masaood TBA disinfects a car. Courtesy Al Masaood
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If there's one thing the coronavirus outbreak has made clear, it's that attention to hygiene is of paramount importance.

That's obviously a simple matter when it comes to keeping yourself, and most notably your hands, clean. Meanwhile, household products, used properly, are enough to keep your living environment free of contagion. But what about your car?

The official advice is, of course, to stay at home. But, if you absolutely need to go out and, where required, have a permit to do so, driving to your destination rather than walking or cycling is probably the safer option. As long as you are keeping your vehicle as pristine as your gel-sanitised hands.

The thing is, modern vehicles have surfaces that are somewhat less durable than, say, a kitchen worktop, so you can't bash in there with bleach, which is one of the most effective substances to use when it comes to removing all trace of the coronavirus and almost any other form of contagion.

Many household cleaning products contain this as a key ingredient, as well as other grime strippers like acetone, chlorine and ammonia, which will all damage the interior of your vehicle, as well as the paint.

You should, therefore, use products specifically designed for the purpose, which you can generally buy from motor dealerships. Some online retailers will currently stock what you need and you should be able to get what you’re after delivered.

Experts from Motorcraft, a branch of Ford, suggest you tackle the issue in three stages: cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting. The first of these removes germs, but does not kill them, the second lowers the number of germs and kills bacteria, and the last uses chemicals to lay waste to all undesirables on contact. Soap and water will clean, but you'll need specific liquid products to sanitise and disinfect.

Manufacturers recommend that you do not spray the fluid of whatever solution you choose directly onto the surface, even if this is the focus of your attention. Get a microfibre towel, apply the product to that, and then gently wipe away.

Soft cloths are advisable inside the cabin.
Soft cloths are advisable inside the cabin.

While you’re at it, you can remove dirt from fabric seats with a vacuum cleaner. If you have access to a wet vacuum with shampoo, it will garner better results. And don’t forget to wash parts of your car’s exterior, specifically door handles.

Hard surfaces, like plastic buttons and knobs, can be attended to with a bleach-free disinfectant wipe.

Given how often you interact with your infotainment system, be it a touchscreen or otherwise, opt for an electronic-specific, non-toxic, device-cleaning wipe.

More about the seats: this is where you’re lucky if you’ve got plastic as opposed to the leather variety. You need a specific cleaner if you’re going to tackle leather, as it is porous, meaning it will absorb moisture. Soap and water might be suitable as a cleaner, but you'll need to apply a nourishing wipe afterwards.

If you really want to give your car a complete workout, many dealers across the UAE will offer a complete cleaning, sanitisation and disinfecting process. This is standard practice when secondhand cars are valeted for dealers, but during the current lockdown, you may not be able to access these services.

However, Al Masaood Tyres, Batteries and Accessories is offering the service for free to customers at its Sea Palace outlet in Abu Dhabi during the current pandemic.

Employees will microscopically clean the car’s surface areas, leaving you with a germ-free vehicle. Just make sure you liberally use that hand sanitiser before you get back in so you don’t immediately undo all the good work.