Coronavirus: Safe ways to clean your car

Friday April 03 2020
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Ensure that you clean surfaces that are often touched such as the steering wheel and door handles.

At a time when everyone is alert in regard to coronavirus, it is important that we have all our bases covered to avoid infection. Although we are experiencing a lockdown, some people are required to drive to their respective work places. However, how safe is your car?
While nothing will happen to your car owing to the infection seeing that many take long before they get a wash, you or those that will use your car will get infected.
Dr Pius Mwanja of Lifelink Medical Centre, says the virus will stay on metal surfaces such as stainless steel for two to three days, 24 hours on cardboard while on plastic, it will be alive for two to three days. Seeing the survival rate of this virus, he says the first rule of thumb is to keep proper hygiene.

“Using things as simple as soap and water to wash your hands, and the interior of your car can go a long way in ensuring you stop infection or the virus from spreading,” he says. Noting that places such as the steering wheel, radio knobs, door handles are frequently touched, Dr Mwanja suggests frequent cleaning of these places.
“These simple cleaning agents work because they can break the protective pocket that the virus uses to infect other cells.”

Cleaning your car
It is also important that people use sanitisers and wipes to keep their hands clean at all times.
Looking at the best way to clean your car, Dr Mwanja says any substance with an alcohol content of 70 per cent and above will be ideal as ethanol deals away with disease causing germs effectively.
According to, an online portal, alcohol 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,” the site states.

Steering wheel
With additional emphasis to the steering wheel, Dr Mwanja says extra care must be taken when cleaning it as it gets human contact more than the other parts coupled with several cracks on the rim.
Apart from washing the car, he mentions that the virus cannot survive for long under sunlight, or UV radiation as it can actually kill viruses in minutes under direct full exposure. “Therefore, opening the car up for sunshine to hit within is great. It also deals away with any dampness that may act as a home for the germs,” he says.

Don’t use bleach
However, Dr Mwanja advises against the use of bleach or hydrogen peroxide when cleaning the car. “With items such as the upholstery, using bleach will spoil the material. Therefore, sticking to constant cleaning with water and soap or an alcohol based cleaner is better,” he advises. The chemicals are also corrosive to the vinyl or plastic elements within the vehicle.

Storage also advises car owners against storing a large bottle of hand sanitiser in the car. “The heat buildup may cause the alcohol in the sanitiser to “boil,” resulting in an expansion of the sanitiser’s bottle. This, in turn, might result in leakage and a mess that will require extensive cleaning. It is a better idea to carry a more manageable-sized bottle, that can be on or near your personal effects, whether in the home, office or on the road,” the site states.

While cleanliness is very important, Aloysius Mpotwa, a mechanic, advises against using window cleaners on touch display screens in order to preserve the anti-glare coatings found on them. While there has been emphasis on the use of alcohol based cleaners or alcohol, in the event that all you have is soap and water, Mpotwa advises against scrubbing hard as it might remove some coating or dyes on different car surfaces.


Your car keys
Your car keys are filthy, and now is the time to clean them. But before you disinfect them, you will need to get the grime off. If you have a plastic key fob, remove this from the key chain and wipe it down with a disinfectant.
If you have metal keys, separate them from anything plastic or electronic and put them into a bowl. Fill the bowl with warm water and a few drops of dishwashing soap. Swish your keys around in this bath, and if you have an extra toothbrush or small scrubber, you can bring this in to really get the grime loose. Next, dry your keys off and wipe them down with alcohol and/or disinfectant wipes.