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A Complete Guide on How to Disinfect Your Car

  • Tips/Guides-Tips/Guides

Although South Africans are not travelling in their cars as much as they used to before the COVID-19 outbreak, the need to disinfect our spaces are more important than ever. With all the awkward nooks, corners, and crannies in a car’s interior, it can be difficult to do a proper job without spending an inordinate amount of time and effort. Using the right agents and equipment will make the job more worthwhile.

We know that ultra violet rays from the sun is a good virus killer, but parking it in the sun will not have any effect here if windows are tinted with UV blocking technology!

Cleaning vs. sanitising vs. disinfecting

In the task of combatting any virus, it’s useful to understand the difference. While the words ‘sanitising’ and ‘disinfecting’ are used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing.

  1. Cleaning – removes visible dirt, debris, and dust with soap/detergents and water but does not necessarily kill them. It reduces the risk of spreading infection.
  2. Sanitising – reduces germs, bacteria, fungi, and viruses which helps lower the spread of infection.
  3. Disinfecting – uses chemicals and disinfecting agents to kill germs, bacteria, and viruses.

Disinfection is most appropriate for the interior of your car particularly for those surfaces that are touched frequently. 

How long do viruses remain active on surfaces?

As a rule, viruses remain viable for longer on harder surfaces like plastic or steel than softer surfaces like fabric or fur.

When it comes to the coronavirus COVID-19, we do not really know the exact answer. There are also numerous factors to consider, such as sun exposure, temperature, and the absorbency of the surface. The latest analysis from the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that this virus can remain viable up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel – longer than copper (4 hours) and cardboard (24 hours).

Given that a car’s main components are made up mostly of plastic and metal, it makes sense to take some extra precautions.

20 car hotspots to disinfect

Each time you reach home from a trip, use this checklist of the parts to clean and disinfect:


  1. Steering wheel
  2. Gear shift
  3. Hand brake
  4. Turn indicator levers
  5. Light switches
  6. Dashboard
  7. Door handles
  8. All knobs and buttons
  9. Cup holders
  10. All touchscreens
  11. Key and remote control fob
  12. Ignition
  13. Cup holders
  14. Seat belts and buckles
  15. Seats
  16. Glove compartment handle
  17. Rear view mirror


  1. Door handles
  2. Boot handle
  3. Fuel cap

Equipment and cleaning agents

Note: Always read your car’s manual for recommended cleaning solutions. Some cars may disallow anything but plain water and a clean cloth. It’s best to steer away from harsh chemicals and strong detergents.

  1. Microfibre cloth or any soft clean cloth.
  2. Soap chemically interacts with the surface of the virus and quickly degrades and destroys it. Use a non-corrosive, pH neutral soap
  3. Sanitiser spray that is free from fragrances and formaldehyde.
  4. Isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol (70%) can be used to disinfect plastic, glass, and metal surfaces in your car.

(Because this is a new strain of coronavirus, we cannot name or guarantee which products are effective nor to what degree against COVID-19.)

What not to use

The following products might be very effective in killing viruses, but manufacturers may advise against using them to regularly disinfect your car’s interior.

  1. Bleach – if you do decide to use it, dilute to a very weak solution in a spray bottle and wipe with a damp cloth. Do notmix with any other cleaning products.
  2. Ammonia – and any ammonia-based products can damage vinyl and plastic.
  3. Hydrogen peroxide – can damage vinyl and plastic.
  4. Acetone, chlorine, all solvents, and all the above are damaging your car’s paintwork and interior materials.

How to properly disinfect a car

Before beginning, wash your hands – by now you should know how and for how long. Then follow these steps:

  1. Start with the exterior door handles and fuel cap, wash with soap and water, then work on the interior.
  2. Vacuum all surfaces and areas you would normally vacuum.
  3. Clean and wash the interior surfaces with car-safe soap and water thoroughly, getting into nooks and crannies.
  4. Spray sanitiser onto a clean soft cloth or microfibre towel and wipe over surfaces.
  5. Disinfect hard surfaces by wiping down with disinfectant solution.

Finally, wash your hands with soap and water.

That being said, let’s be frank, if washing our hands with good old soap and water will get rid of this novel coronavirus, then don’t stress if you can’t get hold of special disinfectors and sanitisers. Just wash thoroughly with a non-corrosive, pH neutral dishwashing liquid like PROBAC®, a locally produced cleaning product that cleans at microscopic level and keeps surfaces clean for days. And whatever you do, whenever you’re out shopping, don’t touch your nose, mouth, or eyes until you wash your hands!

If you provide transport to the public it’s even more important to follow these guidelines. As an essential services provider, remember that selected Supa Quick stores are open for business.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational or informational purposes only. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information. The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Supa Quick.


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