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Your Guide to How to Disinfect a Car Interior Without Damaging it

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the lives of millions of people around the globe, disinfecting homes, businesses, roads, and even cars has become a norm. Using disinfectants and good hygiene becomes necessary to fight the viruses. While we have been told to always wash our hands to prevent the spread of the virus, cleaning and disinfecting our car interior can also help. However, you should know how to disinfect a car interior since there are disinfectants that can damage it. How to disinfect a car interior includes using 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean your door handles, entire dashboard area, ignition, transmission, and other surfaces of your car interior. But, when cleaning leather seats, it is best that you use soap and water and apply leather conditioner after to prevent it from drying. Do not use disinfectants or cleaning products that contain bleach, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, thinners, benzene, and other harsh ingredients since they can damage upholstery and other interior surfaces.

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How to Disinfect a Car Interior From COVID-19?



Washing our hands with soap and water, disinfecting with alcohol-based sanitizers are known to be very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19. According to studies, the virus can survive from hours up to days on surfaces. It is for this reason why there have been calls to disinfect our homes, businesses, roads, and even our vehicles.


Vehicles need to be disinfected too since people enter and exit them throughout the day. The commonly touched areas or surfaces might be hosting viruses, germs, or bacterias. Knowing how to disinfect a car interior can help us prevent the spread of viruses. We have to know the proper way to do it since disinfecting a car is different and can be more difficult than disinfecting our home. This is because cars have various types of surfaces and have a lot of crevices and openings. You need to be really thorough to reach all of these areas.


Another thing that makes disinfecting a car interior more difficult is that you need to be careful what to clean it with. There are some car surfaces that are not made to be applied with certain household cleaning products. House disinfectants usually have some chemicals that can be very damaging to the car interior surfaces.


So how to disinfect a car interior against COVID-19 without damaging it? It is said that the most effective ways to kill the virus is by using soap and water, and alcohol-based products that have at least 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. These products are usually safe to use for your car interior. You can also make homemade disinfectants, you just need to make sure that it contains 70 percent alcohol. However, using isopropyl alcohol to clean leather seats and any other leather-like materials can be damaging to them if used too often. It can lead to discoloration or damage. As an alternative, you can use water and soap to clean and disinfect your leather seats and apply a good leather conditioner after.


Some of the cleaning products that should NEVER be used to disinfect a car interior includes:


  • Bleach or hydrogen peroxide


While cleaning and disinfecting products that contain bleach or hydrogen peroxide are known to be effective in killing coronaviruses, it can damage your car’s upholstery and leather as well as discolor fabrics. Using these products can also cause damage to plastics and vinyls.  Plus, bleach can also cause skin and eye irritation, and burns. To make sure that you won’t be using these chemicals in your car interior, you need to read the contents of your chosen cleaning products before using them.


  • Ammonia-based cleaners


Ammonia-based cleaning products are commonly found in blue glass cleaners. These cleaning products should never be used since it is not a proper way on how to disinfect a car interior. These products can break down the vinyl on your dashboard as well as make it sticky when exposed to the heat and light from the sun.


Ammonia-based cleaning products should also never be used to clean and disinfect infotainment screens and other touch screens in your car since it may damage the screens anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings. To clean your infotainment screens, you can use soft cloth or screen wipes dampened with soap and water, and wipe them dry. You can also install some wipeable covers on them or on other electronics so you can clean and disinfect them easily and safely.


  • Too much liquid


Never use too much water when cleaning your car interior. Do not soak seats, mats, or carpets with water since it can cause these parts to become damp and encourage mold or fungi to develop. If you use too much water and your car interior fails to dry quickly, it can produce a musty smell. You don’t want to deal with a car with odd smells.


Knowing how to disinfect a car interior is very vital, especially in this time when COVID-19 and its new variants are still considered as a threat to global health. Although natural products such as baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, tea tree oil, or even vodka can be used to clean your car interior, the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA said that these natural products have not been shown to be effective in killing COVID-19.


How to Disinfect a Car Interior at Home?



It is given that we need to keep our car well-maintained in order to extend its life. We do this by doing the recommended maintenance and services set by the car manufacturer. We do regular oil changes, fluid level checks, tire pressure checks, and many more, but we don’t usually do deep cleaning or disinfecting our car interior. However, because of the pandemic, everyone wants to know how to disinfect a car interior at home.


If you want to know how to disinfect a car interior at home, you can do so by following these simple steps. But since you are dealing with possible viruses or bacterias, you can protect yourself by wearing a mask or disposable gloves.


  • Get rid of the trash


Before you can start disinfecting your car interior, you need to make sure that it is thoroughly clean. You can start by getting rid of the trash or unwanted items you have in your car. Make sure to check the floor and under the seats.


  • Clean the ventilation system


You need to clean your car’s ventilation system as well. You can do this by closing off all your air vents and turning on the ignition. Then set your car’s fan to its highest speed and open each of the vents one at a time. This can help blast all the dust or debris out of your ventilation system.


  • Vacuum


You can then start vacuuming your car interior. Vacuuming can help since a car interior has many fabrics and hard surfaces. You can vacuum these surfaces as well as the floor and under the seats to make sure that they are thoroughly clean. Although vacuuming does not really kill viruses and germs, it can make the disinfection process easier later on.


  • Disinfect


Cleaning your car interior and making it look clean does not really mean that it is free from viruses. You still need to disinfect or sanitize it. Like mentioned earlier, the easiest way to disinfect it is by using soap and water, and anything with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, except the ones that you should never use such as bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and ammonia-based products.


To start the process on how to disinfect a car interior, you need to focus on the commonly touched areas such as door handles, steering wheel, transmission, seatbelts, start button, and ventilation grilles and knobs.  You need to make sure that you are spending a lot of time cleaning and disinfecting these areas.


Get the disinfectant of your choice. Then spray and wipe it down with a soft cloth. Do not spray too much and only use soft cloth with microfiber material if you have any since it is capable of trapping or catching dust particles away. It also does not cause fine scratches on your car interior. Make sure that you are not scrubbing hard since it can easily damage your car interior’s materials. You can softly clean your car interior by doing circular motions so its integrity will be maintained.


How to Disinfect a Car Interior Properly?



We already know the process on how to disinfect a car interior, but how can you do it properly? Let’s go through some of the commonly touched areas that can be a bit complicated to clean.


  • Disinfecting leather


When disinfecting leather materials in your car interior, you can use soap and water to clean it. Using bleach or anything with hydrogen peroxide can harm it. Do not also use sanitizing wipes or sprays to disinfect your leather seats since it can cause damage on the leather finish. Soap and water will be enough since soap is capable of breaking down the fatty bilayer of a lot of viruses. This dissolves the viruses’ fat membranes and kills them. Plus, soap works much gentler on leather than other cleaning products.


You can disinfect your leather seats by using a wet cloth or sponge with water and soap. You just need to gently scrub it. Do not scrub hard and do not use too much water. You also need to make sure that you don't leave any excess soaps on the leather seats since it can damage them. To reduce the drying effects of soap and water, it is recommended that you finish off the disinfection process by applying a leather conditioner after.


  • Disinfecting the dashboard


Your car’s dashboard has many interior surfaces and displays. You may also see your infotainment system there. You need to be careful when you are cleaning this area since there are some products which can damage their surfaces. You can use water and soap to disinfect your dashboard. You just need to dampen the area you want to clean and gently scrub it for around 20 seconds and rinse with a washcloth or a wet paper towel.


When cleaning the buttons and controls on your dashboard, you can use alcohol-based wipes to clean it. These buttons and controls should never be cleaned with water since it might get inside which can lead to damage. The switches also have delicate electronic parts that can become damaged when exposed to water and moisture.


For the plastic and glass areas of your dashboard, you can use a multipurpose cleaner or disinfectant spray and microfiber cloth to wipe them down. Cleaning your infotainment screen can be quite complicated but you need to disinfect it as well since it is one of the areas that is often touched. You can clean the screen by using screen wipes or a soft cloth with soap and water. Then you can wipe it dry using a clean soft. Make sure that you are not using harsh chemicals on your screen to prevent damaging its anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings.


  • Disinfecting seatbelts


Your car’s seat belt is one of the commonly touched areas so it is necessary to disinfect it too. To clean your seatbelts, you can use disinfectant sprays with at least 70 percent alcohol to disinfect the seatbelts’ synthetic fabric. You just need to pull out the seat belt until its safety lock has engaged and spray each side of the strap. You can use a clean detailing brush and gently scrub the fibers to push the disinfectant into the material. Make sure that you also spray and wipe each side of the buckle and the inside and outside of the clasp.


Other areas in your car interior that need to be cleaned and disinfected include the steering wheel, key and remote fob, all levers, door panels, door handles, rearview mirror, side windows, radio buttons, glove box, gear shift, center console controls, armrests, dome lights, grab handles, seat adjustment handles, floor mats, phone mounts, cup holders, and windshield.


Knowing how to disinfect a car interior can help prevent the spread of viruses. Although cleaning and disinfecting a car interior don’t really help in the car’s overall function, it can give you peace of mind knowing that your car interior is thoroughly clean and free from any viruses.

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