The country may not be using their cars as much as they used to at the moment, but almost half of drivers have used their vehicle over the last few months, whether this is to buy groceries, travel to work, help vulnerable neighbours, or go for a walk. However, with growing concerns about how to prevent the spread and contamination of the virus, how can you be confident your car is germ-free?
Motor insurance experts at Adrian Flux answer some of your questions about how long the coronavirus can survive on surfaces in your car and offers cleaning tips to help ensure you’re driving in a safe environment.
How can I clean contaminated surfaces in my car?
If you suspect someone with coronavirus may have travelled in your car or you plan on driving vulnerable people around, your vehicle will need to be cleaned from top to bottom. To perform this task, ensure you wear protective gloves and a face mask. These should be disposed of or washed once the job is done.
Wipe down all hard surfaces in your car — plastic, vinyl, leather, metal and glass — with disinfectant. Pay special attention to areas that are frequently touched, such as door handles, gear stick, infotainment and dashboard controls, seat belts and the handbrake.
Don’t forget to clean inside the ventilator grilles because they can harbour tiny contaminated droplets of moisture that could squirt out at you the second you get moving.
You should also vacuum your seats and flooring thoroughly and steam or scrub clean them with soapy water before allowing them to dry.
Going forward, clean your steering wheel, gear stick, seat belt, door handles, steering column controls and fascia controls with an antiseptic wipe before every trip in your car.
How can I prevent contaminating my car?
Of course, whilst you may want to clean your car before every journey, in some cases, this simply isn’t possible. So how can you prevent car contamination if you’ve touched other surfaces that could be infected?
The most effective way is to wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds (which equates to two rounds of the happy birthday song) before going for a drive. Pay close attention to the backs of your hands, in between your fingers, and your fingernails.
If you’re getting in the car after you’ve gone grocery shopping or for a walk and you don’t have access to a tap, disinfecting your hands before touching any car surfaces is the second-best option.
How long can COVID-19 survive on car surfaces?
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 mainly spreads from person to person. When someone who is infected coughs or sneezes they send droplets containing the virus into the air.
In the confined space of your car, these droplets are trapped and can contaminate windows, the steering wheel, ventilator grilles, dashboard, gear stick and anything else they come into contact with.
A healthy person can then breathe in these droplets and become ill. You can also become contaminated if you touch a surface that has the virus on it, and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.
The coronavirus can live for hours or even days on some surfaces. Here is a guide to how long the virus survives on surfaces in your car:
Up to five days on metal: That means door panels, gear stick, seatbelt clips, and some fascia control switches could be harbouring the virus.
Up to four days on wood: That means your warm walnut dashboard or stylish gear knob could be a danger to your wellbeing.
Two to three days on plastic: Carmakers love plastic and the interior of most cars is full of it, which makes your car an area of high risk for contamination.
Up to five days on glass: For reasons of safety, your car has a lot of windows so glass can be an obvious danger, but so too can your rearview mirror and passenger seat vanity mirror.
A “few days” on leather: there has been no lab testing on the survival of coronavirus on leather but, according to the World Health Organisation, the average handbag harbours up to 10,000 types of bacteria — making it dirtier than the average toilet. While coronavirus is not a bacterial infection, the WHO suggests it “may persist for a few hours or up to several days” on leather surfaces.
Up to three days on cloth interiors: There has been no specific research but experts have warned that the coronavirus could survive on your cloth-covered car seats, interior parcel shelf and floor mats for up to three days.
Are there any areas I should pay special attention to?
There are some areas that drivers are more likely to overlook, such as your seat belt button, rearview mirror, inside passenger door handle, radio dial, and boot.
Be sure to focus on areas that you use frequently, such as the car’s indicator stalks and gear stick.
Can I test to see if car surfaces are harbouring COVID-19 germs?
No. There is currently no commercially available test kit for COVID-19 contamination. If you’re planning on using your car during this period, it is a good idea to give its interior a deep clean.
Is touching contaminated surfaces the quickest way to catch COVID-19?
Touching a surface or object with the virus in your car and then touching one’s own face is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Despite this, the WHO and other health authorities, have emphasised that thorough hand-washing and cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces are key in preventing COVID-19’s spread.
What do I do if I need to fill my car with petrol?
You can’t avoid all trips to the petrol station, especially if you’re using your car during this time. A great way to reduce the risk of contamination is to wear disposable gloves and sanitise your hands both before and after handling the pumps or using the payment screen.
Most petrol stations have disposable gloves available at the pump, but if you’re worried none will be available, a good option is to keep some in your car for this eventuality.
To find out how Adrian Flux is helping motorists during the coronavirus pandemic see some of our Frequently Asked Questions.