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Here’s How to Sanitize Your Car

Person disinfecting a car with cleaning spray and a rag.

Whether you’ve been traveling back and forth to work as an essential employee or you’ve only been using your vehicle to go to the grocery store, sanitizing your car is an important part of staying safe.

The best way to keep your car free of germs, especially during a pandemic, is to wipe the parts you touch (and sit on) down either after each time you take it somewhere or before you leave in it again.

Sanitizing Is Different Than Just Cleaning

While warm weather is a great time to pull all the garbage from your floorboards, vacuum the floors, and clean the dashboard, right now, sanitizing your car is different than giving it a good spring cleaning. It’s essential to keep germs and viruses off the parts of your car you touch with your hands (and subsequently touch your face).

With that in mind, let’s focus on sanitizing the parts of the car you touch frequently.

Door Handles (Inside And Out)

Soap and water are safe enough to use to clean most parts of your car, and soap is ideal for washing away viruses and germs. If you want something stronger, you can use cleaning wipes. (You just want to avoid anything that contains bleach and might discolor your vehicle’s interior.)

Your door handles are the first thing you touch (besides your keys, which you should also be disinfecting and drying, so they don’t rust) when you get in the car. Be sure to wipe them down, both sides of the car, and backseats, inside and outside, if you have passengers.


You may only touch your seatbelt twice per trip—once when you get in the car and once when you get out—but you still need to clean it. You want to make sure you’re disinfecting any part of that strap and buckle you’re touching, even the part where it hooks into your seat. When you’re working with the cloth parts of your car, you want to be extra careful to make sure you’re not using any bleach products for cleaning.

Door Buttons and Controls

If you rolled down the windows, adjust the side mirrors, or used the locks, make sure you wipe them down, too. On areas like this, while you still should avoid bleach, you can use cleaners made for cars like Armor All, which contains detergents that break up the fatty lipid layer of the coronavirus just like hand soap.

Steering Wheel

A person wiping down their steering wheel with a microfiber rag.
Atstock Productions/Shutterstock

You handle your steering wheel more than anything else in your car, so make sure you’re cleaning it regularly—pandemic or not, it’s by far the most germ-laden surface in the car. You don’t want to use wipes with chemicals on them, which can break down the grip of the steering wheel and make it sticky or slippery. Your best bet is a mild soap and some water.

Even if you have a steering wheel cover, you need to clean it. Germs and viruses can stick around anywhere from hours to days.

Steering Column, Shifter, and Center Console

On your steering wheel, be sure you’re cleaning off buttons (my car has sound control and cruise control on the steering wheel itself. If you’ve adjusted your steering wheel or the shifter is on the column, don’t forget to clean that part, too. You can use soapy water, Armor All wipes, or whatever you used for the doors and steering wheel.

If your shifter is in the center, on the “floor,” make sure you clean it. Clean the center console while you’re there if you store CDs, your iPod, phone, or keep your cup there. Don’t forget to clean things like your iPod and phone, too (rubbing alcohol works great for electronics). Make sure to clean your GPS unit as well.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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