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How to clean and disinfect your car

There are many things you can do to clean your car — here’s how to disinfect a car without causing any damage.

A woman wipes the vent on the dash of her car with a rag

You work hard to keep your home germ-free, but what about your vehicle? The average American spends about 10 hours a week in their vehicle, which is plenty of time to make a mess. Crumbs and receipts lurk under the seats, of course, but less obvious are germs that can spread from coughs, sneezes and hands.

Cleaning the vehicle interior and exterior is an easy DIY maintenance task, but doing it properly can be tricky because most cars include a variety of materials. Here’s a quick guide on the cleaning supplies you’ll need to disinfect a car and advice on how to disinfect a car, truck or SUV without damaging the surfaces.

Step 1: Remove debris inside the car

Throw away trash, organize storage compartments and remove everything you have been meaning to take into your home or office.

Step 2: Vacuum

Use a shop vacuum or high-powered vac at a carwash to clean all surfaces — be sure to include the dashboard, carpets, seats, roof and trunk. Remove, shake out and vacuum the floor mats.

Step 3: Choose cleaning supplies to disinfect your car

  • Car-specific cleaning products or automotive car wipes will safely remove dust and dirt, but most won’t remove germs.
  • Soap and water will kill most viruses and are safe on fabric or leather, but avoid oversaturation or scrubbing too hard.
  • Isopropyl alcohol (70% or higher) is a disinfectant that’s safe on most interior surfaces, including imitation leather, but it shouldn’t be used on real leather (see Step 5).
  • Do not use bleach or hydrogen peroxide inside your car. They can damage upholstery and touch screens.

Step 4: Sanitize touch points

After vacuuming, your car probably looks pretty clean, but your job isn’t finished until you’ve used a disinfectant to remove invisible germs.

Wipe down all surfaces with a cleaning agent on a microfiber cloth which is most effective at trapping dirt and germs. Pay special attention to “high-touch” areas including:

  • Steering wheel,
  • Seat adjusters,
  • Dashboard,
  • Rearview mirror,
  • Radio,
  • Gear shifter,
  • Glove box,
  • Console,
  • Cup holders,
  • Armrests,
  • Interior door panels,
  • Handles and knobs, and
  • Seat belts.

Don’t oversaturate carpet or cushions, which could eventually lead to a musty smell or even mold.

Leave the surfaces wet for several minutes so the cleaning agent has enough time to kill viruses and bacteria.

If your car has a noticeable cigarette odor, follow these extra steps to remove it.

Step 5: Clean leather with care

If leather loses its natural oils, sometimes due to extended sunlight exposure, it will fade and crack. Abrasive cleaners (isopropyl alcohol, bleach and hydrogen peroxide) and vigorous scrubbing can dry out leather.

The safest bet to sanitize car seats is to use a microfiber cloth with soapy water, avoiding excess moisture and friction. Apply leather conditioner after cleaning to preserve moisture and durability. is an online news source serving Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi.

Chuck Cooper State Farm


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Patrice is married to Greg Boykin and they have two sons, Bradley & Alex Boykin. Patrice is a lifetime resident of Simpson County. Patrice retired after 25 years in the Insurance industry where 23 of those years were with State Farm Insurance in Magee. She is very active in the community and has served in several leadership roles. Patrice has been a Secretary for the Magee Touchdown Club for 19 years and President of the MS Scholars of Simpson County. Patrice was a member of the Magee Adopt A School Program. She was elected to a term on the Simpson County School Board. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Magee Chamber of Commerce. She serves on the Keep Magee Beautiful Committee and is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Simpson County Technical Center. Patrice is a member of the Simpson County Republican Executive Committee. Multiple times, Patrice was named Parent of the Year for Magee Schools as well as District Parent of the Year for the Simpson County School District. Patrice & her family are members of New Hope Baptist Church.


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