How to keep your car free from germs

March 27, 2020

With domestic hygiene high on the agenda right now, it’s important to remember it’s not just your house that needs scrupulous cleaning, as your car is one of the most tactile items you’ll own, with multiple surfaces that need special attention too.

During an average trip the driver and passengers are likely to be touching many surfaces that can attract dirt and germs, from opening the door to changing gear, or from adjusting the heating fan to switching the lights on.

Ben Murphy, Toyota’s professional car detailer is responsible for keeping Toyota GB’s fleet of press vehicles cleaned and professionally maintained. On average, Ben cleans about 30 cars per week but in busy times this number can rise to 46.

“I try to be as efficient as possible,” Ben explained. “Our cars return to our press fleet garage from all over the country and I have to think – ‘where have people touched?’. For example, a driver will probably approach the car with the key in their hand and pull on the door handle. Then there’s the steering wheel and horn, the gearstick and surprisingly the rear-view mirror, because most people adjust the rear-view mirror when they get in the car. The interior of the driver’s door is a common touch point, especially on our press fleet cars which are driven by many different people. Think about all the people who get in the car and use the controls to put the window down a bit.”

Ben, pictured, also has to think about other points that might get touched less frequently, such as the dust caps, the bonnet and then things like the head rests. He has a check sheet which he goes through on every vehicle to make sure he hasn’t missed any part of the vehicle before it leaves the press fleet garage.

The seatbelt is a key area. Everyone has to wear one when they get into the car, and the number of times you adjust that seatbelt depends on the size of the person in the car, so there could be two to three touch points just on the seatbelt itself. Also, the belt sits across you, so if you were to cough or sneeze there’s a very good chance germs get on the seatbelt or the steering wheel.

Although Ben uses commercial products made specifically to clean cars without damaging leather or interior materials, bleach-free antibacterial wipes are the next best thing. He explained: “They’re inexpensive and kill 99.9 per cent of germs, so they’re as safe and inexpensive as you can get without going out and buying a really strong cleaner. With a pack of wipes, a pair of gloves and a dry microfibre cloth, you can give most of the touch points a clean. Don’t just give each area a quick wipe; make sure you wipe it at least twice in a forwards and backwards motion so you’ve cleaned it completely.

“Every time I remove my gloves I always give my hands a good wash. I wear gloves during my working day and advise people to wear gloves if they are in a vehicle such as a rental car or a taxi. You don’t know which areas of the car the previous occupants have touched and germs can stay on a spot for 72 hours. If kids are travelling in your car then there’s every chance they’ve been wiping their hands on windows – we’ve all done it as children, drawing faces on the window!”

Toyota has put together the following list of 40 areas of the car that should be cleaned. For simplicity the seatbelts are counted as one item and if you carry others in your car, you might have to spend a little longer ensuring each of your passengers can enjoy a factory-fresh ride next time they get into your car.

1 Exterior door handles
2 Frame of door and roof
3 Interior door release
4 Window switches
5 Interior door handle
6 Door pocket
7 Seatbelts
8 Seatbelt clips
9 Seat adjust buttons
10 Steering wheel
11 Horn
12 Control stalks
13 Driver air vents
14 Dashboard
15 Power button
16 Gear shift
17 Multimedia screen
18 Central air vents
19 Heating controls
20 Glovebox
21 Log book
22 Central storage compartment 23 Cupholders
24 Rear-view mirror
25 Interior lights
26 Grab handle
27 Key
28 Head rests
29 Seat pockets
30 Rear central tab
31 Fuel cap
32 Wheel valves
33 Boot lid
34 Parcel shelf
35 Boot floor tab
36 Boot close button 37 Bonnet lid
38 Washer cap
39 Dipstick
40 Oil cap

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