How to disinfect your car and prevent COVID

Derryn Wong
Maybe use a bigger wipe, for starters….

Singaporean drivers, here are some quick tips on how to eradicate 2019 NCOV from your vehicle 


Now that 2019 NCOV (novel coronavirus) has spread to every continent around the world, Singapore needs to continue its vigilance to help flatten the curve.

Travel only when necessary

The first step is to sidestep needing to clean the car at all, i.e. don’t go out.

Not going out = driving = not touching anything, which saves you the hassle of cleaning. Of course that’s not always possible for all of us.

If you’re driving your own car, it’s not likely you’ll come into contact with many new people, but it’s a different story if you are a taxi or private-hire driver, or even just giving colleagues, friends, or family a lift. 

“(You should) disinfect all the surfaces you touch before and after the journey, especially if you’re sharing the car with someone or gave someone a lift,” Doctor Jana Parmová, chief physician at Czech carmaker Skoda, says in a story on the same topic.

In that context, breaking a possible chain of transmission is important. Which brings us to : How do you disinfect a car properly?

What to use to clean?

The only time when alcohol + cars is a life-saving combo.

What works against corona viruses, from Wikipedia: “A survey of research on the inactivation of other coronaviruses using various biocidal agents suggests that disinfecting surfaces contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 may also be achieved using similar solutions (within one minute of exposure on a stainless steel surface), including 62–71% ethanol, 50–100% isopropanol, 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach), 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, and 0.2–7.5% povidone-iodine; benzalkonium chloride and chlorhexidine gluconate are less effective.”

At least 60 percent alcohol is thus a safe bet, which is the recommended level needed for hand sanitising to work. Skoda says isopropyl alcohol is what carmakers and subcontractors themselves use to clean the main surfaces of the car. 

You can use it on non-porous surfaces, just don’t soak it in or anything.

Experts also recommend using a microfibre towel, as it helps to pick up dirt and dust. Just make sure to bleach that afterwards.

What shouldn’t I use?

Consumer Reports advises against using ammonia or bleach on the car’s interior. If you don’t have alcohol handy, soap and water will do fine, though obviously you should just moisten a towel and avoid sopping wet sponges. Overdo it and you’ll end up with the situation below.

That’s bad because it’ll take forever to dry out and in the meantime, grow mold and fungi and all sorts of nice stuff, bringing you back to square one.

Which parts to clean? 

We do know for certain that the virus can be spread by infected persons sneezing or touch – either direct contact or indirectly by touching surfaces.

Therefore cleaning common touch points – door handles, buttons, seatbelts and seatbelt buckles – is important. 

If you’re taking a car from another driver, then there are more things to clean: Steering wheel, steering wheel remote controls, wiper and signal stalks, light switch, infotainment screen, gearshifter, seat adjusters, and more. 

On the outside, you should also clean the door handles, door sills, and also the boot opener.

Cleaning the AC unit may help

Doctor Parmova also suggests cleaning the AC unit – not doing a ‘remove everything and blast it with alcohol’ type cleaning, that’s best left to the pros, but using a commercial air-conditioner cleaning spray. Make sure to air the car thorougly after, though.

Will sunning the car help?

More sun = good ?

While there isn’t any confirmed data on what conditions the virus can best survive on surfaces, it’s been suggested that higher temperatures and humidities could hinder it.

As we know, the virus is able to survive better in cooler, drier environments.  So while it’s not 100 percent yes that heat will kill the virus, parking in the sun isn’t as much of a downside as it used to be. 

Oh and if you’re going to do that, please don’t leave any of your alcohol and sanitisers in the hot sun as it can get very hot inside a car – as hot as 60-plus degrees in some parts. NCOV probably doesn’t stand a chance at that temperature, but you need to be around to enjoy its absence.


clean coronavirus covid disinfect ncov

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's chief editor brings 15 years of experience in automotive journalism. Previously, he was the editor for Top Gear Singapore, and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment. He's contributed to The Business Times, Today, and many other publications, and also covered technology as editor of Stuff magazine. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he is the Chief Slave of two cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong

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