How To Properly Disinfect Your Car, According To Experts

Your car is full of germs. Here's how to kick them to the curb.

When was the last time you disinfected the interior of your car? Chances are, you disinfect your toilet seat regularly, but the inside of your car? Not so much. We reached out to experts Alessandro Gazzo with Emily's Maids and Alex Varela of Dallas Maids, for some helpful advice on how to clean and disinfect your car using household products. Before getting started, be sure to empty your car of garbage and use a handheld vacuum to remove any loose dirt or debris.

How to clean and disinfect your car
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Synthetic hard surfaces

If the interior surfaces of your car are made of a synthetic material like plastic, you'll usually be safe cleaning them with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. However, it's extremely important to consult your car manual or manufacturer's guidelines in advance to make sure any cleaning products you choose are safe and compatible. If you're unsure, perform a test by dabbing a tiny dot of your cleaning solution on an unseen area.

  • Once you've verified it's safe, put on a pair of plastic gloves to protect your skin and apply the 70 percent alcohol on a microfiber cloth. (Varela says 99 percent alcohol is not recommended because it will evaporate before it has a chance to kill the bacteria.)
  • Using the cloth, rub it firmly over hard surfaces like door handles, steering wheels, seatbelt hardware, gear shifters, knobs, dashboard, etc. Be sure to work your way into any nooks and crannies to remove hidden dirt.
  • Allow the alcohol to dry on its own.


Although glass cleaner is great for regular cleanings, it doesn't contain any disinfectant properties. To kill germs, you'll want to use a specialized cleaner like Windex Multi-Surface Spray and Disinfectant or the same 70 percent alcohol you used to clean your other hard surfaces. Apply the product directly to a clean microfiber towel, not the window itself. Then wipe your windows until they're clean. Gazzo recommends using circular motions with your towel for a streak-free shine.


It is important to note that alcohol should never be used on touchscreen devices such as GPS or video screens. Before you clean them, be sure to read your manual and follow the instructions to make sure you don't cause any damage. In most cases, a little bit of window cleaner applied directly to a microfiber cloth is safe as long as you are extremely gentle when applying to the screen.

Cloth interior

Gazzo suggests cleaning cloth seats and rugs with a carpet shampooer with a wand attachment. Simply run it over these surfaces to remove all of the dirt and grime. If you don't have one available, mix a few drops of dishwashing liquid with a quart of water in a spray bottle. Mist the mixture lightly over your rugs and cloth seats. Next, scrub with a sponge in a circular motion, rinsing frequently until the sponge comes clean.

Leather interior

You should never use alcohol to clean leather. Gazzo explains, "Leather is an organic material and it needs a certain level of moisture to stay 'healthy.'" Alcohol leaches out oils, which means that it will dry the leather and weaken its surface." Instead, Varela suggests using a specialized leather cleaner, or, if unavailable, combining warm water with a little bit of castile soap (make a solution mixing one teaspoon castile soap per cup of water).

  • Apply your cleaner directly to a microfiber cloth.
  • Gently scrub the leather surfaces including the seats, steering wheel, etc. Take care not to oversaturate the leather.
  • Dry with a fresh microfiber cloth.
  • Apply a leather conditioner and follow the instructions on the bottle.

As always, consult your car's manual or a professional with any questions before applying any solutions to your car's interiors.

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