Study: Car interiors may contain hundreds of germs, bacterias like coronavirus

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows coronavirus may be able to live on some surfaces for up to 17 days.

The information is based on what investigators found after analyzing passenger cabins on the Diamond Princess cruise ship which spurned many COVID-19 cases in February. The revelation gives new importance to how people sanitize things like their vehicles.

Pollen season just began, and it’s plainly evident how a vehicle can collect its share of stuff that makes it dirty. But, on the inside, it’s more than just pollen and dirt people need to worry about.

The new study indicated the inside of a car can contain as many as 700 different forms of germs and bacteria. Another study by CarRentals.com said a third of drivers clean the inside of their car only once a year while 12 percent said they never clean the inside of their vehicles.

Coronavirus is one of those things people have to worry about living on the inside of a car.

“Everything you touch, consider it has the virus on it,” said Steve Sargent of Mr. Transmission/Milex Auto Care in Cary.

When choosing a cleaning chemical to disinfect a car, use what matters not only to get rid of germs, but also what will keep the interior from being damaged. Do not use cleaners with bleach.

“Alcohol-based cleaners like Wet Ones won’t hurt anything and they disinfect as well,” Sargent said. “Clorox makes some (alcohol-based ones), but you have to check the label.”

He added that some wipes in plastic tubes are alcohol-based, but the Clorox cleaner in the jug is bleach-based.

Also, don’t use products with ammonia like Windex. It can damage the car’s interior. And, when cleaning, don’t rush through it. Sargent recommended people let the cleaning product sit before coming back and wiping it up.

To help reduce the breeding of germs in a vehicle, people can:

  • Clean common touch points like door handles, seat belt buckles, dashboard controls, and the steering wheel
  • Don’t forget to sanitize keys
  • Vacuum upholstery and then shampoo it
  • Remove mats then wash them with soap and water

This all applies especially to ride-share vehicles and rentals. Sargent said to treat them like a car that’s been contaminated.

“Before I get into a rideshare, I’d have a wipe down,” he said. “Wipe down the outside door handle. Sit down inside and wipe the inside handle before pulling the door shut.

“I wouldn’t touch a thing while I was in there.”

Although people should use hand sanitizer in your automobile, don’t leave it there because when it gets the air inside the vehicle gets hot, the alcohol could expand and crack the bottle.

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