Disinfecting your Car and the Importance of Car Detailing
By Patrick Horrigan
With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) there has been a lot of information coming at all of us from all kinds of sources about how to protect you and your family from exposure to the virus. All the experts agree that things like proper personal hygiene, social distancing and cleaning and re-cleaning your environment are the best steps to protect yourself and your family. After every local news outlet runs a Coronavirus related story and they share a tip on cleaning your cars comes up as a way to help stop the spread. We get a ton of panicked phone calls from our clients or prospective clients. We welcome the opportunity to clean your car and love to give out advice to our clients on how to maintain and properly care for their car, there is no need to panic. There has been a ton of misinformation spread by social media as well. We are going to attempt to cut through the clutter of information for you and try to help put you at ease a bit and give you a few tips on cleaning your own car.
A phone call we have received a few times in the last ten days or so are from car owners or car owners with family members that have to either self-quarantine because of possible exposure or are told that they need to be in quarantine for 14 days by medical professionals. We are more than happy to come and detail their vehicles properly so they have a nice clean car when their quarantine is over but it isn’t really necessary for preventing the spread of the virus in these cases. According the CDC, Coronavirus can live on a solid surface up to 4 days. Some medical experts through published reports have been suggesting that some viruses can live up to 9 days on a solid surface. This does not factor in the sun. Sunlight, or UV radiation can actually kill viruses in minutes under direct full sunlight exposure. Most newer vehicles have some form of UV protection in their glass, even on clear glass, there is still UV rays hitting the inside of your vehicle killing virus. Factor in the minimum of 14 days quarantine time, when you are cleared to leave your house there is no virus left alive in your car. While we strongly believe in having a nice clean germ free car all the time, Its important to have the car disinfected from an actual or suspected exposure is when that vehicle needs to be put in service right away such as in the case of a company-owned vehicle or a vehicle shared by multiple drivers.
Importance of Keeping a Clean Car
On average our clients spend up to 3 hours a day commuting to and from work. That means apart from your bed and maybe your office chair there is a good chance you spend the most of the rest of your time each day in your drivers seat. How clean is your environment when behind the wheel? There have been numerous studies that proves that your steering wheel can contain up to seven times the germs found on a public toilet seat. Can you imagine unbolting the toilet seat in the restroom of your local gas station and driving home with that?
Proper cleaning of your vehicle should be considered an important part of your regular automotive maintenance as much as changing your engine oil is. Not only will you have a safer and cleaner environment to be in while driving but will help your vehicle maintain its value and make it easier to notice if you have an issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
A lot of the recent service calls we have been performing have been for people who have owned their vehicles for a while and have NEVER cleaned them at all. We take the time to explain the benefits of maintaining their own vehicles going forward and discuss a timetable for calling us again or cover things they can do on their own to help make their cars feel new much longer.
Disinfecting Your Own Car
For the DIY crowd a good place to start is with CDC guidelines for cleaning. Their website has a complete list of household cleaners available on their website that can actually kill Coronavirus. A lot of the products listed as certified, unfortunately, are not safe to use on all surfaces in your car. For most of the safer products to be effective you need to leave the product on the surface for three minutes or more and allow it to air dry. It’s very important to follow the manufacturer labels. More often than not they will tell you what surfaces are safe to use the products on as well as safety precautions when using the products.
There are a lot of different surfaces in your vehicle to take into account when selecting products to use and procedures on how to clean them. For example most leather seats and trim are coated in vinyl or a clear coat which is a lot more resistant to stronger cleaning products and can stand up to a fair amount of light scrubbing. Some vehicles have soft-touch buttons and surfaces around the car. Most of the time its a rubber based material. Anything containing alcohols can break down, weaken or destroy these surfaces. If you are going to use any of the CDC certified products on your car you should test it in an inconspicuous spot first and make sure its a pH balanced cleaner. There are quite a few products on the market designed specifically to decontaminate automotive interiors that are safe to use on all surfaces of your vehicle that you can purchase online or in local stores, just make sure you read your labels and follow each products’ directions.
When it’s time to clean your own car an important tip is not to spray product directly on the surface. You run the risk of overspray onto surfaces that do not like cleaners like touchscreens, glass or electronics. You want to spray into whatever towel you are using first then wipe. It’s best to use a few quality microfiber towels or if needed, a lint free paper towel. Spraying into a towel first also keeps you from oversaturating sensitive things like electronics, buttons and switches.
Another thing to keep in mind is that dirt attracts dirt. If your car is dirty, it’s makes it a lot easier for the bacteria and viruses to stick around inside your car. You should property detail your entire car in conjunction with taking addtional steps twards disinfecting. That old french fry that fell under your seat a month ago may not be food for Coronavirus to help grow but there are plenty of other microscopic goodies that love spilled food. Vacuuming is always a good idea, and a good place to start when cleaning your car.
Once you have finished vacuuming and removing any loose trash the next step is cleaning surfaces. You will also want to clean and wipe all surfaces of your car with a good quality cleaner. Not just the obvious things like door handles and steering wheel but you really should clean and wipe down every last inch of your interior. Having cleaned over 10,000 cars since going into business, I have learned that kids can touch and dirty up every nook and cranny in no time without fail.
After you have thoroughly vacuumed your interior, wiped down all the surfaces with an appropriate cleaner you should finish off your detail/ cleaning with a final wipe of some kind of vehicle protectant. There are endless choices on products to use here too. You will want to avoid anything containing silicone (Like traditional Armour-All). Silicone may make it look nice and shiny but that will be a dirt and dust magnet after. Silicone can also damage some surfaces after repeated use. You will want to use a natural finish “Interior Detailer” . A good Interior detailer will offer some UV protection and help with dirt and dust buildup. There are a few on the market, including the one that we use, that also has Microban which actually prevents microorganisms from sticking to surfaces after application. At this point, after vacuuming and wiping and treating all surfaces with a interior detailer you will want to clean your glass. Do not use an ammonia based glass cleaner like you may use around your house. You want a alcohol based glass cleaner, and something that is safe to use on your touchscreens of your infotainment system and screens in your dash. Another item always overlooked is your key fob. You touch that at least twice for every ride in the car. Quick wipe is all that’s needed to keep it germ free.
Cleaning your car more often makes the job go quicker. If you spend a few minutes every week or two doing a quick vacuum and wipe down will help cut down on the time it takes to do a more thorough cleaning. Does anyone want to waste a half a Saturday afternoon a few times a year cleaning your car?
Another pro tip: keep some car cleaning wipes or natural baby wipes in your car. Next time you’re sitting in your car in the pickup line at the kids school you can take a wipe and just give a quick pass on your dash and cup holders. Even with a well maintained and clean car can use a professional deep cleaning once or twice a year. A lot of our customers are Spring/ Fall customers. We see their cars twice a year for a solid cleaning. For those of you that are marticulas about cleaning you should do it at least once a year. Our suggested time for those cleanings is at the end of summer when road trip season is coming to an end.
How the Pros Do It
When we do an interior detailing we have with us some very expensive cleaning toys and all the best products to get the job done quickly and correctly right in your driveway or office. On average our Base Interior detail for a sedan takes around three man hours to complete. As our packages go up, so too does that amount of time it takes to get the job done.
When we perform a disinfection of a vehicle we attack the germs with a few different methods. The most safe and proven method is the use of an ozone machine. Without getting too technical, an ozone machine converts oxygen molecules into ozone or O3. That third oxygen molecule is by nature is unstable and attaches, attacks and breaks down anything organic in the car. This includes germs, virus, mold and bacteria. Ozone also permeates into all areas of your car, not just the easy to reach and wipe areas. The virus is killed after about three minutes of exposure to ozone and it takes about twenty minutes for our equipment to reach a proper level of ozone inside your car for cleaning, depending on vehicle size. The second method we use is a steam cleaner. We steam clean surfaces that have already been hit with ozone to not only remove the germs but to get rid of any ozone residue. When we do a full detailing, not just a disinfection, all surfaces are treated after cleaning with a natural finish surface protectant that not only helps against dust build up and damage from UV rays but contains a product called Microban that prevents new deposits of microorganisms.
If you would like to schedule We Car Care Care to come complete a professional cleaning of your vehicle at your home or office or you just have some more questions on how to properly clean your own car you can visit our website at http://www.WeCarCarCare.com, find us on Facebook or call us directly at 774-279-1384.
Our Base Interior detail starts at $120 for a sedan and our Base Plus Package, which includes a ozone treatment starts at $150 for sedans. We also have interior packages that offer long term protection using nano ceramic based coating and even a package backed with a 5 year warranty!