Consumer Watch: Keeping your car clean and safe during COVID-19 pandemic

Think about how many surfaces in your car get touched on an average trip: door handles inside and out, control knobs and buttons, the touchscreen, even your directional and wiper control stalks are touched virtually every time you drive your vehicle.

The interior of most cars is made up of a number of different materials.

It's important to use the right products and techniques to disinfect your vehicle properly.

"You definitely want to stay away from using bleach or hydrogen peroxide inside your car," says Consumer Reports Autos Editor Jon Linkov. "Those products could easily do damage to your car's upholstery."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol solutions that contain at least 70% alcohol should be effective at killing coronavirus.

This means nearly every interior surface of your car can be cleaned with the isopropyl alcohol-based cleaners you already use around the house.

Consumer Reports recommends disinfecting anything you touch often. That means the steering wheel, door handles (inside and out), the gear stick, turn signals, and so on.

"And if your car has a touch screen, don't use anything that has ammonia as an ingredient since it can strip off anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings on the screen," Linkov said.

If you're low on cleaning supplies, soap and water are also a safe bet for most surfaces. No matter what you use, a gentle touch is recommended.

"The surfaces inside your car are usually going to be more delicate than something like the countertop in your kitchen, so take care in how you apply the cleaning products," Linkov said. "Wipe down leather gently with a microfiber cloth. Rubbing too vigorously could start to remove the color from the dye in the leather."

When wiping down fabric upholstery, avoid using too much water. It could end up creating a musty smell or encouraging mold growth in the cushions.

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