It’s not easy to keep your car germ free. A vehicle is one of the most tactile items you’ll own. Consider how many surfaces you touch during the average trip, from opening the door to changing gear, or from adjusting the heating fan to switching the lights on.
All those areas can attract dirt and germs, and with hygiene particularly high on the agenda right now, they need special attention when you’re cleaning your vehicles.
We asked Ben Murphy, Toyota’s professional car detailer, for his advice. Ben, who has been a professional cleaner for more than two decades, is responsible for keeping Toyota’s fleet of press vehicles cleaned and professionally maintained. He lists no fewer than 40 potential touch points around the car that need specific cleaning attention.
On average, Ben cleans about 30 cars per week but in busy times this number can rise to 46. As well as ensuring high standards of vehicle hygiene, Ben has to bear in mind that meticulous car reviewers expect every vehicle they assess to look and feel as good as new.
“I try to be as efficient as possible,” Ben explains. “I also have a check sheet which I go through on every vehicle to make sure I haven’t missed any part of the vehicle before it leaves the press fleet garage.”
It’s imperative that Ben cleans each vehicle thoroughly inside and out before it is sent out on loan. Here how explains how he does it, using a RAV4.
Keep your car germ free: touch points to focus on
“Our cars return to our press fleet garage from all over the country and I have to think – ‘where have people touched?’. For example, a driver will probably approach the car with the key in their hand and pull on the door handle. From there I started thinking about other points that might get touched less frequently, such as the dust caps, the bonnet and then things like the head rests.”
So which are the key areas for attention?
“Certainly the exterior driver’s door handle and interior driver’s handle, as well as the electric window control console,” says Ben. “Then there’s the steering wheel and horn, the gearstick and surprisingly the rear-view mirror, because most people adjust the rear-view mirror when they get in the car.
“The interior of the driver’s door is a common touch point, especially on our press fleet cars which are driven by many different people. Think about all the people who get in the car and use the controls to put window down a bit.
“The seatbelt is another key area. Everyone has to wear one when they get into the car, and the number of times you adjust that seatbelt depends on the size of the person in the car. so there could be two to three touch points just on the seatbelt itself. Also, the belt sits across you, so if you were to cough or sneeze there’s a very good chance germs get on the seatbelt or the steering wheel.
Keep your car germ free: which products to use
Although Ben uses commercial products made specifically to clean cars without damaging leather or interior materials, bleach-free antibacterial wipes are the next best thing.
Ben says: “They’re inexpensive and kill 99.9% of germs, so they’re as safe and inexpensive you can get without going out and buying a really strong cleaner.”
With a pack of wipes, a pair of gloves and a dry microfibre cloth, you can give most of the touch points a clean.
“Don’t just give each area a quick wipe; make sure you wipe it at least twice in a forwards and backwards motion so you’ve cleaned it completely,’ hints Ben.
Keep your car germ free: please wash your hands!
“Every time I remove my gloves I always give my hands a good wash,” says Ben. “I wear gloves during my working day and with what’s going on at the moment I’d advise people to wear gloves if you’re in a vehicle such as a rental car or a taxi.
“You don’t know which areas of the car the previous occupants have touched and germs can stay on a spot for 72 hours. If kids are travel in your car then there’s every chance they’ve been wiping their hands on windows – we’ve all done it as children, drawing faces on the window!”
For the purposes of our list, we’ve counted the seatbelts as one item, but you do carry others in your vehicle, you might have to spend a little longer ensuring each of your passengers can enjoy a factory-fresh ride next time they get into your car.
Keep your car germ free: 40 areas to clean
1 Exterior door handles
2 Frame of door and roof
3 Interior door release
4 Window switches
5 Interior door handle
6 Door pocket
8 Seatbelt clips
9 Seat adjust buttons
10 Steering wheel
12 Control stalks
13 Driver air vents
15 Power button
16 Gear shift
17 Multimedia screen
18 Central air vents
19 Heating controls
21 Log book
22 Central storage compartment
24 Rear-view mirror
25 Interior lights
26 Grab handle
28 Head rests
29 Seat pockets
30 Rear central tab
31 Fuel cap
32 Wheel valves
33 Boot lid
34 Parcel shelf
35 Boot floor tab
36 Boot close button
37 Bonnet lid
38 Washer cap
40 Oil cap