The Best Way To Combat Viruses On Car Interior Surfaces is Alcohol: Report

The optional soft drinks cooler of an XC70.
The optional soft drinks cooler of an XC70.
Image: Volvo Cars

These days, even automotive websites are crammed full of Coronavirus related news and posts, meaning that petrolhead sites aren’t the kind of safe haven where one could completely escape the doom and gloom. (I should know, I’ve penned a couple of COVID-19 stories today). Except, of course, you actually enjoy the inventive pandemic memes spread all around the web, or figure out you might as well educate yourself about the virus to stay safe.


Earlier, there have been news posts about just how grimy cars and shared vehicles can be. Sometimes it feels like best practice not to think about the average steering wheel and how many germs it might carry at any given time, but when we’re looking into staying safe during a pandemic, you start thinking about which surfaces would be best wiped quickly. And especially if you’re cleaning your own car, you’d ideally want to use solutions that do not damage interior materials.

Keith Barry from Consumer Reports contacted some of the best minds in automotive interiors, and discussed which products to use. Since the frequently touched surfaces that would benefit from cleaning can feature various materials, one would have to use products that do not degrade any of them.

It’s often said that alcohol is a solution, and that rings true even now. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol solutions above 70% strength are effective against coronavirus. Jeff Stout from interior parts supplier Yanfeng told Consumer Reports that nearly every interior surface can be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol, and that Yanfeng uses it in preparing products before shipping them as everything has been tested to be compatible with it. Bleach or hydrogen peroxide are far more damaging, as are ammonia based products.

To get the best picture of what you should be using to clean your car, make sure to read the rest of the article. Meanwhile, I’m watching the 1994 miniseries version of The Stand by Stephen King and wondering how much isopropyl alcohol the interior of that patient zero Chevy Citation would need.

Automotive writer based in Finland. Never paid more than two grand for a car. Currently drives a manual turbodiesel wagon.


Mitch Kelleher

I always have this stuff on hand ever since I was a teenager and noticed the overpriced pimple wipes were something like 99% alcohol as the active ingredient and saved some money. It damages very little, but takes off glue residue and all kinds of filth without nasty chemicals and a strong smell and I’ve used it for first aid. When I went over my handlebars mountain biking and slid down a rocky path on my bare back, I was able to wash the bloody dirt off with alcohol and blot it with some napkins I had and I didn’t even get any infection that had to be scraped out like when the sled flew out from under me on an alpine slide and the skin on my forearms and knees showed its poor performance subbing in for wheels. I didn’t use alcohol then and I had to soak in epsom salts and scrape yellow nastiness out of the wounds for days. Sure alcohol stings and I hear there are better alternatives as it can damage healthy tissue around a raw wound, but it’s still cheap and versatile and I’ve never had a problem using it on fairly minor chisel and knife wounds, either. Only time I didn’t use it was when the rear end of an E-Type fell on my head because it was too close to my eyes and my boss was bringing me to the hospital, anyway. Doctor who sewed me up was really attractive, though—like TV hospital drama attractive. What was I talking about?