Keep it clean
Any confined space can accelerate the spread of contagious diseases, and guess what? Your car is a haven for germs
Published: 26/07/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Brunch
By now, you're probably well aware of the swine flu pandemic. Your hands are red after washing them 50,000 times a day and you're suffocating from breathing through a mask all day.
Then you jump into your car and, because you are alone, you feel protected and relieved.
But have you forgotten anything? What about the cleanliness of your car?
Here are 10 tips for a more hygienic drive:
1. Presume your car is full of nasty germs, not just the flu virus. Anyone who has been in your car may have left harmful germs behind. Probably the easiest and most effective way to kill germs in your car is to bake it under the sun for a day. That's right, the UV kills or neutralises most germs. Roll down the windows and open all doors for maximum sunlight penetration. All modern cars have UV-resistant interior plastics, so don't worry about that.
2. Sure, some of you may not have the sun, space and time to do this, so you will have to sanitise it. As well as rubbing alcohol, there are a few other relatively inexpensive sanitisers you may not know of, but probably already have in your house - ammonia-based window cleaners and household bleach. As bleach could ruin car plastic, do test for colour fastness by dabbing a bit of diluted bleach on a small area of your car's interior that is out of sight. You'll also need cotton pads, a piece or two of soft cloth you can throw away and one of the three sanitisers listed above.
3. Do not let anyone else do the sanitising for you. To make sure it gets done properly, do it yourself or else supervise it.
4. Take a shower before you begin and then wash your hands properly again. You may want to wear a pair of gloves to protect yourself from the chemicals.
5. Open all the doors and roll down all windows for ventilation.
6. With some cotton pads and the sanitiser, begin cleaning the areas you and other passengers usually touch like the door handles, the steering wheel, the gear lever and all the switches and ventilation louvres.
7. Use a cloth to clean the rest of the interior plastic, leather and fabric. To avoid the surfaces getting soggy, use only enough liquid to moisten the cloth.
8. Leave the inside to dry before locking your car, then clean the outside door handles.
9. The most important thing to remember is to prevent germs getting in - clean your hands and the car key with sanitising gel or a wet wipe before opening the door (and this applies to your passengers too). As a backup in case you forget your gel, keep a small bottle of alcohol spray and a wet wipe inside the car and clean everything you touch (don't forget the key) while entering the car before starting off.
10. Bank notes and coins are probably the filthiest things that get inside your car, so once you've paid the expressway toll and receive your change, take a moment to clean the hand that touched the money before touching the steering wheel or gear lever. To avoid delay, don't use gel as it takes too long to dry and may make the steering wheel slippery. Instead, use a wet wipe ready before you make the toll payment so you can instantly wipe your hands then wipe the window switch with one hand while keeping your eyes on the road.
But all this will still not guarantee a germ-free ride unless you and your passengers are cautious elsewhere too.
Sir Winston Churchill may have been right when he said "there is nothing to fear but fear itself" - the more you fear the flu, the more stressed you become, and that lowers your immune system and you become more susceptible to illness.
So, be prepared and take precautions, but don't go mad.