How do I clean, disinfect and sanitise my car interior?

Women is confused between the differences of cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting

Here's What You Need to Know...

Living in this unprecedented time, all of us are trying to do what we can to minimise the spread of germs and viruses. But sometimes it can get so confusing on how we can do it effectively and safely. Then the confusion is compounded when it comes to your car interior. There are so many different types of materials to work with. So, now you may be wondering are these chemicals or products safe to use on your car’s interior materials? The last thing you want to do is cause irreversible damage to your interior or be cleaning the wrong area.

This article aims to give you clear and concise answers to these questions from reputable references and how to do it safely and effectively.

Let’s dive in.


We are not medicine or infectious disease professionals. All claims are made after thorough research with reference’s linked at the end of this article. If you are not confident or comfortable with carrying out the below, please contact a professional to do it for you.

What is the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitising?


removing the germs

The process of  removing germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects.  Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.


killing the germs

The process of killing germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.


Lowering the germs by cleaning or disinfecting

The process of lowering the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.


How to apply the formula to clean and disinfect your car interior?



You are going to be working in a germ and virus filled area. Yes, your car is that dirty. So you have to protect yourself first. Start with some PPE by putting some disposable non porous gloves, a dust mask and safety glasses. We would also recommend long pants and shirt so that your body doesn’t get into contact with any chemicals being used.



Take out all your valuables and rubbish to create a safe space to work in. Once you have removed all the clutter, it’s time to get cleaning…

TIP! Focus on the hot spots

Though we want to clean all areas in the car’s interior, we want to focus on virus and germ breeding hotspots which are frequently touched. These areas usually are the:

  • Door handles ( in and out)
  • Car keys
  • Steering wheel
  • Gear knob/shifter
  • Buttons and knobs
The hotspot areas that need to be cleaned and disinfected in a cars interior
Car interior hotspots (image:



Start with taking the floor mats out and start vacuuming from top to bottom – first gently vacuum the interior headliner, then gradually work yourself down to the floor. 

And don’t forget those mats you took out before. 




Different surfaces need different care and cleaning products to avoid damaging the car’s interior. You will need:

  • A non porous material cleaner (for plastics and leather)

  • A porous material cleaner (for carpets, mats, upholstery)

  • Plenty of microfiber towels folded into quarters (each quarter will clean a surface and then folded over to not reintroduce the germs just removed)

  • Soft bristle brushes for use on soft materials

  • Hard bristle brushes for use on carpets and mats

Use your favourite car cleaner – our is Carpro Inside as it can be diluted to different strengths and can be safely used on a large variety of materials such as plastics, leather and vinyl. But any cleaners specifically designed for car interiors will do just fine. Remember! We are in the cleaning stage which is focusing on the removal of dirt and germs, killing the ones that remain comes later.

TIP! Chemicals to avoid!

Isopropyl alcohol. It will dry out the leather and may damage it

Bleach based product as they might stain or cause discolouration

Don’t use leather cleaner on imitation leather. Use a pH neutral All Purpose Cleaner

For a deep clean of upholstery seats, use a steamer


The method to clean porous and non-porous materials can be summarised into four simple steps listed below. The only difference between cleaning porous and non-porous surfaces is using the appropriate cleaner for the surface being cleaned.  

Also, make sure each cleaner has its own designated set of towels and flip the cleaning towel to a new section after wiping down an area to prevent the spread of the germs you just cleaned. Be careful not to use a rough cloth or scrub too hard as this might scratch or damage the surface. But don’t be scared either, the car interiors are very durable.

If you leather or upholstery seats have perforations, be careful to not use much water on your seats. The danger is that water gets into the cushion beneath which can cause the growth of mold. You can get it wet with the cleaner and damp cloth, just not saturated.


Glass cleaning

Clean the windows from the inside by spraying the product directly onto the cloth and wiping the window clean. If you see streaks, then follow up with a dry cloth after.



Ok, the cars interior is now clean (and smells great!), now we have to disinfect. Remember, disinfection is the process of killing the remaining germs and viruses that may have not been removed during the cleaning process.

After you remove all the dirt and oils, we move to the disinfection process.

Look out for products that have passed EN 1276:2009 and EN 1650:2008 disinfection standards and always follow the manufacturers directions.

TIP! Watch the temperature!

The car should not be warm or hot when disinfecting it, as this significantly affects the dwell time (the time you allow the disinfectant to remain on the material before removal)

  1. Read the label 
    Every disinfectant is different. The manufacturer will have given specific instructions on the dwell time required to disinfect the surface. This can usually  vary from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.

  2. Start with a test patch
    An inconspicuous area like behind the steering wheel or down low in the foot well are good areas. If after the apply of the disinfectant you notice no discolouration or damage, move onto the next step.

  3. Apply the disinfectant 
    This could be a disinfection wipe or a spray you apply on a clean microfiber towel first then wipe the surface.

  4. Let it dwell
    Leave the disinfectant on the surface for the required time specified by the manufacturer. Then, depending on the disinfectant used, you might want to wipe it dry with a clean and soft microfiber towel.
For carpets, you can use a disinfectant carpet cleaner which you can brush into the carpet and then vacuum off again in most cases (please read the label and follow the instructions accordingly). Another way to disinfect the carpet effectively is by using a steam cleaner. As a microbiologist named Jason Tetro explains, “steam kills bacteria and viruses”. But you have to take into consideration the steam dwell time, surface being steamed, the rate of movement and temperature.

TIP! Touchscreens & Leather Seats!

With ELECTRONICS, should there be no manufacturer guidance available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry thoroughly after. 

After having everything disinfected, you may want to follow up with CONDITIONING THE LEATHER SEATS. Apply the conditioner to moisturise and protect your leather seats making them soft and supple. Massage the product into the seats with a microfiber cloth and wipe off any excess product with a dry cloth. Before using any product, please read and follow product directions.



Now where you have done all the hard work, it is just a matter of maintaining it.

Here are some of the best practices:

  • Disinfect your keys (seriously, they are gross)

  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap for 20 seconds before entering the car

  • Change the air filter every 25,000-50,000km of driving

  • Have some hand sanitiser, a pair of gloves (in case you can’t wash your hands before entering), and a mask available in the car

  • Avoid touching the petrol nozzle and handle at a petrol station by putting on some disposable gloves left in your car. Throw away after use.

Stay safe and healthy!

TIP! Make a kit!

Create a little kit for your car. This may include some hand sanitiser, wet wipes, tissues and a mask. A little rubbish bin would be also advisable so you can dispose them straight away if needed.



If you’re anything like us, you are OCD about being clean and want to get everything disinfected and spotless, then you would also want to ensure you are breathing in clean air!

So, if you got this far, we advise to deep clean the AC system including the filter. Your car’s AC can carry infection and viruses trapped in the AC filters. So best to clean the AC cabin filter by spraying it with a disinfectant specifically designed for car AC systems which you can purchase online. The AC cabin is usually located behind the glove compartment.

Cleaning of the cars ac system t prevent the spread of viruses and germs


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