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Tips to Keep Your Vehicle Clean During COVID-19

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Learn how to clean and disinfect your vehicle to help you stay safe when you’re out and about.

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Learn how to clean and disinfect your vehicle to help you stay safe when you’re out and about.

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Now more than ever, it’s important to clean and disinfect your vehicle to help you stay safe when you’re out and about

During the current public health crisis, we know you’re looking for advice to help keep you and your family healthy and safe. Just as it’s important to wash your hands regularly and keep your home clean, it’s also important to keep your vehicle clean to reduce the chance of transmitting any viruses. These tips will help you disinfect your vehicle and stay safer when you need to be on the road for essentials.

Wash or Sanitize Your Hands

Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology and environmental science at the University of Arizona, says the first step is to avoid bringing any viruses into your vehicle. He suggests using hand sanitizer any time you get into your vehicle, whether you’re going to work or out running essential errands. He says he now carries hand sanitizer with him at all times.

When soap and water are unavailable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol. Alternatively, the CDC recommends thoroughly washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

Clean Commonly Touched Surfaces

Gerba’s prior research shows that a vehicle’s dashboard, seat belts, steering wheel and cupholders and any child seats are among the areas most likely to be contaminated with bacteria or viruses. You should also consider cleaning all other commonly touched surfaces, like your vehicle’s shifter, door handles, and radio and climate controls. Gerba recommends cleaning with the same disinfectant wipes you may already be using to clean your home.

“This virus is very susceptible to common disinfectants, so the common disinfectant wipes that you see in the store work very well,” he says. “Read the label and make sure [the wipe] kills the influenza virus. It’s a similar virus, and they’re equally sensitive to the disinfectant.”

The CDC recommends that consumers ensure any alcohol-based wipes or sprays contain at least 70 percent alcohol to disinfect surfaces. Be sure to consult your vehicle owner’s manual before using any cleaning products.

Clean Your Vehicle Regularly

“Given the current situation, I would say [to clean your vehicle] any time you’ve been out in public,” says Gerba. “If you’re going to work or going out in public, I would wipe down those key areas in your vehicle because you’re touching them inadvertently and not realizing it.”

That’s especially true if you transport a sick family member to receive medical care, he says, or if you’re sharing a vehicle with a partner, roommate or spouse.

“I would wipe the car down if I was sharing it with anybody else before they used it,” Gerba says. “The concern could be you accidentally brought [the novel coronavirus] into your car, which later somebody else could touch if they get into it.”

Refuel Safely

Gerba also recommends using hand sanitizer after touching a fuel pump, noting that he’s even seen some gas stations that now offer hand sanitizer right at each pump. While many people are using gloves when pumping gas, Gerba says there’s a risk of cross-contamination unless you are extremely careful when removing and disposing of the gloves. “Gloves are of limited value for the average person. I think using hand sanitizer is probably better,” he says.

Gerba also says early data suggest the novel coronavirus may not survive for as long on outdoor items, like fuel pumps, though research is still ongoing. “Usually, being outdoors the virus would not survive long, but we still don’t know a lot about its survival in outdoor environments,” he says.

Pay for Fuel on the Go

You may also be able to avoid touching a fuel pump’s credit card reader entirely. In properly equipped vehicles with a Connected Access Plan,*5b you can conveniently and safely pay for fuel using Marketplace.*24 At certain stations, you can activate the fuel pump, redeem any applicable rewards and pay for fuel right from your vehicle’s infotainment system. It removes one point of contact from your refueling process.

Plan Ahead for Your Journey

If you need to take a longer trip, be aware that you’ll have to plan more carefully than normal as states and counties have taken actions to slow the spread of COVID-19. For instance, if you need a break for food or drinks, note that many restaurants are only offering take-out service, with no dine-in options. In some areas, highway rest stops may be closed and highway toll booths may no longer be accepting cash payments.

In addition, our OnStar Advisors remain available to you 24/7 during this pandemic. We’ve turned on Crisis Assist*129 for all current Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles for a limited time. Learn more about what OnStar is doing to help.