How to Disinfect Your Car Interiors

In a global pandemic, there likely isn’t much you haven’t cleaned lately. But there’s one thing you may have missed in the disinfecting frenzy: disinfecting your car interior. 

But car and truck interiors are known for getting grimy during normal times; these days, your car is likely the first thing you touch immediately after you’ve been in public. And that means in addition to sanitizing your hands before you get into your vehicle, it’s a wise move to learn the basics about how to give your vinyl, leatherette and leather a car detailing-level of cleaning.

How to disinfect leather car interiors 

If your seats are genuine leather, you’ll want to take significant care: strong disinfectants, including many that are commonly used to kill the COVID-19 virus, can also significantly dry out the leather, which can cause cracking and fading. (In fact, it’s wise to spot test anything you plan to use to clean your leather car interior in a discreet area first.)

For leather seats, leather steering wheels, and anything else leather in your car, it’s best to disinfect with a mild cleaner like Leather Honey leather cleaner. This leather cleaner is strong enough to clean your leather thoroughly, but gentle enough to protect it from overdrying. Start by vacuuming your interior to remove loose dirt, dust and crumbs, then gently wipe down the leather seats with the cleaner and a lint-free cloth.

After you’ve thoroughly cleaned the car and allowed the leather to dry completely, you’ll want to apply leather conditioner, which will restore leather with the moisture that it naturally loses over time and protect the leather from dirt, spills and dryness.


What not to use to disinfect your car's leather

To answer a common question: No, you can't use disinfectant wipes on leather. Harsh chemical disinfectants will dry out your leather, which can lead to cracking and color fading. In some cases, they can also stain the surface of your leather permanently. When disinfecting leather, avoid:

  • Lysol
  • Common disinfectant wipes
  • Hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes
  • Bleach 
  • Isopropyl alcohol and wipes

Disinfecting Faux Leather & Vinyl Car Interiors

Faux leather seats — made from vinyl or leatherette material — and plastic doors and dashboards shouldn’t be harmed by a disinfectant, such as isopropyl alcohol or Lysol wipes, so it’s fine to wipe them down gently as needed. However, avoid using bleach or hydrogen peroxide on your car interior, as both could damage the color significantly. (Again, it’s a good idea to spot test before you move forward with cleaning all over – no one wants a bleached car interior, even if it’s clean.)

When you don’t need to disinfect you can use a mild leather cleaner to remove any stains or normal dirt and grime. This will serve to gently clean the car interior, without having to regularly use overpowering disinfectants.

Finally, don’t forget to gently wipe down any touchscreens, electronics and buttons with an alcohol or Lysol wipe, to kill germs on those high-touch areas.

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