Is your car making you sick?

With the height of flu season upon us in the Lowcountry, it’s a good idea to pay close attention to what might be putting us at increased risk of catching the virus, particularly often overlooked sources of germs.

Our vehicles have become extensions of our lives. Besides commuting and other day to day activities, we eat in them, haul our groceries, bring kids back and forth to various sporting venues, and in some occasions allow pets to ride with us. Each of those activities can present opportunity for organic material to breed potentially harmful bacteria. I bet most of us don’t think about how many germs are tracked into our cars after a visit to the dog park or a lacrosse game at Etiwan. Combine that bacteria with our grocery shopping or a child’s cold and we all of a sudden have a recipe for disaster.

A study conducted by Queen Mary University of London notes the interior of a car can have as many as 700 different strains of bacteria per 10 square centimeters. In comparison, the household toilet has an average of 80 per 10 square centimeters. (USA Today, 2014).

Some of the germs found around steering wheels, cupholders, and on seatbelts include E. Coli and staphylococcus. Dr. Joe Latimer (Salford University) found car interiors are 2,144 percent dirtier than smartphones and 55 percent dirtier than keyboards. Worryingly, another study states that “only 8 percent of study participants [identified] vehicles as potential germ-carriers.” (“Is the inside of your car a bacteria breeding ground?” - Sept. 2017).

The dirtiest areas of a car are typically the ones we touch. Seatbelts, steering wheels, accessory controls, and of course carpets. A report conducted by auto retailer Motorpoint swabbed various hot spots in a car’s interior and left the results to cure for five days before analyzing. In addition to areas mentioned above, the trunk was found to have high levels of bacteria, including bacillus cereus, which can cause food poisoning.

So what can we do to avoid excessive bacteria buildup and protect our families? It’s simple!

Avoid eating in your car – spilled drinks and dropped food can become lodged between seat crevices and in hard to reach areas.

Throw away any trash after every trip and consider keeping trash bags handy – making a habit of removing trash will keep the opportunity for bacteria growth at a minimum.

Keep a pack of disinfecting wipes in your car – should a spill occur, a disinfecting wipe will reduce the chances of protein buildup. It’s also a good idea to give those touch points a wipe down. Child seats should also be cleaned at least once monthly. However, be careful to avoid wipes with bleach or other strong chemicals as they may damage your interior surfaces.

After running air conditioning for a while, turn the A/C off and allow fresh air to blow through your system. When humidity is high, especially during summer months, water accumulates in the vents and allows fungi to bloom. Do this periodically.

Have your vehicle professionally detailed at least once annually (every 3-6 months if you have children or pets) using vapor steam.

Ryan Remington is managing director at Elliott Remington Auto Studio, located at 444 Deana Lane, off Clements Ferry Road, Suite B. For more information regarding keeping your vehicle healthy, contact Ryan at (843) 779-9533.

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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