How To Disinfect Car Interiors

How To Disinfect Car Interiors

When you ask the average car guy or girl, let alone average car owner, "when was the last time you disinfected your cars interior?" you get one of two answers.  Answer one is never and answer two is last year. If you dig deeper things get interesting. Most people clean their interiors. Clean, as in use a brush and a cleaner and really clean things up and get the dirt and stains removed. But cleaning will not always remove germs, especially the more serious and resilient germs. Only a dedicated disinfectant will disinfect.  Sounds simple, and it is for the most part. You just need a rock solid process to ensure you are safe from germs but also that your car's interior surfaces are not damaged from the chemicals! Let's get into the details!


So get some matches and... ok that was a joke, don't use fire or matches or anything like that. But when we think of germs we usually want a hardcore method to kill all of it. Especially with our current situation of Coronavirus. You won't need fire, just some powerful disinfectant. What's interesting is that every interior or leather cleaner we have researched does not disinfect. A product that disinfects will have information on the label to confirm it's abilities. It will list what germs it kills, how effective it is at killing them and the MSDS sheet will often give supporting information. An MSDS sheet is a public document and every bottled cleaner has one. They usually have warnings like "if you swallow this or it gets in your eye it can irritate or cause death" etc. Google your favorite product if you're curious and put MSDS sheet at the end and check it out!

cleaning car leather with gyeon leather


Grab your favorite disinfectant, if it's not Lysol or Clorox just make sure your bottle has the above listed things on it to ensure it truly does disinfect. Lysol has Coronavirus on the label for things it can kill for example. This is a new strain of Coronavirus and appears more dangerous than previous known strains. The good news is that it also appears that the current cleaning products like Lysol will still kill all the strains. If they didn't, these companies would need to turn out a lot of new labels all the time to update what they do and do not kill. Disclaimer, we do not recommend using a strong disinfectant on fine nappa leather. This is found in luxury cars and high-end sports cars and can be potentially damaged by a disinfectant. Gyeon Leather Cleaner with agitation is the best way to clean this kind of leather. This process won't kill 99.9% of germs but it will keep your leather safe, it is a necessary trade off. Strong disinfectants can be used on exterior door handles, interior plastic and door handles.


Wipe down all interior surfaces that are highly used with your disinfectant of choice. Be sure to wipe leather, plastic, headliners, seat belts and even carpets. When wiping your leather be sure to be gentle. Coated leather can be safely disinfected, this is often found in Volkswagens and more base line Mercedes for example. Light agitation is great to disinfect. This is why we are supposed to wash hands for longer periods of times not shorter. Same thing with hand sanitizer being not as effective as soap and water. Agitation; it's crucial for success! Do not apply a lot of pressure or force while agitating with wipes or a microfiber and a spray bottle. This is a gentle agitation. Leather is sensitive and can easily be damaged. Disinfectants are great for killing germs but will be harsh on your leather. We don't want to hurt the leather grain by scrubbing anything really hard, this is a crucial step to a safe process. If the surface has visible dirt build up, consider cleaning first and then disinfecting. Then follow back up with a light cleaning to remove the disinfecting residue from things like leather. 

3 - 10 MINUTES

Check the label on the disinfectant you use. It will say how long the product needs to dwell or sit on the surface. recommends 40 seconds to sanitize and 3 minutes to disinfect. It even says some very serious things like a norovirus will require ten minutes! The products we have seen on the CDC approved list recommend 10 minutes of dwell time to kill Coronavirus. Most people just spray and wipe; don't be most people. We highly recommend you do a test spot on your leather in an inconspicuous spot first. Many people will have a hard time telling the difference between coated leather, fake leather and Nappa leather. You should not let a disinfecting product sit on nappa leather and we dont even recommend wiping it. The potential to damage a fragile leather like this is to great. Nappa leather should only be cleaned and agitated with Gyeon Leather Cleaner.


The chemistry behind it is interesting. Coronavirus has a thick fat layer around it that acts like armor. Some disinfecting products won't do enough damage to that fatty armor so the virus lives after the cleaning. If you use a harsh chemical it will destroy the fatty layer, exposing the weaker heart of the virus underneath. That's why the dwell time and agitation is important. It will allow the fatty armor to break down so the virus can be killed! Cool right!!


If you have a steam cleaner, you can shoot it into the vents and sanitize the insides of your vents and ducts. Steam works well on hard to reach things and headliners too. Steam can be very useful on cloth as well. If you don't have a steam cleaner, consider a steam treatment from a detailer. It's important to note, steam will disinfect but only when you reach triple digits and maintain that temperature for several minutes. This is not a safe process for many parts of cars interior surfaces. This is why vents are on the approved list.


When we have disinfected the surfaces we can rest assured that we have germ free surfaces. Because Lysol and Clorox are harsh on leather we want to clean the leather next. Gyeon Leather Cleaner will help restore the natural look and feel of the leather. It also helps remove dirt and grime that may be on your steering wheel for example. Once again, it is very important that you be very gentle but agitate with a purpose. No need to put a lot of pressure or downward force when cleaning leather. Use premium brushes and let the bristles do the heavy lifting. Don't be afraid to do more than one pass. It might take two passes to feel like you got the clean you desire. 

cleaning white car leather


premium brush is under rated. Don't use a random brush from your house to clean your leather. Especially Nappa Leather, as it is very sensitive and soft. We offer two brushes that are both designed for leather and shaped to ensure you can reach hard spots, when you can't reach a hard to reach spot, you usually use more force to force the tool in. A good size and shape brush will fix that problem. More info on the brush below can be found here

auto detailing brush


Ok, we have a disinfected surface and a clean surface! But is it hydrated? As our leather gets older, it gets dryer. Leatherique has been in business for over half a century and only offers leather products. Mastery comes from putting all of our efforts into one thing with no distractions. We often see companies today trying to do 50 things. This is another reason I love leatherique. It is a passion driven company with an excellent product. The two products they offer that we like will clean and also hydrate. We prefer Gyeon Leather Cleaner for maintenance but we prefer leatherique for deep cleaning and hydration. Using lysol type products often will dry your leather and potentially even damage it. Be sure to hydrate the leather after regular use of lysol especially on older leather.

Leatherique leather products


Have a question? Shoot us an email or DM us on Instagram and we will help you get your interior looking new again! Ready to clean your interior?


leather care package