Updated 22 January 2014

Just how dirty is your car inside?

You clean your house regularly, but when last did you really clean the inside of your car?

We spend our lives trying to protect ourselves from germs. We clean the kitchen and bathroom on a regular basis, wash our hands before we eat and avoid touching dirty things.

But we never seem to think twice when we step into our cars, placing our right hand on the steering wheel and the left on the gear stick. After all, how dirty can the inside of your own car really be?

Dirtier than you think

The average vehicle has approximately 283 different types of bacteria in every square centimetre, according to a study from the Aston University in Birmingham. The study was led by Anthony Hilton, the university’s director of Biology and Biomedical Science.

The gear stick was said to be home to approximately 356 different germs, while your boot, where you normally place all your groceries, contains about 850 bacteria.

The dashboard – dirty as a toilet seat

One of the most unsuspecting homes for bacteria was the dashboard. This is a place many people put their food when they are on the run. They generally do this without realising that they are exposing their food to all sorts of germs that breed on there. When turned on, the air conditioner and heater release airborne bacteria and fungi that get blown straight into your food, your drink or directly into your face.

“People would be horrified at the thought of eating off their toilet seat, but few people realise eating off their cars dashboard is just as likely to make them sick” said Hilton.

Hilton also explained that people should ensure that they do not leave food debris in their car, especially in warm, sunny weather. Bacteria can thrive on the even the smallest of crumbs he explained.

Whose car has the most bacteria?

According to another study by Charles Garba and Sheril Maxwell in the USA, married people have more bacteria in their cars than single people.

The same study found that females have more bacteria in their cars than males and cars that transport children on a regular basis had more bacteria than cars that did not carry children.

The car is consistently dirtier than the home, having 17000 times more bacteria, according to a study done by GAP Enviromicrobial Services. The cup holder in a car has 228% more bacteria than the average toilet seat according to Jessica Shaw, an enviromental scientist who took part in the study.

Other tips on how to clean your car

  • Use disinfectant wipes to clean the interior of your car on a daily basis. Make sure that the dashboard, gearstick, cup holder and steering wheel get special attention. Keep these wipes in your car so that you have access to them when spills occur.
  • It may not look pretty, but a good idea is to tie a trash bag to the back seat of your car. Whenever you feel the need to throw an empty bottle, till slip or any other rubbish onto the floor, simply reach behind you and place it in the bag instead.
  • If a trash bag is not the way you want to go, another idea could be to have a container of sorts under your seat which you use for the same purposes.
  • When you fill up with petrol, take a few minutes to look around you and throw any rubbish in the car in the bin.
  • Avoid eating in your car. If it is a must, vacuum your car to ensure that you get rid of all the crumbs you could have messed – even the most careful people are not immune to massing crumbs.
  • Shampoo your carpets and seats on a regular basis. If you are not the type of person who likes to get on your hands and knees, the neighbour’s son might be happy to do it for you for some extra pocket money.
  • Create a strict rule: if you take it into the car, you take it out.
  •  And last but not least, remember that your car has to be treated like an extension of your home and let’s face it, no one likes a dirty house!

(Megan McLean, Health24, updated September 2012)




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