The virus can easily live in cars without people even realizing it. As more and more information about the virus surfaces, some researchers have suggested that the Coronavirus can live on hard surfaces like hard plastics and metals (i.e. the interior surfaces of a car) for up to nine days!
The need to disinfect cars in times of COVID-19
Even in COVID-19-free days, the air quality in any car is on average the worst indoor air a person will experience all day, with vehicle interiors being a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and mold. The average steering wheel alone harbors 9 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, according to a study released by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
In times of an outbreak such as COVID-19, it is important for essential workers and those commuting heavily to ensure that - amongst other hygiene measures - the car they use is disinfected. This is where the concept of deep AC disinfection comes into play.
“The benefit of deep AC disinfection is that germs, allergens and mold are targeted, enhancing and supporting healthy respiratory function whereas poor car conditions can worsen respiratory function especially for asthmatics and those who are already the most at risk to COVID-19’s critical symptoms,” says Lamis Harib, CEO, ecabiotec® Middle East Manufacturing L.L.C.
Things are not very different for Istobal, where vehicle disinfection is a priority to ensure the safety of drivers and their occupants and to prevent the spread of the pandemic. “With the outbreak of COVID-19, the need to reinforce cleaning measures in all types of vehicles (private, public transport, carsharing, renting, etc.) has become apparent,” says Carlos García, Global Markets Director, ISTOBAL. ISTOBAL is continuously developing advanced disinfection technologies, through solutions that guarantee the safety of people and the total disinfection of vehicles (interior and exterior) without damaging any of their surfaces.
Major touchpoints in a car
If the car is contaminated with COVID-19 or any other contaminating pathogen, it’s important that the entire vehicle is fully disinfected.
At ecabiotec® Middle East Manufacturing L.L.C. (disinfectmycar.com), the vehicle disinfection method consists of a complete ‘dry fogging’ procedure using a fine mist of a disinfectant that is non-wetting. It fills the car as the AC is on and in air circulation mode for deep disinfection of the car AC as well. Additionally, if the boot is separate, it is also opened and fogged directly as it’s another high contamination zone with many items being brought into the home such as supermarket bags.
The chemicals used to disinfect cars
“Using the wrong disinfecting product can cause damage to the car interior. Bleach or solvents are chemicals that damage fabric and electronics. Common household cleaning products contain bleach and solvents, as well as chlorine, ammonia, and acetone damage the interiors and the paint of the vehicle. So, people must opt for care products that are recommended by motor dealers. While disinfectant wipes are effective in killing germs and viruses, it is not enough. Hiring a professional car disinfection company that knows different methods and technologies will save time and be more efficient,” says Shanoop Mada Valappil, Director of Sales, Saniservice.
Here are some general guidelines to be followed while choosing the right chemical for car disinfection:
• Must be safe to inhale and non toxic
• Should be able to kill all unicellular germs under bacteria, viruses (both enveloped and non-enveloped), fungi and spores instantly.
• Must be non-corrosive or causing any damage to any surface of the car
• Must be compatible with the equipment being used for disinfection (jet wash, wash tunnel or rollover, sprayer, arches, misting, etc)
Equipments and technologies for 100% disinfection
The complete sterilization of a car, if we are to get really technical, would definitely require more than one time fogging as many older cars have deep pathogens accumulated in their seats and other areas. However, companies like ecabiotec® are offering vehicle disinfection services that promise full disinfection and deodorization by killing bacterial caused odors as well as all surfaces that come in contact with their misting.
“Currently, our technology focuses on a fine, low micron mist that’s 2-3 microns (under 5 microns for droplet size) to achieve this dry mist without wetting the car and reaching all car surface areas as well as deep in the car AC,” says Lamis Harib.
ISTOBAL too has developed different equipment for interior disinfection of vehicles, so that it can be carried out manually or automatically. They have designed sprayers to manually spray chemical products inside the vehicle, which must be left to act for a minute and then removed with a cloth. They also have ozone disinfection equipment for complete disinfection of the cabin, including the vehicle ventilation system and particle filter. In addition to this, ISTOBAL places equal emphasis on external disinfection as well. “We have recently developed automatic arches for the external disinfection of vehicles and we have incorporated chemical products to carry out the external disinfection of the car also in jet wash areas and rollovers and washing tunnels, as a final complement to a car wash program,” says Carlos García.
Steps to disinfect a car
1. Start with the exterior. Carry out a conventional washing in the rollover or Jet wash and allow the vehicle to dry. Another option for the external disinfection of the vehicle are arches that provide effective and fast disinfection for large vehicles. The arch activates the sprinklers with disinfectant chemical as the vehicle is driven through the arch, the spraying nozzles reach the car in full, including the under chassis. Next, you should choose the disinfection program and not rinse.
2. Start disinfecting the interior. If cleaning is chosen to be done manually, it is recommended to use disposable gloves, mask and goggles and first vacuum the entire interior and clean the surfaces so that there are no residues, ideally with a dashboard cleaner and upholstery cleaner, as appropriate.
3. If using a manual chemical sprayer, the interior of the vehicle should be sprayed and the product is left to act for the recommended contact time and then removed with a single use cloth. Once this is finished, a good hand wash with soap and water or hydroalcoholic gel, in addition to washing or disinfecting the clothes that have been used for cleaning is highly recommended.
4. In the case of disinfecting the cabin with ozone, equipment that achieves a complete disinfection of the vehicle must be chosen according to the type of vehicle. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), ozone is the most efficient disinfectant for all types of microorganisms. For the use of ozone, the vehicle must be left switched on with the air conditioning in recirculation mode. No person should be inside the car during the ozonation. The ozone hose must be inserted through the window leaving only the necessary space and it must be verified that the rest of the car is completely closed. The disinfection cycle should include a forced ventilation time after the application of ozone to ensure that the customer can enter the vehicle safely.
5. If using misting, ensure that the maximum surface area is reached by the disinfecting mist. This means the more exposed the interior of the car is, the better and more disinfected it will be.
• Remove space occupying belongings from the car. However it’s safe to disinfect with belongings inside so that they are also disinfected.
• Open storage compartments to disinfect if allowed. If the car has a separate boot, fog it with or without the items inside.
• During the time of treatment, keep the engine on as the AC needs to be on for full disinfection of the AC ducts, with air circulation mode turned on.
• While disinfecting, keep the car doors and windows shut, with the exception of a slight opening at the driver side window for the applicator to be attached to and fill the car with the disinfecting mist.
Training the staff
Training the staff in times of COVID-19 has been challenging for most companies given the time constraint. But we have some inspirations when it comes to car disinfection. For instance, ISTOBAL has developed action protocols from the beginning of COVID-19 to ensure the health of frontline workers, suppliers and customers and at the same time guaranteeing their supply chain. Furthermore, they have promoted the training of their workers in this new scenario so that they can continue to carry out their work with all the guarantees and excellence that has always characterized the human team that constitutes them.
Another example to follow is Saniservice, a company that has been doing disinfection for over a decade. From the H1N1 outbreak to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, their technicians have been trained with biosecurity protocols. These technicians have undergone rigorous training at the Little Flower Engineering Institute in India.
Each cleaning and disinfection protocol they apply to their clients is strictly observed by their team first. They ensure regular temperature checks are done, equipment and fleet is fully disinfected before and after service and technicians adhere to the highest hygiene standards. Their uniforms are duly washed, ironed, and disinfected daily, as well as their shoes. On top of that, these technicians are housed in high-quality, regularly maintained accommodations also subject to regular cleaning, pest control and disinfection.
While most companies struggle with training their staff due to limited knowledge of the Coronavirus and time constraints, the entire disinfection process remained quite smooth for ebiotec as their product ANOSAN ECO® is proven on the corona family of viruses and is already used widely to combat COVID-19 by authorities and the public sector in both Europe (namely Germany/Austria) and the GCC. The only additional training was on PPE usage and social distancing.