DIY, Maintenance

Cleaning + Disinfecting Your 4Runner’s Interior

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Protecting Yourself and Your 4Runner's Interior During a Pandemic: A Step-By-Step Guide On Deep Cleaning For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Protecting Yourself and Your 4Runner’s Interior During these COVID Times: A Quick Guide On Deep Cleaning the 5th Gen 4Runner

We have all been dealing with the changes that the COVID-19 outbreak has brought to our lives.

Hopefully, you’ve been able to socially distance yourself by hopping in your 4Runner and escaping (even if to just down the street in a random cul-de-sac). Adding onto Max’s recent article on what to do in your spare time during COVID-19, I wanted to take cleaning the 4Runner a step further.

During this time, it is important we prevent the spread and part of that means cleaning your vehicle’s interior and keeping it clean. At this time, we should be smart about how we handle items and introduce them to our surroundings.

This is not meant to scare you, but instead, keep you thinking about how the things you encounter are potentially carrying the virus and we must be smart about preventing the spread. We will start by cleaning our vehicle to be sure then go into preventing contamination.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or an infectious disease specialist. I am also not a professional detailer. I did research on multiple websites including the CDC to see the best way to combat this virus and I have combined that information with my experience as an amateur detailer.

There is no shortage of articles that discuss these methods. Some are over the top and the steps are a bit unrealistic to follow on a daily basis.  Do what is most comfortable for you and your situation.

Cleaning + Disinfecting Your 4Runner’s Interior

Since we all have a lot of time on our hands, it’s a good time to clean and disinfect our interiors.

Why is that? Because we go out in public, we touch doorknobs, gas pumps, bathrooms, and we handle to-go plates from the local restaurant we are supporting. All these items could have been contaminated by someone who is unknowingly carrying the virus.

The CDC guidelines on cleaning and disinfection can be found here.

Start With Cleaning All Surfaces!

Protecting Yourself and Your 4Runner's Interior During a Pandemic: A Quick Guide On Deep Cleaning the 5th Gen 4Runner

The first step is cleaning the interior to remove dirt and grime. This can be done with your normal cleaners, a vacuum, and a few microfiber towels or terry cloth. You probably have your own products you trust but if you don’t, here is what I use and have been happy with

I have rubber floor mats in my 4Runner so I remove those, spray them with 303’s rubber and tire cleaner or for tougher stains I use Chemical Guys All Clean which I mix 10:1 with distilled water. I then hose them off and wipe them dry.

With the mats out of the way, start with vacuuming the interior to remove loose dirt from the seats, carpet, and cargo area.

Next, wipe down the seats, dash, doors and all other surfaces with a mild cleaner like Griot’s interior cleaner or Chemical Guys Total Interior Cleaner using a microfiber towel or terry cloth towel.

Find It Online:

Let’s Scrub Up!

Protecting Yourself and Your 4Runner's Interior During a Pandemic: A Quick Guide On Deep Cleaning the 5th Gen 4Runner

For heavy dirt or stains on cloth seats, I’ve had good luck with Tuff Stuff Foaming Cleaner.

Lastly, wipe down all windows with any type of glass cleaner. I use the Invisible Glass Cleaner that I found on Amazon. It dries really fast and leaves no smudges or streaks. I highly recommend this product; even for the windows in your home, it works great.

Find It Online:

Disinfect Your 4Runner’s Interior

Protecting Yourself and Your 4Runner's Interior During a Pandemic: A Quick Guide On Deep Cleaning the 5th Gen 4Runner

Disclaimer: Consider this step optional. You can choose to do certain “exposed” parts of your car or all of it. Some disinfectants can be harmful to interior surfaces. You know what your vehicle has been exposed to and you will need to judge if disinfecting is required. You may also choose to “quarantine” your vehicle so that any potential viruses that may have contaminated the surfaces can die off. If you feel you have not been exposed, then move on to the next step.

Just because a surface is clean doesn’t mean it is disinfected. Even if the cleaners you use claim to clean and disinfect doesn’t mean they are effective against something like COVID-19. The CDC and EPA approve cleaners based on their ability to kill certain germs, bacteria, and viral strains. Be sure to check their websites for more info. An extensive list of approved cleaners can be found here.

Whatever product you use, you must read the instructions. Whether it’s a wipe, spray or a liquid that you apply to the surface, the directions will state the required time needed for the chemical to disinfect the surface. Try this Lysol multi-surface cleaner.

To properly use a disinfectant cleaner, follow these steps:

  • Use full-strength or dilute ¼ cup (2 oz.) per gallon of warm water
  • Pre-clean surface
  • Apply to surface until thoroughly wet
  • To Sanitize: Leave for 1 minute before wiping
  • To Disinfect: Leave for 10 minutes before wiping
  • Rinse all food contact surfaces with water after using the product

Note: To disinfect, you must leave it on the surface for at least 10 minutes. You will need to follow the directions of your product accordingly. Regular Lysol disinfectant spray requires a similar 10-minute dwell time.

Avoid Using Bleach Products & Test Before Applying

Protecting Yourself and Your 4Runner's Interior During a Pandemic: A Quick Guide On Deep Cleaning the 5th Gen 4Runner

You’ll want to make sure whatever you use doesn’t damage your interior.

I would avoid anything with bleach. With any product you don’t want to apply it to a hot surface or when the car is in direct sunlight because this can allow the product to dry on the surface and cause damage or discoloration. You also want to test the product on a discreet area to be sure it doesn’t cause damage.

I chose to test the following areas: 

  • Steering wheel leather – backside of the lower portion of the wheel
  • SoftTex seats- the front portion of the seat near the bottom
  • Hard plastic trim like the radio surround and door handles – the side of the radio, down near the ignition
  • Plastic doors and trim – area behind the seat that is covered unless the seat is folded.

I applied my disinfectant to these areas and let it sit for 10 minutes per the label’s directions then wiped it away. I found no damage to any of the surfaces, so I proceeded to disinfect my interior. After the 10-minute dwell time, I wiped the surfaces with a damp terry cloth to remove the disinfectant.

The idea here is to wipe away these chemicals completely to eliminate possible damage and discoloration to these surfaces. I was particularly worried about damage to the interior so to be safe I applied more of the Griots cleaner to these surfaces and wiped everything down again.

Protect Your Interior

Protecting Yourself and Your 4Runner's Interior During a Pandemic: A Quick Guide On Deep Cleaning the 5th Gen 4Runner

Now your interior is clean and disinfected you need to apply protectants like you normally would. This is especially true since the disinfectant most likely removed the protection you had before. For leather surfaces, I like Chemical Guys Leather Detailer. This is good for keeping leather clean and protected. If you don’t have leather in your 4Runner, I would suggest using the 303 Protectant Spray and also Adam’s Interior Detailer Spray for all other surfaces in your truck’s interior.

Find It Online: 

All of these can be used on most of all interior surfaces. I like the matte finish look the 303 protectant gives to my SoftTex seats. Adam’s Interior Detailer is a great product and now they have Microban in their formula for an extra layer of bacterial protection.

Note: Adam’s Polishes nor Microban claim that this will protect you against COVID-19. Learn more.

Keep It Clean

Protecting Yourself and Your 4Runner's Interior During a Pandemic: A Quick Guide On Deep Cleaning the 5th Gen 4Runner

Now your vehicle interior is clean and disinfected you must keep it that way. As you’ve seen all over the news, this pandemic is changing the way we live our lives.  Remember what I said at the beginning of this article, you must treat everything you touch as being potentially contaminated.

When you get in your vehicle and leave a place your hands could have touched an item or surface that had exposure to the virus. Again, the CDC website is a good reference for handwashing and sanitizing recommendations.

That said, let’s go through a couple of scenarios when handwashing may not be available.

Wear Latex/Nitrile Latex Gloves

It’s simple enough to get a box of latex or nitrile latex gloves and keep them in your car.

This way when you grab take-out, pump gas, buy groceries, etc. you can protect them from contamination. While it is protecting your hands when you touch something, you must always treat is as if it is covered in contamination and anything you touch could then be contaminated.

When you get in your car or your home you will want to remove these potentially contaminated gloves before touching anything.

If you are using gloves, be sure you are removing them properly. Remember the outer surface of the glove should be considered contaminated. To remove gloves properly, you must not touch the outside of the gloves.

Try the One-Glove Method!

I personally like the one-glove method for pumping gas and doing food pickup. The one glove method is using one gloved hand to touch the items that may be contaminated while having an ungloved hand to touch items that you know are clean. This helps me because mentally I can separate the things I can touch safely (my wallet, phone, keys) from things I need to be protected from (gas pump, ATM keypads, to-go bags). This way you can keep one hand “clean” while one gloved hand is “dirty”. Using two gloves may cause you to forget what you’ve touched and you may accidentally touch your personal items with a dirty glove, possibly spreading the virus.

Keep a Trash Bag or Garbage In Your Truck

Protecting Yourself and Your 4Runner's Interior During a Pandemic: A Quick Guide On Deep Cleaning the 5th Gen 4Runner

Keep in mind, if you use gloves, you must plan for this. At stores, some people are removing their gloves in the parking lot and dropping them on the ground. Don’t do this, this is littering and just plain rude.

If you are going to wear gloves have a plan. Remove them when you leave an establishment and drop them in a garbage can in the parking lot, then return to your car without touching other items.

If you are returning to your vehicle with gloves, such as carrying to-go food containers, have a plan to store the used gloves.

Keep a stash of garbage bags, an old cardboard box, or even old grocery bags in your car. Set the food in your vehicle, remove the gloves and put them in the bag or box and dispose of when you get home.

Keep Hand Sanitizer…Handy

Protecting Yourself and Your 4Runner's Interior During a Pandemic: A Step-By-Step Guide On Deep Cleaning For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Most people go with hand sanitizer.

Hand sanitizer can be more convenient than having to put on gloves every time you leave your vehicle. When you get in your vehicle, avoid touching the door handles, seats, seatbelt. It’s best to keep a small bottle in the door pocket so that you can open the door and sanitize your hands prior to getting in and touching anything.

The negatives of hand sanitizer are that they contain rubbing alcohol along with other chemicals that can damage interior surfaces. It is best to let the sanitizer fully dry and the alcohol evaporates to reduce the amount transferred to your interior surfaces. This is especially true for leather and faux leather materials on steering wheels.

Having spent a lot of time on various 4Runner forums and social media sites I find a lot of people have problems with their steering wheels being damaged under normal use. This will only be accelerated when hand sanitizer and other chemicals are applied daily. You may consider a steering wheel cover like this one from SEG.

I have had one of these in my work truck for over 2 years and it has held up great. The black matches the 4Runner interior perfectly and while you may not like the look of a cover, its cheap protection if you are going to be using hand sanitizer for the next few weeks or months.

If you use hand sanitizer it is advised that you wipe down the surfaces with a mild cleaner and something like a detail spray once a week to make sure the surface is cleaned and protected. This will keep the alcohol from eating away at these interior materials and damaging them.

Final Thoughts

I hope this information has been helpful.

The biggest thing here is to use common sense to keep yourself from being exposed to viruses and bacteria and if you feel like you may have been exposed in any way be sure to properly sanitize or wash your hands to keep yourself safe and prevent spreading the virus to others. Feel free to ask a question below or leave a comment with which products you use on your interior. Stay safe, flatten the curve and don’t forget proper social distancing.

Comments or Questions? Leave them below!

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