Gas Stations (and Your Car) Are Germ City—Here’s How to Stay Safe and Clean on the Road

Green gasoline pump on a green background

Getty Images

What if we told you your steering wheel might be harboring more germs than a toilet seat, or that the average gas station pump handle is—wait for it—6,428 times dirtier than public elevator buttons?

Help.

Whether you’re popping downtown to fill up on groceries and gas, or headed out on a family road trip, you’re going to want to maintain a clean car and smart hygiene habits between point A and point B. Think about it. You’ve been keeping your home (and self) spick and span since the coronavirus outbreak—disinfecting surfaces, washing hands thoroughly, wearing a mask in public, and practicing social distancing. So now that parts of the country are opening up and the urge to take a joy ride is becoming harder to resist, it’s time to bring all those responsible practices with you on the road, too. 

RELATED: 7 Things You Should Sanitize Immediately to Avoid Getting Sick

Exactly how germy is your car?

The concept of deep-cleaning the interior of your car—not just giving the exterior a good shine—goes way beyond protecting from the coronavirus. In general, cars are insanely dirty, harboring, on average, somewhere around 700 bacterial strains, including staphylococcus (though, remember, many bacteria are relatively harmless). 

In a recent survey of 1,000 drivers, CarRentals.com reported that, despite the griminess of most vehicles, 32 percent of drivers only clean their cars once a year. What’s more, 20 percent regularly eat in the car (and who hasn’t?). But what might seem like harmless road trip snacking can be potentially harmful: spilled food and drinks + time and a stuffy car = bacteria heaven

CarRentals.com also did some research to find the average number of colony-forming units (CFU)—aka the amount of bacteria per square centimeter—on cars’ most commonly touched surfaces and compared those to the CFU count on other public surfaces. Ready to cringe? 

The average steering wheel was found to have 629 CFU per square centimeter, which is:

  • Six times dirtier than an average cell phone screen (100 CFU)
  • Four times dirtier than a public toilet seat (172 CFU
  • Two times dirtier than public elevator buttons at (CFU)

Some of the other germiest spots in the average vehicle, according to these findings, include commonly touched surfaces like the cupholders (506 CFU), seatbelt (403 CFU), interior door handles (256 CFU), gear shift (115 CFU), and audio volume (99). 

Let’s just say that’s the last time we’ll be eating french fries off the dashboard.

RELATED: 7 Common Hand-Washing Mistakes to Avoid

Gas stations are germ-central.

Pumping gas is routine for any driver, but we all need to be smart about it. Don’t forget how many other people have used those buttons, handles, and other touch points before you (likely thousands). Clocking in at an eye-popping 2 million CFU of germs, the average gas pump handle was found to be 6,428 times dirtier than public elevator buttons and 11,835 times dirtier than a public toilet seat. But dirtier still, the button for regular, unleaded gas takes the cake in this analysis with 3.2 million CFU, compared to the premium buttons with 2 million CFU.

RELATED: Don’t Know the Difference Between Sanitizing and Disinfecting? You Might Not Be Cleaning Properly

Stay safe on the road, at gas stations and everywhere in between.

If you’re certifiably freaked out at the moment, take a pause. Remember that gas stations (and your car) have always been dirty—long before the virus outbreak and long before you read all these stats. You’ve been driving and pumping gas and living to tell the tale for years. Just consider this a wakeup call to adopt some sanitation best practices on the road, just in case. To get started, read these engineer-approved car-cleaning tips from Ford, plus some input from Beaumont Hospital Infection Prevention in Michigan on how to stay safe at gas stations, roadside rest stops, and other mid-drive destinations.

1. Have hand sanitizer at the ready.

The pocket of your door panel, center console, or even a bag/purse are smart locations for hand sanitizer (make sure it has at least 60 percent alcohol content). Clean your hands with it every time you’re done at the store, restaurant, or gas station. 

Can’t find any at the store? Here’s how to make your own hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your face as much as possible, but especially before disinfecting your hands post-pump.

2. Keep sanitizing wipes handy, too. 

Give these major touch points a sanitizing swipe every time you get in the car: the steering wheel, temp control knobs, gear shifter, touch screen, door handles (inside and out), arm rests, and cup holders.

3. Store a clean face mask or two in the car.

Keep a couple clean cloth face masks over your sun visor so you have one handy for unexpected errands or pit stops, whether to the grocery store or a rest stop restroom.

RELATED: Need a Cloth Face Mask? Here’s Where to Buy Them Right Now

4. Use disposable gloves to pump your gas. 

Ford experts suggest wearing gloves for touching gas pump handles and car wash wands. But doing so is pointless unless you remove and dispose of them properly directly afterwards using to avoid contamination. Take extra precaution by sanitizing hands afterward.

5. Keep payments as clean as possible.

The stuff in our wallets—and in cash registers—is, well, gross, to put it plainly. Cash is notoriously dirty, while credit and debit cards are shockingly germ-infested in their own right. (But good news, you can clean your credit cards safely!). Ford and Beaumont agree that if you have to use cash, try your best to give exact change to avoid a contaminated money swap. “Or tell them to keep the change,” Ford says. “Better yet, use an app to order and pay in advance,” if you’re stopping at a fast food joint, for instance.

6. Deep-clean the interior.

At the end of a longer road trip—or even if it’s just been awhile—give the interior of your car a solid sudsing. Use a sanitizing wipe to clean the seats, gear shift, steering wheel, and door handles. CarRentals.com says to replace the air filter and spray into the intake vent to  remove airborne germs in the carbon cabin. Wash the seats with car upholstery shampoo and clean or replace the floor mats. And don’t forget to disinfect your keys! This handheld accessory is just begging to be cleaned on the regular. 

For more car cleaning tips, roll up your sleeves and follow this guide to deep-cleaning your car routinely.

Share this article

187 thoughts on “Gas Stations (and Your Car) Are Germ City—Here’s How to Stay Safe and Clean on the Road”

  1. Greetings from California! I’m bored at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break.
    I love the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my phone ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, good blog!

    Review my page cbd oil that works 2020

  2. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog
    loading? I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end
    or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

    My web site: cbd oil that works 2020

  3. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your website.

    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more
    enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?
    Outstanding work!

    Feel free to visit my blog – cbd oil that works 2020

  4. First off I want to say great blog! I had a quick question that I’d
    like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.
    I’ve had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there.

    I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to
    15 minutes are generally wasted just trying to figure out how to
    begin. Any ideas or tips? Cheers!

    my homepage … cbd oil – http://www.getimaginality.com,

  5. No matter if some one searches for his essential thing, therefore he/she wants to be available that in detail,
    so that thing is maintained over here.

    Here is my webpage cbd oil (tinyurl.com)

  6. Hey! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this
    post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this.
    I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Here is my web site; go g

  7. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the page
    layout of your website? Its very well written; I love what
    youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content
    so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having
    1 or 2 pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

    My blog post g which

  8. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s
    to be just what I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers
    to write content available for you? I wouldn’t mind composing a post
    or elaborating on some of the subjects you write about
    here. Again, awesome web log!

    my webpage :: very g

  9. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new
    to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely glad I found it and
    I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!

    Also visit my homepage … g all

  10. Hello mates, its fantastic piece of writing on the topic of tutoringand fully defined, keep it up all the
    time.

    Here is my homepage … g him

  11. Hurrah, that’s what I was seeking for, what a stuff! existing here at this
    webpage, thanks admin of this web site.

    My web page … its g

  12. Great weblog right here! Also your website so much up very fast!
    What web host are you the use of? Can I get your affiliate link to
    your host? I want my g website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  13. I like the valuable information you provide in your articles.

    I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly.

    I am quite sure I’ll learn lots of new stuff right
    here! Good luck for the next!

    Look into my web blog – give g

  14. Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my g zynga group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Thank you

  15. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know
    so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead
    of that, this is wonderful blog. A great read.
    I will certainly be back.

    my blog post: those g

  16. Hello are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started
    and create my own. Do you require any coding knowledge to make your
    own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Also visit my blog :: g then

  17. Hello there! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with Search Engine
    Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for
    some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains.
    If you know of any please share. Kudos!

    my blog post: g also

  18. hello there and thank you for your information – I’ve definitely picked up anything new from right here.
    I did however expertise several technical points using this website, since I experienced to reload the site many times previous to I could get
    it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK?

    Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will sometimes affect your placement
    in google and can damage your high-quality score if ads and marketing
    with Adwords. Well I’m adding this RSS to my email
    and can look out for much more of your respective interesting content.
    Ensure that you update this again soon.

    my website :: g time

  19. each time i used to read smaller content that as well
    clear their motive, and that is also happening with this piece of writing which I am reading here.

    My webpage – g if

  20. I do not know if it’s just me or if perhaps everyone else
    encountering issues with your site. It appears as though some of the text on your content are
    running off the screen. Can somebody else please comment and let me know if this is
    happening to them as well? This may be a issue with my browser because I’ve had this happen before.
    Appreciate it

    my page g one

  21. Spot on with this write-up, I seriously think this amazing
    site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for
    the info!

    Here is my web page … g day

  22. Hi my loved one! I want to say that this post is awesome,
    nice written and include approximately all important infos.
    I would like to see more posts like this .

    Here is my webpage first g

  23. Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you
    amend your site, how can i subscribe for a blog site?

    The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast
    provided bright clear concept

    My blog post: these g

  24. fantastic post, very informative. I ponder why the opposite experts of this sector do not understand this.
    You should proceed your writing. I’m sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!

    My webpage – g year

  25. Hello my loved one! I wish to say that this post
    is awesome, nice written and include almost all significant infos.

    I would like to peer more posts like this .

    Feel free to surf to my blog g very

  26. I all the time emailed this weblog post page to all my
    friends, because if like to read it next my links will too.

    Also visit my blog post … g get

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *