Are the germs in your car putting your health at risk?

It's not just public spaces that get gross over time — your car is a hotbed for bacteria too.

Woman in car with her dog

Photo: Masterfile

Ladies, do you remember watching those scary exposés on the amount of bacteria that accumulates in hotel rooms? The remote control, throw pillows and coat hangers are always covered with a thin layer of grime and bodily fluids. I remember, and as a result haven’t sat on a couch in a hotel room in years.

Frighteningly enough it’s not just public spaces that get gross over time — your car is a hotbed for germs too. Ford’s exposing cars and trucks as a breeding ground for a variety of microorganisms that cause odours and discolouration of vehicle surfaces. We spoke with Cindy Peters, Ford’s technical expert research and advanced engineering, about the kinds of germs festering in your vehicle and what you can do to ensure they aren’t affecting your health:

Q: What kinds of organisms can grow in your car?
A: “In our study with the University of Michigan, we measured microbes in 18 vehicles and found over 130 types of bacteria. Staphylococcal species were found to dominate the car interior (87 percent). It is not necessarily concerning or surprising to have bacteria present in vehicles. However, bacteria may contribute to odours and degradation of materials in the vehicle.”

Q: Are there certain areas of a car that are particularly susceptible to microbe growth?
A: “On average, in the 18 vehicles that we swabbed, the center console area (near the cup holders) and the steering wheel were found to have the most bacteria.”

Q: What can owners do to limit bacteria growth?
A: “Cleaning surfaces with antibacterial wipes is probably the easiest way to control microbe growth on surfaces.”

Click here for a list of all-natural cleaners you can use on and in your car to protect you from bacteria. Be sure to vacuum your vehicle regularly and keep wipes on hand for spills, sneezes and overall germ protection.

Ford is currently looking into Agion, a silver-ion infused paint that, in studies, contained lower microbe growth than the control parts with the current production paint. The product works by starving, sterilizing and suffocating the microbes to prevent them from growing and reproducing meaning one day our cars may work to start cleaning themselves!

How often do you clean out your car?