Sniffed Your Car Lately?

To keep your moving living room as healthy as possible, follow these tips.

If you’re the type of person who uses your car as a moving trash can, you’re putting more than your upholstery at risk.

Dirty cars can become filled with insects, germs, mold, pollen, and other irritants and pathogens destined to have you sneezing, itching, watering, and just plain sick. Just consider the fact that if you’re like most Americans, you spend an average of 75 minutes a day in your car. That’s several times more than most people spend in the bathroom!

To keep your moving living room as healthy as possible, follow these tips:

Sniff the air. If your car smells like dirty socks, you’ve probably got mold. Check the air-conditioning coil, which may harbor mold, the carpeting in the car and trunk, and that old blanket you threw in the backseat after your son’s soccer game last weekend — the game they played in the pouring rain. Then do battle: Remove the mold or moldy items, use the strongest cleanser you can without spotting the fabric to clean what remains, and do all you can to dry the car’s interior thoroughly.

Clean your car regularly. Remember that when it comes to health, a clean interior is more important than a clean exterior, so a run through the car wash doesn’t count. Be sure to steam clean the carpeting and upholstery (unless you have leather upholstery) every couple of months, wipe down the interior with a damp cloth, throw out any trash daily, and be diligent about clutter control.

Roll the windows up — especially if the weatherman calls for rain. Dampness and carpeting are a dangerous mixture. The result — mold — can cause a plethora of health problems, ranging from allergy and asthma exacerbation to wooziness and even neurologic problems.

Make sure the air-conditioning system is draining properly. If the moisture builds up and doesn’t drain out, it provides an ideal breeding ground for mold.

Keep the air circulating. Say you’re driving a friend around who has a cold. If you don’t crack the window or open the outside vents, you’re just recirculating germ-laden air throughout your car, possibly setting yourself up for your own infection.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest