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10 Things You’ll Need in Your Car Even After Lockdown Ends

Make no mistake about it: We're still in the middle of a pandemic. To stay safe, take the proper precautions, and don't leave home without these items.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.

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A woman driving her vehicle wearing latex gloves and a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

On-the-go essentials

Just because lockdowns are lifting across the country, it doesn’t mean we should let our guards down. In fact, it’s more important than ever to stay vigilant and follow expert guidelines so we don’t find ourselves in the middle of a second wave of coronavirus. But how can we stay safe as we venture back into the outside world and try to resume some semblance of normal life? By always being prepared and keeping our cars fully stocked with some smart items, says Charles Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist and public health researcher at the University of Arizona, who earned the nickname Dr. Germ while fighting SARS and Ebola. Here’s what you should keep on hand—and keep in mind.

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Hand Sanitizervia amazon.com

Hand sanitizer

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“You should have hand sanitizer handy when you return from a public place like the grocery store,” says Gerba, who uses hand sanitizer four to five times a day. Hand hygiene is an essential part of combating coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since it prevents us from inadvertently spreading germs from our hands to our faces. Of course, we don’t always have access to soap and water, which is why it’s so important to keep hand sanitizer in your car.

This Amber and Black hand sanitizer is an antibacterial gel that contains aloe, Vitamin E, and glycerin to soothe irritated hands and keep them from drying out. It also is comprised of 70 percent alcohol, which falls in an effective category for killing germs. (The CDC recommends at least a 60 percent concentration.) If your hands have been feeling particularly dry lately, you might also want to add one of these hand creams with nearly perfect reviews to your car kit.

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Disinfectant Wipesvia amazon.com

Disinfectant wipes

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Premoistened disinfectant wipes are Gerba’s weapon of choice when it comes to fighting coronavirus. It’s particularly effective, he says, because the active ingredients stay on the surface as it air-dries, killing more bacteria and germs. One spot that he believes you should regularly wipe down in your car? The dashboard. It has the highest level of bacteria since the outside air comes in through the vents. It’s also a good idea to wipe down your steering wheel and doors handle when you get back home, so your car is disinfected properly for your next drive.

While it’s can be a challenge to find popular brands like Lysol and Clorox these days, generic wipes will also do the trick. These wipes, for example, contain 75 percent alcohol and are great for cleaning large areas. One caveat: You have to use the wipes properly so you don’t accidentally spread germs. These are the 10 mistakes you’re probably making with antibacterial wipes.

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Soap via amazon.com

Soap

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Yep, we’re talking about regular, old bar soap. While this may not be as user-friendly as hand sanitizer, it’s not always easy to find hand sanitizer during a pandemic. This is great in a pinch, and, notes Gerba, you can easily fit it in your purse or a small tote, filled with these essentials, that you keep in your car. Of course, you’ll also need some bottled water to go along with it. “My wife never goes anywhere without at least three to five gallons of water,” says Gerba. If you don’t want to keep quite that much water in your car, a smaller amount will do for a sanitizing emergency. When washing, remember to follow the five steps recommended by the CDC: wetting your hands, lathering them up, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds, rinsing your hands, and drying them.

Aside from coronavirus, these are the diseases you can prevent just by washing your hands.

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First Aid Kitvia amazon.com

First-aid kit

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Coronavirus or not, you should keep one of these in your car. “A first-aid kit is always essential, as you never know when you are going to need it,” says Gerba, adding that now it may be more important than ever. The gloves alone make it worth it. After all, he explains, you may have to help somebody in an emergency or touch something that may have been contaminated with coronavirus germs. Plus, if you’re injured, covering and disinfecting wounds right away can help to protect you from getting an infection that may weaken your immune system. This portable first aid kit contains almost 300 essential first aid supplies—including bandages, burn cream, cold packs, pain relievers, and, of course, the gloves. Here are another 15 travel accessories to solve every on-the-go emergency.

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Maskvia oldnavy.gap.com

Masks

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You didn’t think we were going to leave these out, did you? While a mask may not protect you from contracting coronavirus, it can help you from spreading it to others, something that’s important since many people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic. The CDC puts that estimate around 35 percent, though two new studies indicate it could be much higher. Plus, notes Gerba, wearing a mask also keeps you from touching your nose and mouth.

The key, however, is to avoid these common mistakes people often make with face masks—like putting it on and taking it off incorrectly or not washing it enough. “Make sure that you have more than one mask and don’t keep using the same one over and over,” says Gerba. If you carry a few extras in the car, you’ll always have a fresh one handy. This five-pack of reusable cloth masks from Old Navy features an array of colors, patterns, and prints. Soft, breathable, and super cute for summer!

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Tissuesvia target.com

Tissues

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Of course, coronavirus isn’t the only thing going around right now. Whether you have allergies, a cold, or a random runny nose or tickle in your throat, sometimes you just need a tissue. For that reason, Gerba thinks it’s wise to have tissues handy. Whether you’re in private or public, covering your sneeze or cough can reduce germ spread, notes the CDC. Believe it or not, a cough can travel at 50 mph, while a sneeze can reach speeds of 100 mph and produce more than 100,000 droplets! Once you’re done with your tissue, make sure to discard it in the trash and properly disinfect your hands. This travel-size pack of tissues is perfect to tuck in your purse, pocket, or glove compartment.

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Paper Towelsvia target.com

Paper towels

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Paper towels are always a good idea to have in your car—think accidental spills and sick kids, for starters—but they’re even more of a must-have in post-lockdown life. Drying your hands after washing them can help stop the transmission of germs, and in fact, a recent study found that paper towels were more effective than jet air dryers at eliminating microbes when drying hands that weren’t properly washed. Gerba likes to keep them handy for random situations like washing your hands with soap when you don’t have wipes.

For a different type of safety, never leave these 15 things in your car.

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Disinfecting Sprayvia vitacost.com

Disinfecting spray

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If you’re headed into the office, you can’t be complacent. You’ll want to clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched—like your cubicle divider, office doorknob, phone, and keyboard. Depending on your particular office situation, you might want to bring your own. It’s also good for your car, of course, if you don’t have wipes; use them to clean the dashboard, handles, radio controls, and other spots you may have touched.

Before you buy, though, make sure the product is on the EPA’s List N, a compilation of disinfectants that the agency believes effectively combats SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Seventh Generation’s citrus-and-lemongrass-scented multi-surface cleaner fits the bill and kills 99.99 percent of household germs. Unlike Clorox and Lysol, its active ingredient is thymol, an all-natural botanical derived from thyme oil. Since it doesn’t give off noxious fumes, it’s a particularly good choice for small spaces like your car and office. Here are more hospital-grade cleaning supplies for you to choose from.

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Phone Chargervia target.com

Phone charger

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In our new normal, we’re attempting to limit our time in public places, and some of that entails letting others know when we’ve arrived for an appointment or checking an app to pick up groceries, dinner, or products at a store. Now, it can be more than just a minor inconvenience if your phone runs out of juice while you’re out and about. Keeping a charger in your car will ensure that you don’t run into a problem. This ultra-strong and reliable car charger with a lightning cable is compatible with all Apple devices and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Check out these 15 cell phone accessories you’ll also use every day.

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Lens Wipesvia amazon.com

Lens-cleaning wipes

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If you wear glasses, you know that they pose a particular challenge when you’re wearing a mask. They tend to fog up when you’re doing the simplest things, making it impossible to see and also making it more likely that you’ll transmit germs to your face as you try to wipe them off. But there’s a solution: de-fogging cleaning wipes. These individually wrapped, FDA-approved lens wipes will sidestep that problem, and they won’t scratch your glasses either. Toss a few in your glove compartment so you can have 20/20 vision to navigate 2020’s new world.

For more on this developing situation, including what to expect post-lockdown, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.