Share on Facebook

10 Things You’ll Need in Your Car from Now On

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. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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

On-the-go essentials

With vaccines being distributed and the end of the coronavirus pandemic in sight, it’s more important now than ever to stay vigilant and follow expert guidelines so we don’t find ourselves taking steps backward on our quest for a healthier world. You have the best-reviewed cleaning products on Amazon and plenty of face masks— you may even want to try wearing two, but how else 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.

Hand Sanitizervia amazon.com

Hand sanitizer

Shop Now

“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.

WipesPlus Disinfecting Wipesvia amazon.com

Disinfectant wipes

Shop Now

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 door handle when you get back home, so your car is disinfected properly for your next drive.

While people tend to trust more popular brands like Lysol and Clorox, generic wipes will also do the trick. These wipes, for example, are water-based, making them safe to the touch and also independently lab certified for a quick clean. 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.

Soap via amazon.com

Soap

Shop Now

Yep, we’re talking about regular, old bar soap. While this may not be as user-friendly as hand sanitizer, it’s always a great idea to have a backup. 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.

First Aid Only 299 Piece All Purpose First Aid Kitvia amazon.com

First-aid kit

Shop Now

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. While you stock up on these essential items, make sure you don’t panic buy, as it may cause more harm than good.

Maskvia oldnavy.gap.com

Masks

Shop Now

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. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, puts that estimate at around 40 percent. 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 warm weather!

Tissuesvia target.com

Tissues

Shop Now

Of course, coronavirus isn’t the only thing going around right now. Whether you have allergies, a cold, a random runny nose, or a 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.

Paper Towelsvia target.com

Paper towels

Shop Now

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.

Disinfecting Sprayvia vitacost.com

Disinfecting spray

Shop Now

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.

Just Wireless 2-Port Usb-A Car Chargervia target.com

Phone charger

Shop Now

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. Check out these 15 cell phone accessories you’ll also use every day.

Care Touch Lens Cleaning Wipesvia amazon.com

Lens-cleaning wipes

Shop Now

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 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 our new world.

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

Sources

  • Charles Gerba, University of Arizona
  • CDC: “How to Protect Yourself & Others”
  • CDC: “When and How to Wash Your Hands”
  • NBC News: “Asymptomatic COVID-19 cases may be more common than suspected”
  • CNBC: “More than 80% of coronavirus patients on a cruise ship did not have any symptoms, new study says”
  • American Lung Association: “How Fast Is a Sneeze Versus a Cough? Cover Your Mouth Either Way!”
  • EurekAlert: “Small study shows paper towels much more effective at removing viruses than hand dryers”
  • EPA: “List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19)”

Stacey Marcus
Stacey Marcus is a regular contributor to RD.com where she covers subjects ranging from penguin secrets to Jeopardy! conundrums. Stacey’s work has also appeared on FamilyHandyman.com and TheHealthy.com as well as in top regional and national outlets including Boston magazine, Boston Common Magazine, Destination I Do, Ocean Home Magazine, and Playboy.com. She earned a BA in Communications from Simmons University.

Newsletter Unit

CMU Unit

cover
Subscribe & SAVE Save Up To 84%!