How to Clean and Sterilize Your Patrol Cars

By John-Michael Kibrick for Noble Pine Products

Cleanliness probably wasn’t the first thing you thought of when you swore to protect and serve your community. But when it comes to your patrol car, keeping things clean is an essential part of the job.

Why cleanliness is important

Most people like to keep their workspace clean, but as officers of the law, you have a special responsibility to do so, partly because so many people regularly enter and exit the patrol vehicles. Patrol cars are often shared among officers, and with each new shift many different people may occupy the back seat, including some for whom hygiene has become a low priority.

Do you know where they have been and what they have been in contact with?

A clean patrol car makes for a more pleasant environment and helps the police department maintain a positive image. But keeping your vehicle clean also protects you, your colleagues and your loved ones from dangers that spread from person to person: viruses, bacteria, mites, bed bugs and other visible and less visible threats.

Disinfection and sterilization

COVID-19 has taught the entire world a tough lesson about the importance of protecting against viruses and other microscopic lifeforms. Viruses are spread through droplets of saliva and can be transmitted through tiny particles in the air. Some viruses like hepatitis and HIV are present in blood, some of which may not be visible on the dark seats of a police cruiser. That’s why the most important habit to adopt when it comes to maintaining a clean patrol car is to regularly sterilize it with a powerful disinfectant

It should be standard practice to apply a disinfectant after each shift. You should also have a few tools on hand in the glove compartment to keep things clean as you work:

  • Plastic gloves

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Disinfectant

  • Medical mask

  • Wet wipes

  • Rag/sponge

When it comes to sterilizers and disinfectants, you’ll want a quick option that leaves no trace or odor on leather seating. Sterifab accomplishes this while also killing dangerous bacteria and other miniscule pests like ticks and mites.

Other cleaners with at least 70% isopropyl alcohol are also efficient disinfectants for cleaning between shifts, but make sure to avoid bleach, hydrogen peroxide and ammonia, all of which can help kill viruses and bacteria, but may damage the inside of a vehicle and lead to other problems like eye and skin irritation or even burns.

Keeping patrol cars clean

In addition to sterilizing patrol cars daily, you should vacuum and wash the cruisers regularly. This helps maintain the function, appearance and lifespan of the vehicles. 

Washing the exterior of a patrol car is fairly straightforward, like washing any car. If your department does not contract a local car washing service to do the job for you, you can go the old fashioned route. Grab some rags and a bucket of soapy water, and be sure to get into small spaces behind door handles. Hose down the cruiser, wipe it dry with a microfiber towel and then apply a layer of wax around the entire vehicle, including its wheels.

And here are some tips for cleaning the interior of a patrol vehicle:

  • Remove large items of trash, shake out floor mats and remove all items from the trunk

  • Vacuum in every crevice and corner, and under seats.

  • Apply a cleaning solution, especially to the steering wheel, dashboard and seats. Avoid harsh cleaning products such as bleach that can damage the upholstery

  • For leather interiors, apply conditioner to prevent cracking and fading

  • As a final touch, apply a disinfectant

While cleaning patrol cars may not be the most glamorous or well-known part of being a police officer, it’s an essential one. Patrol vehicles are often the face of a police department and the cruiser is one of an officer’s most important tools. Taking care of them protects you, the officers, and the communities you serve.

About the Author

John-Michael Kibrick is a writer, editor and Hebrew-English translator. Formerly a journalist and news editor for the Israeli publications Haaretz and Ynet, John-Michael has since expanded his knowledge to include pest control and disinfectants.