The Average American Spends 17,600 Minutes or 293 Hours in Their Car Per Year.1.
By Cesar Collado
The inside of your car is an ecosystem in itself. It has its own climate, biology, and setting. It has its own HVAC system and regularly cycles air from the outdoors in when cooling and heating your automobile. We routinely turn our HVAC system on and off abruptly. When we exit our cars, we stop ventilation by closing our doors and windows. And, just like in a home, a lack of air ventilation and circulation can lead to mold.
Vehicles are also much more susceptible to outdoor humidity as humid air enters the car when doors and windows are opened—which happens frequently and cannot be avoided. Cars can experience leaks around doors and windows as well. While the AC removes moisture from the air when running, it is not on a continuous cycle, like the system in your home, and the common abrupt stopping of the system is incredibly inefficient.
The “setting” or insides of a car can also be problematic, because they are lined with upholstery, leather, carpet, and other materials that can trap moisture and organic matter, like soils and dust in specific places. Adhesives, padding, and other materials used in cars often become mold food as they are porous, organic materials.
With the mold often more concentrated in the much closer quarters of a car, you can readily see why a contaminated car can be an equal contributor to your sinusitis or mold sensitivities. The good news is that many of the same principles used to address mold in the home apply to your car ecosystem as well. Taking the following steps can help to solve this issue and to prevent a mold issue in your car that could perpetuate or cause illness:
- Find the source of moisture and fix it. Otherwise, any efforts to clean or remediate will only be temporary.
- Test the car for mold. Mold exists in higher concentrations when enclosed in close quarters. EC3 Mold Screening Test Plates are effective for both air and tap tests of upholstery and carpets.
- Do not clean surfaces only or use bleach or ammonia. This will provide only temporary benefit as they do not penetrate porous materials, can damage the appearance of your car, can be chemically harmful to your body, and ultimately, will cause mold to grow back.
- If the HVAC system is contaminated, it must be addressed. Otherwise, the accumulation of mold in the air filter and ventilation systems will continue to distribute spores freely throughout the closed quarters.
- Understand that severely contaminated or water damaged interiors may not be savable. For sensitive patients, replacing the car may be the only solution.
- Understand that some cars have more mold problems than others. It is helpful to check “chat boards” specific to your make and model to learn about these issues.
- Take safety precautions when addressing mold in your car. Because of the close quarters, use of an N95 mask and gloves is essential.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Car with Visible Mold and Minor Contamination
There are a whole host of methods you can find on the web to address visible mold in your car. Unfortunately, many of these solutions will only address relatively minor contamination. You can find home remedies like vinegar, salt, and other cleaning products to clean and vacuum the mold away. Using toxic chemicals carries its own dangers to deal with and is not recommended. Regular vacuuming with a HEPA filter is also helpful in removing mold from your car. Many inexpensive portable vacuums will recirculate the mold directly back into the immediate air. One exception (in my opinion) is that you can also utilize the giant cannister vacuums available at self-serve car washes. While they are not HEPA vacuums, they have powerful suction and the debris is deposited in the large cannisters outdoors and away from your car and home.
I recommend use of EC3 Mold Solution (spray or EC3 SANI+TIZER Fogger) throughout the interior. Placing an EC3 Air Purification Candle in the interior for a period of time (supervised) can also be tremendously helpful to limit mold exposure prior to driving.
Cars with Severe Contamination and Mold Odors
If mold has gotten a foothold and is colonizing in your car, it is essential to identifying the source of the moisture and have it fixed. You should consider finding an authorized dealer of your make and model as they are familiar with leaks commonly found in your particular car. Only after the moisture source is addressed, can you effectively remediate the car.
Following fixing the moisture problem, I strongly suggest you have the dealer do a complete interior detail in your car. In this case, I suggest you look for a new car dealer (that also sells used cars) to remediate and remove mold from your car. Resale of trade-in cars are the highest margin sales a dealer can make. Auto dealerships that detail for re-sale of cars make every effort to make it just like new and often have access to other professionals that can repair body or touch up paint. The commercial use of ozone is sometimes used as a one of the most powerful oxidizing agents known and the only agent to remove odors from smoking. Be cautious if ozone is used! It can have a continued harmful effect to your respiratory system and damage some functional items in the car.
The cars upholstery and interior should be cleaned thoroughly. Dealers often use a steam cleaning solution with a “commercial” steam cleaner. These cleaners operate at much higher temperatures (240 degrees plus). Ultra-hot steam will kill all germs and evaporate almost immediately. The high heat will also break down minerals in tap water and provide a “sand blasting” effect with the particles to clean. Only ultra-hot steam should be used in the car. It should also be allowed to completely dry.
If you are chemically sensitive, it is critical that you ask anyone cleaning your car to not use air fresheners or scented cleaners in your car. These are chemical odors to mask other smells. This includes the “New Car” smell.
Addressing Your Car’s Ventilation
If your car has a severe mold problem, it is highly likely that your AC and Heating system is involved in the migration of moldfrom the outdoors into the car. The first and most important thing that can be done is to replace the cabin air filter. This prevents mold in your system, but is also where mold accumulates. The air filter is usually located behind your glove box. Check your manual or have a mechanic replace the filter. A carbon filter is by far superior.
An effective way to reach and flush the “sinuses” in your car is to treat
your ventilation system with EC3 Mold spray. Flushing the intake and HVAC ducts and ventilation system is relatively easy. Most car HVAC systems will have a button to recirculate air. This allows the car to recirculate cooler or warmer air during different climate conditions. Flushing the ventilations systems should be done both with the recirculation button on and off. Here is how to go about doing this:
- Replace or have a mechanic replace the air filter. It is located inside the glove box on the back on most cars. Check your owner’s manual for specific directions for your car.
- The external air comes into the car from ventilation ducts located below the windshield. Air flows through the AC or heat, then through the vents in your car.
- Start your car and turn the AC to the anti-fog setting. This draws the outside air in through the outside vents located below your windshield. While the anti-fog fans are running, spray EC3 Mold Spray into the intake
vents below your windshield. This will aerosolize EC3 Mold Spray and it will flow through the air ducts into the car. It leaves a mild and fresh smell without chemicals.
- Open the car front doors and press the recirculate button. Spray the EC3 Mold Spray into the intake vents under the dashboard.. There will usually be one below the glove box near the console on the passenger side. ( it can also be on the driver’s side above the pedals. After spraying, allow the HVAC to run for a few minutes in high HVAC settings to ensure maximum dispersal of the EC3 Mold Spray throughout the system and your car.
Why is This So Important?
Because we spend so much time inside our cars, exposure to mold can severely impact our health. Once our systems are exposed and our body’s immune system reacts, symptoms can occur quickly and dissipate slowly. Dr. Dennis, in one of his seminar presentations, presents a “before and after video of a patient who was severely ill with motor-skill impairments impacting his ability to walk. The video shows after treatment, where the patient is healthy and able to walk normally. He then shows a video of the same patient, coming to see the Dr. for a follow up appointment, having motor function problems as serious as before. The patient had rented a moldy car from the airport and was exposed for 30 minutes! Clear evidence that minutes in a moldy car can have a significant negative impact on your health.
1. “Americans Spend an Average of 17,600 Minutes Driving Each Year”, AAA Newsletter, September 8, 2016.