How to Clean Car Keys

When cleaning your car, it’s vital that you disinfect the most commonly touched surfaces, such as the wheel, dashboard, and door handles. They are a real breeding ground for all sorts of germs and nasties, so you want to keep them nice and clean at all times. And while you’re at it, you really need to learn how to clean car keys.

Car keys in the car lock.

I don’t know about you, but I usually only think about my car keys when I lose them or when they malfunction. However, it’s high time that both you and I pay our car keys some special attention.

Car Keys and Germs

If you are thinking of skipping on cleaning your car keys and clicking out of this page, please reconsider. From bacteria to viruses, car keys are positively covered in germs. In fact, they are a runner-up for the top five germiest things we touch on a daily basis, according to this Time article.

And, if you think about it, it does make perfect sense. Just consider the gazillion things and surfaces you touch every single time before hopping in the car and turning the key. From cash, door handles, and supermarket carts to elevator buttons, shoelaces (when was the last time you washed them?), and your smartphone (another germ super-spreader). Pretty scary, eh?

So, now that we are on the same page, it’s time to make cleaning your car keys a non-negotiable step of your car washing routine.

What You Will Need

First things first. Here is a list of the materials you will need to clean your car keys. The good news is that they are quite inexpensive. What’s more, you probably have most or all of them already lying around the house.

  • Multipurpose cleaning spray
  • Alcohol or alcohol-based disinfecting wipes
  • A towel or a microfiber cloth
  • A bowl
  • Dishwashing soap
  • A toothbrush or a small scrubbing brush

How to Clean Car Keys: A Step-By-Step Guide

1. Remove and Disinfect the Key Holder and the Fob

If you keep your car keys on a key holder that’s not made of metal or has some type of sensitive paint or coating, separate it from the keys.

If your car keys come with a plastic fob, remove that too. Otherwise, you risk damaging the sensitive electronics inside.  

Next, spray the key holder and the fob withan all-purpose cleaner or an alcohol-based spray. The spray should contain at least 60 to 70% alcohol.

Once you spray the solution on, don’t wipe it right away. That is such a common mistake most people do, but you don’t want to fall into that trap. If you don’t let the active ingredients work their magic for as long as required, they simply won’t do much.

Instead, read the label (crazy thought, I know) and let the solution stay for as long as it says in the instructions. In most cases, thirty seconds to a minute should do. Then, wipe the surfaces using a towel, a microfiber cloth, or disinfecting wipes.

2. Remove and Disinfect Any Accessories

You want to repeat the steps above for any accessories you may have hanging on your keyholder. However, make sure the materials and coating are disinfectant-safe. Alcohol and some chemicals may cause certain types of paint and inks to bleed.

If you have accessories made of fabric, such as plush animals, simply toss them in the washing machine with the rest of your laundry. And if you are one of those people who still carry rabbit feet around, please throw that thing away. They are hotbeds for germs, mites, and other nasties and are notoriously difficult to clean.

3. Clean the Keys

If you have metal car keys, separate them from any plastic and electronics.

Next, get a bowl and fill it with warm water. Squirt a few drops of your multipurpose cleaner or dishwashing soap. Then, place the keys in the bowl and let them soak for a couple of minutes.

Next, swish the keys around a bit and give them a good scrub using a toothbrush or a small household scrubbing brush. That should help loosen any stubborn grime and grease.

Finally, dry the keys and wipe them down using a towel, a microfiber cloth, or alcohol-based disinfecting wipes.

Assemble all the pieces back together, and you are all set!

Bonus Tips on Car Key Care

There’s more to car key care than simply cleaning them every now and then. Here are a few handy tips and tricks on how to better care for your car keys.

Replace the Battery Regularly 

Put up a reminder in your calendar to replace your car key battery once every couple of years, or as often as recommended by the manufacturer. Check out the video below for a quick tutorial on how to do that. However, keep in mind that the process may differ depending on your vehicle’s make and model.

And don’t forget to change the battery of your spare key, too (and make sure you get a spare key if you don’t have one already!).

A habit as simple as that could save you from some really unpleasant situations. You don’t want to end up locked out of your vehicle someplace far away from home or when running late for an important event. 

Check All the Locks

It’s also a good idea to form a habit of turning all your car’s locks once in a while to see if they are in good shape. That goes for the locks on all two or four doors, as well as those of the trunk and the glove compartment, if any.

Checking your car’s locks is especially important if your car has keyless entry. You don’t want to find yourself locked out of the vehicle after the battery in the remote suddenly dies on you. Trust me, that does happen.

Use Lubricating Spray in Cold Weather

If you live in a cold climate, invest in a dry film lubricating spray or 3-in-1 oil. You want to apply this on your car’s keyholes before the first frost kicks in. You should also reapply it on a regular basis throughout the winter. That should help keep the small bits and pieces inside dry and freely moving.

Know How to Deal with Frozen Locks

If your car locks freeze, that means there is some water or condensation in there. To melt it, place a hot water bottle over the lock for a few minutes. Then, apply some WD-40 to disperse the moisture and reduce the risk of freezing in the future.

Get Rid of That Heavy Keychain

What’s a tried-and-tested way to shorten the life of your vehicle’s ignition system? Using a bulky keychain that looks like you just mugged a janitor and took his keys. A heavy keychain will place undue pressure on the ignition column of the car’s starting system, which could lead to ignition issues further down the line.

Avoid Moisture at All Costs

Do not store your car keys in places with high levels of moisture. That could cause them to build rust, making them hard to clean.

Wash Your Hands

Ha, I bet you didn’t see this one coming! But hear me out: chances are that you do not clean your car keys as often as you should. And I get it — life can get busy and complicated. Plus, there are many other, much more pleasant ways to spend your time.

So, to make sure you do not transfer some nasties from your car keys over to your mouth, nose, or eyes, simply make sure to wash and disinfect your hands every time you touch your car keys.

Final Thoughts

Car keys can be something we don’t think much of when it comes to vehicle care. However, it is essential to keep them clean and sanitized as much as possible. That extends their shelf life, helps keep the car locks in good condition, and is good for our own health, too.

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