Disinfectant Kills Viruses But the Wrong One May Just Kill Your Instrument Panel

Disinfectant Kills Viruses But the Wrong One May Just Kill Your Instrument Panel


We’re all for great hygiene when it comes to flying. And especially now, it’s always a great idea to disinfect an aircraft both before and after your trip.

However, if there’s one tip we can give you on this, it would be to make sure you are using the right cleaning solution.

An aircraft renter in Tampa, Fla. learned this the hard way after he rented two Cessna 172s and used a distillery-produced disinfectant to wipe everything down. While alcohol-based liquids like the one he used are great for disinfecting hands, they can be downright destructive when it comes to airplane avionics, instrument panels, and other components of aircraft interiors.

In this case, the distillery-made disinfectant did a real number on the factory paint. Apparently, the customer may have over-sprayed the disinfectant, which wreaked havoc when it baked in the hot Florida sun, permanently pock-marking the panels of a 2001 Skyhawk 172SP and a 2005 Skyhawk 172R.

In order to restore the damaged paint, every radio, all avionics, switches, and other items, had to be completely removed so the panels could be resurfaced. A costly and time-consuming undertaking, to say the least.

According to the CDC, although certain forms of alcohol are useful in controlling surface bacteria, the substance has “shortcomings” that can harm medical equipment, electronic devices, and other sensitive avionics equipment. There’s also mounting evidence that they can damage the shellac mountings of lensed instruments. Prolonged or repeated use can eventually swell and harden rubber and certain plastic tubing.

If all this sounds familiar to you, it’s because pretty much all of those things can be found in aircraft instrument panels and other interior parts used by pilots, crew, or passengers.

So, if you can’t use distillery disinfectant, then what should you use?

Some experts suggest that disinfectant solutions of 70% isopropyl alcohol provide the best combination of bactericidal effectiveness and equipment safety. That is, as long as they don’t contain ammonia.

While sanitizing solution made from distilled spirits will kill just about anything, please remember, that also includes your aircraft panels. Please exercise caution when selecting your disinfectant solutions in order to maintain the cleanliness and preserve the quality of your aircraft and its avionics.