How to Clean Steering Wheel: Leather, Wood & Plastic

Ollie Barker

How to Clean Steering Wheel: Leather, Wood & Plastic

How to Clean Steering Wheel: Leather, Wood & Plastic

Whether you’re a car enthusiast or just drive occasionally, you’ve probably come across the necessity of cleaning your steering wheel. How to clean steering wheel? It’s easy to do and should be done regularly, but it requires a little bit of preparation.

In this blog post, I’ll provide instructions on how to clean your steering wheel, whether made from leather, wood, or plastic.

Why Do We Need to Clean the Steering Wheel?

Before you can understand how to clean your steering wheel, you need to know its purpose.  Indeed, there are so many benefits of cleaning your steering wheel, and we’ll give you some of them below:

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The steering wheel is touched every day. Since your hands are full of sweat, grease, and dirt while driving, there’s a big chance that all these will be transferred to the steering wheel. The only way to ensure good hygiene while driving is by washing your hands before touching the steering wheel.

Improves Aesthetics

If you’re as proud as I am of the aesthetics of your car, then you will want to clean your steering wheel at least once a year. This is an easy task that only requires a soft cloth and soap.

Lasts Longer

If you take good care of your steering wheel, you’ll notice that it lasts very long. Just like any other part of the car, the steering wheel needs proper care if you want it to last longer. Since most cars today are made using leather, this material tends to get really sticky and dirty with use. With regular washing, this material will remain soft and smooth for a very long time.

Basic Cleaning Methods for All Steering Wheel Types

Cleaning your steering wheel regularly is essential to maintain its appearance and prevent dirt, grime, and bacteria buildup. Here are the basic cleaning methods that can be applied to all types of steering wheels:

Pre-cleaning dust removal

Before starting the cleaning process, use a soft-bristle brush or a microfiber cloth to gently remove any loose dust, dirt, or debris from the surface of the steering wheel. This step helps prevent scratching the material during the cleaning process.

Choosing a suitable cleaning solution

Select a mild and non-abrasive cleaning solution appropriate for your steering wheel’s material. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners as they can damage the surface. For leather steering wheels, use a specially formulated leather cleaner. A mixture of mild soap and water can be effective for vinyl or rubber steering wheels.

Applying the cleaning solution

Moisten a clean microfiber cloth with the chosen cleaning solution. Make sure the cloth is damp, not soaking wet, to prevent excess moisture from seeping into the crevices or controls of the steering wheel.

Cleaning the surface

Gently wipe the entire surface of the steering wheel using a damp cloth. Pay attention to frequently touched areas, such as the grips and buttons. Use light pressure and circular motions to remove dirt and grime effectively. You may need to repeat this step or use a specialized cleaner for stubborn stains.

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Drying the steering wheel

After cleaning, use a separate dry microfiber cloth to wipe away any residual moisture from the steering wheel. Make sure to dry the surface to prevent water spots or streaks thoroughly. Pay extra attention to crevices and control buttons, ensuring they are completely dry to avoid any damage.

Following these basic cleaning methods lets you keep your steering wheel clean and well-maintained.

How to Clean Steering Wheel: Leather, Wood & Plastic

cleaning steering wheel

Leather Steering Wheel

Some people are more familiar with cleaning leather steering wheels than others. Even so, the process of how to clean a leather steering wheel is surprisingly simple.

Supplies Needed:

Rubbing Alcohol (If you don’t have time to take care of your steering wheel, use rubbing alcohol alone.)

  • Soft Cloth – Make sure that the cloth you’re using is as soft as possible. If not, you’ll end up scratching the steering wheel and damage it in the long run.
  • Soap – There are two types of soaps that you can use to clean your steering wheel. A mild soap that won’t leave residues on the steering wheel is the best. Do NOT use harsh soap. Otherwise, you might leave scratches or marks on your steering wheel.
  • Leather Conditioner (You can choose one with UV protection)

Steps to Follow

Step 1: Cleaning

  • You’ll want to start by removing all the dirt and grime with a wet cloth. Spray rubbing alcohol with a spray bottle and wipe it thoroughly with a soft cloth.
  • If there are still soap marks, use mild soap and wipe it clean.

Note: Do NOT rub too hard and do NOT spray directly on the steering wheel

Step 2: Drying

  • Allow the steering wheel to dry naturally.

Step 3: Applying Leather Conditioner

  • Once it’s scorched, apply leather cream or conditioner with a damp cloth all over the steering wheel.

Wood Steering Wheel

Wood is not as common as leather, but some models use wood steering wheels. The process is quite similar to cleaning leather ones, but instead of using a leather conditioner, we’ll use wood polish in Step 3.

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Wood polish will keep the steering wheel looking nice and clean.

Plastic Steering Wheel

Plastic steering wheels can be found in many different models these days.
With this being the case, knowing how to clean plastic steering wheels correctly is essential.

Supplies needed:

  • Water
  • Soap
  • Soft cloths
  1. You’ll first want to clean the steering wheel with a wet cloth then wipe it dry with a soft dry cloth.
  2. After that, you can apply some soap to your steering wheel if there are still soap marks.
  3. If you’ve experienced too much grease or oil on your steering wheel, you can apply toothpaste to it to remove all traces of grease or oil.
  4. The toothpaste will break the greasy surface and make it easier for water to clean it off.
  5. Finally, dry it with a clean cloth.

Check out This Video for How to Repair Vinyl Steering Wheel!

Common Mistakes When Cleaning Steering Wheel

When cleaning a steering wheel, there are common mistakes that people should be aware of to avoid potential damage or ineffective cleaning. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Using harsh or abrasive cleaners: Using cleaners that are too harsh or abrasive can damage the surface of the steering wheel, especially if it is made of delicate materials like leather or wood. Avoid using cleaners with ammonia, bleach, or strong chemicals that can cause discoloration, cracking, or drying out of the material.
  2. Neglecting to read manufacturer recommendations: Different steering wheels may have specific cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer. Neglecting to read and follow these recommendations can lead to unintended consequences. Always consult the owner’s manual or manufacturer guidelines to ensure you are using the appropriate cleaning methods and products.
  3. Using excessive water or cleaning solution: Over-saturating the steering wheel with water or cleaning solution can cause damage, particularly to electrical components if the steering wheel has built-in controls. Excess moisture can seep into the crevices and controls, potentially leading to malfunctions or electrical issues. Use a damp cloth or sponge rather than soaking the steering wheel.
  4. Neglecting to dry the steering wheel properly: After cleaning, it is crucial to thoroughly dry the steering wheel. Leaving moisture on the surface can lead to water spots, streaks, mold, and mildew growth. Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to ensure the steering wheel is completely dry, paying attention to crevices and control buttons.
  5. Skipping regular cleaning and maintenance: Neglecting regular cleaning and maintenance can allow dirt, oils, and grime to accumulate on the steering wheel, making it more difficult to clean in the future. Regularly clean your steering wheel to maintain its appearance and prevent the buildup of contaminants that can potentially cause damage.
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By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure effective and safe cleaning of your steering wheel, prolonging its lifespan and keeping it in excellent condition.

Tips to Care for Steering Wheel

Cleaning your steering wheel regularly will help keep it looking nice for long. However, there are a few other things that you can do to maintain your steering wheel’s good condition.

# Keep It Moisture

Understand that your steering wheel needs moisture to stay safe. Steering wheels give you precise control over the car when driving. When they’re dry, it can be quite dangerous if water is spilled on them.

# Keep Your Hands Clean

Avoid getting your hands dirty while driving. If you’re in a rush, you must wash your hands before touching the steering wheel. Get into the habit of doing this even if you need to do it multiple times in one day.

# Wipe off Stains As Soon As Possible

If there are grease marks on your steering wheel, make sure that you wipe them off when cleaning. Grease stains can be tough to get off, so make sure they are gone when cleaning the steering wheel.

# Avoid Using Abrasive

Avoid using anything abrasive if possible. If you want to know how to clean your steering wheel, then avoid using anything abrasive. This is because this can cause scratches on the plastic or wood material of the steering wheel, making it ugly and even dangerous to use.

# Use Leather Conditioner with UV Protection

Consider using a leather conditioning cream for your steering wheel. These creams can help keep your steering wheel looking new for a long time. Plus, they have UV protection, which is great if you have a limited budget for maintaining your car’s interior.

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Check out This Video for How to Clean Stained Leather Steering Wheel!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use household cleaning products on my steering wheel?

Using household cleaning products on your steering wheel is not recommended as they can be too harsh and abrasive for the materials. Household cleaners may contain chemicals that can damage or discolor the steering wheel’s surface. It’s best to use cleaning products specifically designed for automotive interiors or ones recommended by the manufacturer.

How often should I clean my steering wheel?

To maintain a clean and hygienic steering wheel, it is recommended to clean it at least once every month. However, if you frequently eat, drink, or have dirty hands while driving, it may be necessary to clean it more often. Regularly inspect the steering wheel for any visible dirt, stains, or buildup, and clean it promptly to prevent long-term damage.

Is it safe to use alcohol-based cleaners?

Using alcohol-based cleaners on your steering wheel should be avoided. Alcohol can potentially dry out and damage certain materials like leather or vinyl, leading to cracks or discoloration over time. Instead, opt for mild and non-abrasive cleaners specifically formulated for automotive interiors, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Can I clean my steering wheel while it’s still in the car?

Yes, you can clean your steering wheel while it’s still in the car. However, exercise caution and ensure that you do not wet any electrical components or controls. Use a minimal amount of cleaning solution and avoid excessive moisture. If possible, disconnecting the battery before cleaning is recommended to prevent accidental activation of controls.

How can I remove a foul odor from my steering wheel?

To remove a foul odor from your steering wheel, thoroughly clean the surface using a mild cleaning solution suitable for your material. Afterward, consider using an odor neutralizer specifically designed for automotive interiors. You can also try placing odor-absorbing materials like activated charcoal or baking soda near the steering wheel to help absorb any lingering odors.

Is it necessary to condition a leather steering wheel?

Conditioning a leather steering wheel is highly recommended as it helps to keep the leather supple and prevents it from drying out or cracking. Use a leather conditioner that is specifically formulated for automotive leather. Apply the conditioner following the manufacturer’s instructions, evenly distributing it across the steering wheel’s surface.

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What should I do if my steering wheel is sticky?

If your steering wheel feels sticky, it may be due to dirt, oils, or residues buildup. Start by cleaning the steering wheel using a mild cleaning solution suitable for your steering wheel material. Gently scrub the surface to remove the stickiness. If the stickiness persists, you may need to use a specialized automotive interior cleaner or seek professional assistance.

Can I use baby wipes to clean my steering wheel?

While baby wipes may seem convenient, avoiding using them to clean your steering wheel is best. Baby wipes are not specifically formulated for automotive surfaces and may contain ingredients that can harm the steering wheel’s materials. Instead, opt for cleaning products designed for automotive interiors that are safe for your steering wheel material.

How do I clean a steering wheel with built-in controls?

When cleaning a steering wheel with built-in controls, it’s important to exercise caution to avoid damaging the controls or electrical components. Use a mild cleaning solution suitable for your steering wheel material and apply it with a soft cloth, avoiding excessive moisture. Do not directly spray or apply the cleaning solution on the controls. Gently clean around the controls, ensuring not to disrupt their functionality. If you’re unsure, it’s recommended to consult the vehicle’s manual or seek professional assistance.

Can I clean the leather steering wheel with alcohol?

It is generally not recommended to clean a leather steering wheel with alcohol. While alcohol can effectively remove certain types of stains or spots, it can also dry out and potentially damage the leather. Leather is a delicate material that requires gentle care to maintain its texture and appearance.

Final Words

I hope that you can see the importance of maintaining your steering wheel. If you take care of it, the steering wheel will be durable and last you for a long time. Because this is an important part of your car, it’s best if you take good care of it.

Use this guide in case you need to know how to clean leather or plastic steering wheels in the future.