How to Clean a Leather Steering Wheel

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Your steering is probably the most touched part of your car and obviously when something is used that often, it is prone to germs, dirt and grime. They come in different variations of materials and coatings, but the principle of cleaning is the same for all. Here’s how to clean a leather steering wheel, shiny and germ-free.

So, how does that work if you have a leather steering wheel. Yes, you will indeed have to be bit extra careful when it comes to cleaning the leather. However, you shouldn’t worry too much as the process is pretty simple and straightforward.

The only thing is to be a more delicate in your approach in comparison to steering wheels made of other materials such as plastic, vinyl, wood or aluminum as leather can get damaged if the cleaning process is done completely wrong.

Enough of this, let’s get to the actual cleaning process.

How To Clean A Leather Steering Wheel – Oily, Dirty Or Sticky!

Source: reddit

If your steering wheel is oily, sticky or has become dirty in any other way you should follow the steps below.

First of all, you will need to prepare your work area and the materials you have need at hand. It’s best to do this outdoors or somewhere with proper ventilation as it is not that easy to remove the cleaning solution with the air pressure

Materials Needed

You will need a: 

  • Clean rag, paper towels
  • Leather cleaner or Dishwashing Liquid 
  • Stiff bristled brush or a Scotch Brite Pad
  • Water in a spray bottle
  • Plastic Trim Restorer or Interior UV Protectant

Steps to Follow In Clean a Leather Steering Wheel

Do the following in order to clean your leather steering wheel:

Step 1: Prepare your work station and gather all the cleaning materials you will need.

Step 2: If your steering wheel is really dirty or sticky make sure to remove as much of the dirt and grime first as you can. Use a damp rag and wipe the areas that are oily, sticky or have been marked with thick grease from food spills. You might have to repeat this step quite a few times if there’s a lot of grease but don’t be too harsh otherwise you will damage the leather fibers. Also try not to let water drip down into any holes on the steering wheel as it may cause electrical malfunctions in modern cars.

Step 3: Now you can actually apply some cleaning solution onto a cloth or sponge, depending on what material your steering wheel is made of. Use the spray to get your scrubber damp. 

Step 4: Gently dab the damp cloth or sponge onto the leather and start to rub it as you would do if you were polishing a shoe or any other piece of footwear for that matter. Be gentle and don’t press too hard. If your steering wheel has leather inserts, clean those ones separately as they should not be exposed to too much pressure. Of course, if the surface texture is rough then you should scrub that part a bit more thoroughly than usual and use circular motions in order to remove stubborn dirt faster.

Step 5: Repeat step 4 until all surfaces are uniformly clean and free from grease and grime, wipe down and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Step 6: After you’re done with cleaning all surfaces it’s time to give them some protection against future dirt and grime. Use a UV protectant or plastic trim restorer as this will keep the leather from fading, cracking or drying out which is extremely important as you want to maintain the look of your car’s interior as it was when you first bought it.

Also Read: 6 Easy Steps On How to Clean a Car Air Filter

How To Restore Your Shiny Leather Steering Wheel To Its Former Glory

After a good and thorough clean, the steering wheel might be looking pretty dull or even brown in some areas. That happens for two reasons: firstly some of the dye may have come off due to prolonged use and secondly, all this scrubbing with various chemicals might have removed some of the vinyl protective of the leather.

If you are unhappy with how your steering wheel looks or feels after cleaning it then don’t panic as restoring it to its former glory is an easy task that only needs a little vinyl or leather restorer. Depending on the condition of your steering wheel you might have to repeat the process a few times but in the end it will definitely look better than before.

Materials You’ll Need 

Plastic Tarp, Alcohol-based wipe (Optional)

Leather or Vinyl Restorer 

Microfiber Cloths/Cotton Cloths 

Polishing Sponge with Handle (Optional) 

Steps To Follow

Step 1: Prepare your work station and gather all the materials you will need to restore your steering wheel.

Step 2: Cover your dashboard or any other surface with old newspaper or some plastic tarp to make sure you don’t effect them while restoring the steering wheel.

Step 3: Wipe the dust off the steering wheel with a clean dry cloth or if you prefer, with some alcohol-based wipe and let dry in this case. 

Step 4: Spray a good amount of leather or vinyl restorer onto a microfiber cloth and work it into your steering wheel thoroughly rubbing the surface with circular motions. If there are any dirty patches, rub those ones vigorously until they disappear.

Step 5: Repeat step 4 until you’re satisfied with the appearance of your steering wheel, it should now be slightly shinier than before.

Step 6: After you finish applying the restorer, wipe off any excess with a clean microfiber cloth and let dry overnight and repeat the process a every three to four months if you wish. 

Note: Be careful not to damage or let any fluids seep into the steering wheel controls. If you get some cleaner on any of the dials or controls on your steering wheel use a damp cloth to remove it immediately.

Also Read: How to Clean a Catalytic Converter Without Removing it

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can you use Clorox wipes on a leather steering wheel?

No, they will make the leather hard and remove some of the protective coating. One should never use household cleaners on a car’s interior as they might cause damage to various surfaces. Always make sure you read the label of a cleaning product before applying it onto any surface.

Are steering wheel covers washable?

In most cases, no, but it really depends on the material used to make it. You can try hand washing them in warm soapy water if you are brave enough. Although it’s better not to wash them as this will decrease the chances of them staying put and fitting correctly.

Would baby wipes work on the leather steering wheel?

Yes, baby wipes are great for cleaning leather steering wheels. Avoid using household cleaners or any other type of chemicals as they may have an adverse effect on your leather.

Is it okay to use a magic eraser on leather seats?

Yes, in most cases it will be okay to use magic erasers on upholstered surfaces. As long as they are non-abrasive you should be fine scrubbing away at stains or dirt. 

Also Read: Best Wheel Cleaner


Leather steering wheels can look and feel great, but after a while they lose that new sheen. If you decide to clean your steering wheel then make sure you follow the steps mentioned above and apply some leather or vinyl restorer once you’re done. If you are unhappy with how it looks or feels after cleaning, you can always repeat the process until you’re pleased. However, if your steering wheel is really old then I would recommend purchasing a new one instead of trying to restore an old one.

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