How to Clean a Sticky & Shiny Steering Wheel

Leather steering wheels can easily start to feel sticky and shiny due to all the oils, dirt and sweat absorbed by the material from our hands. By cleaning and degreasing the steering wheel, it will feel smooth and look matte, instead of being sticky and shiny.

In this article I’ll explain exactly how to clean a leather steering wheel, and some crucial things to avoid which can damage the surface irreversibly.

Dirty, sticky steering wheel
Clean, smooth steering wheel

How to Clean a Sticky Steering Wheel

The best way to clean a sticky and shiny leather steering wheel is to use dedicated leather cleaner and leather brush. This safety removes the dirt and oils from the surface but without damaging the leather.

At this point I know there will be some people who are reading this and looking for shortcuts and DIY alternatives. I would strongly advise against doing this, because automotive leather is a delicate material and can easily be damaged.

With that in mind, here are some things you need to keep in mind

  • Do not use household cleaners. Only ever use automotive leather cleaner, or an automotive interior cleaner which states that it’s safe on leather surfaces.
  • Do not use magic erasers or other abrasive substances. These remove the top coat on the leather which protects the material and stops it feeling sticky as quickly.
  • Do not apply excessive force when cleaning the surface. Light pressure is fine, and if you find that the leather is not clean after the first try, simply repeat the process.
  • Do not spray leather cleaner directly onto the steering wheel as this will cause overspray which can get into difficult areas. Instead, spray it on your brush.
Before cleaning
After cleaning

Recommended Products to Clean a Steering Wheel

This section contains product affiliate links. We may receive a commission if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links.

Here are my favourite products for cleaning leather steering wheels:

  • Colourlock Leather Brush (link)
  • Leather Repair Company LRC1 Cleaner (link)
  • The Rag Company Edgeless 300 Towel (link)

You can choose different brands if you’d like. My recommended brands for leather cleaners and brushes are Colourlock, The Leather Repair Company, and Geist.

You can use any microfiber towel you’d like too. I like these TRC Edgeless 300 towels because they don’t product lint and are nice and soft. Just make sure that you use a microfiber towel which is clean and dry.

In the next sections I’ll take you through the steps to follow and some tips along the way.

Step #1 Cover the Dials

This is really important because the cleaning process can be a little messy and you don’t want any leather cleaner being flicked onto the dials as they are really difficult to clean. The best thing to do is just throw your microfiber towel over the top of them so they’re fully covered.

Step #2 Spray the Leather Cleaner on Your Brush

Next, spray the leather cleaner liberally on your brush. You don’t want the brush to be dripping with chemical as this will create a mess, but you do want a decent bit of cleaner on there so you aren’t dry-brushing the leather. 4-5 sprays is usually sufficient to prime the brush, and then you can always add an extra spray or two later on.

Step #3 Gently Brush the Leather

Take your leather brush and gently work the cleaner into the steering wheel. Don’t apply much pressure, just let the brush do the work. Make sure you get all around the steering wheel to give it a complete clean. Spend about 1-2 minutes on this step.

Step #4 Wipe the Cleaner Away

The leather cleaner and brush should have lifted the oils and dirt from the surface, so gently take your microfiber towel and wipe the leather dry. Allow the leather cleaner to fully evaporate (usually takes 2-3 minutes) and then inspect. If the steering wheel still looks shiny, repeat steps 2-4.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:

Heather

Heather

Heather is a professional car detailer & valeter based in Cheshire and the owner of Auto Care HQ. A familiar face in the car detailing community, she has written over 200 car detailing guides on autocarehq.com and has produced over 165 videos on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel.

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