A lot of car owners seldom realize how steering wheels can accumulate dirt, germs, and grime over time. The steering wheel is the part of the car with the most contact and yet is probably the most overlooked when it comes to cleaning.

Cleaning a steering wheel is an important part of car maintenance. Aside from keeping the wheel clean for the driver’s comfort, it is also an effective way to identify and examine possible damages.

Although it may sound easy to clean a steering wheel, it can still be tricky with wheels nowadays being covered in various different materials.

A steering wheel is mostly made of a steel rim covered in an exterior that is commonly one of 3 materials:

  • Leather
  • Alcantara
  • Plastic/Vinyl

These materials have different qualities and components hence requiring different cleaning products and methods.

Cleaning products matter because using inappropriate cleaning products can cause damage to the material or may not be effective in cleaning the car at all. Knowing how to use these products also adds up to their effectiveness.

If you are a first-time car owner or a car owner that’s just looking for the best method to keep their wheel clean, keep on reading.

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Table of Contents

How To Clean A Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel

Leather is one of the most durable and stylish materials there is for car interiors. Leather is a natural material made from animal skin, so it needs to be treated as such.

It’s easy to clean in general but if not conditioned properly or cleaned immediately, it can be very challenging to restore.

When cleaning leather DO NOT USE cleaners that contain bleach or ammonia. It can damage the grain of the leather essentially ruining it completely. Make sure the products you use are suitable for leather.

Non-suitable and low-quality products can affect the leather’s finish negatively resulting in cracking, discoloration, and stain. Instead of randomly picking products, I highly suggest using a leather-specific product like the Sprayable Car Leather Cleaner & Conditioner In One from Chemical Guys.

Using a cleaning product that specializes in leather ensures a good lasting result.

Using a Leather Cleaner Step By Step

Step #1. Prepare your cleaning materials

Step #2. Spray down the steering wheel with the leather cleaner and let soak for a minute.

Step #3. Agitate areas that are heavily soiled with the cleaning brush to loosen up the dirt. You may have to spray and scrub with the brush multiple times to loosen stubborn stains.

Step #4. Wipe the leather steering wheel with the microfiber towel thoroughly.

Make sure to wipe the surface as well as the inner corners and back of the steering wheel for optimum cleanliness.

How To Clean Alcantara Steering Wheels

Although Alcantara isn’t the most common material used on steering wheels it is gaining pace, especially with more enthusiasts and sports cars.

This material is a suede-like microfiber material that is made of 68% polyester and 32% polyurethane. It is closely associated with suede because of its similar texture.

Alcantara is designed to be stain-resistant and cleaning isn’t as complicated as many would expect.

However, if you don’t maintain it, Alcantara is known to degrade quickly.

Below is the step-by-step way to clean Alcantara steering wheels.

Step #1. Prepare your cleaning materials

Always check that the cleaner you’re using is suitable for Alcantara/Suede as those materials are used interchangeably. These materials are very sensitive and the wrong cleaner could damage them permanently so be aware.

To know if a cleaner is a suitable choice for Alcantara, you can read the product description. If possible, I also suggest reading reviews.

Step #2. Spray the cleaner directly to the steering wheel area.

Step #3. Let the cleaner sit for a few seconds to break down oils and accumulated dirt.

Step #4. Using the brush, scrub the steering wheel surface in a circular motion gently. The circular motion helps in cleaning the individual fibers of Alcantara.

Step #5. Take your microfiber and wipe it onto the steering wheel’s surface following a single direction. This is to ensure the dirt is being pushed out one way only.

Start at 12 o’clock and wipe clockwise until you reach 12 again. This should remove all the remaining excess moisture as well.

How to Clean Plastic/Vinyl Steering Wheels

Unlike leather and Alcantara, plastic/vinyl is a relatively easy-to-clean material. It doesn’t require sophisticated products and detailed cleaning.

To clean these wheels, you can make use of alcohol, a mild degreaser, or any interior cleaner.

How to use alcohol

Step #1. Damp a soft cloth or microfiber with alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is recognized as an effective disinfectant and safe to use in most car surfaces including plastic and vinyl.

Step #2. Wipe the steering wheel until clean.

How to use a mild degreaser

Mild degreaser is an effective sanitizer. It can be found at home as well. Some examples of mild degreasers you can use are; liquid/dish soap, baking soda, and vinegar.

If you want to use the products mentioned above, here are diluting portions you can use.

  • 2 tbsp of dish soap to 1 liter of warm water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda to 1 liter of water
  • 1 tbsp of vinegar to 400 ml of water.

When you have prepared these solutions, just dampen a soft cloth or microfiber cloth with your mixture and wipe your wheel clean.

How to use an Interior Cleaner

As we’ve discussed before, an interior cleaner like the Innerclean Interior Quick Car Detailer And Protectant from Chemical Guys is designed specifically for automotive surfaces.

So naturally, it’ll work great for Plastic/Vinyl Steering wheels.

Step By Step

Step #1. Spray down the steering wheel using Interior Cleaner.

Step #2. Use a Detailing brush to agitate the dirt

Step #3. Wipe your steering wheel with a microfiber towel

Step #4. Let it air dry

Wiping Down And Drying

Finally, allow proper drying. If you have a leather or Alcantara steering wheel, remember to never dry it directly under the sun as the UV rays can cause cracking or peeling.

How To Protect Your Steering Wheel After Cleaning

The cleaning products mentioned here today already contain protectants so if you use those you’re good no additional steps necessary.

However, if you’re using other products specifically on leather, applying a protectant is highly encouraged.

Upon drying the steering wheel, apply a coat of leather protectant like Chemical Guys Leather Serum Protectant to rejuvenate moisture while protecting the material from harmful UV rays and fading.

Make sure that the protectant you will be using is compatible with the material of your steering wheel.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to properly apply protectant

Step #1. Prepare your cleaning materials

  • Leather conditioner
  • Microfiber cloth

Step #2. Pour a small amount of the product onto the microfiber cloth.

It’s better to apply small amounts and wipe repeatedly than to use excessive amounts at one time.

Step #3. Rub the microfiber onto the steering wheel according to the direction of its grain (if applicable).

Step #4. Wipe away any excess product with a dry soft cloth or microfiber.

Step #5. Allow to fully dry.

Never dry your conditioned steering wheel under to sun to avoid any damage. Let the wheel dry in a shaded place away from sunlight. Drying time can vary so be patient.

In Sum

Cleaning your steering wheel should be done at least once a season. While you can always clean your steering wheel when you want, it is always a good practice to clean it when you wash the rest of your car.

If you’re interested in the proper way to clean the rest of your car in addition to the steering wheel check out our full car detailing guide here.

Always be consistent in your cleaning schedules. Remembering to use the right products and methods will keep your car looking its best.

As an Amazon Associate We earn from qualifying purchases. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

We might receive commissions if you click on our links and sign up/make purchases. However, please know this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try to keep things fair and balanced to help you make the best choice for your needs. Thanks.

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