Your vehicle’s leather steering wheel is one of the most used features of your car. It can quickly accumulate dirt, grime, and body oil over time, making your steering wheel feel dirty, grimy, and worst of all, sticky.
When cleaning your leather steering wheel, your ultimate goal should be to preserve the leather for as long as possible.
To clean your leather steering wheel, start by covering the areas of your vehicle that may be affected by spray or splatter. Use a leather cleaning agent to remove dirt and grime from the steering wheel. Complete the process by applying a protective sealant on the leather steering wheel.
How to clean the leather steering wheel
There are a few things to keep in mind when cleaning your leather steering wheel. Firstly, the steering wheel is exposed to a lot of direct sunlight. The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are very damaging to leather and may cause the leather to dry out, become brittle, and ultimately change color of the leather, making it appear worn. Therefore, cleaning alone will not protect the condition of your leather steering wheel. You will need to protect the leather from direct sunlight.
Required cleaning agents and equipment
Start the process by ensuring that you have the proper cleaning materials and agents. Since the steering wheel is made of or covered in leather, you should opt to only use cleaning agents that are designed to clean leather, such as saddle soap or a leather cleaning agent.
In addition, you may need a few cloths of various sizes. Some of these cloths will be used to cover the interior of the vehicle, and some will be used in the cleaning process. In summary, the following will be needed:
- Leather cleaning agent
- Small, clean, dry lint-free cloth
- Medium, clean, dry cloth
- Large towel
- Fine horsehair brush
- Leather sealant
- Small bucket with water
- A sponge
Prepare the vehicle
The first step is to prepare the interior of the vehicle. Since you will only be cleaning the steering wheel, you will need to ensure that none of the spray or liquid that is used in the cleaning process accidentally lands on other components of the vehicle.
For this step, you may need to use soft cloths of various sizes to ensure that you cover each part of the interior that may be affected by accidental sprays, such as the dashboard, the cluster (vehicle temperature gauge, speedometer, and water gauge), the gear lever, as well as the seats. For the seats, you may opt to use a towel.
Make sure that the car is parked in an area away from direct sunlight and that the steering wheel will not be exposed to any direct sunlight during the drying process. You could also place a windshield shade over the front windshield to prevent direct sunlight while you are cleaning the steering wheel.
Choosing the right cleaning agent
There are a lot of leather cleaning agents on the market. Keep in mind, that the leather on your steering wheel is different from the leather on your boots, pants, wallet, or jacket. For this reason, you will need to ensure that you select a leather cleaner that is specifically designed to clean your leather steering wheel.
The leather used in the automotive industry has a PH 5 balance. What this means is that you will need to use a leather cleaner that has a similar PH value or one that is very close to it. You could opt for either a spray cleaner or a foam cleaning agent.
Start the cleaning process
Start by using a dry cloth to wipe the steering wheel and remove any dirt or dust. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe the steering wheel to add some moisture. Spray the cleaning agent directly onto a damp cloth and start to work the cleaning agent into the steering wheel in small circular motions.
Whether you are using a foam or spray cleaner, try to position the nozzle of the cleaning agent as close as possible to the cloth to prevent any accidental spray or spillage onto other parts of the vehicle. Use the cleaning agent sparingly as a little really does go a long way and you don’t want to oversaturate the steering wheel with the cleaning agent.
Lightly dab the steering wheel and start to move in circular motions around the wheel until the entire surface of the steering wheel is covered in a lather. Be gentle and use soft strokes to work your way around the surface of the steering wheel. Try to focus on areas that have the most exposure to use, such as the top and lower parts of the steering wheel. The circular motions should help to lift the moisture that is embedded in the leather to the surface again and revive the leather.
It may be tempting to add pressure to help remove stubborn stains, but this may only cause damage to the leather. Rather, be patient and work gently and slowly across the surface.Use a fine horsehair brush in areas that have stubborn stains or hard-to-remove stains.
When you are done, use a damp cloth and gently remove the lather from the steering wheel, scooping up as much as you can. Place the cloth in a bucket of water to remove any excess soap or cleaning agent and ring out the cloth so that all the water is removed before continuing with the process.
The drying process
Open the car doors to allow ventilation that will naturally dry the steering wheel. Do not use outside heat sources. Also, the windshield shade should help to prevent the leather steering wheel from being exposed to direct sunlight while drying. The steering wheel should be completely dry before the protective sealant is applied.
Apply a leather sealant
The final step in the process is to apply the leather sealant. The sealant works in two ways: it nourishes the leather and seals it to protect it against future damage.
The sealant is also great for protecting the steering wheel against cracks, sun damage, and discoloration. Use a sponge or dry, lint-free cloth to apply a thin coat of leather sealant to the front and back of the steering wheel. Allow the sealant to dry before using a soft cloth to buff the steering wheel to create a beautiful finish.
How often should I clean my leather steering wheel?
Due to the amount of handling, it may be best to clean your steering wheel at least once a week or every time you wash your vehicle.