A car’s steering wheel is often overlooked when it comes to cleaning it. The steering wheel is one of the dirtiest and most overlooked parts inside of a car.
The average driver will touch their steering wheel at least 111 times in a week with their hands, which can deposit bacteria, sweat, dead skin cells, and body oils on to it. A study found that 59% of drivers only wash their hands after they have touched their steering wheels but not before.
If you’re looking to learn about steering wheel cleaners, then you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s take a deeper dive into what you need to know about steering wheel cleaners.
Steering wheel cleaning supplies you need
Generally speaking, there are two types of steering wheel cleaners:
- the soap and water method, which is more cost efficient, or
- water with chemicals.
Regardless of the method you use, here is a list of supplies you need to help you clean a steering wheel:
- Distilled water
- Liquid dish washing soap (if you choose the soap method)
- Microfiber cloth (if you don’t have any, you can get some from here)
- Leather conditioner
- Small bucket
The different types of steering wheel materials
What you should know when cleaning a plastic steering wheel
Cleaning a plastic steering wheel is an easy process. To clean a plastic steering wheel, you can use basic household items that you probably already have in your home as a steering wheel cleaner.
Given that the steering wheel material is plastic, you don’t need any specific steering wheel cleaner or supply.
You can clean a plastic steering wheel with a mixture of water and dish soap, and a microfiber cloth to then dry it.
What you should know when cleaning a leather steering wheel
Cleaning a leather steering wheel needs a bit more attention. You don’t want to use a steering wheel cleaner that can harm or even scratch your leather.
How you treat a leather steering wheel should be very similar to how you clean and treat your leather seats inside of your car.
Before applying any steering wheel cleaner chemical to leather, check your car’s manual to know the type of leather your car has and whether the steering wheel cleaner you use can be used on it.
Most leather cleaners and conditioners in the market these days can be used as a steering wheel cleaer. You should always, however, spot test it in a small corner to make sure it doesn’t damage your leather.
One good leather cleaner and conditioner you can check out is from Chemical Guys. The cleaner and conditioner kit has at least 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Here’s what people say about the Chemical Guys leather cleaner and conditioner kit on Amazon:
“I have tried several different leather cleaners and conditioners before I decided to give Chemical Guys a shot. I have the saddle leather in my Grand Cherokee and I try to take very good care of it.
The cleaner seems to work well enough, I cannot speak to its stain removing abilities since my leather is usually pretty clean anyway. It doesn’t smell terrible, and it wipes off without being sticky or leaving behind any residue. It may not be necessary but I usually follow any leather cleaner with a clean damp cloth, and then dry the seat with a microfiber towel.
The conditioner is just alright. I really prefer Zymol conditioner over this. Not to say that it’s a bad conditioner, because I think it works well enough. It leaves a nice matte/dry finish, not oily or shiny in the least; it has a nice OEM appearance. it has a very slight.. tightness or friction to it though. and it definitely has a faint chemical-y scent. I’d give it maybe 3.5-4 stars, I think there are some slightly better options out there. I’ll probably stick with Zymol conditioner once this bottle is out.” – 4 out of 5 stars by Flying Chrysler on Amazon.com.
“I just purchased a 5 yr old car with white leather. Thought I would give it a real good cleaning to see the true color of the seats. Unfortunately, before I ever used the cleaner, the lid was loose and about 1/3rd of the cleaner leaked out…bad start. I cleaned thoroughly according to directions and videos and using a horse hair brush. Yes, it cleans. Some described it as magic but I never got that feeling. Maybe the seats weren’t that bad but I was expecting an obvious change. Then, I used the conditioner. Goes on and soaks in nicely. Leaves a slightly glossy finish and feels slick but not to excess. Hopefully you have a garage where you can leave the car opened up for about two days cause the fragrance can be over whelming even it has a nice smell, it is strong. I Do recommend this product but for what I have experienced, it costs more than it should and the odor could be less loud.” – 3 out of 5 stars by Big Al on Amazon.com.
What you should know when cleaning synthetic leather steering wheels
What is synthetic leather
Synthetic leather (also known as artificial leather) is manufactured material that mimics the properties of authentic leather. Synthetic leather can be made from different types of materials, including plastic. Just so you know, synthetic leather is also known as faux leather or pleather.
Synthetic leather was not initially intended to replace leather. Synthetic leather did, however, end up replacing the use of animal hide in a number of industries because synthetic leather is cheaper to make and more durable than natural skin.
How to clean a synthetic leather steering wheel
Cleaning and treating synthetic leather can be similar to cleaning real leather (see above).
To clean synthetic leather, you can use Chemical Guys InnerClean Interior Quick Detailer & Protectant as a steering wheel cleaner which can be used not only on leather but, plastic and vinyl, including steering wheels.
Always spot test any chemical you use, to make sure it doesn’t damage the surface or synthetic leather.
Here are some reviews on Amazon regarding Chemical Guys InnerClean Interior (we intentionally show 3 and 4 star reviews):
“An empty bottle was delivered initially, but they sent a replacement immediately. Product is great, didn’t leave a greasy mess, just a clean and protected dashboard. I used this on the door panel of my car and noticed that my boots don’t scuff the door as bad when I get in and out of the car. I used to leave dirty scuffs getting in and out, but this product helped protect my door just a little better and my boots slide instead of getting traction (again, there’s no greasy residue or oiliness, it’s hard to describe, but my boot slides instead of gripping). Great product, a little goes a long way, I’ll be buying it again!” – 4 out of 5 stars by J. Jacobs on Amazon.com
“I bought InnerClean on the recommendation of someone on a car forum, as I was looking for a simple cleaner/protectant product that was safe to use on a variety of interior surfaces (basically, I didn’t want to have to buy and use a special cleaner just for the few bits of leather my car has). Faced with the decision of either pineapple or baby powder, I opted for the latter, but I’m thinking that perhaps I made the wrong choice. The scent is quite prominent, and it’s just really odd to get into your car and have it smell like that. Then again, I’m not certain that pineapple would have been substantially better. Fortunately, the scent goes away after a day or so, but I personally wish that there was a simple “unscented” version of this product.” – 3 out of 5 stars by mcas on Amazon.com
What you should know when cleaning a wooden steering wheel
You should be careful when cleaning a wooden steering wheel. Similar to leather, you can’t simply apply any type of steering wheel cleaner to a wooden steering wheel.
For starters, do not use water on a wooden steering wheel. Similar to wooden floors, water can be vey damaging for the wood.
In some cars, the wood part of the steering wheel can be lacquered, which adds an extra layer of protection on the wood. If this is the case, that is great!
Regardless, you can clean a wooden steering wheel by adding a small amount of dish soap to a microfiber cloth to then apply to the steering wheel.
4 steps to cleaning a steering wheel
Before you start the actual cleaning process, use a microfiber cloth to remove any dust, grime, or dirt that can be on a steering wheel.
You don’t want small particles scratching a steering wheel. You also don’t want any small particle to stick to a steering wheel as you use any steering wheel cleaner chemicals.
It’s always good idea to have several clean microfiber cloths.
Apply the steering wheel cleaner solution that is applicable to your type of steering wheel to a clean microfiber cloth. It is usually not recommended to spray or apply any chemical to a steering wheel.
If you spray, it can get sprayed to parts of your car that it shouldn’t. Alternatively, if the steering wheel cleaner is applied directly, you may end up applying too much and not be able to even it out.
Apply the microfiber towel with the chemical to the steering wheel. Twist and gently rub the cleaning solution throughout the steering wheel to clean it.
Whether the steering wheel cleaner is a leather cleaner or dish soap, you can gently rub and clean the messiness.
Be careful not to rub too hard, as you don’t want to discolor the steering wheel unintentionally or wear it out.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 as necessary until you see the steering wheel is clean.
Use another clean microfiber towel to dry and/or wipe away excess steering wheel cleaner solution from the steering wheel.
If you’re using a leather steering wheel cleaning solution, you can repeat steps 2 through 4 to apply the leather conditioner to the steering wheel. Remember it is always good and safe to first spot test.
How to remove tough stains and scratches from a steering wheel
Removing and cleaning mold from a steering wheel
What is mold
Mold is a type of fungus that can grow on most surfaces, with the exception of glass and some very oily substances. It reproduces by releasing tiny spores into the air, which may cause allergic reactions in some people.
Mold is often found in damp or wet areas such as bathrooms and basements. Some types of mold thrive in dry areas as well.
What you need to remove mold from a steering wheel
To help remove mold, you will need:
- Distilled white vinegar
- 1 spray bottle
- Microfiber cloth (you can get some here, if you need)
- A toothbrush or other soft brush
What to do to remove mold from a steering wheel
To remove mold from the steering wheel, mix vinegar with water in a water bottle. The mix should be 2/3rds white vinegar and 1/3 water.
Depending on how much mold there is, you can apply vinegar by itself instead of mixing it with water.
It’s always important to spot test the solution before you fully apply it to the steering wheel.
Be sure to wear a mask when removing mold.
You can use a toothbrush or soft brush to move tough mold that isn’t easily being removed with cloth.
Spray the vinegar solution directly on the mold and use the microfiber cloth to rub it off.
Removing grease stains from a steering wheel
If you are removing grease stains from a steering wheel, you have several options. We have already covered two of the options.
You can use the following steering wheel cleaning solutions:
- Chemical Guys InnerClean Interior Quick Detailer & Protectant
- Vinegar and water mix (as discussed in the how to remove mold section directly above)
A third method you can use to remove grease stains from a steering wheel is through the use of a steam cleaner gun.
You can use a steam cleaner help remove grease from a steering wheel. When doing so, use a microfiber cloth to wipe away the liquid, dirt, and germs away.
Another benefit of using a steam cleaner, is that it is an effective way of quickly killing germs.
Here’s a YouTube video on how to use a steam cleaner to wipe away grease, dirt, and germs away.
Removing scratches from a leather steering wheel
Removing and restoring a scratched steering wheel will require a bit more skill and patience.
Before being able to restore and remove scratches from a steering wheel, you will first need to properly clean the steering wheel. To do that follow our 4 step process to clean a leather steering wheel (discussed above).
Since you would like to remove scratches, there is no need to apply conditioner yet.
Depending on how deep the scratch is, the scratch may be buffed out with conditioner. If it is a deeper scratch, then you will likely need to take additional steps, such as:
- Fill in the leather gap
- But and even out the leather
- Buff the leather and as needed use leather dye
- Use leather dye, as needed, to restore the leather’s color
You can use several leather restoration kits to help restore the leather to its original condition. Some of these options are:
- Leatherique leather restoration kit
- Leather Max Leather Restorer
- Fortivo Professional DIY Leather Repair Kit and Vinyl Repair Kit
- Auto Leather Dye repair kits
Removing and restoring leather from scratches takes a lot of patience and requires skill. Be sure to spot test and follow directions to avoid any damage.
If you aren’t sure how to, check with your local car detailing center for them to provide guidance.
How to keep a steering wheel clean
Once you have cleaned the steering wheel, it is very important to routinely maintain it, so it remains clean.
Armor All offers leather cleaning and care wipes that you can use as a steering wheel cleaner to maintain the steering wheel.
As always be sure to spot test before using and to following the instructions of the wipes, so you don’t over apply.
Following a routine schedule will allow you to always keep a steering wheel clean. This way you don’t spend lots of time scrubbing away all the dirt that builds up over time.
A car’s steering wheel is often overlooked when cleaning a car. No one remembers to clean it or don’t give the steering wheel the time and attention it deserves.
Given how many times a steering wheel is touched, it is a source of germs, dirt, body oils, and more! You need to use the right steering wheel cleaning solution to make sure you keep your steering wheel clean.
David is an avid car enthusiast. Whether it is classic muscle cars or electric vehicles, David loves everything about cars. Over the years David has bought and sold many cars, as a consumer, and take an active interest in car repair. Outside of cars, David loves to regularly bike to stay active!