How to Clean a Steering Wheel and What Products to Use?

September 9, 2020Car Care and Revamp
Blake Shaw

Bostonian and residential moving and packing expert. Blake Shaw enjoys bar-hopping, music, and writing insightful content.

One of the most important and, at the same time, most neglected parts of the car is its wheel. It’s the part you, as a driver, comes in contact with the most, and that’s why it should be spotless. When learning how to clean a steering wheel, you will not only give the auto a newer, more authentic look, but you will also increase its longevity.

Are you wondering How can I make my steering wheel look new? or How do you take care of a leather steering wheel? Finding the answers to these questions will make the whole procedure run smoothly and efficiently, which will lead to a satisfying end result. That’s why we made the list of the most efficient ways to clean up your steering wheel, as well as products you should use to remove even the most stubborn stains.

Before Figuring Out How to Clean a Steering Wheel, Identify the Material It’s Made Of

While driving the car, the thing you touch the most is the steering wheel (SW), so it is only logical that it needs cleaning more often than other parts of your vehicle. No matter how careful you are, things get dirty, and to avoid driving a messy auto, maintain it regularly. However, before you get to scrubbing and wiping, you should identify the type of material SW is made of. When you do, it will be easier to figure out just how to clean a sticky steering wheel or dirty one.

The material of your SW will depend on your auto model, but most commonly, they are made out of plastic, natural wood, synthetics, faux and real leather. Each of these has its dos and don’ts when it comes to choosing the cleaning technique. Before you get to business, check your car manual and see what type of material is used on your SW, because polyurethane looks almost like real leather, and the looks might fool you.

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The Type of Steering Wheel Will Determine What Kind of Cleaning Supplies You Need

When you check out the manual and see what type of SW you have, it is time to gather all the necessary cleaning supplies. Don’t start removing dirt without being entirely sure what kind of SW you are polishing, because the wrong products can create more damage than you know, mainly if you apply them on leather.

The basic supplies you will need, no matter what kind of SW your car has, are:

  • Water
  • Microfiber fabric
  • A bucket
  • Liquid soap
  • Soft cotton rag
  • Gloves

Every other supply you need will depend on the type of SW installed in your vehicle. Those can be sprays, stain removers, and wood polish liquids.

Red auto with the same color SW.
Wheels are made out of different materials, which affects the type of cleaner you'll apply.

How to Remove Sticky Residue From the Steering Wheel Made Out of Wood

Are you a proud owner of some cool imported car that has an SW made out of wood? If so, keeping it shiny and stain-free should be one of your priorities. That’s why you should stop by the shop and get some wood polish.

Before applying the polish, get a rag and gently wipe the SW. Don’t use water nor soap for this, because they can damage the wood. When you are done with wiping, spray the polish and let it dry. Coated SW will be easier to polish later; you will be able to remove the dirt and your fingerprints just with a soft cotton rag. However, if the cloth can’t remove a sticky residue, get interior detailer wipes. When you are satisfied with how spotless the SW is, let it dry, and then apply polish.

How Can SW Repair Kit Make It Look New

Those wheels designed from natural wood are more likely to have cracks and scratches. Also, if your vehicle is sitting in the sun for too long, the color can fade. If you’re dealing with these kinds of problems, you can use a repair kit to give the SW a shiny and new look. Kits usually come with pre-painting prep, PC-7 sufficient that will come in handy when you are filling cracks, and adhesion Promoter, that will fill minor imperfections on the surface. When the SW is restored, you just have to keep it spotless and enjoy its slick look.

A vehicle with wooden SW.
Get a towel and polish, and you will remove the dirt in no time.

How Do You Clean a Steering Wheel Made Out of Plastic

Wheels made out of plastic can usually be found in entry-level cars, and this type of SW is the easiest to polish. When you are preparing, get some soap, sprayer, water, and dry rag. Start by pouring some liquid soap in the bottle and then spraying it onto the surface that needs cleaning, after all you have to do is wipe it with a dry rag.

Additionally, if there are some more persistent smudges on your SW, apply all-purpose disinfectant. Just spray it on the cloth and gently wipe the SW until it is stain-free. Don’t spray it directly on the SW, because the liquid can splash all over the dash, making a mess.

Oldtimer with a plastic SW.
Plastic can be found in cheaper cars, and it is easy to maintain.

How to Clean a Leather Steering Wheel Without Damaging It

This type of SW can usually be found on high-class cars because they create the most comfortable driving experience. However, even the best materials can get dirty, so when looking for the best way to clean the leather steering wheel, start by collecting cleaning supplies.

If you notice some spots on your SW left from various liquids, you will need lemon juice, soft cotton fabric, and cream of tartar to remove them. Start by mixing lemon juice and cream of tartar to get a pasty mixture. When you do, work it into the filthy spot. Leave it to sit for a few hours and then remove it with a piece of cotton fabric. Don’t forget to park in the shade because the sunlight can cause damage to your SW.

Also, if you don’t have all the supplies to create a pasty mixture, you can use distilled water and cotton fabric to remove small stained spots. Wet a cotton material with distilled liquid and start wiping. Make outwards moves from the center of the blot and be gentle; you don’t want to press too hard and scratch the surface.

You can also try a horsehair brush and an appropriate cleaner to remove any kind of bacteria collected on the SW. Start by spraying the liquid on the brush and gently scrubbing the center of the SW. After it is covered with foam, you can get a towel to wipe it off. Then repeat the process on the rest of the SW. The last step in this process is applying a conditioner that will revive the authentication look and scent.

Furthermore, if you happen to have grease stains on your SW, don’t despair. There are ways you can remove them and make your car shiny again. Grab cornstarch, cotton towel, and vacuum with a soft brush attachment. Blot the grease with the cotton fabric to remove any extra surface grease and shake a cornstarch layer on it. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes and get a vacuum with a soft brush to remove the residue. Depending on how big the blot is, you may need to repeat the whole process several times until your car is grease-free. Keep in mind that you should be extra careful not to scratch the surface while vacuuming.

How to Remove Scratch Marks From the Wheel

Leather can be pretty sensitive, and when you are driving for a while, your SW might get scratched no matter how careful you are. If you want to remove scratch marks, there’s a way to do it, but first, get baby or olive oil and a piece of soft cotton fabric.

Begin by dabbing the fabric with olive or baby oil. Slowly rub the cloth on the damaged area using circular motions and move outwards from the scuffs. When the scratches soak up the oil, they will appear darker than the rest of the SW. However, this effect will fade as the area dries. Keep on working the oil into the surface, applying it also on non-damaged areas. Leave the SW to dry for 12 to 18 hours, and repeat this treatment until every scratch disappears.

How to Clean Polyurethane/Faux-Leather

One of the most common types of SW is made out of polyurethane, also known as faux-leather. It is hard to distinguish from the real one, so you should read the car manual to know for sure what kind of material it is. This type is easy to polish, and you will need plain soap and water. Since this is an incredibly smooth and strong material, you can also apply the cleaner on it. Furthermore, while you are wiping it, pay special attention to fake stitches, because they can catch filth.

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Additional Tips That Will Make Polishing Easy

If you are in a hurry to get that shiny look on your SW, few more tips can help you be faster and more efficient:

  • Establish a maintenance routine – if you don’t want to deep scrub your SW every few months, consider wiping it down weekly using a soft cloth and some polishing products. This habit should be applied to all the auto’s interior, so whipping the upholstery and removing dog hairs once a week instead of once every few months.
  • Wipe everything as soon as you spill it – this is a kind of logical thing to do, especially if you have a sensitive SW because those surfaces are stained easily, and if you don’t react fast, it will take some time to remove the stains.
  • Avoid alkaline wipes if you have leather SW – basically avoid baby wipes for this type of SW because they will damage it. Get a cotton cloth and water instead.
Close shot of Ferrari SW.
Tips can help your four-wheeler shine in no time.

Hire an Auto Transport Company to Deliver a New Stain-Free Car to Your Home

When you don’t want to bother with restoring your auto, consider getting a new one. No matter if you get a car online or through a dealer, you will probably need to hire a car shipping company to deliver it to you.

Ensure that you hire professionals who offer door-to-door auto transport and terminal to terminal car shipping because that way, you can pick the delivery that suits your needs the best.

Furthermore, if you are getting a used car, opt for open trailers because they are cheaper and faster transportation options, meaning the vehicle will be at your house in no time. Additionally, if you plan on buying one of the top-rated SUVs, consider enclosed auto transport because it gives extra protection your machine needs. No matter what kind of four-wheeler you get, your SW will keep its authentic look longer if you keep it spotless.

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