STEERING WHEEL CLEANER - What should you use? (2022 Guide)

STEERING WHEEL CLEANER - What should you use? (2022 Guide)

The steering wheel of your vehicle is the most touched part of your car and thus should receive frequent cleaning and disinfecting to ensure cleanliness and to keep its touch surfaces at their optimal level. Our DIY Guide breaks down all the steps and processes to clean your steering wheel.

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The most commonly touched surface of your vehicle by a long shot is your steering wheel. Overtime the oils on your hands and other contaminants can build up and cause your steering wheel to become dirty or discolor. It needs routine cleaning and conditioning to ensure that it is kept in optimal condition for years to come. 

In this short DIY Guide we will give you all the tools and procedures to clean every type of steering wheel out there.

How to Clean Your Steering Wheel

When you are unsure how to clean your dirty steering wheel, the best thing to do is to consult your vehicle's owner’s manual for instructions and recommendations. The owner’s manual should provide information about any materials that could be harmed by cleaning substances. If your vehicle has an aftermarket steering wheel then check the manufactures cleaning instructions. Make sure you look 360-degrees when you clean your steering wheel. It is also common to use an interior scrub pad.

You can use microfiber cloths to clean and remove any dirt or even for agitation.

Genuine Leather Steering Wheel

Leather is often found in modern-day cars that are classified as luxury or high-specification. They are usually made of a durable material such as leather and feature a comfortable grip. They are a bit more high maintenance than regular plastic because you do not want to ruin them. Applying too much pressure on your towel when cleaning or using a cleaning product that is stronger than what is intended can damage the material by drying it out.

Cleaning Steps

  1. Spray leather cleaner onto a proper leather cleaning brush

  2. Scrub without using excessive force

  3. Wipe away the excess leather cleaner

  4. Apply leather conditioner or UV protectant

Faux Leather Steering Wheel

For faux leather, avoid using soap or detergents that may stain the finish. The best way to clean is by using our Interior Detail spray.

Cleaning Steps

  1. To get started, spray Interior Detail directly onto your clean cloth. Do not apply directly on the surface or else you could end up covering your whole dashboard in the cleaner, which would make your whole process of cleaning take longer.

  2. Put your microfiber car cloth on the steering wheel and give it a gentle rub to clean the front, top, and back. You don’t need to be too gentle with cleaning plastic steering wheels. Make sure you clean the center of the steering wheel, where the logo is as well. If your steering wheel has buttons, please be careful by not getting the APC product in them and pushing any buttons, especially if the vehicle's ignition is on.

  3. Ensure that all leftover residue is removed by using a second microfiber cloth, and apply a final wipe to the steering wheel.

If your steering wheel is really dirty, you may need to spend some time scrubbing it with a scouring pad or brush. Remember to be careful and test in a small spot first.

Using additional products on top of the surface of a car's steering wheel (for protection etc) is not recommended as they could potentially make the steering wheel increasingly slippery (not safe for driving).

Plastic Steering Wheel

These are quite easy to clean. We recommend using our APC - All-Purpose Cleaner in a spray bottle. If the surface is lightly dirty, you can also first try to clean with just a damp cloth.

Cleaning Steps

  1. To get started, spray APC directly onto your microfiber car cloth. Do not spray directly on the steering wheel or else you could end up covering your whole dashboard in the cleaner, which would make your whole process of cleaning take longer.

  2. Put your microfiber car cloth on the steering wheel and give it a gentle wipe around the wheel to clean the front, top, and back. You don’t need to be too gentle with cleaning plastic steering wheels. Make sure you clean the center of the steering wheel, where the vehicle logo is as well. If your steering wheel has buttons, please be careful by not getting the APC product in them and pushing any buttons when you wipe, especially if the vehicle ignition is on.

  3. Ensure that all leftover residue is removed by using a second microfiber cloth, and apply a final wipe to the steering wheel.

If your steering wheel is really dirty, you may need to spend some time scrubbing it with a scouring pad or brush. Remember to be careful and test in a small spot first.

Using additional products on top of the surface of a car's steering wheel (for protection etc) is not recommended as they could potentially make the steering wheel increasingly slippery (not safe for driving).

Synthetic Resin Steering Wheel

People confuse "synthetic resin" steering wheels as being made of plastic, when that is not the case. Synthetic resin is actually a type of plastic material. Synthetic resin is very easy to clean and maintain. This material is one of the easier steering wheel materials to clean.

Cleaning Steps

  1. To get started, spray APC directly onto your microfiber car cloth. Do not spray directly on the steering wheel or else you could end up covering your whole dashboard in the cleaner, which would make your whole cleaning process longer.

  2. Put your microfiber car cloth on the steering wheel and give it a gentle wipe to clean the front, top, and back. You don’t need to be too gentle. Make sure you clean the center of the steering wheel, where the vehicle logo is as well. If your steering wheel has buttons, please be careful by not getting the APC product in them and pushing any buttons when you wipe, especially if the vehicle ignition is on.

  3. Ensure that all leftover residue is removed by using a second cloth, and apply a final wipe to the steering wheel.

If your steering wheel is really dirty, you may need to spend some time scrubbing it with a scouring pad or brush. Remember to be careful and test in a small spot first.

Using additional products on top of the plastic surfaces of a steering wheel (for protection etc) is not recommended as they could potentially make the steering wheel increasingly slippery (not safe for driving). The best technique for cleaning plastic is to keep it simple with how you clean and what product to use.

Metal Steering Wheel

To clean metal, use a damp microfiber towel and some water. After that, dry it with a dry microfiber. You can also use a metal polish to make it shine again. If it is really dirty not cleaning with the water, you can use an APC - All Purpose Cleaner.

Steps to Clean with Water:

  1. Lightly dampen with water a microfiber towel and wipe the surface.

  2. Once clean, finish by using a dry towel to remove any leftover moisture.

Steps to Clean with All-Purpose Cleaner:

  1. To get started, spray APC directly onto your microfiber car cloth. Do not spray directly on the steering wheel or else you could end up covering your whole dashboard in the cleaner, which would make your whole process take longer.

  2. Put your microfiber car towel on the steering wheel and give it a gentle wipe around the wheel to clean the front, top, and back. You don’t need to be too gentle with cleaning metal steering wheels. Make sure you clean the center of the steering wheel, where the vehicle logo is as well. If your steering wheel has buttons, please be careful by not getting the APC product in them and pushing any buttons when you wipe, especially if the vehicle ignition is on.

  3. Ensure that all leftover residue is removed by using a second microfiber cloth, and apply a final wipe to the steering wheel.

*Do not allow to dry on the surface, not recommended for use on hot vehicle surfaces.

If your steering wheel is really dirty, you may need to spend some time scrubbing it with a scouring pad or brush. Remember to be careful and test in a small spot first.

Using additional products on top of the surface of a steering wheel (for protection etc) is not recommended as they could potentially make the steering wheel increasingly slippery (not safe for driving).

Natural Wood Steering wheel

Wood steering wheels are not very popular and are mostly used in classic and vintage cars. They are made with multiple varieties of wood such as maple, mahogany, or walnut. Please be careful when cleaning wood steering wheels, using an excessive amount of any solution is not recommended because it can crack the wood.

Cleaning Steps:

  1. Gently wipe your steering wheel clean with a dry cloth and apply some wood polish for natural wood steering wheels. Do not use soap, water, or any general-purpose cleaners on it.

  2. Ensure that all leftover residue is removed by using a second cloth, and apply a gentle rub to the steering wheel.

Tips for More Thoroughly Cleaning Steering Wheels

#1 Heavy Steering Wheel Grime

With textured interior surfaces, use a soft clean toothbrush or brush to clean rubbed-in dirt in the stitching. Try scrubbing in small circles, as well as spray or dip the brush into a cleaner. When you see bubbles, that means it is starting to clean the material correctly. Don’t push too hard, you do not want to damage your material. We recommend only using this technique on stitching or built-up grime.

#2 Cleaning and Disinfecting with Steam Machines

If you have access to a steam cleaning machine ( you can find them at home improvement department stores or online, they are great for cleaning other parts of your car and different areas of your home ), it is a great natural way to disinfect. We highly recommend using distilled water when cleaning your ride. Using the steam cleaner, cover the surface of your steering wheel, wiping off the built up dirt with a microfiber towel as you go. Work around the entire area to loosen the grime and kill any potential bacteria. Once you’re finished, wipe dry with a clean microfiber towel. It is very important to be gentle when cleaning with a steam cleaner.

Can You Use Alcohol to Clean Your Leather Steering Wheel?

It is not recommended to use alcohol to clean leather steering wheels. Alcohol is a solvent and it can damage the material.

How to Clean Tesla Steering Wheel

To clean your Tesla steering wheel, start by unplugging the car.

  1. To begin, you should first unplug the Tesla.

  2. Use compressed air or a vacuum cleaner to remove any debris or loose dirt from cracks or between seams.

  3. Use a microfiber cloth or sponge to wipe down the surface of the entire steering wheel with a mixture of warm water and mild non-detergent cleaner (test all cleaners on a concealed area before use) in a visible area.

  4. Rinse off any soap residue with a damp rag and let dry before plugging in your car again. To avoid streaks, dry immediately with a soft lint-free cloth.

The Tesla’s owner's manual recommends at least once per month or after every 10 hours of driving time, that you clean your Tesla’s steering wheel. 

Cleaning Tips and Warnings

  • Be careful when scrubbing so you do not scratch or damage any of the material or color.

  • When using a microfiber towel, use the right amount of cleaner or water to wet the wheel without making it drip.

You can always have a professional service clean your car.

professional-car-detailing

Search for a car wash near you that offers both exterior and interior cleaning services. They will have everything that they need to do a thorough professional cleaning and will get it back to you as soon as possible. The price of a car detail can range greatly. The experts will not only make your car look and smell fresh but also provide a thorough clean on your steering wheel and all other parts of the car (you may mention that you want them to put extra attention on the steering wheel). At Ethos Car Care we take pride in our products. We have put together a list of auto detailers near you, feel free to take a look and grab some of our car interior cleaning products for yourself and give it a shot! We are here if you have any questions.

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