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Choosing Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner for Your Leather Type

Many people take great pride in maintaining the cleanliness and safety of their vehicles.  Many products are available for cleaning upholstery, interiors, floor mats, and windows, but have you thought about the steering wheel?  I will discuss leather steering wheel cleaner options and some things to consider when cleaning your steering wheel.

Leather steering wheel cleaner is a solution that removes dirt and oil from leather to maintain its quality. There are various types of commercially made and DIY cleaners for natural and faux leather. Leather steering wheel cleaners can cost around $13 for a single bottle or $60 for some kits.  

Is your leather steering wheel feeling greasy or grimy?  Are you looking for something to clean your leather steering wheel with?  Let’s check out the pros and cons of leather steering wheel cleaners and tips for how they’re made.

What is Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner

Leather steering wheel cleaner is a solution for cleaning dirt, debris, and oil from leather to help maintain the material’s quality.  The steering wheel is a high-touch surface, sometimes by more than one person, and can be a breeding ground for germs and microorganisms. 

This can damage the leather, so choosing the right cleaner is essential.  Leather steering wheel cleaners can be mild soap and water, a commercially-made leather cleaner, or leather car interior cleaners. 

Cleaning a Leather Steering Wheel With a Bristle Brush - Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner - Liberty Leather Goods
Cleaning a Leather Steering Wheel With a Bristle Brush

Types of Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner

Various leather steering wheel cleaners are available.  There are commercially made leather cleaners with different ingredients specifically for cleaning and treating leather without damaging the finish or the material itself.  These products can be found in automobile supply stores, general merchandise stores, and even online. 

Some popular leather cleaner brands include Cadillac, Carfidant, and Adam’s. Then there’s the do-it-yourself leather steering wheel cleaner.  The quickest and easiest is mild soap and water. 

Other products you may already have on hand include baby wipes, vinegar diluted with water, and dish soap in water.  All products, whether bought or made at home, must be tested on your specific leather steering wheel in an inconspicuous spot to be sure that they won’t damage the leather.

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There are different variations of leather steering wheel cleaners, including wipes, sprays, and liquids.

Considerations for Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner 

Natural vs. Faux Leather

Natural leather and faux leather may look the same, but they require different types of cleaners.  Natural leather fibers must be treated gently to prevent damage while removing dirt and grime.  Faux leather tends to be less stable, so gentle cleaners must be used. 

The rule of thumb for both products is to test any leather cleaner in an inconspicuous spot to see if there are any color changes or damage resulting from the product.

Surface Coating

The presence of any surface coating must be considered when choosing a leather steering wheel cleaner.  A surface coating helps protect the leather, and using the right leather cleaner will help maintain that surface coating. 

Variations

There are different variations of leather steering wheel cleaners, including wipes, sprays, and liquids.  Liquids, especially water, should never be excessively used because they can stain and damage leather steering wheels.  Care should be taken with all products to protect surrounding surfaces when using the different variations.

Pros and Cons of Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner

Pros of Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner

Leather steering wheel cleaners are made specifically for cleaning leather.  They usually will not break down any surface coatings, will not damage the leather, and will sufficiently clean the steering wheel of dust and grease from hands left behind.

Cons of Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner

Over time, leather steering wheel cleaners may build a film on the steering wheel.  It’s important to only use as much as you need to clean, but some film can cause the wheel to become more slippery.  It takes a little extra effort to follow up with a clean microfiber towel to buff out any excess product, prevent slipping, and keep the leather looking great.

Cleaning a Leather Steering Wheel With a Cloth - Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner - Liberty Leather Goods
Cleaning a Leather Steering Wheel With a Cloth

How Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner is Made

Leather steering wheel cleaner is made of several different chemicals that can clean, disinfect (in some cases), and protect the leather.  These ingredients can interact with some of the materials used in leather production. Researchers Dettmer, Ayub, and Gutterres inform us that chemicals and enzymes are used in processing leather to remove hair and convert it to commercial leather. 

Even antibacterial coatings are used in some leather production to reduce bacterial and fungal growth in response to contact with human skin, according to researchers Fan, Ma, and Xu, and that’s not something we want to wear away with cleaning products! 

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Most leather cleaners contain water, natural ingredients (that you can actually pronounce), water, and variations of ethanol, isopropanolamine, dodecylbenzene sulfonate, and ammonium hydroxide.

Cost of Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner 

There is a wide range of steering wheel cleaner options available at several different price points.  Size, brand, and variations will also contribute to the cost of cleaners.  The more specialty the cleaner is, the more expensive it may be — however it may treat your leather steering wheel better in the long run. 

You could get a 16-ounce multi-purpose leather cleaner that cleans, moisturizes, and protects for as low as $13.  You could also buy a small kit that includes (16 ounces each) leather cleaner, leather conditioner, and a soft-bristled brush for about $35.  Or you could consider a leather cleaning and detailing kit, which includes cleaner, conditioner, detailer, towels, brush, and applicators for about $60.

Mild soap and water are effective at cleaning even the grimiest steering wheels, and any excess can be poured down the drain when finished.

 Tips for Working With Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner

  1. Never use more product than you need.  Some leather steering wheel cleaners can leave a greasy residue when too much is used.
  2. Always follow up on leather steering wheel cleaning with a clean, dry microfiber towel.  This will remove any excess product and prevent residue, which can interfere with the hand grip.
  3. For heavy dirt and grime, use a soft-bristled brush like a detailing brush and work in small circles.  Don’t scrub too hard to prevent damage.
  4. Condition steering wheel leather after using a cleaner.

Alternative Options for Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner 

  1. If you don’t have a microfiber towel, an old t-shirt will work very well for cleaning and removing any excess cleaning product.
  2. No detailing brush on hand?  A toothbrush will work exceptionally well, especially on awkward-shaped surfaces like steering wheels.
  3. If you don’t have a leather conditioner on hand, a small dab of baby oil or olive oil will go a long way on a leather steering wheel.  Place the small dab of oil on the microfiber towel or old t-shirt and rub in small circles on the leather.

Examples of When to Use Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner

Our vehicles get us from point A to point B, and we constantly handle steering wheels to drive to these places.  Good times to use steering wheel cleaner include the following:

  1. After you’ve been sick
  2. Once a week if driving daily
  3. After handling food and drinks
  4. It feels sticky or greasy
  5. The finish appears dull or dirty
  6. There’s a spill

How Real People Clean Their Leather Steering Wheels 

To find out more about how people like to clean their leather steering wheels, I reached out to several friends and family and what they used.  Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned about how real people clean their leather steering wheels.

Leather Steering Wheel Cleaning MethodTimes Selected
Leather wipes42%
Leather Cleaner42%
Vehicle detailing shop8%
Nothing8%
Leather Steering Wheel Cleaning Methods

Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner Care and Maintenance

How to Make Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner

If you want to make your own steering wheel cleaner, always make just enough for the current job at hand.  Mild soap and water are effective at cleaning even the grimiest steering wheels, and any excess can be poured down the drain when finished. 

How to Maintain Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on properly storing steering wheel cleaners.  This can help maintain the product’s integrity and leather steering wheel cleaning properties.

How to Store Leather Steering Wheel Cleaner

Most leather steering wheel cleaners need to be stored in a cool and dry place to prevent separation and evaporation of the product.  Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on storage.

Check out this helpful video to better understand how to clean your leather steering wheel using leather cleaner.

Related Insights

How do you get the grime off a leather steering wheel?

When there’s a buildup of grease and grime on a leather steering wheel, use leather cleaner on a soft cloth to wipe and brush the steering wheel all around.  It will take some elbow grease and patience, but it’s worth it.

How do I make my leather steering wheel not shiny?

Shiny leather can be dulled with the use of soap and water.  When washed with soapy water, some of the oils that give it that shine will be removed.

How do you clean a grubby steering wheel?

For a grubby steering wheel, you can use a steam cleaner and microfiber towel to loosen grime and wipe off the dirt.

Is Magic Eraser safe on leather?

Magic Eraser is abrasive and can cause damage to leather steering wheels.  Leather cleaner and microfiber or soft cloths are best for cleaning leather.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning your leather steering wheel wasn’t on your radar when you last cleaned your car, was it?  Now that you know it’s important to clean that leather to maintain its nice looks and hand grip, it’ll probably be the first thing you clean next time!  Leather steering wheel cleaner is easy to find or make and is very effective at keeping your grip stable and comfortable.  Which type will you use?

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