Skip to Content

How To Clean A Sticky Steering Wheel

If you've ever noticed that your steering wheel has a tacky or sticky feeling to it, it's a sign that it needs to be cleaned. But if you've never cleaned this surface before, you might have some concerns about the proper ways to do it without harming the material. We can help you here. We researched leather steering wheels from multiple professional sources so that you will know for sure how to get the job done right the first time.

Cleaning a steering wheel will depend on the type of material it is covered with. For non-leather-covered wheels, using an approved cleaner and a microfiber towel will get it clean. If your steering wheel is leather, choose an approved leather cleaner and conditioner -additional precautions will prevent damaging the leather.

Now that we know a bit about the processes used to clean steering wheels, we'll take a look at two great methods for getting them clean and keeping them that way. You might also be wondering why leather steering wheels get so sticky, or if it's safe to use Clorox wipes to get your leather clean. For the answers to these questions and more, read ahead in this post to see what we've uncovered in our research.

Before you continue reading, let us say we hope you find the links here useful. If you purchase something through a link on this page, we may get a commission, so thank you!

Steering wheel is one of dirtiest parts in car and can contains viruses and bacteria - How To Clean A Sticky Steering Wheel

Cleaning your steering wheel by type  

When you think about it, the steering wheel is the part of your car that gets touched the most. And no matter how clean your hands are, the natural oils from them will build up over time and begin to show on the wheel. Combining that with the ordinary amount of dust and other tiny bits of debris that accumulate -and before you know it, your steering wheel is filthy!

And that's the typical steering wheel of a conscientious person. For those who eat and drink during long commutes or who don't regularly wash their hands, their steering wheels get much dirtier more quickly.

As different steering wheels are made from different materials, it's important to know what yours is made of so that you can properly clean it. Here, we'll look at the most common steering wheel types and walk you through the process of cleaning them.

Faux-leather, plastic, or wooden steering wheels

For these types of steering wheels, you'll need:

  • a microfiber cloth,
  • an old toothbrush,
  • and an approved interior cleaner. 

Spray the cloth with the cleaner and scrub every bit of surface on the steering wheel. Spray the cleaner into any cracks or crevices, and use the toothbrush to loosen any buildup. Repeat both of the above until the steering wheel is clean.

Routinely spraying a microfiber cloth with an approved cleaner and rubbing the steering wheel with it will prevent most grime from building up over time. Integrate this into when you wash and vacuum your vehicle, and your steering wheel won't need a thorough cleaning nearly as often.

This video shows you an in-depth way of cleaning your steering wheel:

Leather steering wheels

Properly cleaning a leather surface is a whole other animal, but that doesn't mean that it's difficult. You just need to have a little different approach. 

Routine cleaning leather steering wheels

Daily, you should gently wipe off your leather steering wheel with a soft cloth. This will prevent buildup from rapidly occurring. But when you go to do a cleaning, you'll need a microfiber cloth, an approved leather cleaner, and an approved leather conditioner. 

  1. First, wipe the steering wheel clean with a cloth.
  2. Then, apply the leather cleaner to the cloth and rub the steering wheel with it. Be thorough and get every bit of surface several times.

When it's clean, apply the leather conditioner to a dry spot on your cloth and gently rub it into the steering wheel.

Professional hands of woman cleaning steering wheel and console car using microfiber cloth protection in interior for shiny after wash a car and vacuum cleaner.

Deep cleaning leather steering wheels

If you've let the dirt and grime build up on your leather steering wheel over time, all hope is not lost. Cleaning it will just take a bit more time.

  1. First, scrub the steering wheel with a leather cleaner and a soft cloth.
  2. Then, using the same cleaner, apply a used toothbrush to the spots where the wheel is still sticky. Don't forget to use the cleaner and brush in all the crevices.

For the dirtiest leather steering wheels, you can use a leather degreaser. But no matter what approved leather cleaning material you are using, the final step should be to use your leather cleaner and a clean cloth to wipe it down once more and then apply a leather conditioner to the wheel with a clean and dry cloth.

For a video tutorial on how to thoroughly clean your leather steering wheel, watch below:

Why is a leather steering wheel sticky?

Leather will get sticky over time from the natural oils in your skin and from exposure to UV rays. While your windshield has a UV filter in it, this will not filter out 100% of the sun's harmful rays. As leather is an organic material, these items will cause them to get more soiled over time.

Operating the steering wheel with a clean set of hands will keep it from getting sticky as fast, but eventually, it will need to be cleaned. The best way to avoid a sticky steering wheel is to follow the routine cleaning steps we listed above in this post and to wipe off your leather steering wheel after each use.

Steering wheel is one of dirtiest parts in car and can contains viruses and bacteri

Can you use baby wipes on a leather steering wheel?

You might be tempted to use baby wipes on your leather steering wheel or upholstery. After all, it's an organic material, so what harm could a wipe approved for something as delicate as a baby's skin do to it?

Those baby wipes that are perfectly safe for your child contain chemicals that will harm the leather. They will discolor the pigment in the leather and eventually lead to the leather cracking and peeling away.

Only use an approved leather cleaner on any leather surface. 

High angle view of wet wipe on a white background.

Can you use Clorox wipes on a leather steering wheel?

As we pointed out above, only use an approved leather cleaner when cleaning this material. Clorox is not an approved cleaner for leather, as it contains alcohol and bleach. The alcohol will dry out the leather and cause it to crack and flake off. The bleach will work to discolor it. Bleach products should be avoided at all costs. 

pour bleach

How can I make my old steering wheel look new?

Giving your steering wheel a good cleaning will certainly make it look new. Approved cleaning wipes will also add some shine to an older or worn steering wheel. 

Routinely wiping your steering wheel off after every use will make its appearance last much longer. Additionally, taking care of a leather steering wheel will keep it looking soft and luxurious for quite some time.

Female hand with blue glove wiping car steering wheel with disinfectant wipe.

How much does it cost to wrap a steering wheel?

If your leather wheel covering needs replaced, it doesn't cost a fortune to get a newly wrapped wheel. Doing it yourself will only put you out the material for the job. Leather steering wheel wraps can be had for less than $20 a roll. And you can get total skin covers for your steering wheel for under $30 if you'd rather have that look instead.

In conclusion

The driver's hands are on the steering wheel more than any other part of the vehicle, so it's bound to get the dirtiest as far as the interior of the car goes. Routine cleaning will keep dirt and grime from building up on this essential part, keeping it from getting sticky. But a thorough cleaning of the steering wheel is sometimes in order, which can be done in just a few simple steps. Drive safe!

If you found this post on cleaning sticky steering wheels to be helpful, we believe that you'll find the following posts on automotive maintenance and cleaning to be informative:

How to Clean the Inside of Your Car’s Windshield

How To Remove Mold And Mildew From Leather Car Seats