Cleaning your car’s interior can be tricky, more so, if it’s the steering wheel that you want to rid of dirt, built-up grime, bacteria, and body oils. Since it’s the part of your car that you touch the most (hopefully), then it would be safe to assume that it’s also the dirtiest. Just imagine the times you drove after changing your tires, or after you’ve checked something under the hood. Even those who regularly use lotion for their hands can also make for a dirty steering wheel.
While cleaning the steering wheel with just water is tempting, it won’t completely do the trick because the dirt build up might be too much for that. On the other hand, using chemicals is dangerous, especially if you’re unsure if that chemical will damage the material. To help you with that, we’ve made a handy dandy guide for you.
Identify the steering wheel material
Steering wheels come in a variety of materials such as plastic, polyurethane, faux leather, synthetic resins, natural wood, and leather. Finding out which one your steering wheel is made of can help you determine which cleaning agents are good to use. Each one has its own dos and don’t when it comes to cleaning, so it’s best to be careful. To find out what kind of material your steering wheel is made out of, you can check your owner’s manual or check the car’s brochure online if it’s still available. Remember, polyurethane material will look and almost feel like real leather, so it’s best to be sure before you tackle cleaning it.
Steering wheels that are made out of plastics are most often found in entry-level vehicles. It’s the easiest to clean among the others as you will only need to use soap, water, and dry cloth. You can also use a sprayer to better distribute the liquid soap onto the surface of the wheel but make sure you avoid spraying the liquid on buttons if there are any. The process of cleaning is straightforward as all you will need to do is spray the wheel with the soap solution, rinse it with water, then dry it with a clean cloth.
Often confused as plastic, synthetic resin is also among one of the easier steering wheel materials to clean. Just like with a plastic wheel, all you need is soap, water, and a clean cloth. Just follow the same steps given for the plastic-made steering wheels and you should be fine. It is important to remember that using polish on synthetic resins can make it more slippery and may hinder your ability to properly grip the wheel, so it is best to avoid them.
Steering wheels made entirely of real wood are now a rare sight on modern vehicles, however, some vehicles may still have them, at least in the form of wooden inserts. That being said, you will need some wood polish in order to keep it clean and protected. Be careful with the application as putting too much pressure on the surface may end up scratching the finishings instead of protecting it. It is best to use a microfiber cloth when cleaning the wheel as it is designed to help prevent damage from heavy rubbing and scratching. It also comes with the benefit of lifting up the dirt from the wheel.
Polyurethane, sometimes called faux-leather/fake leather, is the most common type of steering wheel. It’s easy to clean with plain soap and water, but you can also use chemicals to enhance the material. Make sure you clean them thoroughly as they often come with fake stitches that can easily catch dirt and grime.
Leather types are usually found on top-of-the-line variants of vehicles and are the ones that can give you the most pleasure when holding them. Use a leather cleaner or conditioner for this one, instead of using soap and water as the latter can damage the integrity of the leather. Remember to spray onto the cloth (or microfiber towel) and not directly onto the steering wheel. Be careful of using too much force to remove built-up dirt on it as you can scratch its surface. You will also need to let the chemical dry first before using it.