How to Properly Clean and Protect Your Steering Wheel

Steering Wheel Detailing

Steering Wheels are one of the most touched parts of a vehicle, making it crucial to give it the attention it needs.  When cleaning your steering wheel, it can be difficult to achieve a non-greasy finish while ensuring proper hydration and protection. 

As a general rule, when cleaning a leather steering wheel conditioner can be applied and properly buffed off with a microfiber cloth. If your steering wheel is not leather, you should use interior detailing spray or an all-purpose cleaner. Some cheaper leather conditioners may leave a residue, making picking the proper conditioner crucial. 

Want to know how to pick the proper leather cleaner and conditioner for your steering wheel? Keep reading for a detailer’s take on what products to use and how to apply them. 

Picking the Right Conditioner

When cleaning and protecting a steering wheel, it is important to consider what material the wheel is made of. If it is vinyl or plastic (aka not leather), then interior detailing spray and potentially a UV protectant is all that is needed. If you have a leather steering wheel, you can use almost any leather cleaner to remove dirt and grime. The difficult part is picking a conditioner to hydrate and protect your steering wheel without causing a greasy finish. 

My professional top pick for cleaning and protecting steering wheels is Lexol leather cleaner and conditioner. After using several other products, Lexol has proved to be the best for steering wheels specifically. With an easy application, Lexol leaves a tight, grease-free finish to ensure a proper grip on your steering wheel. However, I do not recommend using Lexol on leather seats, as other options may leave you with a softer plusher cushion. 

If Lexol is unobtainable, then Chemical Guys or Adam’s Conditioner should be at most auto parts stores and some supermarkets. These conditioners are safe to use but may leave a slightly slicker finish, making it crucial you follow the proper application steps. 

It is important to avoid cleaners and conditioners that may contain silicone. One prime example of a product containing silicone is ArmerAll. The silicone in ArmerAll and similar products can give a shiny look but can dry out the leather leading to cracking over time. Silicone-based products are also more prone to attract dust and debris. 


All grease and grime should be removed before applying the conditioner. To clean your steering wheel, apply your choice of leather cleaner to a microfiber cloth or brush. Once applied begin agitating your steering wheel ensuring to clean all cracks and ridges.  Once agitated begin buffing the cleaner off the steering wheel with a clean microfiber. After cleaning, I recommend double-checking for hidden dirt and debris and repeating this process if necessary. 

Once fully clean begin the conditioning process by applying conditioner to a clean microfiber cloth to avoid overspray. begin applying the conditioner to the steering wheel as evenly as possible. Throughout the application, I typically apply it slightly wet allowing the leather to soak in as much conditioner as possible. Once applied, begin buffing with a clean microfiber towel. While buffing apply light to medium pressure until the finish is smooth. You may need to buff the wheel once more with a different clean microfiber cloth if some spotting and streaking are still present. Your steering wheel should be left with a smooth grease-free finish once finished. 

When applying leather cleaners and conditioners, one thing to look out for is overspray. Spotting and smudges can occur when excess product is sprayed in non-desired places, such as the dashboard. To avoid overspray I typically spray all cleaners and conditioners on a microfiber cloth while outside of the vehicle. If overspray does occur, it can be easily wiped off with your interior detailing spray of choice. 


When it comes to maintaining your steering wheel the most important part is cleaning and conditioning regularly. I recommend cleaning and conditioning at least once every three months, however, if there is visible dirt and debris visible it may be time for a cleaning. 

Another thing to be conscious about is the condition of your hands before driving. If your hands are excessively dirty or sweaty, this debris and salt can embed themselves in your steering wheel, resulting in a dirty wheel. 

UV exposure from the sun can also fade leather over time. To prevent UV degradation use steering wheel covers and sun shades while the car is not being used. As always it is best to park in a cool shaded area to prevent UV degregation on all parts of your vehicle.

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