How To Clean A Sticky Steering Wheel

There’s nothing worse than trying to turn the steering wheel in a car and sticking to it because it’s so tacky.

The dirt and bacteria that collects on a steering wheel can be from all sorts of weird and wonderful places.

A lot of people get squeamish when they actually think about the types of contaminants found on the wheel. The most common ones being sweat, saliva, bogeys, and grease from foods.

You’ll find dirty steering wheels in high-mileage cars that don’t get cleaned much, as well as old motors that have been left & neglected for long periods of time.

Thankfully, cleaning them isn’t too much effort. Keep reading and learn how to clean a sticky steering wheel in a matter of minutes.

Tools Needed To Clean Steering Wheels

When it comes to cleaning the steering wheel, it’s pretty much up to you what you use.

There are no specific tools designed to make it easier, just use what you find to be effective.

In my experience, using a brush of some sort, along with an all-purpose cleaner is normally enough.

Brushes I’d recommend are:

It goes without saying, every steering wheel is different. The type of brush you should use will differ based upon the material, contamination level, and whether you need to be careful or not.

I’ve even used scotchbrite on some, but, in a lot of cases, this could leave behind micro-scratches and other unwanted damage.

As long as you clean the steering wheel regularly and don’t let it get it out of hand, it should be relatively easy to clean. Obviously, you can’t do this if it’s a client’s car.

As well as the brushes you’ll need some cleaning product. I recommend using Meguiars Detailer APC but a lot of the time just plain old water is enough.

Another option would be to use a dashboard/vinyl/plastic cleaner. Products such as Meguiars Ultimate Interior Detailer will not only clean but protect your steering wheel too.

Finally, you’ll need some microfiber towels. Ideally, these will be cheap towels that you don’t mind throwing away.

When you wipe away the remaining product and clean the wheel using a towel, the color will transfer and stain.

Just be aware of this so that you don’t ruin an expensive detailing towel. Buy these ones from Amazon or visit your local budget store.

How To Clean A Sticky Steering Wheel

When it comes to detailing, everyone has their own process.

If you’re cleaning the steering wheel, but not the dashboard and surrounding areas, I’d advise you to cover the surrounding area with sheeting or cloth. This will prevent any sling from occurring.

That’s about it as far as prep goes. You can cover yourself up if you like, but that’s not necessary.

Follow the steps listed below to clean any steering wheel that you want. Not just sticky ones…

Spray Your Cleaner Onto Your Brush

To get started, you should have your cleaning product at the ready and something to clean the steering wheel with.

I decide which brush to use based on the material and cleanliness of the steering wheel.

My go-to cleaning brushes are the OXO Good Grips, however, if it’s a very dirty steering wheel, a scrub brush or scotch-brite will do.

Whatever you choose to use, apply the product to the equipment rather than the steering wheel. This will prevent overspray from getting everywhere.

Scrub The Steering Wheel

How hard can it be to clean a steering wheel, right?

Well, there are certain tricks and techniques that you can use to make sure you have a clean and even finish.

If you just randomly scrub the wheel, it will look very patchy and unprofessional.

I like to clean the wheel in the same way you would polish a car. Working on small sections at a time, making sure you clean all the dirt from the area before moving on.

Be careful not to scrub too much though. You could potentially take the material back too far causing discoloration and damage to the steering wheel.

Wipe Away Product Residue

Once you’re satisfied with the area that you’ve been cleaning, wipe away any remaining product residue.

As previously mentioned, only use old or disposable towels for this. A lot of the time you’ll find the colour transfers onto your cloth.

Keep wiping away the product as you go. If you don’t, the product could potentially dry, leaving you with stubborn stains that you’d need to remove.

Thoroughly Inspect Your Work

After wiping away any solution and remaining dirt that’s on the wheel, you’ll have a better idea of what the finished article will look like.

If you’re dissatisfied with the results, or find any dirt left behind, you may need to make another pass.

On older steering wheels that are beaten up by the driver as well as the sun, you’re never going to get a perfect finish.

If it’s heavily damaged and discoloured, odds are you’ll make very little difference no matter how hard you try.

Apply Dressings Or Protectants

This step is for steering wheels that are still in great shape.

Sure, you can apply dressings to ones that are beaten up, but it’s very much like polishing a turd.

Using protectants such as Chemical Guys VRP will provide a non-greasy dry to the touch long-lasting shine.

Not only will this improve the color and overall finish, but it also acts as a UV protectant. This means it will prevent fading and discoloration of the steering wheel over time.

I recommend the Chemical Guys VRP because it can be used on absolutely everything. Door cards, dashboards, tires, you name it, it’ll dress it.

Achieving the perfect finish

You should never expect to achieve the perfect finish when it comes to leather, rubber, or plastic on cars.

A lot of the time, the only way to make these look brand new again is by removing and replacing the piece in question, or performing a full restoration.

Cleaning can only do so much, no matter how hard you try.