Best way to clean a leather steering wheel?

E28 technical advice asked and given! Troubleshooting, modifications and more.
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Mike W.
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Joined: Feb 12, 2006 1:00 PM
Location: Covid 19 Life during Wartime

Best way to clean a leather steering wheel?

Post by Mike W. »

Pretty self explanatory, does anyone have some great technique to clean the leather on steering wheels? The cool sport wheel on my E36 is so gunked up I can barely let go of it. I've got some Leatherique "Pristine Clean" I think it is, which does some good, but like their other products I'm less than wow'd. Saddle soap? I might have used that long ago, with similarly less than impressive results. Simple Green? LA's Totally Awesome, which is actually a pretty impressive product, thanks Jay3/El Guappo, but somehow I doubt leather is the ideal application. Lacquer thinner? ???

Yes, I emphatically know I have to get some sort of finish on it again after cleaning, but that's a whole different story...
kojo96
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Joined: Mar 31, 2019 7:39 PM
Location: Pleasanton CA

Re: Best way to clean a leather steering wheel?

Post by kojo96 »

Mr. Clean eraser pads. Grab a box at Walmart. Soak in warm water and use gentle steady strokes. Rinse/repeat rinse repeat using a clean soft cloth to wipe in-between.
You'll go through a few but results are impressive, treat with your choice of conditioner.
BMWCCA2
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Joined: Feb 12, 2006 1:00 PM
Location: Central Virginia

Re: Best way to clean a leather steering wheel?

Post by BMWCCA2 »

On my wife's E39 when I bought it years ago I cleaned the wheel with a mix of Woolite and water using a soft toothbrush. Worked great and didn't remove anything that was supposed to remain of the leather cover. Haven't tried it again in years but it made a dramatic difference at that time on what was such a dirty car when I bought it that I took the front seats out and scrubbed them in the bed of my truck. I also had to remove the entire console to get to the dog/animal hair that was imbedded everywhere (I think the original owner kept it in her barn). I would not let my wife look at it until I was done but in the end she drove that $500 purchase for probably six-years or more before replacing it with an E82—now totaled and replaced with an E90.
Blue Shadow
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Location: SE PA

Re: Best way to clean a leather steering wheel?

Post by Blue Shadow »

I just wash em in the sink with soap and water. It is leather, spent most of its life outside in the rain and sunshine. Wash it, dry it and evaluate what it needs to be made right. The one I did was well protected through its life by the layers of dirt, grime and grease that were on it. Came clean, good condition under those protective layers. Use a brush or cleaning implement that won't damage the leather. Vegetable brushes are soft, fingernail brushes work.
Federico
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Joined: Sep 16, 2013 6:38 PM
Location: Argentina / California

Re: Best way to clean a leather steering wheel?

Post by Federico »

When cleaning my riding tack, i like to use glycerin soap. Get a damp sponge, squeeze it well, rub it against the soap and then hit the steering wheel. You can follow it up with a damp cloth for a clean feel.
That's cheap and effective.
BRRV
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Re: Best way to clean a leather steering wheel?

Post by BRRV »

Late to the party.. don't be surprised if, in 'cleaning' the wheel, and any of these techniques will work (I find Pristine Clean to be pretty good, but getting to that point, I also use Woolite) you wind up completely destroying the top surface/coating of the leather. It's not really the leather anyway, it's a coating that's applied to the leather on the wheel. It eventually just degrades over time. You may need to refinish the wheel.. short of sending it out and spending $300+ dollars (!) I do recommend the wheel refinishing kit that Leatherique sells.. I used this recently on an E38 Sport wheel (boy, they are expensive to replace!) and it worked perfectly. I did it in the car because of the vagaries of the air bag and it wasn't difficult, although it took time to really get the wheel completely clean and rough/ready (don't turn it into suede). Three lights coats.. a year later I still get positive comments on how good it looks.If the wheel is in otherwise good condition (you could also use Crack Filler to fill defects, too) I'd go this route again any time.
Mike W.
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Re: Best way to clean a leather steering wheel?

Post by Mike W. »

I got some "Chemical Guys" leather cleaner and used the magic sponges. Seems pretty good. Got a little sueding on top, but not too bad and salvageable. I've already hit it a couple of times with black liquid shoe polish as an interim measure to try to preserve it, which it more or less has. I've still got some Leatherique black which surprisingly is still liquid, although I should try it first as much of the finish is gone.
John in VA
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Joined: Feb 12, 2006 1:00 PM
Location: Leesburg, VA

Re: Best way to clean a leather steering wheel?

Post by John in VA »

Mr. Clean erasers will remove the outer layer of leather & dye, along with the gunk. You can dampen a microfiber towel & put it in the microwave for a few minutes, then gently work it around the wheel. Clean the towel & repeat as needed.
topher800
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Joined: Nov 24, 2009 10:44 AM
Location: Boulder, CO

Re: Best way to clean a leather steering wheel?

Post by topher800 »

Mostly just a wet rag. If it s really dirty, then add either Woolite or mild dish washing soap.
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