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How to clean and restore an oily and slippery leather steering wheel?


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#1 another qx4

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 01:54 PM

Hi. My steering wheel has been through a few years of "abuse". I remember when it had a supple matte finish and it was really easy to grip. Now the leather is absolutely smooth, glossy (like how something would look after being drenched in Armor All :hairpull ), and slippery. I tried Meguiar's gold class leather cleaner/condition with a MF towel and it didn't help much. What formula, cleaners, and conditioners do i use to try my best and restore the steering wheel?
Mazda RX8 Velocity red mica
Infiniti QX brillant silver

#2 wfedwar

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 02:50 PM

Try a cleaner only (e.g., Lexol) and use a brush. It may take several passes.

#3 todd@bsaw

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 02:51 PM

Most of the dirt and grime on a leather steering wheel will be the grease from your hands (or any oil based cleaners/conditioners you may use). Leather cleaner and conditioner should not be used on your steering wheel. You need to strip that grime from your wheel.

Currently, I use a steam cleaner for steering wheels because the heat really breaks down the oils. The traditional method is to just use a strong cleaner and a MF or brush. You'll probably be surprised how long you have to keep at it to remove all the dirt.
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#4 another qx4

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 03:23 PM

Most of the dirt and grime on a leather steering wheel will be the grease from your hands (or any oil based cleaners/conditioners you may use). Leather cleaner and conditioner should not be used on your steering wheel. You need to strip that grime from your wheel.

Currently, I use a steam cleaner for steering wheels because the heat really breaks down the oils. The traditional method is to just use a strong cleaner and a MF or brush. You'll probably be surprised how long you have to keep at it to remove all the dirt.

What do you mean by "strong cleaner"? Like an APC diluted? I don't have a steam cleaner unfortunately :( .
Mazda RX8 Velocity red mica
Infiniti QX brillant silver

#5 fg3

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 04:04 PM

I've seen on here that a lot of people use a Magic Eraser on leather.

Might want to try that.

#6 judyb

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 01:54 AM

Please do not use a Magic Eraser on leather. We have just tested these asd they can cause a lot of damage to the finish.

A strong detergent cleaner is the best product to use (Maxi Cleaner would also be OK) as you need to remove the surface dirt and grease.

#7 David Fermani

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 02:05 PM

I use an automotive APC (diluted accordingly) with a tooth brush and they come out perfect. Then, after it's clean, apply your conditioner.

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#8 Totoland Mach

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 05:00 PM

every single BMW I get for reconditioning gets the following treatment for the steering wheel:

1. Ordinary liquid dishwash soap diluted with warm water in a spray bottle.
2. Horse hair brush for scrubbing
3. Compressed air or shop vac to remove excess water, especially around switches in the wheel.

I lightly scrub the wheel with the soapy water and brush and immediately wipe with a terry towel to remove. Then use air (vac or compressed air nozzle) to dry.

That's it! The wheel is as fresh as a new vehicle and stays that way for a long time. One of the biggest headaches come from cars that had female drivers who transferred makeup from their hands (or hand lotion...don't really know) to the wheel.

Toto
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#9 David Fermani

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 05:27 PM

Hey Toto - no protectant or conditioner gets applied on the leather?

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#10 Totoland Mach

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 05:46 PM

Nosir David: as soon as the owner starts driving again, the natural oils from their hands starts to condition the wheel. Doesn't make sense to add more oil to the process.

Toto
2003 Mustang Mach 1

#11 David Fermani

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 05:57 PM

Got it. :xyxthumbs I always thought that hand sweat/oil is high in PH and could prematurely wear out the leather? I guess I just love the initial soft feel of the conditioned trim before your hands wear it away anyways. :nixweiss

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#12 judyb

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 12:37 AM

Body oils are very detrimental to leather and it should be protected from them. Steering wheels should be cleaned but if the body oils have penetrated the leather then degreasers will be required to extract the oils. Cleaning will only remove what is on the surface.

Leather does not require conditioning as the oils in leather cannot be removed by the cleaning process and to add more back in will also speed up any deterioration of the leather.

#13 David Fermani

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 03:51 AM

Body oils are very detrimental to leather and it should be protected from them.
Leather does not require conditioning as the oils in leather cannot be removed by the cleaning process and to add more back in will also speed up any deterioration of the leather.


Good info. But, (per your 1st line) how do you protect it if you shouldn't use a conditioner?

Also, how does conditioner deteriorate leather?

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#14 judyb

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 08:45 AM

'Conditioners' do not protect leather. For protection you need a good water based fluorochemical product that will act like a 'scothgard' and will inhibit body oils from being soaked into the leather. You also need to be sure that the product actually works as a protector. Many manufacturers are now changing the name of their 'conditioners' to 'protectors' without changing the product so they do not work.

'Conditioners' generally contain oils and/or waxes which on finished leather cannot penetrate the coating that is on leather and therefore sit on the surface and only serve to attract more dirt and oils which in time will break down the finish and pigment. If 'conditioners' are put on leather that has cracked and the oils penetrate the leather then this upsets the balance of the fat liquors already in the leather and will also destabilise the adhesion of the pigment and finsh coating and so make the leather coating crack even more. Once a surplace of oils or dirt have penetrated the leather itself then this is what deteriorates the leather fibres and breaks the actual leather down.

#15 adjulian

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 08:54 AM

'Conditioners' do not protect leather. For protection you need a good water based fluorochemical product that will act like a 'scothgard' and will inhibit body oils from being soaked into the leather. You also need to be sure that the product actually works as a protector. Many manufacturers are now changing the name of their 'conditioners' to 'protectors' without changing the product so they do not work.


Great information. A couple of clarifying questions for you judyb. What "protector" products do you recommend for automotive leather, e.g., seats, steering wheels, etc.? Also, which leather degreaser products do you recommend?

#16 brwill2005

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 08:55 AM

'Conditioners' do not protect leather. For protection you need a good water based fluorochemical product that will act like a 'scothgard' and will inhibit body oils from being soaked into the leather. You also need to be sure that the product actually works as a protector. Many manufacturers are now changing the name of their 'conditioners' to 'protectors' without changing the product so they do not work.

'Conditioners' generally contain oils and/or waxes which on finished leather cannot penetrate the coating that is on leather and therefore sit on the surface and only serve to attract more dirt and oils which in time will break down the finish and pigment. If 'conditioners' are put on leather that has cracked and the oils penetrate the leather then this upsets the balance of the fat liquors already in the leather and will also destabilise the adhesion of the pigment and finsh coating and so make the leather coating crack even more. Once a surplace of oils or dirt have penetrated the leather itself then this is what deteriorates the leather fibres and breaks the actual leather down.

I am curious as to what you think about a product such as 303 on coated leather.
Brad Will- Owner
Reflections Auto Salon LLC

#17 GatorJ

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 11:04 AM

'Conditioners' generally contain oils and/or waxes which on finished leather cannot penetrate the coating that is on leather and therefore sit on the surface and only serve to attract more dirt and oils which in time will break down the finish and pigment.


While this statement makes intuitive sense, it runs contrary to my experience with the sealed leather seats in my Ford Escape Hybrid and Leatherique Rejuvinator Oil. When I apply Leatherique, it does not run off, puddle and/or evaporate and the seats are noticeably softer after use of the product. The product is going somewhere (i.e. absorbed) and it is definitely doing something to the leather.

#18 Raz5219

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 02:31 PM

May I suggest one of these:

Posted Image :cool:

#19 brwill2005

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 03:44 PM

While this statement makes intuitive sense, it runs contrary to my experience with the sealed leather seats in my Ford Escape Hybrid and Leatherique Rejuvinator Oil. When I apply Leatherique, it does not run off, puddle and/or evaporate and the seats are noticeably softer after use of the product. The product is going somewhere (i.e. absorbed) and it is definitely doing something to the leather.

I read a lot about how the leather feels 'softer' after Leatherique. Is it possible you may be feeling the residue left by the oils in the Leatherique. I can not see how coated leather is going to feel softer, because there is a barrier between you and the actual leather. Note: I have used Leatherique before. I think it is way too time consuming and would rather apply a product with UV protection, such as 303.
Brad Will- Owner
Reflections Auto Salon LLC

#20 todd@bsaw

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 05:25 PM

'Conditioners' do not protect leather. For protection you need a good water based fluorochemical product that will act like a 'scothgard' and will inhibit body oils from being soaked into the leather. You also need to be sure that the product actually works as a protector. Many manufacturers are now changing the name of their 'conditioners' to 'protectors' without changing the product so they do not work.

'Conditioners' generally contain oils and/or waxes which on finished leather cannot penetrate the coating that is on leather and therefore sit on the surface and only serve to attract more dirt and oils which in time will break down the finish and pigment. If 'conditioners' are put on leather that has cracked and the oils penetrate the leather then this upsets the balance of the fat liquors already in the leather and will also destabilise the adhesion of the pigment and finsh coating and so make the leather coating crack even more. Once a surplace of oils or dirt have penetrated the leather itself then this is what deteriorates the leather fibres and breaks the actual leather down.


Thank you for this and your participation on Autopia.
There have been many discussions on proper leather car on these forums and so far I have never read anything as definitive as what you are saying. Everything makes sense and I can believe that you know what you are talking about. I'll be watching this thread to see what cleaners and protectants you recommend.
:wavey
- Todd Schmidt -
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and Master of Shine

TS Detailing
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