Join Our Ford Truck Forum Today

Document your Ford truck project here and inspire others! Login/Register to view the site with fewer ads.

Shiny leather wrapped steering wheel - what's the trick?

CowboyBilly9Mile

Charter Member
7,118
442
USA
So my leather wrapped steering wheel, like most of them after being used awhile, is no longer a matte finish but rather, it's shiny. I'd like to, if possible, get it back to looking closer to what it looked like when it was new.

With this in mind I wonder if

a) is it shiny because there's a couple quarts of hand sweat in there or

b) is it shiny because the leather is actually polished?

FWIW, there is a method posted around the net that works but it is controversial in that a (supposedly) mild abrasive material is used. I can't get excited with this (yet); maybe a little is ok. I also can't get excited about dumping $25 in cleaners that do nothing more than remove dirt and leave a shiny wheel; I've got cleaners here. Still, if something proven to do the job is out there, I'm all ears.

Thoughts?
 

O'Rattlecan

Redneck Prognosticator
26,687
797
Belton, MO
I think your hands actually polish it over time. Using an abrasive seems... imprudent. Wouldn't it seem like it simply opens up the material for dirt and other crud? Maybe if you used a legit leather cure after the scuff it would turn out.

Ryan
 

CowboyBilly9Mile

Charter Member
7,118
442
USA
^^^ That's sorta my thought on it too as far as the cause. But then I realize that there are places on the wheel that almost never get touched and they shine tool, which has me wondering if there is something about the finish applied when the leather is new. I'm not so worried about opening up the material as I'd expect there is a product out there that will seal it back up. There's also supposedly a cleaning method using nothing more than the hot water from a coffee maker, a clean rag, wet the rag and scrub. No soap needed. I was hoping someone had heard of and/or tried this.
 

Austin

FTF's #1 Knob Polisher
10,350
297
Cumming, GA
Okay, so... this can get very lengthy, but I'll try to my best to provide the most info in a short amount of reading.

What you're seeing is, over time, the oils in your skin build up in the pores of the leather (much like lotion fills the pores of your skin). Mix in a slew of other things and you get the shiny leather. Contrary to popular belief, shiny leather is not clean leather.

The leather used on your particular steering wheel is what's often referred to as a 'coated leather', meaning there are dyes and protectants saturated into the hyde (along with a few other factors).

Nevermind understanding it, cleaning it can be a task. I use a commercial-grade vapor steamer to clean leather but it's not cheap to buy and impractical for a weekender to own. What I'd suggest is starting with very hot water and a few quality microfiber towels. Soak a towel then compress it on various sections of the wheel. Follow up with a clean and dry towel to soak up the water and now loosened oils and dirt on the surface.

Understanding that the steering wheel is often the microbial hot spot (so to speak) of any vehicle means that a simple hot water treatment may not be enough. Autogeek.net caries various detailing supplies geared toward both the professional and the novice. There you'll be able to find Meguiar's D101 All Purpose Cleaner (APC). I suggest to anybody who takes care of their own detailing to own this water dilutable cleaner. $33 gets you two gallons of concentrated cleaner and a labeled spray bottle.

(Never buy a 'dedicated' leather cleaner - you're wasting money. Only some of the surfaces in most vehicles are leather; the rest are usually vinyl.)

Let me know if I can help from there!
 

dustybumpers

don't play well w others
I use the liquid/gel hand cleaner I keep a bottle of it in the truck, and everytime I go to the store, etc, I "wash My hands, then wipe them on the steering wheel
So for it's cleaned up pretty good, was all shiney and gross when I bought the car.
 

CowboyBilly9Mile

Charter Member
7,118
442
USA
Okay, so... this can get very lengthy, but I'll try to my best to provide the most info in a short amount of reading.

What you're seeing is, over time, the oils in your skin build up in the pores of the leather (much like lotion fills the pores of your skin). Mix in a slew of other things and you get the shiny leather. Contrary to popular belief, shiny leather is not clean leather.

The leather used on your particular steering wheel is what's often referred to as a 'coated leather', meaning there are dyes and protectants saturated into the hyde (along with a few other factors).

Nevermind understanding it, cleaning it can be a task. I use a commercial-grade vapor steamer to clean leather but it's not cheap to buy and impractical for a weekender to own. What I'd suggest is starting with very hot water and a few quality microfiber towels. Soak a towel then compress it on various sections of the wheel. Follow up with a clean and dry towel to soak up the water and now loosened oils and dirt on the surface.

Understanding that the steering wheel is often the microbial hot spot (so to speak) of any vehicle means that a simple hot water treatment may not be enough. Autogeek.net caries various detailing supplies geared toward both the professional and the novice. There you'll be able to find Meguiar's D101 All Purpose Cleaner (APC). I suggest to anybody who takes care of their own detailing to own this water dilutable cleaner. $33 gets you two gallons of concentrated cleaner and a labeled spray bottle.

(Never buy a 'dedicated' leather cleaner - you're wasting money. Only some of the surfaces in most vehicles are leather; the rest are usually vinyl.)

Let me know if I can help from there!

Thanks Austin, it's appreciated!

So it sounds like that idea of using a pot of hot water from a drip coffee maker + plenty of clean towels might be a good place to start after all. On the other hand, there is a regional auto auction about 15 miles from my hose and they do detailing out there, so on that note maybe if they have a vapor steamer it would be worth it to just have them do it. Thoughts?

*I only mentioned that auction BC it sounds like the vapor steamer is sounds expensive and thus, a larger outfit would be most5 likely to have one. Am I wrong? There are smaller detail shops that I'd really rather deal with.
 

CowboyBilly9Mile

Charter Member
7,118
442
USA
Update.......

I really didn't know what microfiber towels would be best so I took a gamble on a 7-pack at WallyWorld. This afternoon I spent an hour wiping a towel dipped in a bucket of hot tap water and immediately wiping with a dry microfiber towel. Each bucket of hot water would make about two passes around the wheel before turning from hot to warm (so I did this, four times). Also, and for kicks, I had some upholstery cleaner that claimed to be also be OK on leather. I did that two times.

The first three times the water in the bucket was not especially clear.....nice! The last time it was. IMO, that soap helped to some degree. Tomorrow is a new day and I'd like to spend another hour out there. It's working!


**Leather developed a handful of small bumps (zits) during the cleaning; they may be 1/32 or so tall. I'm hoping that as the wheel drys they contract.
 

CowboyBilly9Mile

Charter Member
7,118
442
USA
I'm noticing that the leather lost some color in places where a fingernail nicked it and in a few places at the seams. I'm also noticing that there are (supposedly) all sorts of ways to redye and not a consistent method. Spray lacquer on a leather wrapped wheel? Really? I wanted it to look like it did when it was new, not like it did before i started (ie, shiney). :-/
 

Recent Forum Posts

Top