By default, leather is supposed to be matte when it comes to its look. This should always be the case whether the leather is clean or new. So what makes leather like the one on your steering wheel shiny?
In this article, I’m going to share with you 7 reasons why this happens and a couple of ways to fix it.
So, again, why does leather steering wheels become shiny? While the shine on leather will generally be as a result of it developing patina with time, accumulated dirt and oil, sweat, hand burnishing, among other things can seal off the natural pores on the leather and then eventually causing it to turn slick, shiny, or glossy.
Keep reading this article in order to learn more details about how the above-mentioned reasons cause the leather to become shiny and how to prevent or deal with your leather steering wheel if it has already become shiny.
Quick Fact: Leather steering wheel becoming shiny happens to all car brands across boards with leather wraps on its steering wheel.
Details On Why Leather Steering Wheels Become Shiny
Below are the details on why your leather steering wheels might have become shiny over the past few years if not months.
1. Oil And Grease Deposits
Oil from our hands is one of the major reasons why leather steering wheels becomes shiny.
The steering wheel is one of the most touch parts of the car and so it’s only natural that the hand creams, lotions, hand sanitizer, and grease residue from burgers, chips, etc, we enjoy in our cars will obviously get deposited into your leather steering wheel.
Leather, I mean real leather as a material is highly absorbent and this is one thing most people forget or do not know about leather.
Yes, absorbent, meaning leather is porous and can easily soak anything it comes into contact with into its fibers. Just give it time!
So as you continue to touch your steering wheels whenever you go for a ride, oils from your hands will easily get soaked up by your leather steering wheel and will eventually oxidize leading to the shiny surface on your leather steering wheel.
The kind of shine you get on your leather steering wheel from oil deposits is usually mirror-like and you will be able to sometimes see a reflection of yourself. Oops! 😀
2. Leather Conditioners
Leather conditioners are one of leathers besties. Leather conditioners help to keep and maintain a healthy and fresh-looking leather.
Leather conditioners are made up of nourishing oils that’s meant to go into the fibers of the leather to nourish or lubricate it so that the leather doesn’t dry up but remains protected.
But because of how the leather generally used for auto interiors are finished, the leather conditioners you will apply will typically not do what it’s supposed to do.
Instead of the leather conditioner seeping into the leather to condition it, most leather conditioners that most people use will simply sit on the surface of the leather steering wheel causing it to shiny, sticky, and even worse, slippery.
Personally, I will generally not advice that you put any kind of conditioner on your leather steering wheel and limit applications to only cleaners.
However, if your leather steering wheel is looking beat up and needs a bit of nourishing, there are some awesome leather conditioners you can use on your leather steering wheel that’s going to dry very well when they’re applied and is not going to make your leather slippery.
A great example is the Gliptone leather conditioner. If you’re interested, you can check it out over here on Amazon!
3. Accumulated Dirt
Leather as an organic material is able to soak everything in its environment. From smells, moisture, dirt, dust, and everything in-between.
Dirt is one of the common things that makes leather steering wheel shiny.
Lighter-colored leather steering wheels will eventually become darker with a soft sheen overlay on its surface.
A soft subtle shine will begin to appear on your leather steering wheel as you continually use it every day.
The constant accumulation of dirt, dust, moisture in the atmosphere will combine to make your leather steering feeling very shiny.
Perspiration stains can add to the kind of wear your leather steering wheel will generally suffer.
Yes! Sweat is natural and unavoidable but will usually have a negative effect on the leather.
As mentioned before, most of the things that are likely to cause your leather to become shiny will usually not be a stand-alone factor and will comprise a combination of two, three, or more things.
Sweat is definitely one of the accomplices when it comes to leather becoming shiny among other different kinds of damages it frequently causes such as dark spots, flakes, crack, etc.
Sweat from palms and arms will usually go directly on the leather steering wheel.
And because sweats contain a lot of salts, enzymes, and fatty acids, a chemical reaction will always ensue whenever your hands or arms touch the leather steering wheel.
This will cause the leather to have pH levels that are not very friendly to leather and will eventually build up, penetrate, and change the natural soft matte look of the leather.
5. Patina – Leather Gets Shiny With Age
Patina is a popular term synonymous with leather and if you have always had leather around you then you might have heard this term or might have seen it happen to your leather items.
So, what’s patina? Patina is a shiny overlay that forms on leather after it has seen some use and wear.
Patina will form on your leather steering wheel by the constant friction from your hand whenever you drive.
This allows the leather steering wheel to develop a shiny surface which is otherwise called patina.
Patina will occur a lot quicker on leather steering wheels not only because of your hand constantly burnishing the leather steering wheel but also due to the steering wheel itself heating up.
This catalyst the leather steering wheel developing patina a lot quicker leaving behind a shiny glossy surface.
Cars get baked by the sun a lot and the part that suffers a lot of bashing is the entire area around the dashboard – obviously with the steering wheel included.
Leather has the big bright ball in the sky as one of its arch-nemesis.
The sun’s inevitably consistently hitting the leather steering wheel will not only fade, or remove its natural oils, or may it sticky but can also cause it to become shiny.
In many cases, this will not be the only factor causing the shine on your leather steering wheel.
It will be a combination of some of the factors already discussed in this post such as sweat, oil from hands, among other things.
One of the common solutions to this will be to prevent the sun from directly hitting your leather steering wheel by tainting your car glasses if you want an extreme approach or by simply fixing steering wheel covers.
How To Remove The Shine On Leather Steering Wheel
If you have been reading this article up to this point then the obvious question on your mind now will be; How then do you safely remove the shine from the leather steering wheel and possibly return it to a natural matte look.
I’m going to share with you 6 simple but effective ways to remove the shine from your leather steering wheel.
These remedies range from very less aggressive approaches to slightly rigorous ones. Let’s get to it!
Pro Tip: You MUST condition your leather with the right leather conditioners if you use any cleaning process to remove the shine from your leather steering wheel that especially involves using anything soap or leather decreasers.
1. The Damp Cloth Method
The damp cloth method as the name implies may sound pretty basic but usually, that’s all you will need to safely knock out the shine you have on your leather steering wheel.
This method is great if you have just started to notice the appearance of some sort of shine or gloss on the surface of your leather.
If you don’t want your leather steering wheel getting to that point where it looks like a shiny sausage then using the damp cloth method is definitely the sure way to go. 😀
- Towel: You would particularly want to use a terry towel instead of something like a microfiber cloth because terry towels are a lot more abrasive and would substantially reduce your work time.
- Ordinary Water (Warm): Warm water is great for removing the shine on the leather since the majority of leather becoming shiny will most likely be caused by oil, grease, or dirt.
Warm water will help to dissolve whatever is causing the shine overly on the surface of the leather.
Step 1: Dampen Your towel with warm water and wring it out. Wring it out so that it’s damp enough but not soaking wet.
Getting the cloth soaking wet can allow water to get into the electronic setup in your steering wheel – particularly for steering wheels with perforated leather wraps.
Step 2: Applying a bit of pressure, use the damp towel to give the leather steering wheel a good scrub.
You can repeat this 2-3 times to ensure all the shiny matter is taken off.
If you realize a lot of dirt on the towel, you can rinse it with warm water and continue to wipe the leather down.
Step 3: Once you have thoroughly scrubbed the leather steering wheel, use a dry towel to clean off any excess water from the surface of the leather.
Step 4: Leave to dry.
2. The Leather Wipes Method
Getting rid of the shine from your leather steering wheel can be a daily affair with the leather wipes.
Using leather wipes is a great way to ensure your leather steering wheel is rid of any form of dirt, grease, and stain-causing shine on a daily basis.
It helps to prevent any form of build-up that can possibly disrupt the look and feel of your leather.
Using leather wipes is very simple. All you do is to choose the best leather wipes and usually, this is going to be the leather wipes that you will use to clean your leather car seats.
You can check out a detailed guide I wrote earlier about the best leather wipes you can use for the interior of your cars that won’t cause any damage!
Then after you’re sure of your choice, you can simply take a piece of leather wipes to clean your leather steering wheel literally every day.
A little word of caution though. Some leather wipes will come with conditioning agents while others will come with leather cleaning agents.
So when using leather wipes, the once with conditioning properties shouldn’t be used every day as they can easily oversaturate the surface of the leather and the problem you’re trying to fix is going to worsen.
3. The Dish Soap Method
Dish soap if you have some at home is very useful when it comes to cleaning leather.
It can be used to remove any kind of dirt, grease, stain, and gloss on the surface of your leather.
It’s safe and also very easy to use. Here’s how you will be able to use dish soap to safely remove the shine from your leather steering wheel.
- Dish Soap
- Leather Cleaning Sponge
- Microfiber Cloth
- Water (Warm)
Step 1: Put a few drops in of dish soap in a bowl with lukewarm water and bring it to a nice soapy lather.
Step 2: Use your microfiber cloth to soak up a bit of the lather and wring it out.
Step 3: Now rub the leather surface with your microfiber cloth making sure to put in a some muscle into the scrub.
Make sure the pressure you’re applying is at the same time gentle and in a careful manner so that no soapy residue gets into the electronic installation on the steering wheel.
Step 4: After you have thoroughly cleaned the shine off the surface of the leather steering wheel, use a dampened microfiber cloth to dry-clean.
Step 5: Leave to air-dry gradually at least overnight.
Step 6: After the leather is thoroughly dried, condition it. Remember not to put the leather conditioner directly on the leather steering wheel before conditioning.
Simply put a few squirts or 2-3 drops of conditioner lotion on your microfiber cloth before applying it to the leather.
Quick Trivia: Don’t Eat Pizza and Drive. Please don’t hate me! 😀
4. Use Leather Cleaners
There are specially formulated products you can easily buy to get rid of the shine on the surface of your leather.
While this is a sure way to deal with shiny leather steering wheels, it’s probably going to be the most expensive approach to dealing with it.
You can also use the official cleaner your car brand recommends for cleaning leather steering wheels, seats, and other parts of the car interior covered in leather.
Here’s a list of my Top recommended cleaners you can use to remove the shine off your leather steering wheel.
The key thing is to religiously follow the instructions indicated on a particular leather cleaner product you choose.
Top Recommended Leather Cleaners
- Chemical Guys Extreme Leather Cleaner
“Pro Tips: The leather material mostly used for leather seats, steering wheels, gearboxes, headrests, and so on will usually require leather cleaning products with pH level 5”.
You can as well check your local stores and favorite only stores for leather cleaners you can use to clean the shine off of your leather steering wheel.
Don’t go for a leather cleaner that’s too alkaline (the pH level below 5) or acidic (pH levels above 5).
5. Use Leather Degreaser
The leather degreaser just like the leather cleaner is a product you can purchase to remove any form of shine from the surface of your leather.
It’s one of the rigorous but safe approaches to removing the shine from the surface of your leather steering wheel.
What the leather degreaser basically does is to dissolve and remove any form of oil or grease that is typically transferred from hands or skin.
The leather degreaser is an aerosol-based product that’s typically great for cleaning stains and the way it does it is by dissolving and turning those oil deposits into powder.
It does a fantastic job of neutralizing unwanted stains and grease particularly from finished leather- which is often the leather used for car interiors.
Quick Tip: Shiny leather steering wheel is often smooth and slick and can cause you not to have a firm grip on your steering wheel that’s often considered safe.
6. The Magic Eraser Method
Using the magic eraser is a super simple way to deal with shiny leather steering wheels.
Within a matter of minutes, you should be able to knock out any unwanted shine off your leather steering wheel.
This method is great if you want a somewhat aggressive approach to removing the shine from leather steering wheel that’s caused by severe grease or oil buildup.
However, the caveat to this method is that it’s going to take away some of the dyes from your leather steering wheel. Nothing Major though if you carefully follow the instructions below.
Here’s how you go about it.!
- Magic Eraser (There are different brands of magic erasers out there but I personally prefer the OG of all magic erasers which is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
- A Bucket of water
- Soft clean cloth or towel
Step 1: Soak your magic eraser in clean ordinary water for a couple of seconds. Simply wait for the eraser to soak up a considerable amount of water.
Step 2: Wring out the eraser so its not dripping all over your dashboard.
Step 3: Simply use the damp magic eraser to rub over the leather steering wheel. Bare in mind you don’t need to scrub too hard.
Just go gently and let the magic eraser do its work. This is going to pull out all the oil, grease, or dirt deposits from your leather steering wheel.
Step 4: After you have thoroughly cleaned the shine off the leather steering wheel with your magic eraser, use a cloth or towel to dry off the surface.
The leather steering wheel should return to that soft, clean, supple, matte leather look we all desire to see when it comes to natural leather.
This is a simple, easy, and cheap cost-effective way to remove the shine from your leather steering wheel and you can absolutely do it yourself.
A tiny bit of caution though. You would want to be super gently around the leather steering wheel stitches.
If the steering wheel is a bit old you would also want to be careful around the part with little rips, peels, and tears – as it can come out when you use the magic eraser.
Always test out the magic eraser on an inconspicuous area of the steering wheel such as the backside. This is so that you know how it works particularly on the type of leather you have covering your steering wheel.
Finally, again be very gentle! I can’t overemphasize this.
How To Prevent Leather Steering Wheels From Becoming Shiny
Now that we have an idea of how leather steering wheels become shiny, it’s okay to say that you can simply find the best practices that can help prevent or reverse-engineer the shine occurring process.
Here are a couple of things you can do to prevent your leather steering wheel from becoming shiny and I hope I’m stating the obvious that I might have already alluded to.
- Wearing gloves before driving
- Always making sure hands are clean before driving
- Install a steering wheel cover
- Do not eat while driving if possible
- Wipe or clean your leather steering wheel very regularly
- Use leather conditioners that are non-sticky but has UV protection qualities or use none at all
Related Article: Best Leather Conditioners With UV Protection