How to clean a suede steering wheel

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide

This free guide teaches you how to revive a worn-out suede steering wheel and lists the essential products for the job without harming the delicate material.

How to clean a suede steering wheel?

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide


  • Learn how to detail and bring a tired, matted suede steering wheel back to life.
  • Discover the products you need to do the job without causing damage to this sensitive material.
  • Master the simple, step by step process that will keep your wheel looking better for longer.


  • This process is the quick and simple way of revitalising perhaps the most difficult part of any interior. 
  • Knowing the correct products and procedures to use saves time and potentially costly mistakes.
  • Your steering wheel is the centrepiece of the cabin, effective cleaning means that it won't let down the rest of your detail. 

Clean and fluff your suede racing wheel like a pro

The real issue here is that suede retains dirt and sweat from your hands, and over time will dry out making it appear grubby and matted. It's not a problem for your average BTCC or WRC team of course, they just grab themselves a box fresh new wheel, and launch the fettered item into the nearest workshop bin. But, what about us mere mortals who simply want to breathe new life into our trusty (and well-used) racing wheel? Well, the answer is simple, and here's how it's done by the pros…

The first thing to remember - and the answer to the first question - is that these were originally designed for use while wearing driving gloves… and we all know how unlikely it is you'll be sporting a set of those on any public road.

When it comes to these wheels though, and more specifically those of the suede variety, we're often asked why they tend to get so dirty during normal day-to-day driving, and how to effectively detail them without causing damage to the sensitive material.

Originally conceived for maximum grip on race cars, the classic aftermarket steering wheel is a time-honoured modification that's at home on the street nowadays, as it is on any circuit.

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide

What's the difference between suede and Alcantara?

Many confuse the suede found on the vast majority of aftermarket racing wheels with Alcantara, or more specifically the Alcantara used on some of the high-end OEM steering wheels, notably by BMW M-Performance and Audi in their RS models.

Alcantara is actually the brand name for a fully synthetic material that has a similar feel to suede but, as a blend of polyester (68%) and polyurethane (32%), it's designed to be considerably more hard-wearing and resistant to grime. It may be relatively expensive, but it's used in the OEM market for this specific reason - so they don't have to replace your steering wheel at every service interval. Brand new cars come with a warranty after all.

Suede on the other hand is a natural material, classed as a form of leather and made from the underside of animal skin. It's soft, napped surface is easily contaminated and matted, but that doesn't mean that, when it's looked after appropriately, it can't last a lifetime.

Regardless of the colour, suede and Alcantara are detailed slightly differently due to the makeup of the fibres and the tendency for suede to dry out over time. The idea when detailing natural suede is to condition and fluff the fibres, rather than simply degreasing, which tends to leave the fibres stiff and flat.

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide

The Process

Follow these simple steps to sanitise, revitalise and restore your suede wheel…

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide

Step 1: Remove Your Wheel

This step isn't completely essential, carful cleaning in situ is also possible. But, as the vast majority of aftermarket wheels are quick and simple to remove, it can be something of a no brainer. Removal will always make the job far easier in the long run.

With this in mind, remove your wheel and obviously follow all the necessary safety precautions along the way. This includes disconnecting the vehicle battery to prevent any shorting out of the horn.

Step 2: Deep Cleanse

The first step is to use Total Interior Cleaner to remove the harshest debris and stains from the material. Total contains deep cleaning agents and gentle degreasers making it ideal for breaking down and lifting out grime from between the fibres.

First lay your wheel on a drying towel, and then spray on a liberal amount of Total, saturating the material with the solution.

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide

Step 3: Agitate

For the best in deep cleaning on this type of napped material, Total can be agitated with our Upholstery Brush, which has just the right stiffness for getting deep between the fibres without damaging or abrading the surface. The Total will quickly pull the grime out of the material, suspending it away from the surface within the solution. Brush one side of your wheel, flip it over, apply more Total and brush the reverse.

Step 4: Remove Dirt

With grease and grime trapped in the solution, the next step is to wipe it away using a microfibre Work Cloth. The key here is to be thorough, cleaning away the grime but also drying and removing as much of the remaining Total as possible.

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide

Step 5: Recondition

The secret to reconditioning and fluffing up the suede fibres is utilising Micro Wash Microfibre Detergent, which as you'll know is more commonly used for cleaning and conditioning microfibre cloths. Micro Wash is used here because it will not only clean, but will also soften the material deep down, bringing back the new, tactile suede feel.

First mix up a 1:8 solution of Micro Wash and warm water in a Pro Bottle.

Step 6: Apply your solution

Now you can spray your solution liberally onto both sides of the wheel. While the wheel is wet, gently massage the solution into the material using a clean, dry Upholstery Brush.

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide

Step 7: Dry

By now there should be no grime to draw out of the fibres, so it's simply a case of drying. The reason we use like to use a drying towel, like our Aqua Deluxe, is because these 1200GSM towels are super absorbent. This means that, as you wrap the wheel, they will actively draw out the moisture. First squeeze out as much of the solution as you can by hand, and then hang your wheel up overnight to dry completely.

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide

Step 8: Refit your wheel

Once dry, you can marvel at the results, shortly before refitting your wheel to your car. (Once again, observe all the safety precautions, and don't forget to check that the bolts are tight after 100-miles or so.) This is a reconditioning process that can be carried out periodically to keep your suede in tip-top condition on every major detail.

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide

Steering Wheel Cleaning Guide