10 Most Common Problems With Sticky Leather Steering Wheels (Solved)

No one likes a sticky steering wheel – it’s uncomfortable and feels gross. But if you own a car, then you’re familiar with that icky, sticky feeling when you touch your leather steering wheel. It’s a problem that strikes without warning and will seemingly ruin your day.

Here Are 10 Of The Most Common Issues With Leather Sticky Steering Wheels

There are many reasons why leather steering wheels become sticky. This includes humidity, different cleaning products used, oil from your hands, material aging, using fake leather, sun damage, sticky fingers and not using leather conditioner.

Let’s target the cause of your leather steering wheel problem to find out why is my leather steering wheel sticky in more detail. Here are the same reasons why is leather steering wheel sticky.

Reasons Why Leather Steering Wheels Are Sticky


You’ve probably heard that leather dries out in the winter, but it’s not the cold that is drying out your steering wheel. Ready for a bit of humidity lesson?

When heated air comes into contact with a cold surface, water vapor will condense on that surface. If you drive to work when it is cold and wet outside, this happens to your steering wheel as water vapor from the warm air in your car condenses on the hard steering wheel. The water vapor turns into tiny beads of moisture (condensation) on the steering wheel.

But what about hot, sticky summer days? Well, it turns out that leather can be “sticky” when it gets very hot too. I’m sure you have noticed that leather shoes or leather furniture can get very sticky when they get hot.

When you touch a piece of leather and then pull your finger away, there is a slight sensation of stickiness. This is because the oils in the leather are being released by the heat and are causing an oily film to form on top of the leather. The same thing could be happening to your steering wheel if it gets too hot.

Using Cleaning Products

If your leather steering wheel is sticky, it is likely because you have been using the wrong products to clean it. This can include Armor All tire protectants, Armor All glass wipes, and chemical cleaners. These products will leave a residue on your leather and make it feel sticky.

The best way to clean your leather steering wheel is with a saddle soap made for leather or a leather cleaner and conditioner. You can find these products at an automotive parts store or online. Before cleaning, use a leather prep cleaner to remove any dirt from the surface of the leather.

Apply the saddle soap or leather cleaner/conditioner with a soft cloth, like microfiber. Gently rub in a circular motion, removing any dirt and grime from the surface of the leather. Dry the surface with another microfiber cloth. Finish by applying a small amount of cream polish with another soft cloth.

Rub this over the entire surface of the steering wheel in short strokes until you have created an even coat that looks like wax.

Oil From Your Hands

The main reason why your leather steering wheel could be sticky is because of the oil that comes off your hands.

More often than not, the oil from your hands will stick onto the leather over time, and in some cases, it can cause it to become sticky. You can fix this issue by taking a cloth and wiping it clean. Leather steering wheels absorb oil and other substances from the car.

This includes sweat, and if you’re driving for a long time, this can make the wheel slippery. If you want to get rid of the stickiness, you need to use some cleaner for the leather. There are many cleaning products out there that are made specifically for cleaning leather items like a steering wheel.

It will help remove dirt, grease, grime, and stains from automotive upholstery and other leather surfaces such as seats, door panels, boots, or saddles.

Material Aging

Several things can cause a sticky leather steering wheel, but age is most common. Over time, the leather loses its oils and conditioners and becomes dry and brittle. It may also develop cracks or become sticky from natural wear and tear and exposure to the sun.

However, if your car is in a garage, the problem may be with the type of cleaner you use. Avoid using alcohol-based cleaners and solvents to clean your steering wheel; these tend to dry out the leather even faster and make it more susceptible to damage. Instead, invest in a good leather cleaner or conditioner specifically designed for auto interiors. Aging can also cause the leather to get sticky.

As leather ages, its fibers start to break down and lose flexibility. This weakening of the fibers can make them more susceptible to absorbing moisture from their surroundings, causing swelling that creates a sticky feel. In severe cases, this can even cause cracking or peeling of the surface of the leather.

If your steering wheel feels tacky or sticky to the touch, you may also have a wax buildup on top of the leather. This can come from the regular use of car care products.

They can leave a thick residue on leather surfaces over time. Wipe down your steering wheel with a soft cloth dipped in mild soap and water to remove any residue; then treat it with an appropriate cleaner/conditioner combo to rehydrate it and restore it to its original beauty.

PU Leather Steering Wheel

There are common reasons for your steering wheel getting sticky. You may have gotten a new steering wheel cover – this could be the case if you have recently bought a new car or had a new steering wheel installed.

The leather on your original steering wheel is breaking down and becoming sticky – this could be due to constant wear and tear or an inferior product being used when it was manufactured.

If you have recently bought a PU Leather Steering Wheel Cover, the problem was likely caused by the overuse of the adhesive backing on the underside of the cover.

This will cause buildup over time and become gross-looking once cleaned off properly. The leather on your original steering wheel is breaking down and becoming sticky – this could be due to constant wear and tear or an inferior product being used when it was manufactured.

Sun Damage

The steering wheel is the most used part of the car, and it is subjected to high temperatures and intense sunlight. The leather on the steering wheel will wear down due to this and will be exposed to the sun, damaging it. The leather is not sticky because it is damp but because it has been subjected to this type of weathering.

Sunlight breaks down the leather and causes it to dry out. It becomes sticky because it has lost its elasticity and can no longer maintain its shape. The best way to prevent your steering wheel from getting sticky is to keep it out of direct sunlight as much as possible, such as in an enclosed garage or inside your home when it is not being used.

Another way would be to use a protective cover over your steering wheel when you’re not using your car so that you don’t have to worry about leaving fingerprints on it during hot weather or while driving in areas with intense sunlight exposure.

Sticky Fingers (food)

This is a common problem, and the solution is simple. Your steering wheel is sticky because of the grease on your hands that has left a residue.

Please wash your hands with soap and water and then dry them thoroughly. Then, use a leather cleaner such as Leather Honey to thoroughly clean the steering wheel, found at many automotive stores. Once dry, use a leather conditioner to keep the leather supple and clean.

Adhesives on the Leather

This is a common problem with leather that has been covered with a sealer or wax during the manufacturing process. The sealer or wax is designed to protect the leather during transport, storage, and display on the showroom floor and should be removed when the vehicle is purchased. Usually, this can be done by washing it off with a cleaner intended for use on leather.

If this does not work, you might want to try using alcohol (rubbing alcohol). If you still have no luck, try using mineral spirits, but don’t leave it on too long as it may damage the leather. After removing all of the sticky stuff from the surface of your leather, you will need to condition it to help keep it soft and supple.

Not Cleaning Before Applying Conditioner

Leather is a natural product and needs to be conditioned regularly. This will keep it from drying out and cracking, but the conditioner can collect dust and dirt if the leather is not cleaned first. If you don’t clean the leather before conditioning, your steering wheel can be sticky.

It would help if you used a special cleaner designed specifically for leather before applying any conditioner. This will remove any dirt or dust and allow the conditioner to soak into the leather more evenly so that you won’t end up with a sticky surface.

Sweat on Hands

Leather steering wheels are beautiful, but unfortunately, all that beauty comes with a price.

The leather is absorbent and will soak in whatever it comes into contact with-which is excellent if you get caught in unexpected rain, but not so great if your hands are sweaty. Unfortunately, you cannot do much about the sweat but make the leather less susceptible to absorbing it.

The best thing to do is to clean your steering wheel. Wipe down the wheel with a damp cloth and then dry it off immediately. Once it’s dry, use a leather conditioner to help protect the surface from absorbing any liquids. As long as you wipe up any spills right away and keep the leather conditioned, your steering wheel should stay smooth and soft.

How Do You Clean a Sticky Steering Wheel?

If your steering wheel has any sticky residue on it, you can clean it off with a dry, lint-free cloth. The next step uses a mixture of warm water and dishwashing liquid and wipes down the steering wheel.

This should remove any residue left over after wiping it down with the cloth. If there is still some sticky stuff on your steering wheel, you can remove it by rubbing alcohol. Dab a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the sticky part of your steering wheel and then wipe it off with another clean, dry cloth.

Wrapping Up

Once the steering wheel is clean and dry, apply the leather conditioner. The conditioner will fill in the pores of the leather, which will, in turn, make it easier for your hands to slide along the surface. This should prevent your gloves from sticking to the wheel as well.

Scroll to Top