COVID-19 has changed virtually every aspect of life for people around the world. As we try to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, keeping our hands clean has become a key activity we engage in daily.
But the hand sanitizers we use could also have a detrimental effect on the trim in the vehicles we love, specifically with regards to steering wheels.
That point is explained in this video from Craft Customs, a Texas company that specializes in custom steering wheels and other interior components.
Many factory-original steering wheels are wrapped in leather, and while they generally feature automotive-grade leather with a special top coat for protection, alcohol and petroleum-based products can break down that protective coat very quickly. Pretty much every kind of hand sanitizer is based on alcohol, and with hand sanitizer being used feverishly these days, well, you get the idea.
The video includes a short demonstration of how alcohol and petroleum-based products can affect leather. A piece of automotive-grade leather is hit with hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol and, since the vast majority of motorists still have cars with internal combustion engines, gasoline is also thrown into the mix.
For this presentation, straight rubbing alcohol does the quickest damage, and though it’s hard to see on camera, a softening of the leather and loss of the protective coat occurs within seconds. It starts with the leather getting sticky, and once the coating is compromised, the leather is easily damaged. We can see the leather flaking off as the video host runs his fingernail over the compromised section.
Since other products are mixed in with hand sanitizer, the damage is a bit slower, but it still happens in a very short amount of time. If you’re grabbing your steering wheel with hands still damp from the sanitizer, you could well be causing harm. Suffice it to say, you probably shouldn’t be slathering the wheel with it.
The video recommends thoroughly cleaning the interior just a couple of times a year, but since it was posted pre-coronavirus, that might not be the best advice today.
The video does recommend a simple mix of soap and water to keep the leather clean without causing damage, and it also recommends leather conditioners that don’t have a silicone or petroleum base.