Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be very hard on leather.

2020 isn’t an easy year for anyone. 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.

Gallery: Hand Sanitizer Effects On Automotive Leather

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 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.

Source: Craft Customs via YouTube
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Craft Customs Shares How Hand Sanitizer Is Damaging Your Steering Wheel


ROCKWALL, Texas, June 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Craft Customs, a steering wheel and car dash and interior trim restoration company based out of Rockwall, TX, wants to express the harm that you could be causing to your leather steering wheel with the heightened use of hand sanitizer.

No Hand Sanitizer on Steering Wheel

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hand sanitizer has become a popular product that can be found in most vehicles for a convenient way to help protect people from germs. However, hand sanitizer is not as helpful when it comes to leather steering wheels. Carter Craft, owner of Craft Customs, explains in this video how the alcohol base of hand sanitizer, as well as other everyday items, breaks down the leather's protective topcoat, making it extremely easy to scratch and damage your steering wheel. These damages may seem like minor issues at first, but over time as the leather's topcoat begins to bubble and peel, you are left with a worn out and unappealing steering wheel.

Additionally, Craft Customs would like to share with you exactly what you can do to avoid damaging the leather on your steering wheel without discontinuing the use of hand sanitizer. When you jump into your car and grab your hand sanitizer, be cautious that excess doesn't drip onto the steering wheel, or any of your car's leather interior for that matter. After applying the hand sanitizer to your hands, be sure to let them dry completely prior to touching the leather steering wheel. Letting the alcohol evaporate off of your hands or wiping them dry with a towel before coming in contact with the leather surface helps to prevent any lasting damage.

Beyond hand sanitizer, there are many alcohol-based and petroleum-based products that could be harming your car's leather interior during these times of extra germ-awareness. Many cleaning sprays and disinfectant wipes fall into these categories and contain a number of harsh chemicals, so be sure to check the ingredients and avoid using them on any leather surfaces in your vehicle. Instead, Carter recommends "using a mixture of dish detergent and water to clean your leather steering wheel, as this enables you to keep your vehicle's leather interior clean and safe during these trying times."
If you find that your ste
ering wheel has already been damaged by hand sanitizer or other harsh elements, the Craft Customs team is here to help you with professional steering wheel restoration services. In the picture, you can see the before and after of these services on a leather steering wheel from a Toyota Land Cruiser — restoring it back to factory new.
To have your leather steering wheel restored, simply package it up and send it in to Craft Customs. Their team of experts will take it from there as they carefully handle your steering wheel while restoring it to factory-new condition. Once complete, Craft Customs will return the steering wheel to your doorstep. Visit https://craftcustoms.com/ today for a rapid quote, or to learn more about Craft Customs' services.