Alcantara is a synthetic fabric found in many high end or performance vehicles, used on both seats and steering wheels as well as dash and interior linings. Made from 68% polyester and 32% polyurethane manufactures are now using the fabric to trim dash and door linings both to save weight, add a softer feel over leather or plastic and have more striking colours.
The history of Alcantara harks back to a Japanese inventor Miyoshi Okamoto, who developed the material in 1970 for his company Toray Industries. They in turn sold it to an Italian corporation called Eni. Move forward some years to 1981 and Alcantara S.p.A was created and are solely responsible for the creation of Alcantara fabric found in all cars.
In order to mimic the plush like effect of suede while maintaining a durable finish and resistance to UV and heat, Alcantara has been developed and tweaked over the decades. Some unfortunate stories of Alcantara interiors soaking in the smells and stains of their cigarette smoking owners in their luxury cars, have led to more advanced technologies to strengthen durability and longevity. To this day the manufacturing process is hush hush however what we know is the fabric is tougher and more durable than ever.
However, no amount of durability will keep any fabric clean and looking fresh indefinitely and this is where we begin our story of HOW TO CLEAN A ALCANTARA STEERTING WHEEL.
Firstly, lets understand the amount of abuse a steering wheel has to put up with, and why you need to clean it a little more carefully. With the amount of contact with your hands (steering with your knees doesn’t count) the amount of natural oils that your hand produces is huge, not counting the sweat, sun cream, make-up, moistures, UV and extreme heat baking all the contaminants in, the wheel suffers the most.
This car in question is a young AMG Mercedes CLA 45 with the owner and his wife driving it on a regular basis. The car is 3rd party detailed on a regular basis and looking at the car first glance it was immaculate. However, working in car care it doesn’t take long to find something wrong.
As you can see the steering wheel looks and feels normal albeit the Alcantara section on the left and right of the wheel looking lighter than the leather sections. Looking closer the fabric had minuet spots in the areas the thumb rested, however overall the wheel had a consistent grey finish to it. The wheel had always been wiped clean each detail, and the owner driving it without issue however in the case of looking after Alcantara it needs a little more attention to detail.
The products you need to start are Autoglyms Interior Shampoo and two Green Internal Microfibres. Interior Shampoo is a mild detergent however it’s specifically formulated for the interiors of vehicles meaning it’s safe for the fabrics. The Alcantara layer is also very thin on the wheel, unlike the seats so even though the fabric is durable extra care when cleaning is always advised.
Spraying Interior Shampoo directly onto the interior microfiber cloth (while outside the car) allows you to control where the shampoo is going and the amount of contact time it receives on the surface. Spraying directly onto the wheel is never recommended.
Gently apply the damp microfiber to the wheel and stroke down in one direction. The reason for one direction movement is to ensure consistency of the fabric during the cleaning process.
What looked like faded Alcantara turns out to be layers of dirt, make-up, creams and sweat. As the Interior Shampoo penetrated and softened the dirt the microfiber weave drew it away from the wheel to reveal the original fabric. The Autoglym Internal microfibre weave is also specifically designed to be a little more course than polishing cloths, allowing the weave design to grab and hold the dirt.
Over the space of 10 minutes the left hand side of the wheel was gently cleaned including the joining section where the Alcantara fabric met the leather section.
With the fabric still slightly damp a dry microfiber cloth was used to quickly give a brush up to the fabric to release and separate the fabric weave, giving the plush soft feel of suede.
As you can see the left hand side of the wheel now closely resembles a new wheel with the colour better matching the black leather. What’s more the texture is softer and provides more grip, something you want driving this car.
Repeating the same process for another ten minutes on the right hand side along with a quick wipe of Autoglym Leather Cleaner top and bottom and Autoglym Vinyl and Rubber Care for the centre badge and horn area, the wheel looks like it’s just driven out the showroom. Even with the fading light it’s clear to see the difference in colour, texture and overall finish to the wheel.
The next time you are cleaning your car, have a think what is was like when you purchased it. Over time we don’t see the subtle changes in colour or finish however they are there to come back out and shine again.
If you have any questions on this or any other area of your car shoot us a message on Facebook.
The Autoglym Australia Team