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BMW 3-Series and 4-Series Forum (F30 / F32) | F30POST > Technical Forums > Cosmetic Maintenance: Wash, Wax, Detailing, Repairs > Alcantara Cleaning & Maintenance
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      01-22-2019, 01:28 AM   #1
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Alcantara Cleaning & Maintenance

One thing that's been bugging me for a while now is how poor the condition of the alcantara on my M-Performance steering wheel has been. I really haven't done any maintenance on it since I first installed it a year and a quarter ago. In that time it's accumulated a lot of dirt, grime, and grease, and the pile/nap was pretty flattened.

Flattened pile/nap, caked on grime, stain/spot on right alcantara, and filth on blue strip


This weekend I had some time to do some shoe maintenance, and since some of the shoes I was working on are suede, working on the alcantara fit right in. For those that don't know, alcantara is fake/synthetic suede. We all love that soft and fuzzy feel of suede, but actual leather suede is far too expensive for auto manufacturers, not to mention too difficult to care for. Alcantara is the solution for that. It's cheaper and more durable than suede, but still loses it's pile/nap over time, especially to dirt/grime. Since it was meant to imitate suede, the techniques used to clean/care for suede, also apply to alcantara.

To start, you'll need the tools of the trade. That means at a bare minimum a good suede brush. In addition to that I recommend a good suede protecting spray. If you want to go all out, like I did, you can also get a suede shampoo. For my shoe/alcantara cleaning I used an Allen Edmonds suede brush, Allen Edmonds suede protecting spray, and Saphir's Omni Nettoyant shampoo. In addition to cleaning the alcantara I also cleaned the full grain leather on the top and bottom portions of the steering wheel. For those I used Allen Edmonds conditioner/cleaner (which works much better as a cleaner than a conditioner), and then Bick 4 to condition the leather. Note that unless the leather you're treating is full grain, using conditioner on it is pretty useless. The normal M-sport wheel uses inferior corrected grain leather.

Products of the trade


The first step is to use the suede brush and get all of the dirt and grime out. I start with the stiff bristled side of the brush. Doing this started to agitate and break up all the caked on filth. I kept my shopvac on and close to the steering wheel after seeing all the stuff I was tossing into the air. Continue brushing till all the dirt/grime is gone.

Caked on filth starting to break apart on left side during brushing


Once the dirt/filth was brushed out, I had to deal with the grease stain on the right alcantara side. The stiff bristled brush couldn't break it up, however my suede combo brush also has another side with rubbery knobs. These grab the pile/nap better and also act as kind similar to an eraser. This side of the brush broke up that stain and loosened the filth up enough to brush out. As I was brushing the filth out, the pile/nap also started to come back to life.

Most people can probably skip the next step of shampooing the alcantara, but since I already had some shampoo solution mixed up for my shoes, I decided to also shampoo and deep clean the alcantara. I used a small dauber brush to apply the shampoo to the alcantara, being careful not to get too much water in the brush and keeping a towel on hand to catch any water streaming down the wheel. I did this till there was a good lather going on the alcantara.

Nice lather going on the left alcantara


After shampooing, you need to rinse it out. With shoes it's easy, just rinse them off in the sink. With a steering wheel it's more difficult, and I used a different dauber brush and a cup of warm water to rinse the shampoo out. I also kept a towel to catch excess water and dab the alcantara mostly dry. Once that's done, you'll need to wait a while for the alcantara to dry. During that time I used the other leather care products to clean up the upper and lower full-grain leather sections. Those are quick and only took about 5-10min.

Another thing you can do while waiting for the alcantara to dry is start masking off things for the suede protecting spray. I just used blue painters tape and print ads. Once this is done, and the alcantara is all dry, give it a good brush to bring the pile/nap up, and apply the suede protecting spray. The spray is basically a DWR, and does a great job of keeping dirt/grime out of the alcantara, but is only effective for about 6-8mo (in my experience). There are plenty of videos on youtube that show how you can pour a bottle of water or cup of coffee all over your suede shoes and the protecting spray just makes it all wick right off. The pile/nap remains soft and fuzzy even after the spray.

Masked off steering wheel area. Notice the restored pile/nap.


With this all done, my alcantara is just like new again! It has that lush look, and the pile/nap has been restored to it's original soft/fuzziness.
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      01-22-2019, 04:47 PM   #2
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Very nice - thanks for taking the time to document your process. I have the Sonax Upholstery and Alcantara Cleaner & their brush to take care of the seats in my E46 HP. Luckily BMW swapped to the perforated leather steering wheel in 2006 so I don't have your issue!
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      02-04-2019, 01:56 PM   #3
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Wow.. incredibly thorough, well done!
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      02-04-2019, 11:34 PM   #4
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It's oddly satisfying seeing the before and after. Great job and nice writeup!

I'm wondering, however, how many cleanings the alcantara can withstand before it starts to just get worn out and lose it's nap completely.
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      02-06-2019, 12:52 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmg View Post
It's oddly satisfying seeing the before and after. Great job and nice writeup!

I'm wondering, however, how many cleanings the alcantara can withstand before it starts to just get worn out and lose it's nap completely.
Thanks! I believe alcantara should hold up to regular cleanings since one of its design goals is to be a more rugged/robust suede. I know my suede shoes have held up to a good amount of cleanings, so I don't see why the steering wheel should be much different. Also, if the nap never gets completely caked with grime, then less brushing force will be required to restore it.
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      02-19-2019, 12:22 PM   #6
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Thanks for the write up, I will need to do the same and some point.
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