Weird greasy residue on the leather surfaces in my car
January 10, 2017 9:31 PM   Subscribe

I went to my car the other day, and all of the leather surfaces (not seats, they're cloth) have some black, greasy residue on them. What the hell

This residue is semi-dry and sticky, comes off in flakes, and seems to be on every leather surface in the car: the steering wheel, the shift knob (only the front and top, though), and the e-brake handle. The little skirt around the shift knob is unaffected, but that's a different material that I don't think is real leather anyway. It has been super rainy here in CA for weeks, and it's possible that I or my partner left a window cracked for a portion of that time, though unlikely. Is that possibly the cause? Did someone wait around for my car to be unlocked and then maliciously yet daintily apply a light coating of grease to only my steering wheel and whatnot? Does leather do this? And how should I clean it off? Thanks.
posted by invitapriore to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Check your heater core, if it's leaking antifreeze into the cabin, it can put weird residue on anything.
posted by bensherman at 9:40 PM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

antifreeze coming out of a cracked heater core usually also smells vaguely like maple syrup when the car is running (or the heat is on), but not everyone has the same sense of smell. It also rarely flakes off things from what I've seen.
posted by girl Mark at 10:47 PM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

What model/year is the car?
posted by artdrectr at 11:05 PM on January 10, 2017

Response by poster: It's a 2007 Madza3. Pictures: shift knob, wheel. It doesn't look like something *on* the leather so much as the leather itself kind of flaking.
posted by invitapriore at 11:15 PM on January 10, 2017

Fom a Pacific Northwester, I think that's just a weird mold outbreak. We had a rash of them here around this time two years ago, in our case from a warmer than usual period with heavy raining. Everyone was complaining about their car interiors. Try to be dilligent about wiping the surfaces daily. It probably won't last long.
posted by mannequito at 1:56 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

The same thing happened to me years ago. I left the windows open overnight on my car, and it ended up being a warm, rainy, night. The leather steering wheel cover decomposed the exact same way. Moisture is the culprit!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 5:38 AM on January 11, 2017

Seconding bensherman and girl Mark's answers. This is not moisture, but antifreeze from your heater core. It's not good to be breathing this stuff -- get it checked out.
posted by ATX Peanut at 5:44 AM on January 11, 2017

My first guess would also be moisture breaking down the top layer of the leather. Or, if some sort of oily leather treatment has been used in the past, the moisture bringing it to the surface. But because of the flakiness you describe, I think it's the leather itself breaking down.
posted by catatethebird at 6:19 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

It could be antifreeze (yikes!) or just temperature/humidity bringing an old dressing to the surface (normal!).

If it's real leather, try cleaning an unobtrusive section of it off with nail polish remover. If that works and doesn't leave a stain/lighten the surface, you'll just want to clean off every place that occurs and apply a good leather dressing to it (there are tons of these available commercially).
posted by aspersioncast at 1:59 PM on January 12, 2017

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