6 Best Wheel Cleaners – (Reviews & Buying Guide 2020)

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Do you enjoy washing your car? We bet you do. How about the wheel part? Maybe not.

Most people don’t find cleaning the wheels enjoyable or relaxing as the rest of the car. Not with the brake dust and dried mud hugging every crevice of your alloy wheels.

But if getting your wheels super shiny is a priority, you want to buy the best wheel cleaner to keep your auto shoes in top shape.

There are several wheel cleaners on the market. All of them claim to keep your wheels healthy and corrosion free. But how do these washing products compare to regular general purpose soap? You will find out in our wheel cleaner reviews.

This article provides a comprehensive buying guide to help you choose the best cleaning products for your car. You will also learn the different types of wheel cleaners and tips to get your car tires clean and new.

PRODUCTDETAILS
Sonax 230200-755 Wheel Cleaner Full Effect

Sonax 230200-755 Wheel Cleaner Full Effect

  • Price : $$
  • Weight : 1 pound
  • Dimensions (in) : 3.5 x 2.2 x 9
  • Formula :Acid Free
  • Application : All Wheel Types
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Meguiar's G-9524 Wheel and Tire Cleaner

Meguiar’s G9524 Hot Rims Wheel Cleaner

  • Price : $$$$
  • Weight : 1.32 pounds
  • Dimensions (in) : 5 x 4 x 11
  • Formula :Acid Free
  • Application : Factory Coated Wheels
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TriNova Premium Wheel Cleaner Rim Cleaning Spray

TriNova Wheel Cleaner Rim Cleaning Spray

  • Price : $$
  • Weight : 1.17 pounds
  • Dimensions (in) : 9.4 x 4.5 x 1.8
  • Formula :Acid Free
  • Application : All Wheel Types
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Carfidant Ultimate Wheel Cleaner Spray Premium Rim Tire Cleaner

Carfidant Ultimate Wheel Cleaner Spray

  • Price : $$
  • Weight : 1.2 pounds
  • Dimensions (in) : 9.3 x 2.8 x 2.5
  • Formula :Acid Free
  • Application : All Wheel Types
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Griots Garage 11026 Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner

Griot’s Garage 11026 Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner

  • Price : $$$
  • Weight : 2.45 pounds
  • Dimensions (in) : 11.2 x 4.5 x 4.1 inches
  • Formula :Acid Free
  • Application : All Wheel Types
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Mothers 05824 Pro Strength Chrome Wheel Cleaner

Mothers 05824 Pro-Strength Chrome Wheel Cleaner

  • Price : $
  • Weight : 1.85 pounds
  • Dimensions (in) : 2 x 5 x 11
  • Formula :Acidic
  • Application : Chrome & Aluminum magnesium wheels
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Best Wheel Cleaner Reviews (Editors’ Picks)

1. Sonax 230200-755 Wheel Cleaner Full Effect

Sonax 230200-755 Wheel Cleaner Full EffectThis Sonax Full Effect wheel cleaner has an acid-free pH balanced formula that is gentle on all wheel types. You can use it on chrome, aluminum, steel, PVD, magnesium, clear coated, and aftermarket wheels. It is ready to use from the container and requires no dilution with water.

This wheel cleaner changes color when you spray it on ferrous metals such as brake dust or grime. That way, you know it is working. It turns from fluorescent yellow to deep red or purple, attaches and emulsifies the brake dust before dissolving it. The product is easy to use. All you need do is spray and wait for the color change. Then rinse with water, preferably high pressure water.

Sonax Full Effect wheel cleaner must be used on cool and dry wheels. It may react with anodized wheels and brake systems. This product is perfect for DIYers and professional car washers.

2. Meguiar’s G9524 Hot Rims Wheel Cleaner

Meguiar's G-9524 Wheel and Tire CleanerThis specially formulated, powerful, multi-purpose wheel cleaner brings out the shine in all clear coated wheels. The cleaner is safe to use on all factory-coated wheels and tire sidewalls. It removes grime and accumulated dirt from metal and rubber surfaces with ease using a color activation process.

The Meguiar G9524 uses a unique foaming solution called Xtreme Cling that clings to vertical surfaces to dissolve road residue. On application, the special foam turns from white to brown, breaking down grime and brake dust from your rims. Thanks to its suitability for all factory-coated wheels, the Hot Rim wheel cleaner removes guesswork from your shopping experience.

It is important to read and follow the instruction on the bottle before using this product because it can stain your rims. This product is fast acting and you need to wet your wheels before application and wipe off quickly. With over 115 years in the car care industry, Meguiar makes excellent wheel cleaners.

3. TriNova Wheel Cleaner Rim Cleaning Spray

TriNova Premium Wheel Cleaner Rim Cleaning SprayThe TriNova rim cleaning spray is affordable, provides plenty of the liquid and delivers exceptional results. It removes stains, road grime, and brake dust with an efficient melting action, leaving your wheels new and shiny.
TriNova uses a powerful concentrated formula that penetrates into stains, even if it is from snow and salt. It is suitable for all wheels including chrome, aluminum, and white-wall tires.

It is acid free, making it gentle on all wheel types. This also makes it ideal for the long-term health of your wheels.
This wheel is perfect for cleaning factory wheels or aftermarket rims on regular and high-performance vehicles. The maker even claims it provides protection against dirt and grime. Considering the excellent reviews this product gets on Amazon, it probably is one of the best regarding value for money. This TriNova wheel cleaner works as advertised and brings out the shine in dull and dirty wheels.

4. Carfidant Ultimate Wheel Cleaner Spray

Carfidant Ultimate Wheel Cleaner Spray Premium Rim Tire CleanerThis Carfidant wheel cleaner is a fast-acting product. It removes caked brake dust and road grime off your wheels with no extra effort from you. This wheel cleaner is easy to use; spray on the dirty wheels and let it soak before you rinse off immediately. It is perfect for all rims including aluminum, alloy, magnesium, chrome, clear coated, polished, plastidipped, painted and others.

The Ultimate wheel cleaner spray uses a special pH neutral formula that is acid free and safe. Its manufacturer claims the product contains no dyes or scents. And it is free of any substance that can harm you, your car, or the environment. Unlike many advanced wheel cleaning agents, this spray is rubber-friendly and won’t damage your tires even if you spray it directly. Carfidant offers a 100% refund for any user who is not satisfied with this product’s performance. This is an excellent product for professionals and DIYers who like to wash their vehicle.

5. Griot’s Garage 11026 Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner

Griots Garage 11026 Heavy Duty Wheel CleanerThis product is a heady duty wheel cleaner that brings out the shine in your wheels in record time. It removes stubborn brake dust, road grime, dust, and stain. The cleaner works by clinging to the wheel surface to break down the particles. It uses a color activation that turns from white to a deeper blue. This shows the accumulated dirt is breaking down and leaving the wheel surface.

This wheel cleaner is safe for all wheels and provides the exacting performance that has made Griot Garage’s products popular. The product has a non-acidic, pH-balanced, and non-caustic formula, making it safe for metal and rubber surfaces. It is ideal for factory wheels or aftermarket rims including uncoated aluminum, chromed, painted, anodized, and powder coated. This improved formula wheel cleaner has an excellent smell and is gentle on the wheels. For best results, agitate gently with a Griot wheel cleaner brush.

6. Mothers 05824 Pro-Strength Chrome Wheel Cleaner

Mothers 05824 Pro Strength Chrome Wheel CleanerThis wheel cleaner from the popular auto care brand Mothers is an excellent product for restoring the luster on chrome wheels. It is affordable, fast-acting and comes with a spray-on design. This allows you to target brake dust, grime, grease, and dirt in hard-to-reach areas.

Mothers 05824 has a special formula designed to remove built-up particles from chrome wheels. Use it for chrome-plated wheels, chrome wire hubcaps, chrome wire wheels, and rough cast aluminum magnesium wheels.
Before buying this product, it is important to read the directions carefully. Many people have complained it does not work as advertised, forgetting it only works with chrome.

Only buy this wheel cleaner if you have chrome wheels or cast aluminum magnesium rims. When used with the metals it was designed for, this Mothers wheel cleaner delivers mind-blowing results. Plus, it is affordable and requires no hose for application.

What Is a Wheel Cleaner?

A wheel cleaner is a product designed specifically for washing wheels. Wheel cleaners are not your typical general purpose cleaning agents. They are formulated to remove the specific contaminants which only your wheels are exposed to.

These products can easily and safely remove brake dust, tar, and mud. They will also remove grime, grease, and other materials that accumulate in the crevices of auto wheels.

Vehicle wheels used to be easier to clean when they had simple designs. Nowadays, multi-spoked alloy rims and other aesthetically appealing wheels are a great sight but a pain to wash.

Cleaning with soap and water is ideal for bodywork. But it won’t make any difference on the metallic contaminants in hard-to-reach wheel crevices. This makes it ideal to use dedicated wheel cleaners which can easily remove the stubborn dirt and make your wheels like new.

best wheel cleaner

Other products like clay bars can also remove things like brake dust and road grime from your wheels. But they are more suitable for removing fine particles. If you want a lustrous finish on your rims, check out our clay bar reviews.
Many people prefer wheel cleaners because of their ease of use and instant results. It is best to stick with dedicated wheel cleaners designed to work with the material of your car rims.

There are different brands of wheel cleaners on the market. Some are suitable for all wheel types while others will only deliver results for specific materials. It is vital to know the wheel cleaner formula that will clean your rims without damaging the metal.

Some products work fast and leave the rims shiny but have a disastrous effect in the long term. Our buying guide covers this topic so you can choose the perfect wheel cleaning product for your vehicle.

Wheel Cleaner Buying Guide

If soap and water and a scrubbing brush do not bring out the best in your wheels, it’s time to get a quality wheel cleaner. But choosing a suitable rim cleaner for the specific make and design on your car wheel can be daunting.

The market is flooded with hundreds of excellent and not so great wheel cleaning products. This makes it important to know the things to look out for when shopping. You will learn the crucial factors and features to consider in this buying guide.

What to Consider When Buying a Wheel Cleaner

Before choosing a wheel cleaner, keep these considerations in mind:

  1. Stick Ability

    The biggest advantage of dedicated wheel cleaners over regular shampoo is the ability to stick on to the rims. For a wheel cleaner to work effectively, it must cling to the dirt until your either wipe it off or hose it down. That way, the active agents have enough time and surface area to break down the contaminants and stains on your wheels.

    When you scrub or apply water, the dirt comes off easily, leaving a shiny wheel beneath the grime. You want to buy a wheel cleaner that can stick to the tires for as long as the manufacturer recommends.

  2. Wheel Type

    When shopping for wheel cleaners, buy a product designed for your wheel. This means you have to know the material of your rims.

    Some wheel cleaners only work on chrome-plated rims and won’t deliver any results on others. The best products can handle all wheels so long as you follow the directions.

    Some detailing experts recommend buying a cleaner specific to your wheel type. This is an excellent advice if you are sure of the type of wheels on your car.

    But you will need to buy another product if the cleaner doesn’t work with your rims, and that’s if it doesn’t damage the finish. Buying a multi-purpose wheel cleaner can save you money and still deliver that shiny effect.

  3. Consider the pH Level

    The pH scale is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. On a scale of 0 to 14, acidity is lowest from pH 6 and strongest at pH 0. pH 7 is neutral while 8-14 are alkaline.

    Ceramic coated wheels may tolerate mild or even strong acidity. Thin-coated wheels will fare badly. Chrome-plated, steel, aluminum, polished, and powder coated rims may suffer extensive corrosion and stains if you clean them with acidic products.

    It is better to go for products with a mild or neutral pH. Regardless of your wheel type, these cleaning agents won’t have a corrosive effect on your rim coating. You may not have issues with an acidic wheel cleaner if your rims are painted or clear coated.

  4. Rinse Action

    Wheel cleaners are designed to be scrubbed or rinsed. The products that require only a rinse are easier to use because you don’t have to scrub them. However, these often require multiple applications and rinses to achieve a shiny finish.

    Wheel cleaners that need scrubbing provide a larger surface area and remove stubborn stains quickly. This makes them faster acting and longer lasting since you use a little amount to get a spotless finish.

  5. Check the Directions

    You want to read the instructions on the wheel cleaner bottle before you buy. Most manufacturers include the usage instructions and more information that can help you decide whether it is the right choice. Look for things like wheel type, dilution ratio, and method of application.

  6. Health and Environmental Safety

    It is crucial to check the ingredients in a wheel cleaner before you buy. Some products are powerful but contain harmful and harsh chemicals. These ingredients may damage your car, affect your health, and pollute the environment.

    You want to ensure the cleaning agent you choose is safe for you and the environment without compromising results.

  7. Affordability

    A big issue with many wheel cleaners is that they are relatively expensive. Most have sub-$20 prices, but the product you get may only last for only four washes of your car wheels.

    This won’t be a concern if you clean your wheels once in a three months. But if your area is muddy or you just love shiny rims, consider getting more cleaning agent for your money.

  8. Consider the Scent

    A lot of wheel cleaners are odorless but some have strong scents. While a few brands have excellent smells, some have strong chemical odors that can make you sick.

    Often, the strong smell comes from the highly corrosive chemical used in the cleaning formula. If this is a concern for you, ensure to get a product without odors or a sweet smell.

  9. Ease of Application

    Most wheel cleaners come with a spray head that allows you to direct the substance into every crevice in your rims. These are the easiest to use and reduce the energy you spend on car washing.

    A few products require you to apply with a cloth. You then drag the cloth over every part of the wheel for even application. This makes more economical use of the product but can be tedious.

wheel cleaner buying guide

Wheel Cleaners Features and Specifications

Wheel cleaners have several features and specifications that can help you make an informed choice.

4 Features of Wheel Cleaners

Here are some important specs to look out for.

  1. Composition

    Wheel cleaners can be acid-free, acid-based, pH neutral, water-based and even oil-based. With all these variants, it’s difficult to choose a product. Your aim is to read the fine print carefully to know the cleaners suitable for your wheel type.

  2. Color Change Activation

    For best results, buy a wheel cleaner that changes color when the chemical agents become activated. Merely looking at the texture of the foam may not reveal any noticeable effect. Color change lets you know the product is working.

  3. Concentration

    It is important to check whether to dilute the cleaning agent or use as delivered. It’s easy to assume that the small container requires diluting before use. This is only necessary if the active agent has a high concentration.
    If you dilute the cleaner when it doesn’t require dilution, it may leave you with a useless product that won’t deliver results.

  4. All Use or Wheel-Specific

    If your car has expensive aftermarket wheels, it is important to check the wheel specifications before buying a cleaner. Manufacturers often label their product based on the material you can use them with. If you own chrome-plated rims, buy a chrome-specific wheel cleaner. Otherwise, you risk damaging the shiny finish or the product may not work.

3 Types of Wheel Cleaners

Wheel cleaners can be categorized according to their pH level, cleaning action, and chemical formulation. Let’s look at each classification.

  1. Low, High or pH Neutral Wheel Cleaners

    Wheel cleaners can be low, high or pH neutral. Low pH from 0 to 6 is acidic, 7 is neutral and 8-14 is alkaline. Many people believe erroneously that highly acidic (i.e., low pH) cleaning agents are not good for cleaning. But this is not true.

    The ideal pH for your car rims depend largely on the coating and the amount of dirt you want to remove. If you have thin-coated wheels, a corrosive agent like hydrochloric acid can degrade the shiny finish. But heavily coated, ceramic, or painted wheels may tolerate harsh chemicals better.

    Wheel cleaners with a pH-neutral formulation may be excellent for mild cleaning, but may not remove stubborn metallic contaminants.

    It also depends on specific manufacturers. Some companies can use relatively strong acids with no detrimental effects on your health, vehicle and the environment.

    The difference is in the time and resources each company devotes to research and development efforts. When in doubt, read reviews of other users. Test the product on a small inconspicuous area before using on every other part of your wheels.

  2. Foaming vs. Non-Foaming Wheel Cleaners

    Foaming cleaners are easier to use, have more clinging power and you can remove them quickly after application. However, they seem not to be great at leaving a shiny finish. Non-foaming wheel cleaners deliver excellent results but may require more sprays of the water or rinsing.

    wheel cleaner types and features

  3. Wheel Cleaners Based on Chemical Formulation

    There are two types of wheel cleaners based on their chemical formulation:

    • Water-Based Cleaners

      These cleaners use water as the primary solvent and the carrier for other active ingredients. The water acts as a solvent that dissolves the contaminants and also increases the speed of reaction.
      Contrary to popular belief, water-based cleaners can also deliver powerful results, especially if they contain strong compounds. If your wheels usually get clogged with mud and other soil particles, a water-based cleaner is an excellent choice.

    • Solvent-Based Cleaners

      These comprise different synthetic solvents such as glycerol or toluene. Solvent-based cleaning agents are ideal for removing grease and metallic contaminants.
      They are fast acting and may not require rinsing, making them easier to use compared to water-based cleaners. Because of their powerful dissolving effect, solvent-based cleaners are the preferred choice for cleaning engines.

Equipment You Need to Clean Your Wheels

You will need the following equipment along with a wheel cleaner to clean your wheels:

  • Pressure Washer

    While you can use bucket water to remove the wheel cleaner, it is often faster, easier, and more efficient to use a pressure washer.
    Pressure washers deliver water with a powerful force. It removes stains and contaminants from the rim and tires once the cleaning agent has dissolved them.
    The pressure washer will also come handy when washing other parts of your car. To use it safely, you may need to reduce the intensity of the water. You may also want to check our in-depth guide on the best car window cleaners here.

  • Wheel Brush

    For cleaners that require scrubbing, a quality wheel brush will allow you to spread the cleaning agent into tight corners. It will also help you dislodge the stubborn dirt and baked stains off your wheels and tires after the solvent has done its work.

  • Microfiber Towel or Cloth

    Some wheel cleaners require you to pour them on a cloth and wipe on the rim surface to act properly. Once you have rinsed off the cleaning product, use a towel to dry and buff the rim’s surface to check whether it is clean and shiny.
    If the result isn’t satisfactory, you can then reapply the cleaner, re-scrub and re-rinse until you achieve the spanking quality you desire.

  • Wax

    Once your wheel is clean, you want to seal that shine with a quality auto wax. It will lock in the luster for longer and prevent dust and grime buildup on the rim surface. This will also make subsequent washing easier and faster and you will use less cleaning product.

wheel cleaning equipment

Why Use a Dedicated Wheel Cleaner?

Why use a dedicated wheel cleaner when soap and water can do the magic? Well, a car’s wheels are exposed to a lot of contaminants on the road which ordinary shampoo or detergent won’t remove.

One of the most notorious metallic contaminants that lodges itself onto your rims is brake dust. Every time you apply the brakes, the enormous temperature required to stop your vehicle releases parts of the brake pad as dust.

This dust is extremely stubborn and won’t shift in the presence of normal cleaning agents. Over time, your expensive wheels will lose its shine and you may need expensive detailing at a specialist auto shop to regain the luster.

Dedicated wheel cleaners target these clingy contaminants. They can remove road dirt, grime, grease, brake dust, and everything in between.

Dedicated wheel cleaners act on specific or general contaminants. Some products dissolve only brake dust but have a zero effect on grease. Others combine the cleaning powers of various chemical agents to remove a broad range of dirt from your rims.

Besides their cleaning powers, dedicated wheel cleaners work with certain wheel types. There are products that work for chrome wheels. Some wheel cleaners are suitable for every type of rim. It is important to use the product that fits the material of your wheels.

Can Wheel Cleaner Damage Wheels?

Wheel cleaners of all kinds can damage your rims if you don’t follow the manufacturer’s usage directions. Many people think pH neutral products don’t have any adverse effect on wheels, but this is not true.

These cleaning agents have powerful chemicals that can dissolve hard-baked metallic contaminants. Your wheels will probably suffer some stains or extensive corrosion if you leave the substance on the surface longer than necessary.
Another way wheel cleaners can damage your wheels is if you applied the wrong product on your rims. If your wheels have a thin coating, applying a highly acidic cleaning agent can cause severe damage to the coat.

Similarly, there is a high risk of damage if you apply wheel cleaners on hot rims. For best results, wait until the tires cool completely before application. This reduces the chances of any adverse effect. It also allows the product to work normally rather than drying prematurely.

The corrosive power of wheel cleaners depends on their acidity or alkalinity and their concentration. Anything from 0 pH to 4 pH can be highly acidic. Alkaline cleaners might be a better choice but they also contain dangerous chemicals. Hydrogen Fluoride and Sulphuric acid, even in low concentration can be dangerous to you and your car if you don’t dilute the solution correctly.

But why do many manufacturers and car detailing shops still use these aggressive chemicals? It is because they can remove metallic contaminants quickly and leave a shiny surface. However, harsh cleaners will degrade your wheels gradually since they work by eating away anything in their path.

How to Reduce the Risk of Damage by Wheel Cleaners

To reduce the risk of damage to your wheels, buy non-acidic, non-caustic wheel cleaners. If you need more dissolving power to remove brake dust, go for a product containing oxalic acid. It is milder, safer, and delivers the same results as harsher chemicals without the downside.

The best way to prevent wheel cleaners from damaging your rims is to ensure you buy the specific product for your rims. Next, read the instructions carefully and follow them to the latter.

When to Clean the Tires

Car detailing experts recommend cleaning your wheels with water and soap every time you wash your vehicle. That should be every one to two weeks. Every two to three months, perform a thorough cleaning of your rims to remove baked brake dust, grime, and other contaminants. This will leave your rims squeaky clean, shiny, and add layers of protection to the surface.

How to Detail Wheels and Tires

Proper and regular detailing can keep your wheels and tires shiny and in good health for a long time.

Here is the Correct Procedure for Detailing Your Car Wheels & Tires

  1. Get Cleaning Materials and Equipment

    You want to have all your cleaning supplies before you detail your wheels and tires. It is important to have water, sponge, pressure, washer, detergent or dish soap, bucket, tire, wax, wheel cleaner, tire, cleaner, and a microfiber towel.
    You may also need a piece of cloth or towel if your wheel cleaner requires one for application.

  2. Rinse with Water Thoroughly

    Use water to remove the first layer of dirt and contaminants on the wheels and tires. A bucket of water and an old cloth will do. But it is better to use a high-pressure hose to make your work faster.

    Apply a direct stream of high-pressure water to every part of your wheel and tires including the area between the wheel spokes and the rubber sidewalls. This will soften and remove the dirt on the tire and wheel outer layer. That way, your wheel cleaner will be more effective and last longer.

  3. Wash with Soap and Water

    Use normal dish soap or detergent and water solution for the first washing. This will remove grease, soil, road oil, and other grimy particles from the wheel and tires. Apply copious amounts of the foamy solution to the rim before you scrub.

  4. Scrub the Wheel and Tires

    Once you’ve applied the soap and water solution, you want to scrub the face of the rims and tires before the foam flows away. Scrub fast and hard to remove as much of the contaminants from the tire and rims. Don’t forget to wipe between the wheel spokes and other crevices to remove dirt and road debris.

  5. Rinse with Pressure Water

    Once you’ve scrubbed the rims and tires clean, rinse off the soapy water with the pressure washer. It is important to rinse quickly to prevent the soap from drying.
    After rinsing, dry off any leftover water with a microfiber towel. You may skip this step if your wheel cleaner requires wetting the rim surface before application.

  6. Apply Wheel Cleaner

    Now, apply your wheel cleaner to the rim surface. You can also apply to the tire if the manufacturer says it is rubber-friendly.

    It is better to apply the wheel cleaner to one wheel at a time to prevent the chemical from sticking to the surface or avoid adverse reactions. For best results, use a wheel cleaner that is formulated for use on the rims and tires.

  7. Wait for the Wheel Cleaner to Work

    Depending on the directions on the bottle, you may need to wait for about 30 seconds or until you see a color change before rinsing the cleaner off. Some cleaning products require rinsing while others require agitating with a scrubbing brush.

    Whatever the case, err on the side of caution and clean off the chemical agent as soon as possible.

  8. Dry The Wheels and Tires

    Use a different cloth to dry and buff the wheels and tires. The best material for this job is a lint-free cloth that will leave your wheels and tires spotless.

  9. Wax Your Rims to a Shiny Finish

    The next step is to wax your tires to give them a shiny feel. Tire wax not only adds luster but also acts as a protective layer on the surface of the rim and tires, reducing dust and dirt accumulation. Follow the step-by-step guide below:

    • Get a bottle of quality wheel wax and park the car in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
    • If the wheel is not clean yet, make sure it is. The above guide will help you achieve a contaminant-free cleanup.
    • Smoothen the rubber sidewalls with a towel.
    • Use an applicator pad to apply the wax evenly on the tire surface.
    • Work the wax into the tire surface with a regular cloth.
    • When the wax coating has disappeared into the tire, buff the surface with a clean microfiber towel to increase the shine.
  10. Use Tire Dressing

    If you still don’t get the shine in your tires after waxing, consider buying tire dressing products. These products make your tires glitter and can protect the rubber for months. For best results on your tire and wheel detailing, combine good old water and soap cleaning with a dedicated wheel cleaner. Then top it with waxing and tire dressing.

wheel cleaning tips

8 Wheel Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Serious car nuts know that the wheels make the automobile. So they spend a lot of time and resources to keep their rims and tires squeaky clean and sparkling. Brake dust and road grime are the biggest enemies of raw metal and coated wheels. But you can defeat them with regular cleaning. Here are eight wheel cleaning tips and tricks to keep your rims free of these annoying contaminants.

  1. Use the Least Aggressive Cleaning Method

    Before you use wheel cleaners and other strong chemicals on your rims, try the normal car shampoo or water and soap. If your wheels are not too dirty and you wash them regularly, these mild cleaning solutions can do the job more easily. For more aggressive stains and brake dust, dedicated wheel cleaners can improve your results.

  2. Select the Right Cleaner

    It is important to choose a wheel cleaner designed for the material of your rims. The market is full of top-grade multipurpose cleaning products that will work on raw metal, painted, powder-coated rims, and other wheel types.

    You can also choose from non-acid, non-caustic, pH neutral cleaners to the heavy duty, highly corrosive acidic solutions for stubborn brake dust. But you need to be extra careful if your wheels are uncoated metal such as aluminum.

    To be sure, spot test the product on a small, secluded area before applying to the wheels. Select a product that will ensure the longevity of your rims.

  3. Wait for the Wheels to Cool

    Before you apply water or cleaner to your wheels, wait until they are cool. Spraying liquids on hot rims can damage your brake rotors and eat into the coating.
    You also want to avoid washing the rims in direct sunlight. The heat prevents the rims from cooling and dries the washing solution quickly before it can remove the road grime and brake dust.

  4. Clean Wheels One by One

    For best results and longevity, clean one wheel at a time to prevent the wheel cleaner from drying on the rim surface. Read the directions carefully and watch out for any color changes or foam action and don’t waste time to remove it. You can spray repeatedly if the product dries before the cleaning action is complete.

  5. Rinse Properly

    It helps to rinse the wheels with high-pressure water before applying the cleaner. This removes the superficial dirt, leaving the tough stains for the wheel cleaner. Rinsing thoroughly also allows the cleaning solution to reach the crevices such as the wheel spokes.

  6. Use General Purpose Cleaning Tools

    To make your work easier and faster, buy all-purpose tools to get access into all those hard-to-reach corners. These dedicated cleaning tools help you scrub, agitate, and remove hard-baked brake dust and road grime from your wheels with ease.

    However, it is important to use different cleaning tools for your wheels and other parts of the car. This will prevent the transfer of brake dust and grime to other areas of the vehicle such as the paintwork.

  7. Rinse Thoroughly

    Once the cleaner has completed its work, give the wheels a good rinse to remove any remnants of the chemicals. Then wipe down the rims with a clean towel to prevent the formation of water spots.

  8. Don’t forget the Lug Nut Holes and Wheel Barrel

    During the wheel washing process, don’t forget to wash the lug nuts and wheel barrel. There are dedicated brushes that allow you to reach these inner areas easily.

    The lug nuts also collect water which can splash on the rims later. If you don’t dry the water, it will pour on the sides of your wheel when the vehicle is moving and ruin your efforts. You can prevent that by ensuring you dry the lug nut holes thoroughly.

    Taking care of your wheels might seem like an overkill, but the rims see a heavy beating every time you drive your car. Make it a point of duty to wash, clean, wax, and dress your wheels every once in a while.

Check out our detailed car drying towel buying guide for the best brands on the market.

FAQ’S

Here are commonly asked questions about wheel cleaners

Q: Is there a dedicated wheel cleaner for removing corrosion on raw metal rims?

A: Yes, there are several products that can remove corrosion, embedded brake dust, and other stubborn contaminants from your wheels. Before heading online to order, check the material of your rims to be sure you are buying the right cleaning solution.

Q: Can alloy wheel cleaners damage your rims?

A: Yes, and no. If you buy a cleaning solution made for your wheel type, it won’t damage your rims if you follow the directions correctly. But even a car shampoo can disfigure any wheel if you allow it dry or stay too long on the surface.

Q: Will vinegar remove brake dust?

A: Yes, a mixture of vinegar, hot water, and detergent can clean brake dust, rust, and dirt. But you are better off using a dedicated wheel cleaner.

Q: Can wheel cleaner’s clean tires?

A: There are wheel cleaners that can clean tires, but they are few. This is because wheel cleaners are formulated to remove contaminants from metal but tires have a rubber surface. Before applying any wheel cleaning product to your tires, be sure it won’t damage the rubber.

Make sure to also check out our ceramic coating buying guide.

wheel cleaner reviews

Best Wheel Cleaner Comparison Chart

PRODUCTPRICEWEIGHTPRODUCT DIMENSIONSFORMULAAPPLICATION
Sonax (230200-755) Wheel Cleaner Full Effect$$1 pound3.5 x 2.2 x 9 inches
Acid FreeAll Wheel Types
Meguiar's G9524 Hot Rims Wheel Cleaner$$$$1.32 pounds5 x 4 x 11 inchesAcid FreeFactory Coated Wheels
TriNova Wheel Cleaner Rim Cleaning Spray$$1.17 pounds9.4 x 4.5 x 1.8 inches
Acid FreeAll Wheel Types
Carfidant Ultimate Wheel Cleaner Spray$$1.2 pounds9.3 x 2.8 x 2.5 inchesAcid FreeAll Wheel Types
Griot's Garage 11026 Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner$$$2.45 pounds11.2 x 4.5 x 4.1 inchesAcid FreeAll Wheel Types
Mothers 05824 Pro-Strength Chrome Wheel Cleaner$1.85 pounds2 x 5 x 11AcidicChrome & Aluminum magnesium wheels

Wrap Up

Cleaning your wheels is as important as waxing your paint job. The rims are exposed to several contaminants including brake dust and road grime. This makes it important to use a high-quality cleaning solution to get the best out of your rims.

Car wheels are not equal. Some are raw metal with no coating while others have a thick film to protect the wheels.
That is why you need to buy the best wheel cleaner customized for your wheel type. It may be a multipurpose brand or dedicated product. But the cleaner should be able to remove the contaminants without compromising the rims, brakes, or protective coating

We know that buying top brand wheel cleaners is not an easy task. That is why we created these wheel cleaner reviews with a comprehensive buying guide and cleaning tips. We hope this piece will help you choose the ideal wheel cleaner for your car.