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Do you want to know a secret? I actually enjoy cleaning my car – though don’t tell my wife, she considers it one of my chores! Truth is, I generally find it pretty relaxing, and of course, I love to step back at the end and admire the now clean and shiny car, the reward for my efforts.
There is one part of the operation I dread, however, and that is the wheels. If you’re anything like me, I just find them a pain. The design of typical alloys, though very nice to look at, is also a real trap for dust, dirt, and mud thrown up from the road surface – not to mention grime thrown off by the brake pads.
I know I can’t be alone in this hatred either because there are a number of products on the market all designed to make this task that little bit easier. As is always the case with product variety, however, it can be hard to tell which products are going to do the best job – unless of course, you read our guide to the best wheel cleaners currently on the market.
The Best Wheel Cleaners
One thing that is very helpful with these products is the knowledge that you can safely use them on a variety of surfaces, trims and wheel finishes. That is precisely the standout feature from this cleaner by Sonox. It has been carefully formulated to be both acid free and PH Balanced, which means you can just go nuts with it! That’s nice to know when you are dealing with really caked on dirt and grime.
Not only that, the formula helpfully changes color as it works, turning a lovely shade of luminous pink as it breaks down dirt. This handy feature is essentially a progress bar, so you know when your wheels are spotless when you can’t see anymore pink. That’s useful when you’re trying to deep clean all the nooks and cranies on a car wheel.
Acid Free Formula
Safe on Various Wheel Finishes
Turns Red as it Works
- Weight1.43 Pounds
The first thing you probably notice is that nowhere in the name of this product does it actually state it’s a wheel cleaner. So have we gone mad?
Well yes, but not specifically in this instance. That’s because this incredible product from CarGuys is designed to replace all your individual cleaning products – including your dedicated wheel cleaner product.
It’s safe to use on all surfaces except glass and instrument panel screens. Aside from that you can spray it around with happy abandon, and get an incredible clean from this non-toxic, surprisingly mild product. Cleaning nearly every surface with just one product – how great does that sound? It even comes with a free towel. What more do you want, people?
Multi Surface Product
Non Toxic (No Ammonia)
- Weight1.25 Pounds
Do you remember the scene in Ghostbusters 2, when they spray pink slime over the Statue of Liberty to make it walk? That could be an application guide for this product.
Ok, first of all it’s a far nice product than paranormal slime – but when it is sprayed onto your wheels it does foam up nicely and is especially designed to cling to surfaces even when they are vertical – i.e. a wheel. This makes application a real breeze – just spray it on and let it soak in and do it’s job, breaking down dirt and grime for an easy wipe off.
Its mild formula is safe on factory paint, trims and rubber so you don’t have to be too picky about where you spray it either. This is one of the cheaper products on the list, but is it a great overall product that’s easy to use and will leave your wheels sparkling clean.
Safe on Paint, Rims & Tires
Easy to Apply, Easy to Rinse
- Weight1.65 Pounds
This product from Mother’s is the cheapest on the list – but don’t let that fool you. There’s a lot going on in this bottle, more than meets the eye and more than you would expect for the price tag.
This product is specially formulated to be safe to use on a range of surfaces – including paint and chrome – making it easy to apply. It foams up nicely to really penetrate caked on dirt and, despite being mild enough that you don’t have to worry about your paint, it is tough enough on dirt that it rinses right away – no scrubbing required! For a frankly bargain price you are getting a top-level wheel cleaner here.
Spray On & Hose Off
- Weight12 Ounces
This great product from Trinova provides a real deep clean that makes it perfect if you’re working with older wheels that maybe haven’t received all the care and attention they could have over the years.
It’s ok, we’ve all been there – cleaning the wheels is hassle sometimes, and sometimes we can’t be bothered, right? Just a quick flick with the hose after we finish with the bodywork, and don’t look too closely at the wheels!
If that sounds familiar this could be the product for you. It’s specially formulated to help bring back shine and restore luster to dull and dirty wheels. It’s even specially formulated to tackle those irritating stains left behind by snow and road salt deposits – making it the perfect product for keeping wheels looking sharp in colder weather.
Formulated to Restore Shine to Older Wheels
Works on Snow & Salt Stains
- Weight1.15 Pounds
If you’ve never heard of Aero Cosmetics, they are a favorite around these parts. They are a manufacturer who consistently go above and beyond to bring car cleaning products to the market that are both high quality and unique – and this offering is no different.
This product comes formulated to provide a deep and effective clean to your wheels, and in particular is an excellent degreaser. More than that, the water-based formula is very mild and safe to use on a variety on surfaces. Heck, because Aero Cosmetics heritage lies in producing products for aircraft, this wheel cleaner is even safe to use on the wheels of your Boeing airliner – should it be looking a little grubby.
The water-based formula also means that it can be wiped away with or without additional water. That is going to go a long way to making what can be an irritating task that bit faster and easier.
Water Based & Safe on Multiple Surfaces
Wipe Away Without Water
Meets Boeing Specifications
- BrandAero Cosmetics
- Weight2 Pounds
Most of the products on this list have been designed for tackling dirt that has accumulated on the outside of your wheels. If you have a more sports style of car however, with slick sport wheels & alloys then you may have a different issue when you are cleaning your wheels – brake dust.
This material is a natural, normal byproduct of simply using your brakes when driving. On a regular car wheel you may notice it too much – but a more cut back sports style wheel is more likely to show it up.
If that’s sounds like you this could be the product you’re looking for. It’s specially formulated to tackle and dissolve metallic debris and brake dust. Not only that, but it’s PH Neutral, making it safe to use on a variety of surface types.
Brake Dust Specialist
- Weight1.24 Pounds
Griot’s Garage has a reputation for producing premium car cleaning products, and this wheel cleaner is no exception.
It is a remarkably mild, PH balanced formula that is not only safe to use on a variety of materials such as aluminum and paint, it is also non toxic and environmentally friendly. That means when you rinse the product away, you don’t have to worry about where the run off is going.
Coupled with that is the fact you are getting a high quality finish with deep cleaning capabilities that will leave your wheels looking incredible, and this really is an excellent product. Price wise it’s toward the to end of the scale, but not really any higher than you would typically expect to pay for a premium brand of this type.
Extremely Gentle Formula
Effective Clean from Dirt, Grease & Break Dust
- BrandGriot’s Garage
- Weight1.59 Pounds
Best Wheel Cleaner Buying Guide & FAQ
There you have some of the best wheel cleaners on the market – but how to tell which is the right one for you?
Well, here is some of the vital information that you simply must know about this product so that you can make the selection.
What Are Wheel Cleaners & How Do They Work?
Wheel Cleaner products came about because the wheels of your car perhaps take more punishment on a day to basis than any other component on the vehicle – except perhaps your neck as you rock out to Bohemian Rhapsody.
For one thing, they are in near constant motion (or perhaps less than constant if you live in a city or commute on a busy route!) They are battered by pieces of grit and loose stone from the road surface, caked in dust, driven through mud and bombarded by tiny pieces of searing hot material discarded by your brakes.
It’s a hard life being a wheel all right, and because of that fact, they can also be hard to clean. That’s where wheel cleaners come in.
Typically they will be formulated not only to tackle dust, dirt, mud, and grime but they will be made to take on metallic contamination – this being the cast of material from your brakes. This makes them different from cleaning products aimed for use on other parts of your car, such as the paintwork or windshield. These areas are simply not going to get the same kinds of metallic contaminants, hence the unique formula of a wheel cleaner.
Types of Cleaners
Broadly speaking, most of the cleaners are quite similar in that they are all formulated to be sprayed on and cleaned off, taking with them all the dirt you want removed and leaving your wheels looking shiny and great.
That said there can be some small differences between products which may make one cleaner more suited to you than another. Keep an eye out for features like:
- Color Change: A couple of the products on this list are formulated to change color as they react with dirt and metal containment. This can help provide helpful visual clues that the product is both working and also when your wheels are completely clean.
- PH Neutral: All of the products on this list are either PH neutral, or otherwise stated to be safe to use on a variety of surfaces such as paint and alloys. Naturally, make sure that you double check the labeling before you start spraying it everywhere, but generally speaking PH Neutral products are not going to cause any damage. That cannot be said for every wheel cleaner however, with some being highly acidic and frankly dangerous to paintwork, wheels and tires. If you select a product from this list however, you don’t have to worry about that.
- Rinse Action: Some cleaners, including a couple on this list, claim to work with water rinsing - you just spray on and wipe away. That is of course going to help to make this task faster and easier to complete however that may not be the case with very dirty wheels, or ones that need a little extra care and attention.
Equipment You Will Need to Clean Your Wheels
Beyond the wheel cleaner itself, there are also some pieces of equipment that can really help the job proceed faster and result in a better finish, such as:
- Pressure Washer – You need water, and whilst a bucket will do, a pressure washer is frankly faster and more efficient.
- Wheel Brushes – Really help you to get into all of the parts of the wheels, especially into the alloy arches where dirt and grime can hide away out of reach.
- Cloths/Towels – Always handy to have around during any cleaning task. Clothes can help you to wipe in the cleaner so it can really get to work, while microfiber towels help to dry off and buff the wheel surfaces.
- Wax – Consider sealing your wheel with wax when you finish to promote a long lasting shine and help to prevent dirt accumulation in the future.