LAST UPDATED: May 22, 2021

Best Wheel Cleaners For Your Car: Let Those Wheels Shine

Best Choice sonax wheel cleaner Sonax (230200-755) Wheel Cleaner
Premium Pick griot’s garage wheel cleaner Griot’s Garage 10970 Wheel Cleaner
Best Value mother’s foaming wheel & tire cleaner Mother’s 05924 Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner

Let’s face it, even if you’re a diehard car washing guru, you probably don’t love it when it comes time to clean your wheels. All those intricate and hard-to-reach spaces in the rims and wheel wells can be a real pain to get truly clean. It can be very time-consuming, not to mention that a lot of your most stubborn, stuck-on grime, tar, brake dust, and even tree sap reside on the wheels.

Luckily, there are plenty of top-quality wheel cleaners on the market to help make the job a little easier. The problem is, how do you tell a great and reliable wheel cleaner apart from one that doesn’t deliver stellar results? We’ve got you covered with our favorite product reviews and recommendations and our informative buying guide of the best wheel cleaners for your car.

The Best Wheel Cleaners

One of our top picks when it comes to a wheel cleaner spray that delivers top-notch results quickly and easily is Jay Leno’s Garage Wheel Cleaner spray. It’s safe to use on your chrome, alloy, aluminum, painted, powder-coated, and clear coated wheel surfaces. It’s a thick and dense formula that clings tightly to the wheel surface to actively attack tough caked-on dirt and grime. You’ll know it’s working because the formula will change to a deep purple color as it does its job.

Most gunk and dirt will come off independently, but tougher tar or grime may take a little elbow grease. This formula specifically reacts with iron particles in the brake dust to loosen it and easily rinse it away. It’s even safe for use on carbon and ceramic brake pads and rotors. However, use caution not to leave the formula on the wheels for too long, as prolonged exposure could lead to wheel damage.

Key Features
  • Thick Viscosity Formula
  • Suitable for use on Alloy, Aluminum, Chrome, Clear Coat, Powder Coat, and Painted Wheels
  • Turns Purple as it Works
Specification
  • Brand Jay Leno’s Garage
  • Model JLG-WC
  • Weight 15.5 ounces

The first thing you may note is that nowhere in the name of this spray bottle does it state that it’s a wheel cleaner. 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](../best-auto-glass-cleaners/). Aside from that, you can spray it on your vehicle with happy abandon and get incredible results from this non-toxic, surprisingly mild product. It’s pretty cost-effective to have the ability to clean nearly every surface with just one product. It even comes with a free towel. What more do you want?

Key Features
  • Multi Surface Product
  • Non Toxic (No Ammonia)
  • Free Towel!
Specification
  • Brand CarGuys
  • Model SC-18OZKIT
  • Weight 1.25 Pounds

Do you remember the scene in the film Ghostbusters 2 when the characters spray pink slime over the Statue of Liberty to make it walk? That could be an application guide for this product.

First of all, it’s a far nicer product than paranormal slime, but when it is sprayed onto your wheels it foams up nicely and is designed to cling to surfaces even when they are vertical, i.e. a wheel. This makes application super simple: just spray it on and let it soak in and do its job, breaking down dirt and grime that’s easy to wipe off.

Its mild formula is safe on factory paint, trim, and rubber, so you don’t have to be too picky about where you spray it. 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.

You may also like our review of the best foam cannons.

Key Features
  • Foam Based
  • Safe on Paint, Rims & Tires 
  • Easy to Apply, Easy to Rinse
Specification
  • Brand Meguiar’s
  • Model G9524
  • Weight 1.65 Pounds

This product from Mothers is one of the cheapest on the list, but don’t let that fool you. There’s a lot going on in this bottle. It’s more than meets the eye and more than you would expect for the price.

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 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 without any scrubbing. For a bargain price, you get a top-level wheel cleaner.

Key Features
  • Foaming Spray
  • Non-Acidic
  • Spray On & Hose Off
Specification
  • Brand Mother’s
  • Model 05924
  • Weight 12 Ounces

This great product from Trinova provides a really deep clean that makes it perfect if you’re working with older wheels that didn’t receive all the care and attention they needed over the years.

Cleaning the wheels is a hassle sometimes, and we can’t always be bothered, right? If that sounds familiar this could be the product for you. It’s specially formulated to bring back shine and restore luster to dull and dirty wheels. It’s specially formulated to tackle those irritating [stains left behind by snow and road salt deposits, making it the perfect product for keeping your wheels looking sharp in colder weather.

Key Features
  • Formulated to Restore Shine to Older Wheels
  • Works on Snow & Salt Stains
  • Acid-Free Formula
Specification
  • Brand Trinova
  • Model 6255396
  • Weight 1.15 Pounds

Turtle Wax is a widely revered manufacturer of automotive detailing products. With the Turtle Wax 50814 Wheel and Tire Cleaner, you get an acid-free formula suitable for use on all types of wheels and tires. It’s got a tough power foam formula that penetrates and removes even the most demanding and most stubborn dirt and brake dust. It will restore that showroom quality shine, even removing annoying tire browning.

This formula is also safe for factory-painted calipers and powder coating, thanks to its synthetic active grease-cutting ingredients. It’s not recommended to let this clinging cleaner stick to your wheels longer than 30 seconds. It’s also not suitable for use on non-factory painted wheels or wheels warm from recent driving.

Key Features
  • Acid-Free Formula For Use On Multiple Surfaces
  • Removes Tire Browning and Brake Dust
  • Power Foam Clings Tightly to Wheels until Washed Away
Specification
  • Brand Turtle Wax
  • Model 50814
  • Weight 1.8 pounds

Just because you’re on a bit of a budget doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice cleaning power for price, especially with the Black Magic No Scrub Wheel Cleaner. It makes short work of stubborn road grime, dirt, and brake dust, getting your wheels ready for a good polishing. It promises not to leave behind any hazing or discoloration. This is one of the few wheel cleaners on our list that is also pH neutral and safe for use on not just chrome wheels but also on ABS plastic, wire, and mag wheels. It also works great on polished, painted, anodized, and clear coat finishes.

It’s got a super easy application, like many of the other options on our list. You just spray it onto cool, dry wheels, let it work its magic for 1-2 minutes, then hose it off with cool water to remove dust and debris without a ton of effort on your part. Some really stubborn deposits may require a bit of scrubbing, however.

Key Features
  • pH Neutral for Safe Use on Most Wheel Surfaces
  • Works in Just 1-2 Minutes
  • No Scrubbing Necessary
Specification
  • Brand Black Magic
  • Model BM41023
  • Weight 1.71 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 runoff 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 top end of the scale, but not really any higher than you would typically expect to pay for a premium brand of this type.

Key Features
  • Extremely Gentle Formula
  • PH Balanced
  • Effective Clean from Dirt, Grease & Break Dust
Specification
  • Brand Griot’s Garage
  • Model 10970
  • Weight 1.59 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?

Follow our expert tips and info to be sure you’re getting the best product for your specific needs and budget.

wheel cleaner

What Are Wheel Cleaners & How Do They Work?

Wheel dleaner 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.

Since your wheels are in constant contact with hard pavement and surfaces and 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.

wheel cleaners

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 they 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.

Sources:

  1. Wayne’s WorldYouTube
  2. How to Clean Alloy WheelsWikiHow
  3. How to Clean Wheel Bearings – HowStuffWorks