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Published Nov. 23, 2020

Believe it or not, chrome wheels do more than just improve the curb appeal of that new ride. Chrome often serves as a weather-resistant protective finish on other metal surfaces while also adding a unique style to a car’s wheels, bumpers, and more. Just like paint, trim, and tires, chrome also needs proper care, and a quality chrome cleaner can make all the difference in achieving a like-new factory look instead of faded or chalky-looking chrome. Chrome cleaners come in liquid or paste form and can remove tough dirt and grease with some even eradicating rust and water spots.

The sheer number of chrome cleaners on the market can be a bit overwhelming for some. To make the process easier, we researched for you, saving you time, money, and energy that would be better used putting a shine back on those rims.

The Best Chrome Cleaners

Looking for the ultimate, all-around chrome cleaning solution? Mom has you covered with Mothers California Gold All-Chrome. All joking aside, this chrome care product cleans, polishes, and protects chrome of all kinds. Got chrome-plated bumpers? What about PVD chrome wheels? This chrome cleaner cares for them both. It even cleans, polishes, and protects chromed plastics. To apply, simply spray the chrome surface with the spray bottle dispenser, and then wipe down the surface in question. At this point, all dirt, grease, and bugs will disappear as well as light water spots. Then, buff it for a brilliant shine sure to catch every eye on the road. Once applied, Mothers California Gold All-Chrome provides all chromed surfaces with a protective barrier designed to preserve that newly found shine.

As impressive as this product is, it does lack at least one feature of note. All-Chrome will not remove rust from chrome surfaces. Still, many chrome-happy car owners are unlikely to need such a feature.

Key Features
  • Chrome cleaner, polishers, and protectant
  • Designed for use on all chrome surfaces
  • Spray bottle dispenser
Specification
  • Brand Mothers
  • Model 05222
  • Weight 12 fluid ounces
PROS

Works on chrome plating, PVD chrome, and modern chromed plastics

Removes dirt, grease, bugs, and light water spots

Easy to apply

CONS

Does not remove rust

Many car owners lack time and money to properly care for their chrome, but Turtle Wax Chrome Polish & Rust Remover is sure to cut money out of that equation. This cleaning solution pulls triple duty as a cleaner, rust remover, and polish all in a single package. With a clean microfiber cloth, car owners can virtually replace the wheels on their ride with just a few dollars and a little bit of elbow grease. To clean and polish, simply apply the product to a clean cloth or applicator, and then rub it on and allow it to dry. Once it develops a haze, wipe it off of the chrome surface with a soft cloth before lightly buffing it for a beautiful shine. Turtle Wax Chrome Polish & Rust Remover is quick and easy to use.

While this chrome cleaner is incredibly inexpensive, this is partially due to the small size of the 12-ounce bottle. Still, most users will achieve a decent amount of cleaning and polishing from a single bottle, and when it comes time to buy another, the cost of both bottles is still very good.

Key Features
  • Chrome polish, cleaner, and rust remover
  • Waterless application
Specification
  • Brand Turtle Wax
  • Model T-250RA
  • Weight 12 fluid ounces
PROS

Designed specifically for chrome

Also works on black rubber and plastic trim

Removes rust and tarnish

Very inexpensive

CONS

Small bottle

Top-end chrome cleaners may cost a pretty penny, but products like Flitz Multi-Purpose Polish and Cleaner easily pay for themselves, thanks to its combination of performance and versatility. This multi-purpose cleaner also serves as a polish and rust remover among other things. Simply use a dry cloth to apply the product to those custom chrome wheels and buff with a dry towel or microfiber cloth. Not only does this product clean and polish chrome, but it also works well on metal, plastic, fiberglass, and other surfaces with several different finishes, such as anodizing and paint. It easily removes rust, corrosion, water stains, and even oxidation, making it a great option for restoring headlights. Flitz Multi-Purpose Polish and Cleaner is also eco-friendly, non-toxic, non-abrasive, and non-flammable.

Unfortunately, this wonder cleaner is not cheap, but while it is expensive, a single bottle won’t completely break the bank. Also, this product is not chrome specific, although many will find that they appreciate this fact, particularly when it comes to headlight restoration.

Key Features
  • Versatile, multi-purpose polish, cleaner, and rust remover
  • Concentrated product
  • Eco-friendly formula
Specification
  • Brand Flitz
  • Model LQ 04587
  • Weight 7.3 fluid ounces
PROS

Works on chrome and other metals, plastic, fiberglass, and more, including headlights

Non-abrasive, non-toxic and non-flammable

Removes a wide variety of dirt, stains, corrosion, and more

CONS

Expensive

Not chrome-specific

Meguiar’s Hot Rims Chrome Wheel Cleaner is one of the best deep cleaners for chrome wheels and accessories on today’s market. Chrome wheels serve as a focal point on a great-looking vehicle, and this spray-on cleaner removes brake dust, grime, and other road dirt from chrome wheels and bumpers with ease. After rinsing the wheel at hand, simply spray the acid-based solution onto the wheel. After a short 15-second wait, thoroughly rinse the wheel and wash away grit and grime. Of course, for particularly filthy wheels, a bit of agitation before the final rinse is the standard operating procedure. Meguiar’s Hot Rims Chrome Wheel Cleaner features Xtreme Cling technology, allowing it to cling to vertical surfaces better and longer for a more thorough clean.

Easily the biggest complaint about this cleaner is the strong smell, thanks to its strong acid content. Unfortunately, this also means that it cannot be used on other wheels, whether they be bare metal, painted, dipped, PVD-coated, or powder-coated. While this product does not remove rust, this will not deter car owners who already dote on their rides.

Key Features
  • Chrome-specific wheel cleaner
  • Xtreme Cling technology
  • Spray bottle dispenser
Specification
  • Brand Meguiar's
  • Model G19124
  • Weight 24 fluid ounces
PROS

Designed specifically for chrome

Non-abrasive

Clings to vertical surfaces

Easy to apply

CONS

Strong smell

Very acidic; Not safe for use on non-chrome surfaces

Does not remove rust

Time to create a mirror-like finish on all the chrome in sight? Chemical Guys Heavy Metal Polish Restorer and Protectant allows car owners to create the shine of a lifetime. This specially formulated polish and cleaner will do that and more, thanks to its broad metal-specific formula. After applying this cleaner and polish to a dry, clean rag, users can shine up to chrome, aluminum, steel, and other metal parts anywhere on their vehicle. The cleaner also removes light rust and oxidation, thanks to its slightly abrasive nature, and using advanced protective polymers, it creates a surface better prepared to resist rust stains, oxidation, tarnishing, and corrosion. Chemical Guys Heavy Metal Polish Restorer and Protectant is an amazing all-around metal cleaner and polish.

Sadly, this product is not the most inexpensive on the market, although rust-removing cleaners are often guilty of this pitfall. Additionally, this chrome cleaner is slightly abrasive, although unlike most abrasive cleaners, scratched chrome is not a real concern.

Key Features
  • Metal-specific polish, cleaner, and protectant
  • Removes light rust/oxidation
  • Uses advanced protective polymers
Specification
  • Brand Chemical Guys
  • Model SPI-402-16
  • Weight 16 fluid ounces
PROS

Works on chrome, aluminum, stainless steel, precious metals, and other metals, including diamond plate

Removes dirt, stains, and light rust and metal oxidation

Minimizes oxidation, tarnishing, corrosion, and rust stains

CONS

Expensive

Not chrome-specific

Slightly abrasive

For some, their car’s chrome is like a diamond, and White Diamond Metal Polish with Long Lasting Sealant provides users with the ability to keep their chrome shining. This metal polish and cleaner is ideal for restoring chrome and a variety of other metal surfaces to their original luster by removing oxidation and discoloration. To use, simply apply it to the chrome surface with a dry cloth. Once finished, feel free to lightly buff the newly-polished surface. The product can be applied to chrome wheels, stainless steel roll bars, diamond plate tool boxes, or even aluminum airplane fuselages and wings. White Diamond Metal Polish with Long Lasting Sealant also works well for headlight restoration projects, although the manufacturer recommends finishing the job with its paint protectant.

Oftentimes, a multi-metal cleaner and polish combination can be a little pricey, and this product is no exception. While it is not a chrome-specific product, this product’s versatility does help smooth over the added cost.

Key Features
  • Metal-specific polish, cleaner, and protectant
  • Removes light rust/oxidation
Specification
  • Brand White Diamond
  • Model WHT-001
  • Weight 12 fluid ounces
PROS

Works on chrome, aluminum, stainless steel, and other metals, including diamond plate

Removes dirt, oxidation, and discoloration

Can be used to restore headlights

CONS

Expensive

Not chrome-specific

Requires additional product when used for headlight restoration

For that chrome wheel-loving buddy at the office, consider letting him in on the secret of Griot’s Garage Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner. This tough wheel cleaner is specially formulated to remove brake dust, dirt, and debris that sticks to wheels of all kinds. This pH-balanced product is engineered to achieve a viscous quality, allowing it to the law of gravity for a longer period than regular liquid cleaners. Simply spray the cleaner onto a wheel, then let the product sit for three to five minutes. The solution will turn reddish-purple, signaling when to begin gently agitating it. Thoroughly rinse the wheel to achieve that final shine. Griot’s Garage Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner is non-abrasive and non-caustic, making it ideal for use on a wide variety of metals and finishes.

Unfortunately, this wheel cleaner is a bit on the expensive side. Still, it is much more affordable than some of its well-known alternatives.

Key Features
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Removes brake dust, dirt, and grime
  • Viscous, pH-balanced formula
  • Changes color as it works
  • Spray bottle dispenser
Specification
  • Brand Griot’s Garage
  • Model 11026
  • Weight 35 fluid ounces
PROS

Can be used with all wheel materials with many different finishes

Stays on wheels for longer periods to maximize cleaning

Non-abrasive, non-caustic

Easy to apply

CONS

Expensive

Owners of European cars know the frustration of trying to keep chrome wheels clean. Sonax Wheel Cleaner Plus is an industrial-grade solution that sends brake dust, dirt, and grim packing, recreating that new import shine. This non-abrasive German cleaner uses a viscous, pH-balanced formula to maximize cleaning time and effectiveness and virtually any wheel surface, including chrome, raw aluminum, stainless steel, magnesium, clear coated, PVD, plastic, and painted. Once sprayed onto the wheel, it loosens and emulsifies road grime and brake dust, changing from a clear liquid to a dark red or purple color in just a few minutes. With a thorough rinsing, those intricate chrome wheels will be shining like new. Sonax Wheel Cleaner Plus is 30 percent stronger than the original Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect.

As with German cars, chrome wheel cleaners from Deutschland can also be quite expensive, and this one features a rather strong odor as well. Also, car owners with anodized aluminum components, such as wheels and brake parts, should test this cleaner in an inconspicuous location to ensure it does not damage their finish.

Key Features
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Designed for difficult-to-clean wheels
  • Removes brake dust, dirt, and grime
  • Viscous, pH-balanced formula
  • Changes color as it works
  • Spray bottle dispenser
Specification
  • Brand Sonax
  • Model 230241
  • Weight 16.9 fluid ounces
PROS

Can be used with most wheel materials with many different finishes

Stays on wheels for longer periods to maximize cleaning

Non-abrasive, non-acidic

30 percent stronger than Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect

Easy to apply

CONS

Very expensive

Can be too strong for some anodized aluminum components

Strong odor

Quick-Glo Chrome Cleaner & Rust Remover is an American-made chrome cleaner that works wonders on wheels, bumpers, and the environment. This environmentally friendly product serves as a chrome cleaner, rust remover, polish, and wax that can be used on chrome, stainless steel, glass, and other tough, hard surfaces. This cleaner is non-toxic, thanks to a water-based formula, and uses pumice particles and wax to create an all-around chrome care product. Quick-Glo is also easy to use. Simply rub the cleaner onto the chrome surface with a soft, clean rag or microfiber towel, then use another clean rag to remove the excess solution. Quick-Glo Chrome Cleaner & Rust Remover’s non-toxic nature allows it to be used with bare hands when needed, and its pumice particulates are perfect for eliminating stubborn rust patches.

Quick-Glo’s toughest challenger is heat and humidity. When stored in environments with high humidity or temperatures over 90 degrees, it has a tendency to liquify. It also does not do well with aluminum or softer materials, like its fine-grained little brother.

Key Features
  • Chrome cleaner, polish, rust remover, and wax
  • Non-toxic, eco-friendly formula
  • Water-based product with pumice particles
Specification
  • Brand Quick-Glo
  • Model 91633
  • Weight 8 ounces
PROS

All-in-one product

Chrome-specific formula; Works on aluminum, stainless steel, glass, mirrors, and more

Removes dirt, rust/oxidation, and water spots

Safe to handle; No fumes

CONS

Liquifies if stored in high heat and/or high humidity

Not good for use with soft metals, such as aluminum

Drivers looking for good-looking, eco-friendly chrome wheels will be thrilled to discover CarGuys Premium Wheel Cleaner. This concentrated cleaning gel features a non-toxic cleaning formula designed to tackle dirt, grime, and brake dust on both wheels and tires. A little of this ph-balanced gel goes a long way and is easy to apply. Shake the bottle, then spray it evenly on a cool wheel and tire. After three to five minutes, lightly agitate it with a brush or sponge, then rinse it thoroughly with a high-pressure water source. Once rinsed, completely dry the surface as soon as possible. CarGuys Premium Wheel Cleaner is perfect for use on all wheels, wheel finishes, and tires, including whitewalls, although users should be careful not to confuse it with a true tire shine product.

While not a particularly expensive product, users should be careful not to start spraying on autopilot; a little bit goes a long way. This cleaner is also different from its competitors in that it requires users to rinse with a high-pressure water jet, such as a pressure washer, and to dry the finished product quickly and completely in order to avoid streaks and water spots. Of course, an extra step to preserve the planet will not hurt anyone.

Key Features
  • Wheel and tire cleaner
  • Removes brake dust, dirt, and grime
  • Eco-friendly, pH-balanced gel
  • Spray bottle dispenser
Specification
  • Brand CarGuys
  • Model WCG-18OZ
  • Weight 18 fluid ounces
PROS

Can be used with all wheel materials and finishes; Safe for use on tires

Stays on wheels for longer periods to maximize cleaning

Works on whitewall tires

Non-toxic, non-acidic

Easy to apply

CONS

Requires high-pressure water jet to rinse

Must dry completely to avoid streaks and water spots

Easy to apply too much

Best Chrome Cleaners Buying Guide & FAQ

Car care is not as simple as an oil change here and a tire rotation there. To get the most life and greatest looks out of any vehicle, cleaning the interior and exterior is a critical component of the equation. Sure, a regular washing and polishing of the body, windows, and wheels are important, but wheels collect dirt, grime, and brake dust every time they leave the garage. Chrome can be difficult to clean, especially chrome wheels, and as such, cleaning it can become a bit of a chore. Thankfully, purpose-made chrome cleaners do exist and can turn dull, grimy hubs into sparkling pictures of automotive ecstasy.

Benefits of a Chrome Cleaner

While the product description is rather straightforward, chrome cleaners have a number of benefits that may not be explicitly obvious. Of course, the most obvious advantage is its ability to clean chrome surfaces. For household chrome, this can often be done with soap and water, but when grease and brake dust enter the equation, the soap and water combination begins to look a little weak. Chrome cleaners are specifically formulated to tackle and remove these difficult and frustrating obstacles to cleanliness. In so doing, chrome cleaners quickly restore chrome surfaces to their original shine, an effect most noticeable on chrome wheels.

 Chrome Cleaner
Chrome Cleaner

Clean chrome tends to last longer than dirty chrome. Chrome, a derivative of the metal chromium, is tough, slick, and brittle. Automakers love its ability to provide a level of lubricity and protection against harsh materials, but its brittleness limits its use to plating. The most it is exposed to dirt and chemicals from the road and atmosphere, the more likely that plating is to start flaking and peeling. By regularly cleaning this pleasant-looking workhorse of a finish, its service life tends to increase.

In short, chrome cleaners are valuable products, protecting both the looks and function of a vehicle’s exterior.

  • Chrome cleaners make cleaning easier.
  • Chrome cleaners restore factory shine.
  • Chrome cleaners increase chrome life.

What to Consider When Buying Chrome Cleaner

When shopping around for the right chrome cleaner, buyers should consider a handful of different factors. First, consider what chrome parts need to be cleaned. Wheels, bumpers, and chromed plastic trim are all subject to different environmental factors, such as dirt, grease, bugs, and brake dust. Some chrome cleaners will do a better job removing different contaminants than others.

Second, consider which surfaces a given chrome cleaner is designed to treat. While virtually all products are designed to clean traditional chrome plating, not all will be kind to PVD chrome or chromed plastic components. This consideration also extends to which polishing ingredients and other additives the product contains.

Finally, oxidation, rust, and corrosion removers are another consideration. A chrome cleaner’s rust removing potential ranges from none to light to heavy. If you have already pulled the trigger on a light-duty product but need something more, dedicated rust removers are available.

The Most Important Features of Chrome Cleaners

The chrome cleaner market is saturated with products, so when narrowing which product to purchase, buyers should know what features to consider and whether or not to purchase them. Chrome cleaners are often combined with other related products designed to minimize the work necessary to maintain a clean, sharp chrome appearance.

  • Cleaning Abilities

Brake dust and rust are a pain for any car owner to remove, and while chrome does resist the latter better than some materials do, a chrome cleaner’s ability to combat both of these elements makes the car owning experience more rewarding.

At a bare minimum, a good automotive-grade car cleaner absolutely must remove brake dust. Failure to clean this most mundane of chrome contaminants is a failure for the cleaner as a whole.

While not as critical, removing rust is another key cleaning consideration. Rust from iron and steel components can stain chrome over time, turning your car into the Rust Bucket of the Century. Chrome cleaners run the gamut from no rust removing ingredients to premium-grade rust removal product. The amount of rust to be removed will determine which type of chrome cleaner will fit your needs.

  • Application Method

While it may seem like a trivial thing at first blush, a chrome cleaner’s application method is a pretty big deal. If a product is too difficult or complicated to apply, most people likely will never use the product at all, no matter how good their intentions might be, and this principle applies to cleaning chrome.

Most chrome cleaners come in a liquid form, while a few come in a paste form. Liquid or gel-based chrome cleaners often are applied via a spray bottle. While less precise, this method certainly increases the speed and likelihood of use.

Paste-based cleaners (often a chrome polish with cleaning ingredients) require a hands-on application via a microfiber towel, clean shop rag, or electrically-powered applicator, and a decent number of liquid chrome cleaners use the same application procedure. This method requires some extra elbow grease that some people may not be willing to invest.

  • Finishing Ingredients

Easily the most common partner to a chrome cleaner is a chrome finishing product. These products often come in the form of polishes and waxes, but often, they are included as an additional ingredient in a dedicated chrome cleaner…or vice versa.

Chrome polishes provide clean chrome with a showroom look and achieving that like-new shine sometimes requires the use of incredibly fine particles to serve as a polishing medium. Dedicated chrome polishes are more likely to include these ingredients and include a chrome cleaner as an added ingredient. Dedicated chrome cleaners are the reverse, and rarely include the use of particulate polishing agents.

Chrome waxes, like their traditional counterparts, provide chrome components with an added layer of protection from the elements. Waxes usually include cleaners and polishes as additives, but true chrome cleaners never include wax in their list of ingredients.

Chrome Cleaner
Chrome Cleaner

The Best Chrome Cleaners FAQ:

Some say that soap and water can stand in for chrome cleaners, while others swear that dedicated cleaning products are the only solution to keeping chrome parts clean. Additionally, chrome cleaner and chrome polish are two different products but often are combined into a single product. The similarities and differences among these solutions can be a bit confusing at times, so taking the time to understand some of the capabilities and limitations of chrome cleaners can make a big difference in the shopping process.

Q: What is the best chrome cleaner?

While this answer varies depending on the specific application, we prefer Mothers California Gold All-Chrome due to its versatility.

Q: What other metals will chrome polish work on?

Chrome polish often works well with a wide variety of metals, as it is often a multi-metal product, but be sure to check the label before using any polish.

Q: How do you remove oxidation from chrome?

Many chrome cleaners are specifically designed to remove chrome oxidation. When removing oxidation, avoid using abrasive tools, such as steel wool, which can scratch the chrome’s surface relatively easily.

Our Top Pick

The award for the best all-around chrome cleaner goes to Mothers California Gold All-Chrome. This cleaner handles virtually everything chrome: chrome plating, PVD chrome, and chromed plastics. It comes in a spray bottle, making it incredibly easy and convenient to use. While it may not be ideal for rust removal, it handles chrome cleaning and maintenance efforts with ease and is quite affordable.

Final Thoughts

Keeping chrome in like-new condition can take some work, but Mothers California Gold All-Chrome reduces that work to the bare minimum while providing top-notch care for any chromed surface. On the other hand, Turtle Wax Chrome Polish & Rust Remover is a lifesaver for both chrome and bank accounts.

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