Make Your Wheels Gleam with These Top Wheel Cleaners

best wheel cleaner
Top Wheel Cleaners for 2024 Amazon


"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

The wheels on the bus go round and round, but as they turn, they also collect a boatload of grime and dirt from the road and your car. Over time, this buildup from brake dust and the environment can make your wheels look neglected and grimy. But rest assured, you can restore them to their former glory with the right wheel cleaner and a bit of effort.

Choosing the correct cleaner is crucial, as different wheel types require specific products. Always read the labels and follow the instructions carefully to ensure your wheels are correctly cleaned and maintained. With the right approach, your wheels will sparkle, and you'll ask yourself why you hadn't done this sooner.


Things to Consider When Buying Wheel Cleaner

Using standard car soap (or worse, dish soap) on your rims and tires isn't the best course of action. Debris like brake dust often resists gentler types of cleaners. Your best bet is to get a specific cleaner that's made for wheels. Before you purchase one, here are some things to think about.

Wheel Type

Wheels come in all kinds of materials—most commonly steel and aluminum, as well as more exotic options like magnesium and carbon fiber. It's important to know what your wheels are made out of since that can affect which wheel cleaner you purchase. While most wheel cleaners are claimed to be safe for all types of wheels, we find it's better to choose a specialized wheel cleaner if you own specialized rims. If you own non-fancy wheels, you should be good to go for the "all wheel" stuff.

Application Method

Most wheel cleaners come as a ready-to-go spray, while others require dilution in water and application via your own spray bottle or a brush. To make the best purchasing decision, consider where you'll be cleaning your wheels and the tools you have available.

Tools

Stubborn wheel grime requires brushes to agitate and lift dirt from crevices. Investing in a quality wheel brush can distinguish between a good and an incredible clean. Use old, clean microfiber towels for wheel cleaning, reserving new fresh towels for bodywork.

Water Source

Make sure to get your water source set before cleaning your wheels—whether that be from a gentle pressure washer, a normal garden hose, or a full bucket.


The Best Wheel Cleaners

Meguiar's Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner

For a trusty wheel cleaner that works on just about anything, Meguiar's Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner is the way to go. Featuring an acid-free, pH-balanced formula, it works to break down and dissolve moderate brake dust and other gunk.

If you have rims that are on the sensitive side, such as aluminum, it might be smart to purchase wheel cleaner specific to what you have. But at the end of the day, the Ultimate Cleaner is excellent for just about everyone.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072FCF2ZF?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60139936%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Meguiar's Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$19.02</p>

Shop Now

Meguiar's Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner

amazon.com

$19.02

Griot's Garage Heavy-Duty Wheel Cleaner

If your wheels are looking extra nasty with a thick crust of brake dust, it's time to bring out the heavies. Griot's Garage Heavy-Duty Wheel Cleaner is built to handle it all thanks to a clingy formula that allows the active ingredients to work longer and more effectively than your average cleaner.

Another neat feature is the magenta color change when the cleaner reacts with brake dust. For wheels that are really dirty, this is the stuff to get.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J5CVMCO?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60139936%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Griot's Garage Heavy-Duty Wheel Cleaner</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$24.79</p><span class="copyright">Amazon</span>

Chemical Guys Diablo Wheel Cleaner

If you prefer to take your time when you clean your car, consider Chemical Guys Diablo Wheel Cleaner. It's quite popular in the car-detailing community, and the fact that it's concentrated means it's quite economical too.

Because it's concentrated, you will need to dilute it in some water. Once your mixture is correct, apply it with a brush and get to work.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003TTRORQ?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60139936%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Chemical Guys Diablo Wheel Cleaner</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$18.99</p>

Shop Now

Chemical Guys Diablo Wheel Cleaner

amazon.com

$18.99

Meguiar's Aluminum Wheel Cleaner

Aluminum wheels are notorious for being sensitive to normal wheel cleaners, so we recommend you play it safe and purchase a cleaner formulated specifically for them. Meguiar's makes one of the better options for this on the market.

The formula is ultra-gentle and safe to use on uncoated aluminum, polished aluminum, and even powder-coated wheels. The best way to protect those expensive rims is to clean them with the proper stuff.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0015IUZ92?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60139936%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Meguiar's Aluminum Wheel Cleaner</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$6.97</p><span class="copyright">Amazon</span>

Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect

Some folks swear by Sonax Wheel Cleaner, and it's easy to see why—this stuff works. If you're into the visuals, this wheel cleaner sprays on yellow and turns red or purple when it reacts to brake dust.

Sonax claims that it's safe on all factory-installed wheels, but we would shy away from using it on something delicate like aluminum. Additionally, the smell is said to be off-putting. If you can handle that, Sonax's Full Effect is worth a try.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003UT3S6Q?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60139936%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$16.73</p><span class="copyright">Amazon</span>

Chemical Guys Red Rocket Detailing Brush

The Chemical Guys Red Rocket Brush uses a barrel design to clean between the wheel spokes. The brush has a flexible, rubber-wrapped metal spine that lets you angle the brush into the deep crevices of your wheels. This model is nine inches long, but they also offer a smaller 5.5-inch model as well.

Chemical Guys has a great variety of brushes that we recommend you check out, since cleaning tires really does work best with the use of tools and cleaners combined.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DY9JX2F?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60139936%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Chemical Guys Red Rocket Detailing Brush</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$19.99</p>

Shop Now

Chemical Guys Red Rocket Detailing Brush

amazon.com

$19.99

FAQs

Can a wheel cleaner damage wheels?

Different wheel cleaners boast varying levels of dirt-busting strength. For most wheels, wheel cleaners won't cause damage—but if you have sensitive finishes, like polished aluminum or powder coating, seek a wheel cleaner with a gentler compound to be safe.

What happens if you leave the wheel cleaner on too long?

The risk of staining or pitting your wheels increases if the wheel cleaner is left on too long, especially with more delicate materials like aluminum or a powder coating. It's best to simply follow the instructions on the bottle.

Can a wheel cleaner damage brakes?

Not unless you leave the wheel cleaner on for an excessive amount of time, which increases the possibility of rotor stains. If you follow the directions, you don't have to worry about the wheel cleaner damaging your brake system.

Are wheel cleaners necessary?

If you want to clean your wheels to their maximum potential, yes. Scrubbing and water won't remove all of the brake dust and other contaminants—these cleaners are designed to cut through the stuff your elbow grease won't.

What will clean brake dust off my wheels?

Spray, sit, scrub, rinse—it's as simple as that. If your wheels are super cruddy, look for stronger wheel cleaners.

cleaning aluminum wheels special chemicals for car washing
Андрей Клеменков - Getty Images

Why Trust Us

Hearst Autos combines the talent, resources, and expertise of three of the largest, most influential automotive publications in the world. The Gear Team has tested a wide variety of automotive products, parts, accessories, and gear, such as car covers, portable jump starters, and garage flooring. We get our hands on each and every product we test. Most are purchased; some are supplied by manufacturers.

The Gear Team doesn't need to game algorithms for traffic or promote lousy products for clicks. We're more concerned with our reputation and the trust that our readers have in Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track to deliver honest opinions and expert evaluations.

Visit our Tested & Trusted page to see the very best in automotive gear. Read more about our product testing and evaluation process here.

professional car washer cleaning car alloy wheels
herraez - Getty Images

You Might Also Like