Best Wheel Cleaners

UPDATED DECEMBER 2018

A good wheel cleaner will keep your wheels sparkly clean and make your tires last longer. Before buying one of these cleaners, read through our shopping guide to find the top products.

BEST WHEEL
CLEANER 2018

BOTTOM LINE

You can adjust the nozzle on this bottle to apply a finer or thicker mist to your tires. The product removes most types of grime but may require multiple applications to remove everything.

PROS

Capable of removing dust left by your brakes and salt on the road, this cleaner works on almost everything. It comes in a convenient and easy to use bottle with a spray nozzle.

CONS

You may need to apply this cleaner multiple times to get the results you want. It also required more scrubbing than some expected.

BOTTOM LINE

You can get the full effect of a proper cleaning with this product, which actually changes colors to show you that it works. It is safe for use on painted surfaces and on most forms of metal too.

PROS

Once you spray this cleaner on your wheels, you’ll find that it slowly turns red as it gets to work. No matter what areas of your wheels you want to clean, you can use this cleaner.

CONS

This cleaner has a really intense smell that some disliked. You may find that you need to use more of the product than you wanted also.

BOTTOM LINE

Suitable for homes with multiple vehicles, this Hot Rims cleaner works great on chrome surfaces. It washes easily off your wheels with just a little cold water.

PROS

Designed for use on wheels made entirely from chrome, this cleaner removes dirt and grime and comes off easily without leaving behind any residue. You get six bottles in this bulk buy.

CONS

The cleaner does not work well on all auto surfaces and materials. A few reviewers received bottles that were open or leaking.

BOTTOM LINE

It takes just two steps to apply this cleaner because you simply put it on your wheels and wipe it off later. Many shoppers like how well this cleaner works on all areas of their wheels.

PROS

This cleaner works effectively on all the black and white surfaces on your tires and will make those surfaces look new again. It attacks all the grime that sticks to your wheels.

CONS

You’ll need your own supplies such as a spray bottle to apply this cleaner. Some users weren’t fond of the end results and thought their tires looked dirty.

BOTTOM LINE

You can use this Mothers cleaner on most tires and parts that have any type of coating. As the product foams when applied, you can use less of it to clean your wheels.

PROS

Though this product comes out as a liquid, it quickly creates a foam that gets deep into your tire treads. It works on most wheels and rim with a factory or aftermarket coating.

CONS

It may cause discoloration or other problems when used on painted or coated surfaces. Most users found that it required they do more scrubbing than they wanted.

Shopping Guide for the Best Wheel Cleaner

You can tell a lot about people by how clean they keep their cars. While you might remove the trash that builds up inside and even go through a car wash once a month, you probably don’t think about how your wheels and tires look. It’s important that you use the best wheel cleaner to keep your wheels as clean as possible. The top wheel cleaners for 2018 will work on your rims as well as your tires. You can use one of these cleaners whenever you wash your car at home to remove all the grime that builds up as you drive and as your car sits.

The best wheel cleaner for 2018 might include a foaming product. Once you apply a little of this product, it will create a rich foam that gets deep into the treads of your tires. You might prefer a large bottle of a liquid cleaner that you can apply exactly where you need it. We found a few different types of wheel cleaners and found products that sell for just a few dollars as well as those that cost more. Our shopping guide will help you find a greater cleaner for your wheels at a price you can afford.

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Selection Criteria

If you take a walk down the cleaning aisle of an auto parts store or any big box shop, you might find yourself surprised at the sheer number of car cleaning products on the market. There are products designed for your glass windows and cleaners that will remove stains from your upholstery. You’ll also find products that hide paint scrapes and those that work specifically on chrome. To create a list of the best wheel cleaners for 2018, we focused on just those products that you can use on wheels and tires.

We checked with some of the top car websites around to find out which products they recommended and which cleaners they used on their own tires. Though we considered their feedback, we also wanted to find out what real people think. That led us to the product reviews posted on Amazon. We used those reviews to find the top pros and cons of each product and to weed out cleaners that didn’t work as well as most expected.

You can use our shopping guide in a few different ways. We highly recommend that you look at our product reviews and our cleaner matrix. You can then find out more about wheel cleaners, including how to pick the best product and how to use those cleaners.

Selection Criteria

How We Picked the Best Wheel Cleaners

  • We consulted more than 20 websites, including those listed in the Resources and Further Readings page
  • Our team read through more than 100 reviews of products to find the best five
  • We then ranked our list according to different criteria such as the best wheel cleaner and the best budget cleaner

Why Should You Keep Your Wheels Clean?

  • Better look: A big reason to regularly clean your wheels is that it will make your car look better. Regular cleaning can also add to the value of your car and reduce your overall cost of ownership.
  • Spot damage: Dirty wheels are a problem because that dirt and grime can prevent you from seeing serious signs of damage. If you clean your wheel every few months, you have the chance to look for any damage and discover when you need to get the car to a shop.
  • Protect the wheels: Any debris that you pick up can build up on the surface of your rims and cause some significant damage. That debris can actually eat through the clear coat and cause the metal below to rust and develop pitted spots. When you clean your wheels, you’ll remove the debris before it causes any damage.
  • Improve your fuel efficiency: You may not realize that the debris on your wheels and tires can actually interfere with your vehicle’s overall performance. That debris can actually weigh down the car and add some wind resistance, which lowers your fuel efficiency.

What Type of Grime and Buildup Affects Your Wheels?

  • Rock salt
  • Dirt and dust
  • Plant debris
  • Smoke and pollution
  • Animal debris
  • Brake dust
Why Should You Keep Your Wheels Clean
Both car cleaning professionals and detailing experts give this Car Guys product two thumbs up. They love that the formula does not contain any harsh chemicals or acids that can wreak the finish on vehicles. It is safe to use on all types of wheels and will work on areas around your wheels too. If you live in the Midwest, you know that road salt can wreak havoc on your vehicles. The same salt that melts ice on the road can also do significant damage to your car’s body and wheels. This cleaner has a special formula that will remove any salt on your wheels.

It also works well on the other grime that you encounter, including the dust that flies off your brakes and the debris that you pick up from the street. This is one of the best environmentally friendly cleaners around too because its formula has a special pH balance that won’t harm the environment. You can use this on a wide range of rims, including aluminum and alloy wheels. Another benefit to using this product is that it can make the white stripes on your tires appear brighter and fresher. With one application, you can make your wheels look new again.

How Do Wheel Cleaners Work?

Wheel cleaners work in one of two ways. The most common type requires less work on your part. These cleaners typically come in spray bottles. You may need to lift a flap on the bottle to expose the nozzle, but some have a knob that you twist to use the spray. Those with a knob also let you turn in opposite directions to adjust the amount of the product that comes out. With these products, you simply spray the liquid on your wheels and let it work on its own. You’ll come back in a few minutes to rinse off any of the excess liquid. It may take several applications before the product works the way you want it to work though.

The other type of wheel cleaner is one that requires more work. Once you apply the cleaner, you can use a brush or a sponge to rub the liquid on the wheels. These products are great for those who see debris trapped in their rims. This also lets you remove any larger trash or debris that you might see. This type of wheel cleaner comes in both spray bottles and jugs that let you apply more or less of the liquid to your wheels.

Best Ways to Remove Wheel Cleaner

The best ways to remove any excess cleaner from your wheels is with a bucket of fresh water or a garden hose. You can spray water from the hose right on the wheels to remove any of the product or rinse off the wheels with water poured from a bucket. When you choose the bucket method, you may need to pour more water on the wheels to remove all the cleaner.

How Do Wheel Cleaners Work

Benefits of Using a Commercial Cleaner

If you search online for ways to clean your car tires, you’ll likely come across a number of recipes for DIY cleaners. Those cleaners may contain distilled white vinegar or bleach that will remove and break down debris stuck to the wheels. Commercial cleaners such as the ones on our list have a number of benefits over those DIY remedies, including:

  • Less residue: The problem with DIY cleaning products is that many of the ingredients used will leave behind a residue on your tires and wheels. That residue can make the wheels look worse than they did before. Commercial products will leave the wheels as clean as possible and without leaving behind any residue.
  • No bleaching: When you use a recipe that includes bleach, you risk bleaching your tires. Bleach is a highly acidic liquid that can strip color from paint and any other colored surface. Most commercial products will clean wheels without discoloring them.
  • Prevent damage: Many DIY remedies also include ingredients that can significantly damage the clear coating on your rims and wheels. Manufacturers use that coating to protect the metal from damage caused by rocks you run across in the street and traditional pollutants. While home remedies can strip the coating from your wheels, commercial products will protect that coating. 

Can You Use Car Wash Soaps on Your Wheels?

While car soaps are cleaning products designed for cleaning vehicles without damaging their paint jobs, you should not use this soap on your wheels or tires. It will leave behind a dingy residue on the tires and can eat through the coating on your wheels.

Types of Cleaners

All in One Cleaners
If you want to save time and save money, you should look at an all in one cleaner. These are products that are safe to use on all areas of your car. You don’t need to worry if the liquid spills onto your paint because it will not damage that surface. These cleaners work well on your tires and rims as well as your brake lines or cables and any other nearby parts. You may find that these cleaners do not work as well as those designed for specific areas or materials though. Some will work better on tires than on rims or make the metal surfaces appear cleaner.

Wheel Cleaners
Wheel cleaners work on your wheels but not your tires. These products come in both scrubbing and spray options. With spray products, you spray the formula on your wheels and let it sit for around 10 to 15 minutes before coming back and rinsing off the wheels. Scrubbing products ask you to put in some effort and rub that product on your wheels. Though spray options give you a more convenient way to clean your tires, many products do not work as well as you might think. You usually need to apply more of the formula than the manufacturer instructed or scrub the liquid in yourself.

Tire Cleaners
The problem with using ordinary cleaners on your tire is that most of those products are not suitable for use on rubber. As car tires use rubber, you need to use caution when picking a good cleaner. If you choose the wrong one, your tires will develop a dingy appearance that makes them look old. Other products can actually leave behind discolored spots on the rubber. Both Meguiar’s and Mothers make cleaners that you can use on your tires and other products that are safe to use on your rims and brake cables.

Tire Oils
When you purchase a brand new vehicle, you’ll find that most of its surfaces have a shiny appearance. No matter how often you drive that car, those shiny finishes will slowly become dull and dingy. Tire oil is a type of specialized product designed to bring back the original shine of those tires. The oils do a good job of removing dirt and debris but also restore the brilliant shine that you associate with rubber tires. Some oils are best for restoring tires rather than cleaning tires. You’ll typically apply the oil with a dry cloth and rub it into the rubber.

What About Tire Brighteners?

Tire brighteners are cleaning products that actually make car tires look brighter and whiter. You can use these products on any white lettering or on whitewall tires to make those features look much whiter and without damaging the rubber.

Types of Cleaners - Dull Tire
DULL TIRE
Types of Cleaners - Bright Tire
BRIGHT TIRE
When you have vehicles that all use different types of rims, you may have a hard time finding one all-purpose cleaner that can tackle them all. We recommend this Sonax cleaner for those who want to clean all areas of their vehicles and wheels. It has a unique formula that goes on color and slowly changes to another. As soon as the cleaner turns a deep red shade, you’ll know that it’s on top of things. This full effect wheel cleaner works well on brake cables and other areas that you can see behind your tires, but it also works on your wheels and rims.
As it comes in a spray bottle, it’s easy to apply the product to your wheels. You can use just the right amount for the job and save some of the liquid for future jobs. Sonax guarantees that this cleaner is safe to use on painted surfaces and on different types of metal. You no longer need to switch between products as you clean. The formula has a good pH balance and does not contain any acid ingredients, which makes it safe for the environment. This cleaner will work on any surface and any type of stain.

When you pay for professional detailing, the expert will use an acid cleaner on your wheels. Acid cleaners are safer than you might assume and do a good job of working on the buildup that can occur when you do not clean your wheels for months or longer. You need to use caution when working with these products because the acidic ingredients can actually damage your skin and affect your lungs. Some products come in a concentrated formula that will require that you mix the liquid with water while wearing some protective clothing. You’ll also find acidic products that come already mixed.

Many people prefer acid-free cleaners that are safer for them and the environment. When you use an acidic cleaner, you must dispose of any remaining cleaner properly. With acid-free cleaners, you can be a little more flexible with how you store and dispose of the liquid. Acid-free cleaners do not produce any toxic fumes and shouldn’t affect your skin or breathing, though some products do have a strong odor. Many of the newer acid-free cleaners will work just as well as those that contain acid do, but you may need to spend more time scrubbing and applying those products to get the same results.

Acid vs. Acid-Free Cleaners

Tips for Using Acid Wheel Cleaners

  • Work in an open space to keep the fumes from collecting around your face
  • Wear good safety gear, including a mask that covers your nose and mouth and gloves on your hands
  • Read the instructions carefully to make sure you know how to apply the cleaner
  • Store the cleaner in a safe spot away from any kids in your home

Choosing the Right Cleaner for Your Wheels

It’s really important that you buy the right cleaner designed for the type of wheels that you have. You’ll find cleaners designed for:

  • Alloy wheels
  • Chrome wheels
  • Aluminum wheels
  • Clear coat wheels
  • Black wheels

Cleaners designed for alloy, aluminum and chrome wheels will only work on surfaces that use that type of metal or finish. If you use the wrong product, you’ll create an effect called etching. This will leave behind marks that mimic the way the cleaner dried or the cloth/brush that you used to apply it. Many of these products do not contain any acid ingredients.

Another example of an acid-free cleaner is one designed for use on a clear coat. Acidic cleaners can eat right through that coating and seriously damage the metal beneath. Black wheel cleaners allow you to clean these unique wheels without using any water. You’ll usually apply the cleaner and then go over it with a soft cloth to buff the wheels and remove any of the excess cleaner. Some manufacturers make black wheels that you can clean with ordinary soap too. You must use a wheel cleaner designed to work on the specific type of metal or finish that your own wheels have.

Expert Tip

If you aren’t sure what type of wheels you have, look at the paperwork that came with your car or in your manual. You can also check with the shop that installed new wheels on your car.

Choosing the Right Cleaner for Your Wheels

Wheel Cleaners and Odors

One thing you may not give much thought to is how the product smells. When you read a product description, you should always check for any scents listed in the description or on the packaging. Many companies offer wheel cleaners with a new car smell. This is an artificial odor designed to smell just like a new car does. You can also check the posted reviews to see if customers wrote about the smell.

The smell may not seem very important to you because you plan on using the product outside. You assume that the fresh air will help dissipate that odor and carry it away from your nose. Depending on which cleaner you pick though, you may find yourself standing right next to the product for five minutes or longer. That smell can create a burning sensation in your nose and leave you struggling to breathe.

Products that contain more artificial ingredients and chemicals can cause serious damage to your nose, mouth and lungs as you keep breathing in those scents. You also risk the odor clinging to your wheels and tires. Some products have such an intense smell that the odor will hit your nose each time you climb in or out of your car.

Wheel Cleaners and Odors

 If you have a sensitive nose and/or suffer headaches and other symptoms when exposed to artificial ingredients and smells, you should consider wearing a face mask when cleaning your wheels.

Between the vehicles that you and your family members have, you might find that most cleaners don’t work for you because you need more product for those vehicles. Meguiar’s makes a Hot Rims cleaner that we think offers the best value. We call this the best bulk buy because you actually get six bottles of cleaner. Each bottle contains 24 ounces of a durable cleaner and a spray nozzle. You can adjust that nozzle to produce a steady stream or to apply a light mist to your tires. This product will only work on wheels made completely from chrome and can damage other metals.
Best Bulk Buy Meguiar_s Hot Rims Wheel and Tire Cleaner
Meguiar's Hot Rims Wheel and Tire Cleaner

One reason we really like this product is that it comes off cleanly. Once you apply and scrub the product into your wheels, you can use your garden hose or a bucket of water to rinse it away. It will not leave behind any type of residue the way that other products can. You can use this cleaner while working in direct sunlight and on wheels with a factory coating. It also works on your sidewalls. A small application of this Hot Rims cleaner will leave those white spots looking whiter and brighter than ever before.

Fast vs. Slow Acting

No matter how proud you are of your car, you probably don’t like taking time out of your busy day just to clean it. Even if you make plans to wash your car on the weekend, you might put off the job because you want to hang out with friends or have fun with your family. Many people dislike cleaning their wheels because the job requires so many different steps. You’ll need to get down on the ground to clean the rubber and the undercarriage before you even start focusing on the wheels. Simply running your vehicle through a car wash will not remove all the grit and grime from your wheels.

It’s extremely important that you choose a formula that works quickly to save yourself some time. Those with a fast-acting design will work in 10 minutes or less, while those with a slower acting design will take up to 30 minutes or more to work effectively. You should not assume that all fast acting formulas will work as quickly as you like though. Once you apply the cleaner to your wheels and scrub and/or rinse off the wheels, you may find that you need to go over those surfaces a second or even a third time.

Expert Tip

Formulas that change colors as they work are great for those who want to save time. You can check on the product after a few minutes and easily spot any areas that you missed.

What are Some of the Lesser Known Things to Consider When Buying a Wheel Cleaner?

  • Water soluble: You may want to look for a cleaner that is water soluble because you plan on using the product on your driveway or another spot where your kids play and walk. These products will break down when exposed to water and harmlessly wash away.
  • Environmentally friendly: As much as you care about your family, you probably care about your impact on the environment too. That is why you should look for cleaners that are environmentally friendly. These cleaners will not harm any of the plants near your driveway and will not contaminate any nearby water supplies.
  • Corrosion: We recommend looking for wheel cleaners that will not corrode any metal surfaces. When you use one of these cleaners, the liquid may drip off the wheels and land on your lug nuts or your metal brake lines. You must make sure that the liquid will not rust or corrode those parts.
  • Paint damage: You’ll also want to make sure that the product will not damage your vehicle’s paint. If you accidentally drop the bottle, some of the liquid might splash on your car’s body. As long as the cleaner has a good pH balance and lacks any strong acids, it shouldn’t damage the paint. 
What are Some of the Lesser Known Things to Consider When Buying a Wheel Cleaner

Overall Formula Strength

As you look at some of the more popular wheel cleaners, you may find that some companies use terms like premium and ultimate to describe the cleaning power of those products. Instead of focusing on those words, you should take a look at the ingredient list and get an idea of the strength of the formula. We also recommend that you think about the type of formula that you need.

The best formula for you depends on how often you drive and the environment where you regularly drive. If you frequently drive through rural areas, you need a stronger formula that will loosen the dust and mud that can cake on your wheels. Weaker formulas are suitable for those who drive in the city and more populated areas because their vehicles pick up less grime.

If you need an extremely strong formula and had problems using cleaners in the past, look for a concentrated mixture. You can mix that liquid with less water to create a more powerful liquid that will work on most types of grime and buildup. Manufacturers of concentrated formulas will often give you instructions that show you how to mix the cleaner.

How to Mix a Concentrated Cleaner

  • Place all your ingredients on a flat surface before you start mixing
  • Use a funnel to pour the concentrated cleaner into a spray bottle
  • Add the right amount of water to the bottle
  • Make sure that you tighten the cap on the bottle and close the spray nozzle before mixing the ingredients together

When you factor in the cost of this bottle compared to the number of ounces provided, you’ll quickly discover why it’s the best wheel cleaner for the money. You get 64 ounces of this cleaning liquid inside every bottle. If you need more, you can order a bulk package that comes with six bottles of 32 to 64 ounces. Many of the reviews we read pointed out how quickly and effectively this liquid works. Unlike other products that require a number of different steps, this one has just two. You simply apply the liquid and then wipe it off. It takes only one application to see some big results.

Best for the Money Black Magic Bleche-Wite Tire Cleaner
Black Magic Bleche-Wite Tire Cleaner

We like that this cleaner works on so many different areas of your tires. Not only will it remove grime and buildup from your tires, but it also works on any of the white lettering or walls on your wheels too. While some thought it made their tires look dingy, most liked the results. This cleaner works specifically on the dirt and environmental debris that you pick up on a daily basis. It actually attacks that dirt and grime to make the darker and lighter areas of your wheels look as clean as possible.

Tips for Choosing the Best Wheel Cleaner

  • Go mild: If you aren’t sure which formula is right for you, choose a mild option. Mild formulas are strong enough to remove most grime but will not harm the wheels or any other parts of your car. Once you use that product, you can see how it works and decide if you need a stronger formula.
  • Put finish first: Before you buy any of these cleaners, check the finish on your wheels and make sure that the product is safe for use on that finish. Polished wheels and those with a shinier finish can develop scratches and dull sports when you use the wrong cleaner. Certain cleaners can also stain or discolor some finishes too.
  • Consider gel formulas: If you have problems spraying your wheels and completely coating those surfaces, consider switching to a product with a gel formula. These products stay exactly where you put them and will cling to the wheel. You can get a better idea of where the product goes and where you still need to apply some.
  • Safe for skin: We also recommend that our readers look for wheel cleaners that are safe for skin. No matter how careful you are, you can still spill some of the liquid on your hands or arms. The top products will wash away easily and will not irritate your skin.
Tips for Choosing the Best Wheel Cleaner

Degreaser Cleaning Products

A degreaser is a type of product used in commercial kitchens to remove the grease that builds up every day. Many home chefs use the same cleaning products in their own homes. You can actually use these cleaners and similar products on your car wheels. The formula is gentle enough that it won’t damage the metal but strong enough that it eats through layers of built up grime.

Benefits of Using a Wheel Cleaning Brush

While you can use an ordinary scrub brush like the one from your kitchen when cleaning your wheels, you may want to invest in a wheel cleaning brush designed specifically for tires and wheels. These brushes come in a few different designs. The most common type looks similar to a hairbrush because it has a rounded end with bristles on the top attached to a handle that extends down from that end. Professional detailing experts use products that look more like bottle brushes. They have strong bristles that completely surround one end and a handle on the opposite side. You’ll also find some products that look like simple paint brushes.

Brushes make it easy to remove some of the noticeable debris from your wheels before you apply the cleaner. You can brush off any road salt or dirt clinging to the wheels. The brushes also help you get inside the spokes on your tires or the decorations on your rims to remove any of the debris or dust hidden behind those areas. Another benefit to using a wheel cleaning brush is that it reduces the risk that you might scratch or damage your rims. Though most have durable bristles, those bristles are soft enough that they won’t leave behind any marks.

Benefits of Using a Wheel Cleaning Brush

How to Properly Clean Your Car's Wheels

Tools That You Will Need for the Job

  • Wheel cleaner brush
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Water supply
  • Dry and soft cloths

Give the Wheel a Good Brushing
Before applying the wheel cleaner, you’ll want to give the wheel a good brushing. You can use any of the top brushes for this job. Run the brush right through the spokes or decorations in the rim to knock loose any debris clinging to the back of the tire. You can also use the brush to clean out the tread on your tire and to wipe off debris stuck to the rubber.

Apply the Cleaner
Many people refer to wheel cleaning as a waiting game because you might spend more time waiting than you actually do cleaning. Once you spray the cleaner onto the wheel, you can actually take a short break. Some products must sit for five to 10 minutes, but other products take up to 30 minutes to work.

If you purchased a cleaner that does not come in a spray bottle, you can apply it in one of two ways. You can pour the cleaner into a small container and use a sponge or a brush that you dip into the liquid before rubbing it on the wheel. Another option involves the use of a separate bottle. You can decant the cleaner into a clean spray bottle and then spray it on the wheel.

Scrub
Depending on the type of wheel cleaner that you buy, you may have the option of skipping this step. All in one cleaners and those that offer full effect cleaning will loosen and remove grime without any scrubbing. Most products do require that you put in a little work though. You can use the same brush that you did to complete the first step after rinsing it off in some fresh water. As you scrub, make sure that you use enough pressure to remove all the buildup from your wheel.

Rinse
It’s important that you remove all the leftover cleaning product from your wheel. As long as you have some supply of water nearby, you can rinse the wheel off in a few minutes or less. You can fill a bucket with water and toss it right on the wheel or pour it over the wheel from above. Using a garden hose is an even better and easier way to remove the cleaner. You can aim the hose right at the wheel and rinse off all the cleaner in under a minute.

Inspect and Scrub Some More
If you think that rinsing is the last step in the cleaning process, think again. Once you rinse off the cleaner, you’ll want to inspect the wheel and decide if it needs additional cleaning. Cleaners that have a gentler or milder formula may not be strong enough to remove all the layers of buildup sitting on your wheels. You may need to apply more of the cleaner to the wheel and let it sit before attacking it with your brush. If you find that a spray product does not work as well as you expected, you can apply that cleaner to the wheel and then scrub the liquid with your brush. You can wait a few minutes or begin scrubbing as soon as you apply the liquid.

Rinse and Dry
Once you finish cleaning your wheel and are satisfied with your work, you can rinse the wheel once again and dry the metal. You’ll want to use a soft cloth to gently dry the metal. Microfiber cloths are great for these jobs because they absorb quite a lot of liquid and can actually buff the metal to a nice shine. You can also use old towels or tee-shirts. As long as you use a light touch and work slowly, you’ll dry the wheel without damaging it. You can then polish the wheel or move on to the next one. We recommend working on just one wheel at a time.

How to Properly Clean Your Car_s Wheels - WITH TEXT - 1
How to Properly Clean Your Car_s Wheels - WITH TEXT - 2
If you want a simple and basic cleaner that won’t cost an arm and a leg, consider the Foaming Wheel and Tire Cleaner from Mothers. Not only does it have an affordable price tag, but it also uses a foaming formula that lets you use less of the product each time that you clean your wheels. That formula comes out of the spray nozzle in a steady stream that lets you aim the cleaner where you want to use it. Almost as soon as it touches the wheels though, that formula becomes a thick foam that sticks to the surface.
Best Budget Cleaner Mothers Foaming Wheel and Tire Cleaner
Mothers Foaming Wheel and Tire Cleaner

Specifically designed to target the grime that builds up on your wheels, this product will also work on the environmental hazards and pollutants that stick to your tires too. It works on both your rims and your hubcaps as well as your tires. Though the manufacturer claims it will work on all surfaces, some reviews claimed that it damaged painted and coated surfaces. It works especially well on rims and other metal surfaces that have a factory or aftermarket coating. The manufacturer warns customers against using the product on motorcycle parts and on other products because it can bleach or discolor those areas.

Tips for Using a Wheel Cleaner

  • Spot test the cleaner: Before using a new cleaner for the first time, you should spot test it on a small portion of your wheel. This is especially important if you aren’t sure whether the cleaner is safe for use on the wheel’s finish. You can apply a small amount to the back of your hubcap or an out of the way spot on the rim.
  • Stand back: Standing back is a smart tip that helps you avoid spraying the product in your eyes or on your skin. Manufacturers typically recommend that you stand around 10 to 12 inches away from the wheel before spraying the cleaner. You may want to check out the wind and spray with the wind instead of against it too.
  • Use multiple products: Instead of just using a wheel cleaner, you might consider using multiple products and giving both the wheels and the tires a good scrubbing. You can start out with a cleaner designed for use on the rubber and then rinse it off before working on the rims. To make your wheels and tires look brand new, you can even polish the rims and add a coat of oil to the tires. Make sure that you purchase a polish that will work with your finish though. 

Tips for Polishing Your Rims

  • Use an older or softer cloth that won’t scratch or damage the metal
  • Apply less of the polish than you think you need because you can always add more later
  • Rub the polish into the metal in a clockwise direction as you slowly work your way around the rim
  • Go over the rim with a dry cloth to buff the metal and give it a more polished design while removing the excess polish

Tips for Storing Wheel Cleaners

  • Mark your formula: If you use a concentrated cleaner and keep mixed formulas stored in your garage, make sure that you write down some information on the front of the bottle, including when you mixed it and the percentage of cleaner inside. This helps you avoid using a harsher formula in the future and lets you know the age of the cleaner.
  • Use tape: Using a piece of tape is a step that is especially important if you share a home with inquisitive kids. For gallons and other larger containers, you can put a piece of tape right over the top that covers the opening before screwing on the lid. Even if a child opens the jug, he or she cannot drink the liquid inside. If you use spray bottles, you can wrap a piece of tape around the nozzle to keep kids from spraying the bottle and taking off the lid.
  • Watch the temperature: Some wheels cleaners work best when used at specific temperatures. You’ll want to check the label for that temperature range and compare it to the temperature in your home or garage. You may need to move the container to a different location to extend the life of the cleaner. 
Tips for Storing Wheel Cleaners

Expert Tip

If you live in a home with kids who can’t keep their hands to themselves, consider investing in a locking cabinet that you place in your garage or shed. You can use the cabinet to store cleaning products and other chemicals away from those children. Only those with a key can unlock and open the cabinet.

How Much Wheel Cleaner Do You Need?

A common question that many car owners ask is how much wheel cleaner they actually need. When you go to buy a new bottle, you’ll find that the amount provided varies from one manufacturer to another. You can get a simple bottle that has just 16 to 24 ounces inside. This is enough to clean all four of your wheels and any areas around your tires. You may even have enough to clean your wheels a few times.

If you like cleaning all your family’s vehicles at the same time, you’ll want to purchase a larger bottle. Some companies offer half-gallon bottles that contain 32 ounces and bottles with 64 ounces or a full gallon inside. Those bottles lack the spray nozzle found on smaller options though. You’ll either need to clean out an old bottle that you used in the past or spring for a new spray bottle.

Several companies offer bundle packages too. You’ll get a smaller bottle that has a spray nozzle and a larger bottle. The tube on the nozzle reaches deep into the bottle to help you get out every last drop. When you run out of cleaner, you can refill the bottle from the larger jug.

How Much Wheel Cleaner Do You Need

Benefits of Buying Wheel Cleaner in Bulk

  • You get enough bottles to clean all your vehicles multiple times
  • Buying in bulk often helps you save money
  • Bulk purchases let you choose the exact amount of cleaner that you want to buy
  • You can refill and replace bottles as needed

How Much Should a Wheel Cleaner Cost?

Though you probably wonder how much wheel cleaner you should buy, you might wonder how much one of these products will cost. Cost often relates to the size of the bottle. You can get a small bottle with up to 24 ounces for just $10. Some of the top products cost much less than that too. The Mothers brand sells its foaming cleaner for $5 or less.

If you want to purchase a gallon or a half-gallon, you’ll spend upwards of $20. Some of the gallon jugs that we saw retail for right around the $15 mark. You generally do not want to spend more than $20 on a single bottle of wheel cleaner unless you tried it before and know that it works great on your wheels.

The only exception to this rule concerns the bulk or bundle packages that you can buy. A bundle that comes with a spray bottle and a gallon jug of cleaner might cost more. You’ll also spend more when you buy in bulk. A good way to find out how much those packages will help you save is with a look at the price per ounce. You can divide the total cost by the number of ounces of cleaner that you get.

What is the Average Price for the Top Wheel Cleaners

How Much Should a Wheel Cleaner Cost

Frequently Asked Questions

A: A money back guarantee is a policy offered by some manufacturers of wheel cleaners. The best guarantees are those refund the entire cost of your purchase. While some companies may not cover shipping costs, they may let you keep any of the leftover product and still refund your money.

A: Though we mentioned the average cost of these cleaners above, you should also check out the average price per ounce of those products. You should not spend more than $1 per ounce on a wheel cleaner. Many products have an average price of $.25 to $.50 per ounce.

A: Though you must remove the lug nuts when changing or rotating your tires, you can usually leave those nuts in place when cleaning your wheels. The right cleaner will penetrate into the nuts and remove any debris clinging to the top of the metal. If you want to give your wheels a complete cleaning and remove rust and buildup from all metal surfaces, you can remove the lug nuts. You’ll want to put your car on a jack to keep the rim from sitting directly on the ground.

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