The truth of the situation is that no matter how clean your car is, even if the glass is sparkling, and you’ve gotten your headlights crystal clear, without cleaning your tires your car won’t have that really clean look. There is something about the shine of a freshly cleaned tire from the best wheel cleaners that will make you go WOW.
The thing is, what do you clean your wheels with? Is the soap you used on your car good enough? You also have to consider that your tire is actually two pieces that you need to take care of. You have the metal portion, sometimes called the rim or the wheel. Additionally, you have the rubber or the actual tire. Some cleaners can handle both, others are designed for one or the other.
Garage Chief are here to help you with all of that. Not only have we gathered six of the best tire cleaners on the market for your review, we also have crafted a buyer’s guide. That way you will not only know you have the top product, but know why it is the best alloy / aluminum / chrome wheel cleaner out there.
Best Wheel Cleaners – Quick Comparison Table
|editors-choice||Best Product||Best Value|
|editors-choice||Best Product||Best Value|
|item-title||Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect||Wheel Cleaner by CarGuys||Meguiar's Hot Rims All Wheel Cleaner||Chemical Guys Diablo Gel Wheel and Rim Cleaner||Armor All Extreme Wheel and Tire Cleaner||Mothers Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner|
|• Acid-free and pH balanced formulation|
• Turns red as dirt and grime is penetrated
• Safe for use on wheels various wheel finishes
|• Brighten & Clean White Wall Tires Motorcycle Safe|
• Safe On Every Wheel Or Tire Will Not Damage Or Stain Your Wheels
• Environmentally Friendly
|• Visually see dirt and grime lifting off the wheel & tire|
• Easy to use and convenient trigger spray, spray-on and hose-off with water
• Leaves rims with a brilliant shine while effectively cleaning
|• Safe enough to use on all OEM and after market wheels|
• Can be applied with a brush or sprayed on
• Sticks to grime and breaks dust and efficiently loosens contaminants for a safe, spotless rinse
|• Triple-Action formula dissolves grease, road grime and brake dust |
• Safe for factory and aftermarket coated wheels when used as directed
• Reveals brilliant shine
|• Unique Spot-Free Rinse leaves wheels perfectly clean, with no need to hand dry|
• Our Spray On and Hose Off Design safely penetrates, dissolves and suspends all types of brake dust, grease, dirt and grime, making rinsing a snap
• Safe for all factory/OEM wheels and hubcaps, including painted, clearcoated, color coated, steel, modular or chrome
9.1 x 3.6 x 2.2 inches
9.3 x 3.3 x 1.8 inches
5 x 2 x 11 inches
8.3 x 2.4 x 2.4 inches
10.3 x 9.5 x 12.5 inches
2 x 5 x 11 inches
Wheel & Tire Cleaner Reviews – Our Best Recommendations
We’ve gone through the products that we’ve been able to find with an eye for both the best rim cleaner and the best tire cleaner. In that mindset, we have come up with 6 contenders that you’ll want to consider for inclusion the next time that you are washing your car.
We have flagged both our pick for the best product out there but also for a best value choice. This is an option that provides a high-quality performance while still delivering a wallet friendly price point.
Lastly, you should note that not all of our choices fall into the all in one cleaner camp. There are a good number of excellent choices that we’ve highlighted, but some are solely wheel cleaners, meaning you’ll need another product for cleaning the rubber of your tires.
Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect – Best Aluminum Wheel Cleaner
Price: Approx. $17
Type: Wheel Cleaner
Size: 16.9 fl oz.
We are going to start off on a high note with the best product that we came across. This is the Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect. This may only be designed for cleaning your rims, but it does an excellent job at it.
As an acid free option you don’t need to be concerned with it damaging some rim types, meaning you can feel free to use it on even the high-end aluminum and alloy wheels. In addition to that you won’t have to worry about it damaging rims that are painted, anodized or protected with a clear coat.
If that versatility wasn’t enough, one of our favorite things about this cleaner is that it turns red as it penetrates into dirt and grime that might be built up on your wheel. Now if you are cleaning a wheel that hasn’t seen a lot of love you don’t need to worry if you have waited long enough for your cleaner to get all the way down into dirt.
With this size bottle you will be sure to get multiple cleanings covering all your wheels. This is hands down our best product and definitely the best aluminum wheel cleaner available – that’s of course our own opinion but we’re pretty sure you won’t regret purchasing it.
Get it here at Amazon
Meguiar’s Hot Rims All Wheel Cleaner
Price: Approx. $12
Type: Wheel and Tire Cleaner
Size: 24 fl oz.
If you are looking for the best value product that we have come across you need to look no further than the Meguiar’s Hot Rims All Wheel Cleaner. This acid free cleaner is safe to use on your painted rims or those protected by a clear coat. It is also good for cleaning your tires as well. When you spray this one on you’ll love that it comes out as a foam. This means the product stays where you spray it instead of slowly oozing down to other areas. This cling means that it will stay in one area and work on breaking down any brake dust or grime that may be there.
The company claims that you will be able to see any dirt and grime on your wheels lifting off and then simply be able to rinse it all away for a no scrub solution to tire cleaning. While it does work to penetrate well we still feel that to truly get a good clean all over, including the lugs and rims you will need to at least do some level of scrubbing.
While they note that this is safe on tires the company does point out that you should not use it to clean rubber foot mats.
Check it out at Amazon
Wheel Cleaner by CarGuys – Best Chrome Wheel Cleaner
Price: Approx. $17
Type: Wheel and Tire Cleaner
Size: 18 fl oz.
The Wheel Cleaner by CarGuys states outright something that may people don’t think about. All of that salt and winter grime can be extremely hazardous to your car’s wheels. Perhaps the worst part about it is that it builds up while it is cold outside so that you don’t want to be out cleaning your wheels.
This cleaner is made for not only the winter grime, but all year round. It is formulated to be safe for not only any type of rim but also for tires, specifically calling out white walls and motorcycle tires. They are one of the few companies that add plastic dipped rims to the list of rims you can use it on and then just go on to say that it won’t damage any rim.
The company is also proud to offer an American made product. And they don’t stop there either, their wheel cleaner is not only acid free and pH balanced, but they crafted a non-toxic cleaner that is supposed to comply with all safety regulations. That makes it safe from chrome wheels and as per our research, this product is one of the best chrome wheel cleaners available right now (if not the best).
One of the things that we love to see in any product is a company that will stand behind the product that they are offering the public and CarGuys is doing that. They state that they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee with no fine print.
Read customer reviews at Amazon right here
Chemical Guys Diablo Gel Wheel and Rim Cleaner (CLD_997_16)
Price: Approx. $13
Type: Wheel Cleaner
Size: 16 fl oz.
The Chemical Guys Diablo Gel Wheel and Rim Cleaner stands out on this list for a few reasons. One is that while it is not the only cleaner just for the wheels and rims the majority to make our list are all in ones. It is the only offering on our list that is not sold as a spray bottle. This cleaner comes in gel form.
It is still acid free and safe for use with any type of rim to include powder coated and decal wrapped rims. But being a gel you have some options as to how you will go about applying it. The product comes concentrated and it is recommended that you dilute it in a 3:1 ratio. This can be either pouring it into a bucket of water to use to scrub your rims or putting it into a spray bottle.
This dilution means that you can get quite a bit of cleaning out of a single bottle. Though if you really wanted to stock up there are options to buy it in a half gallon or even a gallon size (or a case of gallon sizes).
Go and check it out at Amazon
Armor All Extreme Wheel and Tire Cleaner (78011)
Price: Approx. $5
Type: Wheel and Tire Cleaner
Size: 32 fl oz.
There are some companies that seem to get their products just about everywhere and Armor All is one of them. Often times when it comes to discussions of the best automotive products around people will overlook their offerings as “entry level” due to their availability and lower price point. But the thing is, if you actually pick them up and use them as directed you’ll find that they perform rather well.
The Armor All Extreme Wheel and Tire Cleaner is no exception. Armor All makes it a priority to make their products as simple to use as possible, so you know that this formula is going to be safe on pretty much any type of rim out there as well as good for cleaning your tires.
They mention that they have a triple action formula and while they don’t stay exactly what is in it, this is one of the few wheel and tire cleaners that no only cleans off the grease, brake dust and road grime from your wheels, but manages to leave them with a shine when all is said and done.
You’ll find that as you are spraying this onto your wheels it comes out as a foam to coat and stick to your wheels. This give the product time to work its way into the grime and break it down making your cleaning process all that much easier.
Check it out at Amazon
Mothers Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner (05924)
Price: Approx. $6
Type: Wheel and Tire Cleaner
Size: 24 fl oz.
Closing out our list is one more foaming spray on all in one cleaner. This one is the Mothers Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner. This formula is safe for any and all kinds of wheels and hubcaps, though they mention only OEM/Factory models, to include painted and clear coated.
They specifically call out that this shouldn’t be used on aluminum, billet or anodized wheels and that it is not for use with motorcycle wheels. So long as your rims don’t fall into one of those categories this is a great option to look into.
As another acid free cleaner, you won’t need to worry about the safety precautions called for in acid washes. And not only will your wheels come out nice and clean but your tires will as well, they mention that both standard and white wall tires will be cleaned expertly by this product.
The company claims that this one you don’t even need to dry off your rims after a wash because of their unique spot free drying compounds.
Get it at Amazon right here
Finding the Best Tire Cleaner – A Practical Buyer’s Guide To Wheel Cleaners
Some people are happy with just being able to see a list of the best products on the market and picking one for their uses. Other people love the ability to dive into research and not only know that they have one of the best, but why it is one of the best. With that in mind we have crafted this buyer’s guide to help you make your best wheel cleaner selection.
What are Wheel Cleaners and How They Work?
So just what makes up a wheel cleaner? It is always a good question to ask how your cleaner works, otherwise you might find yourself working with a product that doesn’t really do anything for you. There are a number of different formats ranging from those that can be sprayed on and then hosed off to those that need to be applied and scrubbed down.
In general, you need to determine what you want your wheel and tire cleaner to do. Some are merely looking for a cleaner that will make their tires shine, like they do on a show room lot. These tend to do a fair job at removing some dirt and adding a layer for shine.
The only option is that you might want a cleaner that will remove the brake dust from your wheel. Brake dust come as your brake pads apply pressure to your rotors. There are two problems with brake dust. The first is that brake dust can be very highly corrosive which can cause a good bit of havoc with your wheels. The second is that every time you drive you end up adding more dust into the situation.
Of course, you might just think that you have some soapy water in your bucket while washing your car, why not just use that? Well, you could and you would probably end up with the wheel and tire being cleaner than it was when you started.
However, a car wash soap has been made to work best on the paint and clear coat on your car. Unless you have some wild tires, they are probably made out of rubber and not painted. That soap may end up leaving a film over the rubber of your tires and will stop your shot at getting the wheels really clean.
At the same time, wheel and tire cleaners have been designed to take care of those particular areas of the car. You want to do your best to not get any of these products on the paint of your car. Some people will recommend cleaning your wheels and tires before washing the rest of your car. This way if some spray goes a little wild you’ll be able to clean it off.
Types of Cleaners
There are a number of different cleaners on the market today. To list off a few you have just tire cleaners, tire oil, wheel cleaners and all in one options. And in each of these some claim to just be spray on while others state that they require scrubbing. You also can divide them up by what they claim they will do. Some merely make your tires shine and others are designed to actually clean your wheels.
You will want to pay particular attention to what the bottle you are about to spray is actually designed to clean. Your tires are made out of rubber and some products are only meant to work on rubber. If these end up on your car’s paint or on your rims they could end up doing damage, it might start as cosmetic but over time it may actually start affecting their performance.
There are a number of products developed to work with both tires and wheels.
There are a number of materials that your wheels or rims can be made from you could come across plastic or chrome or any number of other materials. Due to this not only do you have to make sure that you find a cleaner that is actually designed for the wheel, instead of the tire, but you should also put some time into making sure that your cleaner works with the material of your wheels.
But luckily there is an easier choice as well. No, you don’t just need to open your wallet wide and let a professional detailer figure it out. There are a number of products on the market that have been developed to work with both tires and wheels. While you won’t want to get these products on your car’s paint, you are free to spray between the tire and wheel without worry.
TIP Do you care about the condition of your car? Be sure to also check the best engine degreaser & cleaner reviews.
One thing that people should consider but often don’t is what goes into the products that they use. The problem is that for most cleaner companies either won’t list what they use to formulate their cleaner or the list will be some list chemical names that after a while you feel like you can’t make heads or tails of.
Unfortunately, even the best wheel cleaners fall into this problem. There is one spot that you can get an idea of what is in your bottle of cleaner. Some wheel cleaners use acid (Acid Wheel Cleaner, AWC) or those without (Acid Free Wheel Cleaner). There are some reasons as to why you might choose one over the other.
For the most part if you take your car somewhere to be professionally detailed and cleaned the company will use an Acid Wheel Cleaner. These have been used for years and years and when they are used properly can be safe and effective. The acid in the cleaner can break down brake dust and other debris which means a cleaner wheel with less scrubbing and elbow grease.
The downside though is that phrase “when used properly”. These cleaners have acid in them, some come concentrated others are already mixed to the right proportions. You need to take some precautions when using this kind of cleaner, such as wearing gloves and eye protection. There are a number of places online that will claim that these cleaners are unsafe, but if you do enough digging you’ll probably find that this comes down to either not having them properly mixed or not taking the right precautions.
Of course, there are any number of reasons why you might want to choose an acid free wheel cleaner. Certain wheel types can be damaged by the acid found in AWCs. Other people might not want to work with the acid just so that they feel safer. If you don’t want to take those steps and still have clean wheels you can find some great acid free cleaners on the market today.
Now, since these cleaners don’t have those acids in them you need to accept that you will be picking up the slack. There will be more work scrubbing to get the wheels clean, but it can still be done.
Which One Should I Use
Now that you know there are various types of wheel cleaners on the market with a variety of ingredients in them you might be wondering well just what should I be looking for. The easiest way is to go with one of the all in one products, though you will want to do a double check making sure that it doesn’t state it shouldn’t be used with a particular style of wheel.
If you are looking for separate tire and wheel cleaners, half your quest is still fairly easy. Overall, tires are rubber and that is what your tire cleaners have been made to clean. The one monkey wrench that could be thrown into the works is if you have white wall tires. There are a number of products on the market specifically made to clean white walls. Some people would tell you just to use a regular tire cleaner and then scrub the white areas with a baking soda paste though.
When it comes to wheels there are a few more options to be considered though. We’ll break them down here:
- Alloy Wheel Cleaner
Alloy wheels are a bit of a toss up. A number of sources claim that an AWC will be fine for them, while other sources say that the only way to not destroy your rims is going acid free. If you are truly worried about using an AWC you can use a small amount on a little area of your wheel to relieve your worries.
- Aluminum Wheel Cleaner
This is another wheel material that can generally stand up to a properly used AWC. While you can go with an acid free version, you will save yourself some hard work if you employ an acid.
- Chrome Wheel Cleaner
Most everyone agrees that AWC don’t mix well with chrome. If you are sporting this type of rim you’d do best to stick with an acid free version.
- Clear Coat Wheel Cleaner
This is another that you want to stay acid free.
- Black Wheel Cleaner
These can get a little bit tricky. You’ll want to check with the manufacturer of the rims as for some a mere mild soap can be used and then after they are dried you’ll need to apply wax or polish. For others though it is recommended that you use a waterless cleaning method.
Waxes and Polishes
While it may not be in the overall purview of this particular round up, there are a number of waxes and polishes that can be employed to keep your wheels and tires nice and shiny. Don’t be upset if after just a wash your wheels don’t have that show room shine, you may need to move on to the next step.
How Do I Clean My Wheels ?
The first thing you will need to take a look at is the type of cleaner that you are using. If you are using separate wheel and tire cleaners you may want to take some steps to ensure that you only apply the cleaner to the area that you are actually trying to clean. Some people will go so far as to use painter’s tape and old newspaper to mask off the areas that you don’t want the spray to hit. Most people just apply the spray carefully or spray the brush, cloth, or tool that they are using and then carry on.
You will want to make sure you have the right tools for the cleaning job. The best tire cleaner might have a sponge on the cap of the bottle that helps you apply the cleaner and ensure even coverage over your tire. The best rim cleaner will probably not be one that claims you can just spray it on and rinse it off. You need to be ready to do some level of scrubbing.
With that in mind you need to come up with what you are going to use in order to accomplish that. You might think that since you have metal rims you can use something with some real grit to it and get in there and scrub hard. The problem is that most of the metals might be strong and lightweight, but they are also soft and can easily leave marks. At the same time a simple wash cloth may not be enough to get all the brake dust out. Luckily there are some great tools that have been made specifically to help clean your wheels. One of the best on the market is the Wheel Brush from Mothers.
For the purpose of these instructions we’ll assume that you have gone with separate wheel and tire cleaners. If you are going with an all in one product you can combine a number of the steps and the process will go easier.
You’ll have to decide whether to work from the inside out or the outside in. There isn’t much of a difference, so feel free with either process. We like starting with the tire and working in toward the wheel.
Start off by spraying or otherwise applying your tire cleaner to the rubber of your tire. Having a clean sponge on hand can be helpful to ensure an even coat that covers all of your tire. You’ll also want to have a clean cloth nearby. This will be for wiping off any tire cleaner that gets either on the paint of your car or onto your wheel’s rim.
Next, you’ll need to wait. Yes! Most every tire cleaner needs some amount of time to soak in and break down any dirt and grim on the rubber. A good ball park is a minute or two, but your particular product might suggest waiting longer. If you have a very dirty tire you may also need to work longer.
Then you are going to want to take stiff bristled brush and scrub your tires. While this is an area that you can use a brush that is stiffer than the one you’d use for the paint of your car you want to avoid any metal bristles. These could leave holes in your tires. Scrubbing can be done in any manner that works for you (back and forth, circular, etc.) but you want to stick with one motion.
Now you will want to hose down your entire tire. This is a time to use a high pressure setting to get all the cleaner off of your tire. While doing this you are going to want to spend some time spraying down your rims as well. You want to ensure you get any brake dust or other dirt off that you can.
Once you are done rinsing do a quick inspection of your tires. If you find that you need to do another round of cleaning be sure to double check your product. Some will want to only be applied to dry rubber, in which case you have to wait until they dry off.
Assuming you are happy with how clean the tires are it is time to switch to your wheels. Since you have rinsed off your rims you are ready to apply your chosen rim cleaner. Use your brush to clean the rims off. Many people fail to get in to the lug nuts and into the wheel wells with their cleaning process. While you want to do a thorough cleaning of your rims you also don’t want to let the cleaner dry on your rims. This can result in unattractive spots. If needed you rinse off and reapply to ensure things don’t dry up.
Once you get everything clean it is time to rinse off your wheels once again. You want to again make sure you get into the lugs and wheel wells making sure you rinse all the cleaner off. Once everything is rinsed off you will want to dry off your rims for the best look. Water spots can stand out quite a bit on rims.
Your tire and wheel should now be clean, but it hasn’t gotten to that show room shine. Time to go back to the tire. If you find that your tires still look brown after all that cleaning you can blame tire bloom. This is just your tire protecting itself, but you can apply some tire gel. This can help a tire that has been turning brown look black again. Next you can apply either a tire dressing or a clear coat. These will help keep the rubber looking shiny and new.
For the rims, you can apply a polish based on the material of your rims. This will help you make those rims shine. Lastly, you’ll want to apply a layer of wax to those rims as a protective coat. It will work just like the wax on the rest of your car, but wheel wax and car wax are not really interchangeable.
Who Makes a Good Rim and Tire Cleaners?
It always helps to know a few good quality brands when you are looking into a set of products you aren’t familiar with. While they may not be the option you end up going with in the end, they will give you that safe anchor point, knowing that you are able to compare and see if the product you are looking at has similar cost, ingredients and instructions. Some of the best brake dust cleaner/removers come from these companies.
While you might not know the name Sonax if you have only visited big chain auto parts stores, you should. This is a German based company that has applied that famed German engineering to providing some of the best polishes and cleaners around. It started with a silver polish over 50 years ago and has just continued on from there.
>> Check Out Sonax at Amazon
While the name might not sound overly familiar once you see it on the label of a product you’ll recognize it. This company started all the way back in 1901 giving them over 100 years of experience standing by all of their car care products.
>> Check Out Meguiars at Amazon
While the CarGuys might have a name that has been used by any number of dealers, detailers and just about any other type of car business, the products that they make really do stand out. They started out to bring a product to market that was made in the USA and non-toxic.
>> Check Out CarGuys at Amazon
Mothers is another well-known name in car care products. While they may only date back to the 1970’s, that is as far back as these fancy alloy wheels go too. They started off with a product to restore shine to those wheels and continued on from there.
>> Check Out Mothers at Amazon
Wheel Cleaners for Sale – Where to Buy?
When you are looking for the best wheel cleaner it is important to know your budget. This is an area where you won’t have to break the bank just to get a good cleaner. Most products can come in at under $20 and are often sized to do three or four cleanings of all four tires. If you are looking to spend less than that there are even some good products that can be had for about $5.
One thing you should consider in your budget is just what you are buying though. If you end up picking a tire cleaner and wheel cleaner that are separate you could end up paying $20 for each, once you add in a dressing for your tire and wax for your rims you could end up with a much more sizable investment.
You will also need to consider where to make these purchases. Many big box stores and auto parts stores will have some version of a cleaner available. The problem here is that often they will only have one or two to choose from and most of the time it will be an all in one cleaner. While there is nothing wrong with the all in one route, even if you want this style wouldn’t it be better to have some more choice? Perhaps be able to select the one that you really want instead of picking up one because that is what they had?
Today you have another option. Sites like Amazon offer you a great deal of selection with very competitive pricing. While it is true that you won’t have the product later that day, with a little pre-planning you’ll be able to not only end up with the product that you truly want but also pay a good price for it. And it will show up right at your door.
This is an area in which you really do want to match the cleaning product you select with the area that you are trying to clean. Some of these cleaners can do damage to areas that they are not made for. It may only be cosmetic, but if you are going through the trouble to get your wheels to have that showroom shine that small cosmetic flaw will stand out, even if only to you.
When applying these products be sure to have a soft clean rag standing by. The best case scenario is not getting any where you don’t want it, but if you do the quicker you can wipe it off the better place you’ll end up being in.
Additionally, if you choose to work with an acid wheel clean use caution. Handled properly these are will not pose any threat to you or your car. Just make sure that you have the mix at the right level and wear your gloves and eye protection.
Best Wheel Cleaners – The Bottom Line
That should just about wrap up all that you need to know about selecting and using the best wheel cleaner on the market today. We started out highlight a list of six stand out products. If you just want to go with our best of the best be sure to look at the Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect. This product is a wheel cleaner only, so you’ll need an additional tire cleaner, but it is sure to get your wheels as clean as possible.
After that we launched into our buyer’s guide. We broke down not only what a wheel cleaner is and how it works but also some of the different types and the considers you need to keep in mind for how to select the best one for your needs. We covered instructions on the best way to clean your wheels, remember that the soap you are cleaning your car with really isn’t the best choice when it comes to cleaning wheels and tires.
Browse the whole wheel cleaners section at Amazon
Lastly, we’d love to hear from you! Do you have some experience with any of our selections? Is so please let us know about it in the comment section below.
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