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Brake dust bonded to alloy wheels is hard to clean unless you have the right cleaning tools. These new detailing products make it super easy to dissolve black stains.
Don't use these items to clean your wheels.
- Oven cleaner.
- Steel wool.
- Scrubbing sponge.
- Scour pads.
- Wire brush.
Why are rims so hard to clean?
Brake dust is formed as your brake discs wear away. Some cars generate more than others and also it depends on your driving style and distance covered etc.
Brake dust can be very difficult to wash off with a regular car shampoo.
Brake dust can actually burn in to your rims and cause permanent discoloration. So if the appearance of your car is important to you then you need to wash it away regularly.
Brake dust also bonds to your paint. As you wash and dry your paint it will become loose and cause the paint to lose some of it’s shine.
Best products to clean alloy wheels.
The Wheel Cleaner products below all contain the same key ingredient. It has one goal and that is dissolve iron particles.
There are two types of sprays. One type is designed for wheels only and the other is for use all over the car.
CarPro Iron-X is something that can be sprayed all over your car – not just wheels. But its not as strong as Meguiars.
Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner is the product I recommend for use on wheels because its so string and effective one application is usually enough.
If I have time on my hands I like to completely remove my wheels from my car so that I can clean inside the rims. But maybe that’s going a bit too far for most people.
- FAST ACTING: Active gel quickly dissolves heavy brake dust and turns purple as it dissolves brake dust
- PRISTINE WHEELS: Tough on road grime and dirt, but not your wheels
- SAFE FOR ALL WHEELS: Acid free and pH balanced - safe for all wheel finishes
- EASY ON BRAKES: Safe on painted brake components
- THE BEST WHEEL CLEANER: Delivers powerful cleaning, yet gentle and safe
- HIGHLY EFFECTIVE: Highly effective, acid-free and pH balanced, IronX stops rust spots and premature failure of the clear coat by making short work of iron contaminant removal across the entire vehicle!
- PROTECT AND DECONTAMINATE: avoid rust and premature paint failure caused by iron deposits. Neutralizes the reactions that cause rust and paint failure from hot brake dust and other airborne chemical compounds containing iron.
- SAFE FOR ALL SURFACE: Safely breaks down ferrous metallic contamination on any type of wheel types, gloss paint, clear coat finishes, polished metal, chrome, and glass
- PREFERRED AND USED BY PROFESSIONALS: Advance formula to protect and prolong coating/painting. The CARPRO IronX is widely used by professionals and car enthusiasts around the world
- DATE STICKER: CARPRO products now come with only a PRODUCTION DATE ("Pr") written in day/month/year format. Expiration for CARPRO IronX is two years from production date.
Reasons to keep your wheels looking good
- Wheels can be a very expensive part of your car. When you go to sell your car it can have a negative effect on your car’s value if you have damages wheels to keeping them clean pays off.
- Brake dust can bond to your wheels in a few days. So if you can’t wash your wheels every day (not many people can) you will need a product that will loosen the dust so you can easily wash it away.
- The longer to go between washes, the worse the problem will get. So wash you wheels regularly and use a dedicated wheel cleaner every now and then.
Meguiar's Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner Review
A wheel cleaner spray like this one form Megs can be used on many types of wheels. Painted or chrome wheels can be safely cleaned. That’s because it doesn’t contain acid. It’s also safe on brakes and calipers.
So if you have brightly colored brake calipers its perfect.
It goes on clear and reacts with bonded brake dust and changes color. It becomes purple which is a sign that it’s working.
It has a nice gel like consistency so it sticks to the wheel and doesn’t run very much.
It works best on a cool and dry wheel. A wet wheel dilutes the product and reduces it’s effectiveness. Meguiars Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner doesn’t just remove brake dust. It also breaks down oily residue from the road to make cleaning much faster.
I use special wheel brushes just for my wheels.
- MAKE YOUR CAR SPOTLESS: Use the ABN Car Wheel Rim Cleaning 3-Piece Kit – Wheel Woolies Brush Stick Tool – Tire Woolie – Wooly Wand Set (3 Brushes) to accomplish the look of properly cleaned wheels inside and out; Remove road grime and brake dust without damaging your wheels or getting your hands dirty; Perfectly designed to clean wheels and vehicle grills, spokes, door jams, engine areas, and other tight locations
- SAFE: Great for getting into wheel wells without putting your hands at risk; Durable polypropylene handle, brush end constructed from dense, absorbent synthetic wool microfiber (metal-free); Eliminates wheel cleaner splatter (stands up to any cleaner) and prevents scratches; The brushes are safe on your car and will not leave streaks, scuffs, scratches, or other damage to your vehicle’s rims even if they are painted
- EASY CARE: Plush enough to work well with soapy water and long enough to reach into deep wheel wells; Will not splatter like plastic wheel cleaners; Lint-free and simple to rinse with soap and water and shake dry or air dry, so clean up is simple and effortless
- COMPLETE CLEANING COVERAGE: Flexible (not bendable) brush end and 1/4-inch (6mm) shank diameter to get to various hard-to-reach areas; Large brush for reaching deep into wheels and cleaning the wheel wells on vehicles and RVs; Medium brush for medium to small wheel gaps, air diffusers, door jams, and engine areas; Small brush small gaps such as grills and narrow spoke wheels
- PACKAGE CONTENTS: Package includes (3) brushes – 1 large 18-inch brush, 1 medium 12-inch brush, and 1 small 8-inch brush to meet all of your cleaning needs; Cleaning solution not included. Made in America by American Brush Makers
This set from 3-piece kit from ABN is perfect. These soft brushes don’t splash dirt back at you either.
I will just agitate the product and move it around the spokes a little to get it in to all the hard to reach spots. There is no need to scrub the product. It just needs time to react with brake dust to do it’s magic.
I will use a normal tire brush to clean the tires and then use the pressure wash to black the dirt away. Perfect job every time.
Another thing to note is that I prefer to do my wheels first when I’m washing my car. This way it doesn’t matter if I splash the paint. The wheels are often the dirtiest part of the car.
How often should I use Meguiars Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner?
I only use it when my wheels clearly need it. Which is probably once a month. Usually I will just use regular car soap like Meguiar’s Wash and Wax. I use a special microfiber wash mitt just for the wheels. This mitt will never be used to wash the cars paint because brake dust will scratch paint.
If I am only giving my car a quick clean to remove light dust will just use some quick detail spray like Adams Detail Spray along with a microfiber cloth to remove the light dust. Again this microfiber cloth is just for wheels.
Can you clean wheels with a clay bar?
Yes, you can clean wheels with a clay bar. But first, you should use a wheel cleaner spray to remove as much iron as possible.
And if your wheels still feel rough to the touch, use a clay bar with a detailer spray or with a dedicated clay luber.
My Wheel Cleaning Tips
- Spray the product on to a dry wheel.
- Let it work for a few minutes (read label).
- Don’t scrub with a hard brush.
- Don’t let it dry as it can stain.
- Agitate with a soft brush if required.
- Power wash off.
- If it doesn’t work the first time, try again.
- For heavily stained wheels you may need to apply the products a number of times
- Its worth repeating, don’t scrub.
- A pressure washer is a safe way to clean wheels.
- A clay bar can be used after a wheel cleaner.
- Dry with a microfiber towel.
- Apply a spray sealant and buff off.
CarPro Iron-X Review
I have used Carpro Iron-X for years. It’s something I would use maybe once a year on my cars paint and glass as well as wheels. It helps to remove brake dust from your entire car.
I use Iron-X when I plan on applying a new layer of sealant or wax. Maybe I want to remove some scratches or just restore my cars shine using the polisher if it has began to fade. If I’m going to use a clay bar I will do it after using Iron-x.
Iron-X removes the iron particles and rail dust that could become loose during polishing or buffing and could scratch the paint.
Sealant and wax will bond much better to the paint and the shine will look deeper and last much longer.
The product is sprayed on to the car and rubbed in with a damp microfibre sponge. It’s best not to let the product dry so do it on a cool evening or in the shade. It will turn purple as it works it’s magic. Then I blast it away with the power washer. It’s a really quick process.
The car immediately looks much cleaner. Especially a white car. You will notice bugs have also been removed. Also, emblems and badges will look much cleaner. Had to clean areas around door handles will be spotless. This is a fantastic product and it’s one of the products I would never be without.
It also works well on wheels. But for really dirty wheels I would use Meguiars Ultimate Wheel Cleaner as it seem to be much stronger.
You can now proceed to your next step such as, polishing, sealing or waxing.
Protecting rims from brake dust damage.
In the past I have put spray wax on my rims to shine and protect them. But it doesn’t bond very well and doesn’t last. So I recently started using another Sonax product called Sonax Spray and Seal on my car and wheels. It’s a spray sealant and it’s super easy to apply.
You just spray it on after a wash. Then rinse again and dry with a microfiber cloth. It gives great protection but the main reason I love it is that it’s so very easy and quick to use. You can also use it on paint, plastic and rubber. I find that my wheels keep their shine a lot longer and brake dust is easier to wash off on the next wash. Click here to read reviews on Amazon of Sonax Spray and Seal.
Meguiars Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner is an excellent product. It’s very fast and very effective. It cost a little more the some other wheel cleaners but I think it’s worth it. And it’s excellent value if you buy in larger quantities.
Carpro Iron X is an amazing product too but is even more expensive. It’s great for removing iron contaminants from your entire car which will help wax and sealant to give a better bond.
It can also clean your wheels. Any car detailing fan or professional will have both of these products in the arsenal. I know I do.