I get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction from cleaning the wheels on my car. I’ve been able to test dozens of products to bring you the very best alloy wheel cleaners on the market to date.
There is something that I find oddly therapeutic about the whole process; it’s likely because the majority of wheel cleaners that I’ve listed can simply be applied, then power washed down to create a stunning finish.
There is a lot to take note of when cleaning your wheels though. Chemical-based detergents and high acidic cleaners are bad news for those gorgeous alloy wheels. They will not only strip off the protective layer of alloy wheel wax, but strong cleaners can also diminish the look and shine of the wheels.
Since the wheels can be one of the toughest to clean, you need to get yourself a proper alloy wheel cleaner. The market is literally brimming with choices when it comes to wheel cleaners, which makes it tricky to find the best product that offers superior performance and good value for money.
Best Alloy Wheel Cleaners – Top 3
Below I’ve incldued what I think are some of the best alloy wheel cleaners on the market right now:
Believe me when I say that I’ve tried tons of wheel cleaners, but I keep coming back to the non-acidic and pH balanced formula of the Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel Cleaner. Hands down, this is the best alloy wheel cleaner I’ve tried in a long while.
The Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel Cleaner is a water-based cleaning solution that can effectively dissolve brake dust, dirt, and industrial fallout on your precious alloy rims. This product has a colour-changing formula that turns from clear to red as it lifts off metallic particles and debris from the surface of the wheels. What this means is a quick, easy, safe, and effective way to maintain the like-new finish on all types of wheels.
- pH balanced formula makes it extremely safe to use even on magnesium and chrome-finished alloy wheels
- The colour-changing formula will work its magic in lifting off dirt and metallic pollutants
- Intensive cleaning action allows for no-touch cleaning of dirty wheels
- Will not harm brake rotors and painted surfaces
- Economical to use and comes at an affordable price
The best thing about the Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel Cleaner is the ease of use. The cleaner works instantly with a couple of liberal sprays to each wheel. Wait for the solution to change colour in about 1 to 5 minutes before rinsing off with clean water. That’s it!
For extremely dirty, muddy, or filthy wheels, you’ll need to agitate the cleaning solution with a soft wheel brush or sponge. I tried this product to remove dried-on asphalt and tar on my wheels. It only took less than five minutes of soaking to soften up the contaminants. There were virtually zero traces of dirt as I softly agitated the cleaning solution and rinsed with clean water.
Without a doubt, the wheels (and tyres) are probably the dirtiest parts in your vehicle. You can cut your wheel cleaning time in half with the use of an alloy wheel cleaner. In this regard, the Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel Cleaner takes the top spot in this list. It can quickly erase hard traces of brake dust and contamination without damaging the finish of the wheels. If this wheel cleaner can make mincemeat out of hard contaminants, imagine what it can do for simple dirt and dust?
Full Review: Bilt Hamber Auto-Wheel
The CarPro Iron X is not only an effective alloy wheel cleaner, but it also happens to be one of the best fallout removers that money can buy. A litre of Iron X will cost a bit more than a litre of the Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel Cleaner, but CarPro’s Iron X can be used to remove fallout and contaminants from paint and glass as well as your wheels.
One of the best things I like about the CarPro Iron X is the acid-free and pH balanced formula. You can work with this product all day without harming/drying out your skin or the environment. Similar to the Bilt Hamber Wheel Cleaner, the CarPro Iron X is formulated with a colour-changing cleaning solution. The surface will change colour from clear to deep purple/red as it dissolves and lifts off the pollutants from any surface in your vehicle!
The pH balanced formula also means this cleaner is totally safe to use on aluminium or alloy wheels, plastic surfaces, glass, and even on clear coat paint. Iron X works by gently opening up the pores of the surface to literally release the metallic particles while neutralizing the dirt and grime. For stubborn and hard to remove particulates, agitating the surface with a soft sponge or cleaning brush is the best recourse.
When using on automotive paint or glass, what I do is to pre-wash the surface with car shampoo and clean water. After rinsing the surface with clean water, simply spray a moderate amount of Iron X on contaminated surfaces and allow it to soak for five minutes. Once the cleaner changes colour from clear to purplish red, it is time to wipe off the excess using a damp microfiber towel or sponge. I like using this cleaner before treating my vehicle with a clay bar. Try it for yourself. It makes the job of claying an entire vehicle much easier.
The product also works great in cleaning alloy wheels and dissolving copious amounts of brake dust. Simply rinse the wheels with water, spray the Iron X liberally, lightly scrub the nooks and crannies of the wheels with a soft sponge, and rinse off with water.
As brilliant as the Iron X is in removing industrial fallout from glass or paint, it doesn’t have the no-touch cleaning abilities of the Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel Cleaner. However, the CarPro Iron X can be used in a multitude of cleaning applications. This cleaner should definitely be a part of your cleaning and detailing arsenal.
In competitive sports and events, being in third place is considered mediocre. In this regard, it doesn’t mean the Valet Pro Dragon’s Breath is inferior in terms of cleaning alloy wheels. In fact, this product can also be used in removing obstinate iron or metallic particles on paint, glass, and alloy wheels.
The Valet Pro Dragon’s Breath is also the cheapest in this bunch by a couple of quid. You pay less money for a litre of this cleaning solution than the Iron X or Bilt Hamber. But unlike the aforementioned products, this cleaner comes in a thicker gel-like consistency. What this means is the cleaner can effectively dwell longer on the surface as it dissolves brake dust, asphalt, tar, and industrial pollutants. It will not run off instantly as you apply the cleaner, which is a good thing if the surface needs mild agitation.
This cleaner is also equipped with a colour-changing pH neutral solution as it dissolves and melts away harmful contaminants. It is safe to use on glass, plastic, painted surfaces, and all types of alloy or aluminium wheels. However, it’s personally not something that I would use on my paint.
I prefer this cleaner when it comes to tougher and demanding cleaning jobs, such as on excessively soiled or neglected alloy wheels. The thicker gel consistency can cling longer over contaminated areas of the wheel and makes it more effective when agitating the surface with a soft brush.
The chemical reaction means the product is working. The colour will change from clear to dark red as it removes metallic particles on paint or metal-finished surfaces. And like the CarPro Iron X, I also use this product to remove the barrage of asphalt markings and tar strips on the running boards in my vehicle. The thicker liquid simply makes it more efficient in decontaminating dirty or soiled surfaces.
The Valet Pro Dragon’s Breath is an economical choice when it comes to a multitasking alloy wheel cleaner that can also eradicate paint contamination or iron fallout.
How do wheel cleaners work?
Wheel cleaning products such as the Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel Cleaner works by simply oxidizing the metallic particles. In simple terms, the cleaner will break down and literally dissolve the metallic particles that are embedded on the surface. In this way, the contaminants can be gently released and rinsed away without harming the finish. Think of it like applying a small drop of dish soap on an oily pan and you’re not very far off.
On the other hand, fallout removers such as the CarPro Iron X and Valet Pro Dragon’s Breath work in a slightly different way. Instead of just breaking down the metallic particles, the cleaners will react on a microscopic level by stretching or opening up the pores in the surface. This allows the cleaner to release the particulates from the surface as it dissolves and neutralizes the harmful compounds.
As I previously mentioned earlier, I prefer the Valet Pro or the Iron X when working with extremely soiled or neglected surfaces, with particular emphasis on the Valet Pro Dragon’s Breath (since it comes in a thicker liquid). But when strictly talking about wheel cleaners, the Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel Cleaner is still the champion in my book.
READ: Best Alloy Wheel Wax
How should I clean alloy wheels?
Easy. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide that will show you the ropes in proper wheel cleaning.
When using wheel cleaners, it is always best to start with a cool surface. If the wheels are hot to the touch, allow the wheels to cool down for 30 minutes to about an hour before applying wheel cleaner.
Next, it is better to rinse the wheels with clean water before proceeding. You can either use a jet spray or garden hose for this procedure. Rinsing the wheels will help remove loose dirt and contaminants. This also holds true for wheels that are covered in thicker amounts of dirt, mud, or grime. If this is the case, grab a small towel or sponge and gently wipe off the excess dirt using a wet towel or sponge as you rinse the wheels with water. Never wipe the wheels when dry. Doing so will only leave visible scratches and nicks on the face of the wheel, which is not a good thing if you are sensitive about the appearance of your alloy wheels.
Almost all wheel cleaners work in the same manner. Spray a liberal amount of wheel cleaner to each wheel, making sure the product is soaking on every nook and cranny of the wheel. Allow the cleaning solution to linger for approximately five minutes. In most cases, the cleaner will change colour to tell you the product is working. This also gives you an idea on the number of metallic particles that are being removed by the cleaner. As the cleaner changes colour, it will slowly drip and run off the wheel.
At this point, you can rinse off the cleaner with clean water. But if the wheels require further cleaning, it is best to agitate the cleaner using a soft brush or sponge before rinsing off. Make sure to rinse the wheel thoroughly to eliminate any traces of the wheel cleaner. Never allow the wheel cleaner to completely dry out before rinsing.
Step back, admire your work, and give yourself a pat in the back for a job well done. All that is needed now is to wipe the wheels dry with a microfiber towel. Now is also the perfect time to apply wheel wax to further protect your wheels from brake dust and road contaminants.
What should I look out for in a wheel cleaner?
First and foremost, you should stay away from wheel cleaners that are corrosive or formulated with harsh chemicals. Such a product might work extremely well in cleaning or removing dirt and metallic particles, but they may damage the finish of the alloy wheels or the surrounding paint.
Since the cleaner will also make contact with the tyres, stronger cleaning solutions might also dry out the rubber, which will drastically shorten the life of the tyres on your car.
The best alloy wheel cleaners should be manufactured using nothing but a pH neutral or water-based formula. I only use cleaning products that are safe to use on clear coat paint and glass surfaces.