How To Clean Alloy Wheels Properly

Chloe Murphy 5 minutes Published: 16/03/2022

When you get a new car, it’s hard to ignore the glow of your glossy paintwork. But what you might not realise is contributing to this shiny allure (at least until they’re dirty) are your silver rims. 

Unfortunately, your alloy wheels are in a prime position to collect a build up of grime, brake dust, and loose dirt that might mean breaking out the pressure washer more often than you’d thought. 

Luckily you can clean your alloys at home with ease. We’ll run through the household stuff you can use, and the best professional products for a deep clean. 

What is the best way to clean alloy wheels?

If your alloys have been woefully neglected until now, you’ve come to the right place. We might try our best to keep our cars clean, but it’s incredibly easy for your car rims to have a mirror sheen one moment, and be completely covered the next. 

Engine oils, road salt, mud and more can all find their way to your wheels and stick continuously despite all your best efforts to clean them. On top of this, all this grime is often corrosive and gives you greater problems than a dirty wheel.

So what’s the best method for cleaning alloy wheels? Just follow our step by step guide to get a sparkling wheel finish.

1. Pre-rinse your wheels

A simple but effective step, pre-rinsing your wheels can make your entire car cleaning process a whole lot faster.

Pressure washers will be your new best friend, removing a huge chunk of the dirt that you might have spent needless time trying to scrub off. 

2. Choose the right product

If you’ve built up a good car cleaning schedule as part of your car maintenance checklist, you can generally use the car shampoo you’re using to clean the rest of your exterior.

However, if your alloys are in a poor way and really in need of a deep clean, you’re best using a heavy-duty alloy wheel cleaner that will help remove any lingering contaminants.

Some of the best alloy wheel cleaners are:

  • Bilt-Hamber auto-wheel - Just £12.95 for a litre, this 5 star PH neutral product will have your alloys shining in no time. It can be used on alloy, aluminium and steel wheels.
  • Wonder Wheels Super Wheel Cleaner - This acid-free wheel cleaner is suitable for all types of wheel and promises to break down dirt and dust in just 5 minutes. 

3. Apply your cleaner 

For particularly dirty alloys, it’s best not to scrimp on the cleaner. Apply an ample amount of cleaner to your entire wheel and alloys as the product directs, and leave to sit for the designated time. 

If you’re using a homemade or household product for your cleaning, leave for around 3-5 minutes to ensure the product has worked its way through the layers of grime. 

4. Scrub your wheel

We know it’s tempting to find the brush with the toughest bristles to scrub off your alloys as quickly as possible, but just like with your paintwork, you need to choose the right wheel brushes and cloths. 

Soft-bristled detailing brushes are relatively cheap to pick up, and will help clear away dirt without leaving scratches. Have a basin of clean water handy to ensure you aren’t scrubbing over clean areas with a dirty brush.

5. Rinse clean and dry 

Use your pressure washer or hose to rinse off your wheels, and remove any remaining dirt or cleaning residue. 

Then wipe dry thoroughly with a clean cloth to prevent any water spots from forming. Microfibre cloths are a great option as, unlike rougher materials, they’re unlikely to cause scratches or wear. 

6. Polish

Finally, protect and shine your alloys with a metal polish. Be sure to use a product suited to your specific wheel type, as different metals will require different ingredients.

Apply with your applicator pad, wipe clean with a soft microfibre towel, then step back and admire your hard work.

What household items can I use to clean my car rims?

Dirty alloys can lead to rust, corrosion and oxidation, so we don’t blame you if you’re looking to get them cleaned as quickly as possible. 

If you don’t have time to get a special cleaner, or want to explore budget-friendly options, there are plenty of household items you can use as cleaning products to get your alloys back sparkling. 

Some of the best household items to try are:

  • Baking soda - If you’ve read our other articles on how to wash a car, you’ll know that baking soda is a popular ingredient for treating tricky stains on your car interior and exterior. You can mix up a paste with a few teaspoons of baking soda, some dish soap and hot water. Apply with a microfibre cloth or mitt, and scrub gently ‘til they come clean. 
  • Lemon juice - Mix together half a cup of lemon juice with a half cup of warm water. Decant into a spray bottle, and spray onto a clean microfibre cloth. Work over your alloys and leave to sit for around 5 minutes, then wipe or rinse away. 
  • Coca Cola - Who knew your favourite drink would come in handy for more than just a hot day? Though not as powerful as a rust remover, the phosphoric acid in Coca Cola makes it a cheap and effective rust buster. Soak a cloth or aluminium foil in the liquid and gently scrub, then clean with soapy water to remove any sticky residue. 

What is the best way to clean aluminium alloy wheels?

For aluminium alloy wheels, you can generally follow the steps above. However, as aluminium is a softer metal, it needs to be cleaned and polished regularly to maintain its good condition. 

Given the nature of the metal, it’s extra important to use products and brushes gently. Any cleaner or product you apply should be non-acidic, as this will clean effectively without any spotting or marking. Be sure to use a particularly soft bristled brush as your aluminium alloys may also scratch more easily.

Conclusion

Though it’s an additional step to add to your car care or cleaning schedule, it’s worth the effort to give your car a complete clean finish. Using a car wash won’t give the same detailed clean, as they’re generally focused around your paintwork, so a little extra time can really pay off. 

If you’re wondering when to clean your alloys, we’d recommend as often as you wash your car. You can check out how often you need to wash your car with our handy guide covering seasons, storage and more.