The alloy wheels of your car regularly come into contact with brake dust, dirt, mud and road salt which, over time, can corrode or damage your wheels – even if the wheels are “rust-proof”.
Fortunately, there are many wheel cleaners on the market that are designed to cut through grime and restore a clean, shining appearance to alloy wheels.
In this buyer’s guide, we’ll discuss what you should look for in a wheel cleaner and give you our recommendations for the best cleaners currently available.
But first, we’ll look at what exactly wheel cleaners are and how they work.
What Are Wheel Cleaners?
Wheel cleaners are chemical-based solutions available in gel or liquid form. They usually come in a concentrated form that must be diluted with water. Not only do wheel cleaners remove surface grime, but they also help prolong the lifespan of your alloy wheels by reducing the risk of corrosion and pitting.
While cleaners vary in the types of chemicals they contain, they are generally considered to be environmentally-friendly.
How Do Wheel Cleaners Work?
Alloy wheels are susceptible to the accumulation dust from your car’s braking system. This brake dust is mostly made up of iron particles which, if not removed, can be corrosive. Brake dust is almost impossible to remove with car shampoo, so a special wheel cleaner is necessary to eradicate these stubborn stains.
Both liquid and gel wheel cleaners are formulated to dissolve this brake dust on contact, along with caked-on grime, dirt and road salt. While these cleaners were originally acid-based, many of the newer formulations are pH neutral and therefore will not damage the alloy wheel’s finish. These newer cleaners are often referred to as “purple” cleaners due to their distinct purple colour.
Wheel cleaners are typically applied straight from a spray bottle. On contact, the formula turns red to indicate that stains are being dissolved. Once the cleaner has been left to sit for a period of time, it is rinsed from the wheels. A special wheel cleaning brush can then be used to scrub away dirt from difficult-to-reach cracks and crevices.
How to Choose the Best Car Wheel Cleaner
Choosing the right wheel cleaner from the dozens that are available on the market can be challenging if you don’t know what to look for. There is no one cleaner that’s best for every car, but in general, an effective alloy wheel cleaner will be:
- Non-damaging to the wheel’s paint or clear coating
- Water soluble
- Safe for use on the brake system and lug nuts
When choosing a wheel cleaner, it’s important to consider the type of wheels you have. Some alloy wheels are powder coated or painted, and may require a different type of cleaner than wheels made from chrome or polished aluminium. Be sure to check the label of the wheel cleaner to ensure the formula won’t damage the surface or finish of your alloy wheels. Also checkout our guide to the Best Snow Foam.
The Best Wheel Cleaners to Buy in 2020
In this section, we’ll look at the best alloy wheel cleaners available in the UK in 2020. We’ve based these recommendations on the price, effectiveness and ease-of-use of each cleaner.
The winner of Auto Express Magazine’s Best Wheel Cleaner Award for the past 3 consecutive years, Bilt Hamber Auto-Wheel Cleaner is considered to be the best alloy wheel cleaner UK drivers can purchase outside of a dealership.
Auto-Wheel Cleaner is acid-free and non-alkaline, so you can be sure it won’t damage the clear coating or paint of your alloy wheels. It is also pH neutral.
This car wheel cleaner is extremely easy to use. Simply spray the solution onto your wheels and let it sit for five minutes before rinsing the wheels clean. The wheel brush, which is included, can be used to remove stains, dirt and grime from hard-to-reach spots.Check Price Now
Autoglym Clean Wheels is a favourite among car owners, having won the Best Exterior Car Care Product award. This fast-acting formula is suitable for use on a wide range of wheel types, including painted, chromium and lacquered alloy rims.
Autoglym Clean Wheels can also be used safely on plastic wheel trims. It is quite an aggressive cleaner when used on its own, but for best results, it should be used in conjunction with a sponge or a wheel cleaning brush.
The formula provides even coverage that won’t slide off the surface of the wheel, unlike many other cleaners on the market.
Autoglym Clean Wheels is available in two convenient formats: 500 millilitres and 1 litre.
To use it, simply spray the product onto the wheels and allow it to penetrate for 1 to 2 minutes. Then rinse the wheels with water and scrub away tough stains using a sponge or brush.Check Price Now
Sonax Xtreme Wheel Cleaner Plus is a pH neutral cleaner suitable for use on all types of light alloy and steel wheels.
This cleaner lifts even the most stubborn contaminants, including burnt-on brake dust, oil, road dirt and rubber residue. Despite its powerful dirt-removing abilities, Sonax Xtreme Wheel Cleaner Plus is gentle on clear coatings and paint finishes. The result is shiny, dirt-free wheels with no corrosion or damage to the exterior surfaces of your car.
Sonax Xtreme Wheel Cleaner Plus is 30 percent more powerful than the popular Sonax Full Effect Wheel Cleaner, allowing you to cut your wheel cleaning time down to a mere 60 seconds.
Simply spray the cleaner on, let it sit for a minute, and rinse with water. A microfibre cloth can be used to wipe the wheels and restore their original shine.Check Price Now
Available in a generous 5-litre format, Wonder Wheels Super Alloy Wheel cleaner is widely touted as being one of the most effective “purple” cleaners. Used by professionals, this cleaner is formulated to effortlessly cut through dirt, grime, grease and dust.
Wonder Wheels Super Alloy Wheel Cleaner is safe to use on steel and lacquered wheels, as well as plastic wheel trims. However, it may not be the best wheel cleaner for those seeking an acid-free solution.
Wonder Wheels super Alloy Wheel Cleaner comes with a brush for cleaning cracks and crevices and clearing away stubborn stains.Check Price Now
Meguiar’s Hot Rims All Wheel & Cleaner utilises a proprietary foaming solution called Xtreme Cling to dissolve dirt, brake dust and grime from both metal and rubber. It is safe to use on clear-coated and factory painted wheels and tyres.
This cleaner also works well on ovens, stainless steel sinks and air vent covers, making it the ideal all-in-one cleaner for those on a tight budget.
What makes Meguiar’s All Wheel & Tire Cleaner so effective is that it clings to vertical surfaces.
To use it, simply spray the solution on your wheels and let the foam sit until it has turned brown. Then rinse off with water. Very dirty wheels may require extra scrubbing; this can be done with a soft brush, or even a toothbrush.
Meguiar’s Hot Rims All Wheel & Tire Cleaner comes in a bottle with a wide-angle sprayer, ensuring that you only need to use a small amount of product to restore your alloy wheels to their original factory shine.
Care needs to be taken not to leave the product on the surface of your wheels for too long, as it can leave a white stain if not thoroughly cleaned off. The product should also not be left to dry on painted wheels, as the solution will dissolve the paint.Check Price Now
If you’re looking for a wheel cleaner that will work quickly and efficiently, CarPlan Demon Wheels Fast Wheel Cleaner is the solution for you.
This professional formula cuts through tough dirt, brake dust, oil and road grime in under a minute. It is safe to use on all types of wheels, including alloy, chrome and plastic.
Using CarPlan Demon Wheels Fast Wheel Cleaner is a breeze; simply spray the product generously onto your wheel surface, let the formula sit for one minute, then rinse the wheels, using a brush to loosen caked on dirt and dust. CarPlan Demon Wheels Fast Wheel Cleaner only comes in one format (1 litre), but refill packs are available to save you the expense of purchasing another bottle.Check Price Now
This pH-balanced cleaner is formulated with advanced cleaning ingredients that are able to remove tough contaminants like railway dust and iron-rich industrial fallout, which can be resistant to all but the most powerful detailing clays. It is designed for use on wheels and paintwork, but it is also safe to use on other exterior surfaces that have accumulated iron fallout.
Autobrite Direct Purple Rain Iron Fallout Remover is powerful enough to remove surface contaminants on contact, eliminating the need for a wheel cleaning brush. Simply apply the product to the surface you want to clean and let it sit for 2 to 10 minutes before rinsing the surface with a strong jet of water.
As with many purple wheel cleaners, Autobrite Direct Purple Rain Iron Fallout Remover has a rotten egg smell. However, this odour is mostly masked by a fruity fragrance.Check Price Now
Simoniz Ultracare Alloy Cleaner is an acid-free formula that is safe to use on clear-coatings and factory paint. It is extremely effective at dissolving baked-on grime and dirt – even on corroded or damaged alloys.
Simply spray the product on your wheels and watch as accumulated road dust, brake dust and oil melt away. Then rinse the surface off with a hose pipe or jet wash to reveal gleaming alloy wheels.Check Price Now
Alloy wheels are some of the most difficult car parts to clean, but with the right products, you can make them look brand new.
Use this buyer’s guide to select the right cleaner for removing caked-on dirt and dust from your car’s wheels and restore their original brilliance.