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How to Clean Your Alloy Wheels

Alloy wheels come as standard with most modern cars. Rims look great when they’re shiny and new. But as soon as a bit of road and brake dust hits them, that awesome shine starts to degrade.

If you’re a real car lover – or even if you just want to keep your vehicle in good condition – figuring out how to clean alloy wheels effectively and doing it regularly should be a key part of your car care routine.

Luckily, all you need is a couple of items and a simple process to follow to keep those rims looking shiny and new:

This post is for you if:

  • You want to find out how the professionals care for alloy wheels;
  • You want to bring the shine back to your own wheels;
  • You need clear information and tips about how to clean alloy wheels yourself.

Tools and materials to clean alloy wheels

You can clean alloy wheels with almost any cleaning chemical. But if you want the best results, you’ll want to choose a specialist alloy wheel cleaning product. These products are designed for this purpose and will lift specific dirt and chemicals like brake dust that commonly stick to alloy wheels.

All in all, the tools and materials you will want to gather before you clean your wheels are:

  • Rubber or nitrile gloves
  • An alloy wheel cleaner of your choice
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Microfibre cloths
  • Tyre dressing product (optional)
  • Alloy polish (optional)
  • Finishing polish (optional)
  • Pressure washer or garden hose
  • Tyre brush
  • Car shampoo

How to clean the alloy wheels of your vehicle

The best way to clean alloy wheels involves a few straightforward but important steps. To get professional-grade results, you’ll want to do all of the things listed here in order:

  1. Acquire an alloy wheel cleaner

    It’s easy to find DIY solutions online – things like WD40 or vinegar. But if you want good results, you’ll want to go out and acquire a proper alloy wheel cleaner.
    Trying to use any other generic product to clean alloy wheels won’t work very well either. Specialist products are designed to remove brake dust and ground-in road dirt that are otherwise very difficult to lift cleanly.

  2. Rinse the wheels thoroughly

    When it comes to cleaning rims, a good rinse is the place to start. The easiest way is to use a pressure washer.
    So far, so simple. But one important tip is to clean your wheels at the same time as you clean the rest of your car. That way, you’re not going to be splattering dirt from the wheels across the bodywork.

  3. Be careful, stay safe!

    Next up, don a pair of your go-to rubber, latex or nitrile gloves. This might sound unnecessary to some, but you’re going to be getting your hands covered in brake dust otherwise.
    Plus, exposure to the cleaning product you’ll be using can cause skin irritation while fine dust particles can get under your nails and become ingrained in your skin.
    All in all, it’s worth putting safety first.

  4. Dry your wheels

    Don’t let any instructions to the contrary on the back of your cleaning product lead you astray. The experts all agree – if you want professionally clean wheels, you need to dry those rims properly before you get down to business.

  5. Apply your alloy wheel cleaning product

    Now it’s time to apply the wheel cleaning product you’ve chosen. The specifics might vary depending on the product, so read the instructions and follow them (apart from the part about being suitable for wet cleaning).
    Cleaners like this are designed not to damage paint or lacquer and get down into gaps and crevices, so you can really go to town without worry.

  6. Use a brush

    One of the areas that many people overlook when cleaning alloy wheels is the back of the rim. That’s where your tyre brush comes in. Use yours to reach around the back.

  7. Rinse

    Rinse all of the cleaning product – and the dirt and grime it’s attracted – free from your wheels now.

  8. Dry the wheels completely

    If you want to be left with clean wheels that won’t quickly deteriorate, the drying phase is something you don’t want to skimp on. Use a microfibre cloth to ensure that no water or water stains are left anywhere on your rims.

  9. Apply an alloy polish (optional)

    If you want, you can stop cleaning your car wheels now and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. But if you want to achieve a nice glossy finish, you can go further.

    To get results like this, you will want to apply an alloy polish. Here’s how to do it:

      1. Rub the polish into the wheel in the direction of the grain.
      2. Don’t rub in circles. This usually leads to smeared finish.
      3. Go small section by smalll section to keep the polish moist while it’s being rubbed in.
      4. Don’t miss a spot! If anywhere is hard to reach, use a soft brush or wrap your cloth around a toothbrush to get there.
  10. Apply a finishing product (optional)

    The second optional addition to the process is to apply a finishing product. Use a soft clean microfibre cloth to do this and keep polishing until all traces of the polish are gone.

  11. Apply a tyre dressing product (optional)

    Finally, you can choose to finish by applying a tyre dressing. These vary in consistency – some are sprays, some are liquids – so be sure to follow the instructions.

    And that’s it! That’s all you need to know about cleaning alloy wheels if you’re trying to replicate professional results at home.

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