Top 3 best wheel cleaners in 2023:
- Top Pick: Wheel Cleaner by Car Guys Auto Detailing
- Runner-Up: Griot’s Garage 11026SP Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner
- Budget Pick: Mothers 05924 Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner
There are chores I’m not too thrilled about doing, and then there are chores that I’ll gladly spend my afternoon off taking care of – and washing my car is one of them.
It sounds silly, I know, but the results of putting in some elbow grease are always beyond rewarding for me! Moreover, it doesn’t cost nearly as much as taking it to the car wash every time it gets dirty.
And if you think about it, cleaning your car isn’t that hard, either – all you need is a brush, a water hose, some extra time, and the best wheel cleaner to get the job done!
Keep on reading, and you’ll see what I mean!
20 Best Wheel Cleaners In 2023: Detailed Reviews
Buying a wheel cleaner seems straightforward enough: You go to the store, pick up the first product you see on the shelf, and that’s it. Well, not quite.
Depending on the finish you have on your wheels, some products out there can do more damage than good. You need to be aware of the product and formula you’re putting on them. Otherwise, they may eat away at more than just dirt and road grime!
Without further ado, here are the best wheel cleaners currently available on the market – all tested by yours truly!
When you’re trying to get rid of grime build-up effectively, it’s vital that you have a highly-effective formula capable of loosening it up without damaging the finish on your wheels.
Enter Sonax, an acid-free, pH-balanced wheel cleaner that’s safe for use on all sorts of surfaces, including alloy, aluminum, painted wheels, and even anodized, clear and powder-coated ones!
The cleaning solution is bright green coming straight from the bottle, but when it hits your wheels, the color slowly changes to reddish purple, indicating that the process of breaking down dirt and grime on your wheels is in motion.
Sure, it’s a cool thing to watch, but more importantly, it lets you keep track of your progress – it’s like a progress bar in a bottle. When it stops changing colors, you’ll know your car wheels are spotless!
I do need to warn you about the smell, though. It’s a weird combination of citrus, sulfur, and some other chemical I can’t put my finger on – but you get the point.
If you’re out here buying wheel cleaners by the gallon, one of the following things is true:
You’re meticulous about keeping your wheels in top shape, or you’re using the product on more than one vehicle.
Whatever the case, I’m pretty sure you’ve found the right product for the job – Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner, the refill edition.
The advanced pH-neutral formula does wonders for removing road grime, dirt and brake dust that builds up on your wheels quickly and easily, while the gel-like consistency clings to the wheel’s surface and ensures that you’re not wasting too much product.
Mild, yet effective, this cleaner is safe to use on all types of wheels – alloy, anodized, aluminum, chrome, as well as painted, clear-coated, polished, and even Plasti-Dip. You can also use it on your tires and motorcycle wheels, too!
Most importantly, it’s one of the few wheel cleaners on the market that are not only acid-free but non-toxic, as well, making this the best wheel cleaner for the environmentally-conscious car owners.
I love it when a brand is confident enough to put words like “America’s Premium Wheel Cleaning Brand” right there on the label and the actual product – in this case, the Valvoline Eagle One Cleaner – delivers on that promise.
The acid-based etching formula is one of the most aggressive – and effective – ones I’ve tried when it comes to cleaning solutions for roughcast alloy wheels, as well as chrome-plated surfaces.
Once applied, this fast-acting formula etches the wheel’s surface on a microscopic level, taking road grime, grease, and brake dust down with it. It sounds harsh, but it works perfectly.
That said, I strongly recommend wearing a mask and protective gloves when using this cleaner, because the fumes can be harsh and irritating. It’s a word of caution, rather than an actual product flaw, though.
Understandably, it comes with limitations regarding the types of wheels you can use it on – for example, non-factory painted wheels are out of the question.
Is it the best wheel cleaner, though?
Stick around and find out!
4. Adam’s Deep Wheel Cleaner – Tough on Brake Dust, Gentle On Wheels – Changes Color As It Works (1 Gallon)
Again, if you tend to clean the wheels of your car quite often, or you have several vehicles to take care of, buying a gallon of the best wheel cleaner is generally the way to go.
Sure, it can be an expensive initial investment, but what’s the alternative – buying a new bottle of wheel cleaner every two weeks? That’s going to cost you way more than a gallon of this stuff.
The pH-neutral, acid-free formula is targeted explicitly at removing hardcore brake dust deposits, and dissolving dirt and road grime along the way. It lets you keep track of the progress, too – the cleaner will change its color to purple as it penetrates and breaks down the contaminants.
You can safely apply it to clear-coated, powder-coated, painted, as well as chrome and alloy wheels.
You’ll probably find the smell to be very overpowering, though, so working in an open space – or a well-ventilated room – is a must if you want to avoid irritations and possibly even nausea.
If you’ve ever used any of Meguiar’s products before, you know that these guys know their stuff – and the Hot Rims Wheel Cleaner is a perfect example of that:
Although Meguiar’s has a long line of specialized products, this one boasts an exceptional advantage over them – it’s suitable for all factory-coated wheels, including painted and clear-coated rims, and yes, even tires!
Moreover, the Xtreme Cling formula results in thick foam capable of clinging to vertical surfaces, which makes cleaning your wheels a fast and easy process.
Spray it on, and you’ll be able to watch the debris, grime, and brake dirt lift off your wheels and tires. I’m serious – you’ll see the foam change color as it grabs dirt.
However, you’ll only get three to five applications (I’m talking all four wheels, of course) out of it, since you have to spray it on generously. If you tend to clean your car often, you’ll find yourself spending quite a bit of money on it – even with the budget-friendly price.
The Armor All’s Triple-Action formula is another one you might find helpful when it comes to keeping your wheels all nice and shiny.
Once applied, it turns into thick foam, which allows it to not only cling to the surface of the wheels more effectively but penetrate any nooks and crannies that would otherwise be hard to reach.
And while it’s safe to use on both factory and aftermarket-coated wheels, if your wheels have already started showing of wear and tear, be careful – the formula may be too strong to use on them and could cause the paint to peel even more.
Now, at first I thought you get a pretty good amount of product for the price, but that was until I used it for the actual cleaning. As it turns out, you don’t get much out of the bottle – two to three sets of wheels, at most.
You can see how the costs would pile up pretty fast, especially if you’re the clean-my-car-once-a-week type.
If brake dust’s the main issue you’re struggling with, then the Chemical Guys DeCon Iron Pro is a product worth checking out.
The idea behind this product’s pH-balanced formula is that the iron catalysts in it penetrate and react with all sorts of metallic contamination – turning purple as they do – that’s often present on both wheels, as well as lower body panels of the car.
Moreover, the formula acts as a neutralizer for chemical reactions that lead to corrosion and paint damage on the wheel’s surface, all caused by improperly removed brake dust.
And while it’s tough on the dirt and grime, it’s surprisingly gentle on your wheels – everything from gloss paint and clear-coat finishes to polished metal and chrome is a safe bet with this product.
That said, the product is a bit expensive, and you’ll undoubtedly find some more budget-friendly options on the market, but considering its metal-contaminants-busting abilities, if you’re continuously struggling to get rid of stubborn brake dust, it is well worth adding to your car-cleaning arsenal.
Next one up is the Nanoskin Iron Free – another wheel cleaner formulated to help you fight those pesky ferrous metallic contaminants, while also cleaning your wheels along the way.
The formula is pH-balanced and acid-free, which makes this product safe to use on the more delicate surfaces, such as plastic, chrome, glass, alloy, and painted wheels, without the risk of damaging them.
Once applied, it forms a thick foam that clings to the surface of the wheels, making the product more effective.
Plus, it’s fun to watch it work – the stuff goes on neon green, and starts turning red as soon as it hits the brake dust and other iron particles that end up on your car’s wheels, and starts dissolving them right in front of you.
It does smell a bit funky, but at this point, that’s something I’ve come to expect from wheel cleaners. The bigger issue is that it dries pretty fast, which means you’ll have to use a bit more product to get things done.
If you want to feel more “carfidant” in the overall state of your wheels, this is a product you should consider!
(I saw an opening for a pun, and I couldn’t pass on it!)
All jokes aside, though, the pH-neutral, highly-concentrated acid-free formula with a gel-like texture should be more than capable of handling the brake dust and dirt particles on your wheels, all without causing any damage or staining to the actual finish.
It’s safe for tires, as well, in a sense that it won’t eat away at them slowly or cause them to crack.
More importantly, the cleaner doesn’t contain any artificial dyes or scents – all you get are cleaning agents. And trust me when I say this – with these things, simple is always better.
However, if you’re looking for a wheel cleaner to handle tough, baked-on dirt and grime, this probably isn’t it – it’s great for regular maintenance and quick touch-ups, that’s for sure, but it won’t handle hardcore cleaning tasks.
If you’ve heard about Griot’s Garage before, then you surely know that this brand has a reputation for making reliable, premium car-cleaning products – and being one of the best wheel cleaners I came across, this particular product is no exception.
Plus, considering the amount you’re getting for the price, I’d say it’s a money-saving option, too.
The formula is pH-balanced, acid and caustic-free. Being remarkably mild, it gives you plenty of options regarding usage on different finishes, from painted, chromed, and uncoated aluminum to anodized and powder-coated.
Once applied, the cleaner clings to the surface, allowing the active ingredients in it to loosen and break down any road grime and brake dust on the wheels. You’ll notice that it changes color to a deep purple as it does that, too!
The only downside is the smell. It’s not as bad as some other products on this list, but I think they tried to “mask” the chemical odor with a fruity fragrance – and that’s what’s been bothering my nose all along.
Okay, this one caught my attention straight away:
For a somewhat affordable price, you get both a wheel cleaner and a handy piece of cloth you can use to scrub away any hard-to-remove dirt and grime.
If that’s not a deal, I don’t know what is.
The formula is safe to use on any – and every – type of wheels and tires. Whether you have aluminum, alloy, anodized, or chrome wheels this product will get the job done. The same goes for painted, clear-coated, polished, and yes, even Plasti-Dipped rims.
Moreover, you can use it to remove road salts, as well, which pretty much makes this a perfect all-year-round type of product – it gets rid of dirt during the summer, and prevents salt from damaging your wheels during the winter.
Now, I know you’re sitting there, waiting for me to point out the flaws, but honestly, I didn’t find a single thing wrong with this product. It doesn’t even smell that bad, which was a more-than-welcome surprise!
Next one up is a somewhat pricey wheel cleaner, but before you skip onto the more budget-friendly options, you should know that you get twice as much product with this one – 32 fluid ounces.
And what you get for the money is no joke, either – the pH-balanced, acid-free formula makes the Brake Dust Pro the perfect cleaning solution for all sorts of different materials and surfaces, including steel, aluminum, painted, and powder-coated wheels, without any risk of damage or staining.
Plus, you’ll know when it’s done – the cleaner will change its color to a deep red and let you know that it’s time for rinsing!
I should probably warn you about the smell, though, because it’s outright awful. It’s like this weird mixture of sulfur and something I can’t quite put my finger on, but you get the picture.
That said, it’s not meant to make your car smell nice, it’s intended to clean it – and it does that wonderfully, so you can’t complain about it, can you?
Don’t be fooled by this product’s budget-friendly price – or the feminine-sounding name, for that matter – because the Mother’s wheel cleaner packs a serious punch.
Sure, some higher-end cleaners might be more efficient at removing persistent, baked-on dirt, but I’m confident that it’s more than enough to make the average user happy.
Use this as your regular cleaner, and save the heavy-duty stuff for “special occasions.”
The non-acidic, foaming formula is safe for everything from stainless steel, chrome, and modular wheels to paint, clear and color-coated wheels, and hubcaps.
The spot-free rinse is a handy addition, too. Once you rinse the product off, you’re done – there’s no need to wipe the wheels dry to get a clean, mirror-like finish.
You shouldn’t use it on any anodized or aluminum wheels and motorcycle wheels in general, for that matter. Also, avoid applying it on scratched or otherwise damaged surfaces – in this case, you might be better off paying more, and getting a specialized cleaner to do the job.
When I first checked this product out, I couldn’t help but noticed the words “NO Rubbing, NO Scrubbing” on the label – and surprisingly enough, it delivered on its promise:
All you need to do is spray it on, let it sit for a moment, and rinse it off with clean water – and it will leave your wheels looking squeaky clean!
The Poorboy’s Wheel Cleaner is a powerful (aggressive, even) citrus cleaner, which makes it an excellent option for when you’re in a pinch, and you need a fast cleaning solution – or when you don’t have the energy to do all the scrubbing and rubbing yourself.
The product itself is fine, but the bottle – and the spray nozzle in particular – was very poorly made. I didn’t even get to use it more than a few times before the sprayer stopped working altogether.
Sure, there are other ways to apply the cleaner, and you can always replace the nozzle with minimal cost, but that’s not the point here.
I was super excited to test this one, and see if it lives up to its “Black Magic” name – it could either work like magic or not, and I was beyond curious to find out which one is it.
The cleaner has a gentle, pH-neutral formula that makes it suitable for all types of surfaces – from ABS plastic and mag to chrome, aluminum, and wire. Moreover, it’s safe to use on different types of finishes, as well, including anodized, painted, polished, and clear-coated.
Don’t let the gentle formula fool you – it can still help you get rid of road grime, brake dust, and dirt.
However, don’t make the mistake of buying into the whole “No Scrub” part. If you’re working with a minimal amount of dirt or doing regular maintenance, it may work that way, but more often than not, you’ll have to put some elbow grease into it.
I wasn’t disappointed, but the “wow” factor was missing. It’s a good cleaner, but there’s no magic there, black or otherwise.
If you can’t get rid of that brake dust no matter how much scrubbing you do, switching to a cleaner that was formulated for that specific task might be a good idea – and the best one currently on the market has to be the GYEON quartz Q²M Iron.
The company’s focus was on making a fast-acting iron fallout remover – and they nailed it, might I add – but they still managed to maintain the formula’s neutral pH level, making it safe to use on all sorts of different finishes, including polished wheels and clear-coated paints.
Talk about versatility in liquid form, huh?
The formula will change its color to a purple hue when it comes in contact with ferrous compounds, such as brake dust, and starts to break them down. You’ll see the dirt dissolve right in front of you!
It’s an outstanding wheel cleaner, but the smell is horrendous! You’ll be pleased with the results, but I can guarantee that your nose won’t be happy about it.
As I’m nearing the end of this round-up, I noticed something is missing – I did introduce you to some money-saving options, but there weren’t any real budget picks so far.
On that note, I’d like to introduce you to the SuperClean Foaming All Wheel Cleaner – a budget-friendly wheel cleaner for anyone looking to clean their wheels and save some money along the way.
The formula is acid-free, but that doesn’t necessarily make it “weak” or too mild to handle tough dirt. Paired with a little brushing, it does a pretty decent job at removing grease, brake dust, and dirt that ends up on your wheels regularly.
I wasn’t too thrilled about the smell, of course, but for me, the biggest issue was the thin stream coming from the spray nozzle. Instead of a full spray that would cover a large area of the wheel in one go, you have this thin, barely-there stream which ends up wasting a lot of product in the process.
If your wheels have a matte finish, I don’t have to tell you how it can further complicate the already-time-consuming process of maintaining them. The regular cleaners just don’t cut it – they’re often too harsh for the job, and end up doing more damage than good.
That’s why it’s vital to have a product designed for this particular scenario – and Dr. Beasley’s Matte Wheel Cleanser is the perfect example of that.
Whether your matte wheels are powder-coated or painted, its pH-balanced formula is gentle enough to be used on delicate finishes but powerful enough to get rid of dirt, dust, and grease build-up.
Its gel-like consistency clings to the surface, making it that much more effective. Plus, no dripping means you’re not wasting any product here, either.
Moreover, the formula is biodegradable, too, which means less harm to your wheels – and less harm to your environment in general.
Granted, you’ll probably find some less expensive options out there – but you won’t come across any as useful as this one!
If you’re looking for an affordable solution to cover all your wheel-related cleaning tasks, Wizards has you covered.
When they say “All Wheel and Tire Cleaner,” they genuinely mean it – the formula is safe to use on both factory, as well as custom wheels. That means you can safely use this product on everything from polished aluminum, roughcast, anodized, and chrome to both uncoated and clear-coated, as well as PVD wheels.
And yes, you can even use it to clean the tires, too – raised white letters, and black and whitewalls, alike.
The formula is both non-acidic and non-caustic, and more importantly, it’s biodegradable.
As such, it’s perfect for removing all that stubborn brake dust and road grime without any risk of staining or otherwise damaging the wheels.
However, I should probably warn you that the product falls under Proposition 65, though, meaning it contains chemicals that are known to cause cancer, congenital disabilities, as well as other reproductive harm.
That said, the real question here is: Which cleaning solution doesn’t?
The last one on my round-up is a product by Performance Corvettes, marketed as a “Touch-less Cleaner”, meaning you don’t have to do any actual work – the product does everything for you.
You spray it on the wheel, let it soak for a couple of minutes, and wash it off with water. That’s all it takes to remove all that grime, dirt and brake dust off of your wheels.
You’ll still have to put in some manual work if you’re dealing with severe build-up, though.
The pH neutral formula is pretty good, too, and suitable for all wheel types, including Plasti-Dip ones.
It does cost a bit more than your average wheel cleaner, though, which brings me to my final note about this product:
If you’re ready to spend a few more bucks to get the best wheel cleaner, I suggest you go with one of the “more popular” brand names. It’s not that this one doesn’t get the job done, because it does, but I feel like you could get more for your money.
Are you still wondering which one of the products listed above is the best wheel cleaner for the job? Well, here are my top three picks – one of them is bound to work wonders for your wheels!
Top Pick: Wheel Cleaner 1 Gallon Bulk Refill
Your search for the best wheel cleaner is finally over – although buying by the gallon wasn’t necessarily what you had in mind, rest assured that this is the best product out there for all your wheel-cleaning troubles. Plus, it’s environmentally-friendly – and that’s something you don’t see very often in the car cleaning department.
The second place goes to another highly reputable manufacturer of car cleaning products – Griot’s Garage. I wish I could have two “Top Picks,” because this truly is an outstanding wheel cleaner, but I can’t. That’s the only reason why Griot’s Garage gets the “Runner-Up” title this time around.
Budget Pick: Mothers 05924 Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner – 24 oz
Even though it has its limitations regarding the type of surfaces it can be used on, I still believe this product by Mothers is a safe bet for regular, budget-friendly wheel maintenance.
Which one’s your go-to choice for keeping your wheels in top shape? Let us know in the comments below!