Join us on our quest to find the best wheel and tire cleaner.
Wheels and tires have a huge impact on your car’s general appearance. They are arguably one of the first things that catch the eye. If they don’t look like a million bucks they’ll drag your whole car down, no matter how much effort you put into the rest of your car.
However, it’s a fact that most people don’t like to clean their wheels and tires and for good reason: you need to bend over, get on your knees or get some kind of stool to sit on to reach them properly. Once you get there, you don’t want to stay in that uncomfortable, awkward position for long.
Yet, it’s not an easy task to quickly remove the nasty grime and dust that has built up on your wheels and tires. It won’t come off without a fight, especially in all those hard-to-reach spots, if you use a common all-purpose cleaner or dish soap. General purpose cleaners may also be too aggressive and damage your wheels’ coating.
To work efficiently and quickly, you’ll need a product that’s up to the job: a specialized wheel and tire cleaner. These products are formulated to easily loosen and remove the toughest brake dust and road grime without damaging your vehicle.
Check out our preferred wheel and tire cleaning products:
Best Dedicated Wheel Cleaner
Best Dedicated Tire Cleaner
Best Eco Wheel Cleaner
What is the difference between a Wheel Cleaner and a Tire Cleaner?
A wheel cleaner is a specialized car detailing product that cleans your wheels without damaging their finish and makes them shiny again.
They are specially designed to quickly dissolve the grime that covers your car’s wheels and enable you to clean your wheels much faster with less effort.
Wheel grime is no ordinary dirt. It is a chemical mix of iron from the brake drums or discs, dust from the calipers and a combination of other chemical residue from roadsplash.
To effortlessly remove this, we recommend using a specialized wheel cleaner. It makes this nasty job so much easier than using an ordinary cleaning product. Wheel cleaners are also 100% safe to use on most standard factory wheels and on all types of car tires.
For aftermarket wheels it’s safer to use a wheel cleaner that does not contain harsh chemicals like thioglycolic acid. This is also the case for chipped or damaged wheels. Although this chemical component is often added to wheel cleaner formulas because of its efficient cleaning properties, especially for removing metallic brake dust particles, it is corrosive and can attack alloys and steel.
Thioglycolic acid can easily be recognized by its rotten eggs smell. It also changes from colorless to plum color when it comes in contact with iron dust particles.
We strongly advise to first check which type of wheels your car has and what state the coating is in before using a harsh cleaning agent. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, that way you won’t ruin your wheels.
When in doubt, first test the product on an inconspicuous spot.
A Tire cleaner is a specialized car detailing product whose purpose is to deep-clean your car tire rubber and remove residual tire dressing, blooming and discoloration.
Tire blooming, that nasty brownish haze on your tires, is best addressed regularly by using a dedicated tire cleaner. Tire cleaners are formulated to quickly remove this brownish gunk and return your tires to their original black look.
Although tire cleaners will not harm your wheels, they don’t do well at cleaning them because they are not developed for that purpose.
If you want to intensify and keep that dark black look for as long as possible and optimize your tires’ longevity as well, we highly recommend applying a tire shine product immediately after.
All-In-One Wheel and Tire Cleaners
All-in-one wheel and tire cleaners are chemically engineered, carefully balanced car detailing products that combine both wheel and tire cleaning properties in one product.
Besides the fact that they neutralize acids and dissolve dirt and grime, they also address the tire blooming. You can brush and rinse off these products easily and they won’t damage any car components in the process.
Most weekend warriors however, like an all-in-one product better because you only need one product to do both wheels and tires at once which makes this job more economical and less involved.
Although these all-in-one products are always a compromise, we‘ve selected some damn good ones for you to choose from!
How To Use a Wheel and/or Tire Cleaner?
Most of these cleaning products come in a spray bottle but can often be bought in a gallon or even a 5-gallon size too. The gallon and the 5-gallon sizes don’t have a spray cap. These large sizes are refill packs for the smaller 16-23oz spray bottles. You can use them in a pressure sprayer too.
All these products can be used in 2 different ways:
- Touchless: Rinse your wheels with water using a powerful hose jet or preferably a pressure washer until most dirt is rinsed off. Although rinsing with water works just fine, pressure washers have the edge when it comes to speed and results.
Spray the product directly and generously on the wheels and/or tires (depending on the product you’re using) and let it soak for a few minutes without letting it dry. Again rinse your wheels with water using a powerful hose jet or preferably a pressure washer until all product is washed off.
- With wheel brush and/or wheel wooly: Rinse your wheels with water using a powerful hose jet or preferably a pressure washer until most dirt is rinsed off. Spray the product directly and generously on the wheels and/or tires (depending on the product you’re using) and let it soak for a few minutes without letting it dry. Agitate the product using a wheel brush and/or a wheel wooly. Make sure you reach every nook and cranny. Again rinse your wheels with water using a powerful hose jet or preferably a pressure washer until all product is washed off.
After you’ve washed the rest of your car, finish your wheels and tires by drying them with a microfiber towel. Using a car air dryer will make the process even quicker and easier and will prevent runoff from water traps in your wheels that you can’t possibly reach using a towel.
TIP: It’s best to clean your wheels and tires before cleaning the rest of your car to avoid water and product overspray on your freshly washed car paint.
How we did our review
As always, we made our product selection according to different purposes and needs: best dedicated wheel, tire or all-in-one product, Best Budget, Best Overall…
This selection was made based on our own real-life product tests, our decades of product knowledge and experience, combined with extensive market research and analyses of real user reviews and comments.
We tested them on black powder-coated alloy wheels, spray-coated silver-colored steel wheels and plastidip matt black steel wheels. All wheels were cleaned with an array of different wheel, tire and all-in-one cleaners using both touchless and wheel brush-and-wooly techniques.
You can rest assured we left no stone unturned. The products we recommend are the ones we would buy for our own personal use too.
Let’s take a look:
CCM’s Top 5 Best Wheel and Tire Cleaners:
This spray is the best professional grade wheel cleaning product you can buy, period.
All in one” products may do a good job at cleaning both wheels and tires in one go, but this specialized product focuses specifically on wheel cleaning and takes it to the next level. It’s much more powerful at removing iron brake dust than all-in-one products because it contains thioglycolic acid. This strong acid loosens iron particles that stick on or in your wheel coating by partially dissolving them.
We tested this product wearing a face shield, long sleeves and nitrile gloves to prevent any thioglycolic acid being sprayed in our face or on our skin. This acid is known to cause skin burns if you don’t and can even cause respiratory problems when inhaled. Use caution and common sense, this product means business!
When you spray it on, any caked on iron particles on your wheels immediately turn plum color. This is a handy indicator that the product is working. It rinses off easily too.
Although you can use it touchless, we think for any wheel cleaner, agitating it with a brush before rinsing it off works even better.
Also, respect recommended dwell time so it doesn’t dry and never use this cleaner in full sunlight or on hot surfaces.
Adam’s Wheel Cleaner does an awesome job on factory wheels, even with little or no agitation, but we advise not to use it on aftermarket and especially not on chrome wheels because the acid may stain or etch them.
Some users say that the product has a strong unpleasant odor, which is because of the thioglycolic acid. Although it does have a chemical smell to it, for us this is not a deal breaker.
Despite some negative comments, most reviewers are over the moon with the outstanding cleaning results. One customer wrote that he’s tried dozens of wheel cleaners but thinks this is the best he’s ever used in his life.
Another one wrote in his review that he just sprays it on, lets it sit for a few minutes and uses a pressure washer to clean it off. In the past he says he used a glove mitt to get in between the tight edges but with this cleaner, it’s taken out without all the hassle. He’s convinced that the extra cost more than makes up for the hassle of getting in the nooks and crannies. He says he’s hooked.
Although Adam’s Wheel Cleaner won’t harm your tires, Adam’s Tire Cleaner which is a dedicated tire cleaning product, does a much better job cleaning your rubber.
If you use both these professional grade products separately for what they’re meant for, you’ll knock it out of the park! They are truly pro-league level!
- The best specialized wheel cleaner, period
- Made in USA
- Can’t be used waterless
- Needs to be used with common sense
- It’s not an all-in-one solution, for your tires you’ll need Adam’s Tire Cleaner
It can be hard to get your tires to look new again. After a while they inevitably turn brownish instead of that original deep black. Many tire products just put a black layer over the brown haze. This effect is only short lived and washes off.
Adam’s Tire Cleaner takes another approach: its specialized formula with a unique blend of citrus solvents and surfactants washes off that greasy brown haze, revealing the original deep black rubber just like it was new. To make this new look last longer, we recommend coating them with a tire shine. That will really make ‘em pop.
It’s easy as it gets: We just sprayed Adam’s T&R Cleaner on and let it sit for 5 minutes while we watched the brown gunk run off the sidewalls.
Then we thoroughly scrubbed our tires with a tire brush and rinsed the brown sludge off.
Reviewers say that really dirty or old tires may need a second pass, but ours didn’t. Once dry, they looked brand new!
We also tried it on rubber car mats, same M.O., and it works great too!
We love how easy it is to use and how well it performs.
It’s not a cheap product by any means, but we think it’s worth every penny.
(By the way, the gallon size is a way better deal than the 16oz.)
The vast majority of people who bought this tire cleaner loved it too, like the customer who offroads a lot and forever had brown burnt spots all over his tires, thinking it was from wedging his wheels between rocks, and trapped dirt. He’d scrubbed relentlessly with dawn dish soap, zep green cleaner, coated them in shine and it still remained brown. Before finally giving up, he decided to give it one more try with Adam’s tire cleaner. He was amazed at how effortlessly it works. He just sprayed it on, waited 5 mins. and watched the grime melt away. He hosed them off and now his tires look all black and new again.
We read some comments about it being a one-trick-pony, not a multi-purpose cleaning product. That’s absolutely true, you can’t use it for your wheels. You’ll have to buy a second product for that. But we think that this product does one thing exceptionally well, arguably better than all-in-one products.
In our opinion Adam’s Tire & Rubber Cleaner delivers what it promises, and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, right?
- The best dedicated tire cleaner money can buy
- Easy on and easy off
- Safe on all materials
- Restores tires to natural deep black rubber
- Does an awesome job on rubber mats too
- Made in USA
- Can’t be used waterless
- It’s not an all-in-one solution, for the wheels you’ll need Adam’s Wheel Cleaner too
The reason we chose this wheel and tire cleaner for our Best Overall is because it is the best all-in-one product on the market and it is completely safe to use on all types of wheels and tires. It is completely safe because its advanced pH-neutral formula cleans away the toughest brake dust and road grime without attacking your wheel coating or tire rubber.
You can use it diluted too because it is highly concentrated.
For our test we used it straight up, undiluted. After blasting our wheels and tires with a pressure washer at full power, we sprayed the product generously on our test car’s wheels and tires and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
On our moderately dirty test wheels, it didn’t seem to make much difference whether we just blasted the product off with our pressure washer or used a wheel brush to agitate it first. The results were equally impressive, without noticeable difference.
However, if you intend to use this product on dirt-caked wheels with baked-on brake dust, we recommend giving ‘em a good scrub after a couple of minutes before rinsing the product off with your pressure washer to get everything off in one pass.
We are genuinely impressed by how well Car Guys Wheel Cleaner did on both our wheels and tires without breaking a sweat.
The ‘net is buzzing with good comments too: A customer writes in his review that his worst wheels had 50K miles of being cleaned with other wheel cleaners which left him unsatisfied every time.
Enter CarGuys: the first round and they looked great. The second time, they looked new again. Additionally, one of his vehicles regularly goes off-road, and unlike other cleaners, CarGuys has kept the ‘dirt film’ from sticking around, he says. He is using it on 4 vehicles, 2 of which have black wheels, one that has gloss gray and cleared milled aluminum, and another with cleared polished aluminum.
Some satisfied customers get all worked up about reviewers saying soap is better, that this stuff is just dish soap, etc. They say those are people with an ax to grind because this stuff does exactly what it is supposed to do and if you follow the directions, it does an amazing job.
People also testify that it’s the best wheel cleaner for plastidip and that it doesn’t stain their StopTech rotors either. A customer with white plastidip wheels writes the brake dust was too much work to remove every week but is glad he gave CarGuys a try. Works like a charm! He says he will use this product on his more expensive Work Wheels as well.
However, CarGuys Wheel Cleaner is not a bargain when you buy it in the 16oz spray bottle. It has to be said though that it has one of the better spray caps out there. We were so impressed with the performance of this product that when we ran out, we bought the gallon size which is a way better deal.
We’ll keep on refilling our 16oz spray bottle until it breaks…
Awesome product, Car Guys!
- Best all-in-one wheel and tire cleaner on the market
- Only one product needed to clean both wheels and tires
- Great spray cap
- Made in USA
- Can’t be used waterless
- 16oz is not a bargain, buy the gallon size instead
Though all of Adam’s products are engineered to be as environmentally friendly as possible, this one takes the cake. It is formulated to do what it’s supposed to, with minimal impact on the ecosystem because of its Eco-friendly DRE (direct release to the environment) technology.
For our first test we tried this product on a Jeep TJ, which was really dirty. First we blasted most dirt off with a pressure washer, then sprayed Eco Wheel Cleaner all over the wheels and tires and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
The wheels on the left side of the car we rinsed with our pressure washer without agitating the product. The result was OK, but there was room for improvement. Running our finger across the light-gray metallic wheel finish, it was clear there was still a hazy grayish film that remained. It wasn’t too bad, but not great either…
The wheels on the right side we blasted with a pressure washer and agitated with a wheel brush and a wheel wooly. After a good scrub we blasted it with our pressure washer once more till all soap had vanished.
This gave a completely different outcome: it looked near perfect!
A bit disappointed by our first touchless result, we tried it a second time but this time on wheels that had been cleaned about 10 days before.
Same drill: pressure washer, product, a couple of minutes dwell time, pressure washer, no agitation whatsoever.
Compared to our dirty Jeep’s touchless wheel wash, this was a completely different result. These wheels cleaned up great without any effort!
There was no residue film that’s worth mentioning… They just looked freshly washed.
Bottom line: If your wheels are caked with dirt and you want to wash them touchless, you should use a more aggressive product.
If you don’t mind giving your wheels and tires a good scrub, this product will do the job without harming the environment or your health.
For a quick weekly wash you can even use it touchless for near-perfect results.
Also, we loved the fact that we didn’t have to worry so much about product runoff in any direction: flower beds, lawn, trees… It won’t burn or kill plants like some harsh chemical cleaning products do. It doesn’t contain any nasty thioglycolic acid either, so there’s no risk of chemical skin burn nor inhalation hazard.
Typically, customers say they buy Adam’s Eco Wheel Cleaner because they want to keep their car(s) looking great but are not a fan of harsh chemicals.
They say it’s not the strongest cleaner, but for sure the safest product to use and that with a little agitation it does an awesome job.
Great product, Adam’s! Keep up the good work!
- Best “green” wheel cleaner
- Made in USA
- Can’t be used waterless
- Not the most powerful wheel and tire cleaner available
We chose Turtle Wax Wheel And Tire Cleaner for our Best Budget not only because it’s ridiculously cheap but also because it does a much better job than other products in its price range.
With its deep cleaning foam it gets rid of grime, oil and dirt in a heartbeat. This power foam with its acid-free formula clings to dirt longer, making it more efficient than its runny competition.
This Turtle Wax product uses synthetic brake dust removers and active grease-cutting ingredients to clean surfaces without damaging wheel surfaces. It is also safe for painted calipers and powder coatings but not for use on non-factory painted wheels or motorcycle wheels.
It’s a mystery to us why competing products don’t have this awesome foam spray head. It’s so much easier to get even coverage of both wheels and tires and the foam stays put longer. Love it!
Some reviews suggest that this foaming action consumes more product than a classic spray. However, when we used it in our test this didn’t seem to be the case if you want to hit every nook and cranny and get 100% coverage.
If you compare 10 pumping actions with a classic spray to 10 foam spray actions, the foam spray may use more product (although we’re not convinced). But in our experience you will cover much more surface in a more efficient way with the foam spray.
Anyhow, if you take its price in consideration, the cleaning power of Turtle Wax Wheel And Tire Cleaner is unbelievable. It cleans well without agitation if your wheels aren’t too dirty and does an even better job with a wheel brush and wooly.
If you’re looking for a bargain, a steal, most cleaning power per dollar, this is your product!
- A lot of bang for your buck
- Great foam spray pattern
- Can’t be used waterless
- Only available in 23oz size bottle
Comparison Table Of The Best Wheel And Tire Cleaners
A dedicated wheel cleaner combined with a dedicated tire cleaner or an all-in-one solution? In the end it’s up to you to decide…
While dedicated products deliver professional-grade results because they target one specific problem at a time, the best all-in-one products are faster and less expensive to use and do a terrific job too.
This is our selection in a nutshell:
If you wanna go pro-league, Adam’s Wheel Cleaner delivers professional detailing results with its powerful wheel cleaning formula that contains potent thioglycolic acid. Even the grittiest dirt is no match for this power house.
Going down Perfect Road, you’ll need a pro-league tire cleaner to match: Adam’s Tire & Rubber Cleaner. This specialized tire cleaner brings your brownish rubber “back to black” in no time…
If you’re looking for the safest way to clean your delicate aftermarket alloy wheels, Adam’s Eco Wheel Cleaner is what you need. It does an awesome, gentle job and is environmentally friendly too!
There’s no two ways about it though, the best all-in-one cleaner is Car Guys Wheel Cleaner. It’ll clean any type of wheel and tire in a spritz with the least effort. No sweat, great results guaranteed!
However, Turtle Wax Wheel And Tire Cleaner is impossible to ignore in the all-in-one department. Don’t be fooled by its wheely low price because it punches far above its dollar weight…
Best Budget buy all day!
TIP: Don’t forget to coat your freshly cleaned tires with a tire dressing, it makes your tires an even deeper black and they will retain their “like new” look much longer.
Check CCM’s “Top 5 Best Tire Shines“.
What is tire blooming?
Tire blooming is the dirty brownish hue on your car tire sidewalls that is so hard to clean off. Because of this blooming your car tires quickly lose their new look and look old, dirty and worn instead of factory deep black.
This recurring phenomenon is caused by antiozonants, components in the tire rubber. Antiozonants are added during the manufacturing process to slow aging and deterioration of the tire rubber caused by oxidation. These antiozonants constantly ooze to the surface of the tire on a microscopic level. When they come in contact with oxygen, they leave a brown residue on the tire surface which is very hard to remove with ordinary soap. Specialized tire cleaners are formulated to remove blooming. They make this nasty job faster, easier and do a much more thorough job.
How do you remove tire blooming?
Tire blooming, the dirty looking brownish hue on your car tire sidewalls, is very hard to remove with ordinary soap. Specialized tire cleaners are formulated to remove blooming. They make this nasty job faster, easier and do a much more thorough job.
Can I use wheel cleaner on tires?
Yes, wheel cleaners are safe to use on tires.
However, most professional car detailers prefer to use a different product to clean wheels than they do for the tires. This is because tire rubber needs a completely different chemical cocktail than wheels (powder-coating, plastidip or clear coat) to get the absolute best cleaning results. Professionals use a dedicated tire cleaner for the tires and a dedicated wheel cleaner to clean the wheels to get optimal results fast.
Can I use a tire cleaner on my wheels?
Yes, most tire cleaners are safe to use on your wheels, but they will not do a good job at cleaning your wheels because they are not formulated for that purpose. If you want to clean your wheels and tires with the same cleaning product, use an all-in-one product instead.
Most professional car detailers prefer to use a different product for the wheels than they do for the tires. This is because tire rubber needs a completely different chemical cocktail than wheels (powder-coating, plastidip or clear coat) to get the absolute best cleaning results. They will use a dedicated tire cleaner for the tires and a dedicated wheel cleaner to clean the wheels.
Can a wheel cleaner damage my wheels?
Yes, powerful wheel cleaners can damage your wheels because they contain corrosive acids like thioglycolic acid. Although they are very good at removing the most stubborn road grime and brake dust, they can also damage chrome, alloy or painted aftermarket wheels. Generally, they are safe on factory wheels. Thioglycolic acid can easily be recognized by its rotten eggs smell. It also changes from colorless to plum color when it comes in contact with iron brake dust particles.
If you wanna play it safe it’s better to use a wheel cleaner that does not contain these harsh chemicals.
What is the dirt on my wheels and tires?
The dirt on your wheels and tires is a chemical mix of iron from the brake drums or discs, dust from the calipers and a combination of other chemical residue from roadsplash.
Though it may look like ordinary dust, wheel and tire grime is certainly not. To make matters even worse, this chemical cocktail is baked on by the heat from braking, friction heat from the tires and sun exposure. This makes this stubborn dirt even harder to remove. For fast, thorough results, use a wheel and tire cleaner. They are specially formulated to efficiently tackle this job.
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