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Best alloy wheel cleaners 2021: The best no-fuss products to clean and protect your car’s wheels

Dominic Tobin Rory Mellon
26 Mar 2020
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Keep your car's wheels shiny, clean and in tip-top condition with our selection of the best alloy wheel cleaners

Whether it’s caked on mud or fine brake dust, which can eventually corrode, your wheels are the first in line to be smothered in dirt as you drive out and about. Due to a certain virus, your car may be facing an extended period parked in the driveway while you work from home and limit your outside travel, which on the bright sides makes now the ideal time to give your vehicle a deep clean. 

A regular car shampoo lacks the power to really cut through and get those wheel alloys sparkling again, and the angled edged and crevices of modern alloy wheels make scrubbing them a tricky task. Thankfully specialist alloy wheel cleaners can do the hard work for you. The best products simply spray on and loosen the dirt, then it’s just a quick rinse to have your wheels looking like new.

How do alloy wheel cleaners work?

The latest cleaners are chemically formulated designed to dissolve the metallic particles in brake dust. Helpfully, the process also causes the cleaner to change colour, so you can clearly see that it’s working, and when it’s time to wash the solution off.

In most cases the solution is pH-neutral, so it shouldn’t damage the protective lacquer that’s used to prevent alloy wheels from corroding. However, you can also buy acidic wheel cleaners, which more aggressively attack the brake dust particles. Be warned, these shouldn’t be used on wheels with no lacquer, or where it has been damaged. They’re also unsuitable for wire or stainless steel wheels, or those with chrome finishes.

What’s the best way of cleaning alloy wheels?

It’s best to begin by hosing the wheels down – or, better still, using a pressure washer – to remove any loose grime and expose the underlayer of dirt. The alloy wheel cleaner can then be sprayed on. It’s advisable to wear gloves, as the solutions can be irritating to skin, and brake dust can get ingrained in your fingers and under nails.

Since most products change colour as they react with the dirt, you can see at a glance when it’s time to rinse the wheels off. Ideally, finish by washing the wheels with car shampoo, to remove any remaining cleaner or dirt.

How do I keep my alloy wheels looking clean?

After you use wheel cleaner, it’s a good idea to apply specialist wheel wax, which will protect your wheels against road grime. You don’t need to repeat the process until the effects of the wax wear off and brake dust starts to collect on the surface again. Don’t wait too long, though – the wheels will be harder to clean once the dust gets properly baked on, and you should increase the frequency in winter as road grit can also start to corrode wheels.

READ NEXT: The best pressure washer for your car

The best alloy wheel cleaners to buy

1. Bilt Hamber Auto-Wheel

Price: £15 | Buy now from Amazon

One of the latest generation of pH neutral wheel cleaners, this Bilt Hamber product turns red as it removes the baked-on brake dust. The smell isn’t very pleasant – it’s reminiscent of bad eggs – but it’s less pungent than some competing products, and it excels at cleaning wheels. A brush is included for tough areas, and the price is reasonable for a full litre of formula.

Key specs - Bottle size: 1,000ml; Application method: Spray; Leave for: 3-5 minutes

2. Turtle Wax Redline wheel cleaner

Price: £6 | Buy now from Amazon

This thick, pH-neutral gel clings to the wheel as it’s sprayed on and takes less than a minute to dissolve wheel grime, turning red in the process. It’s just as effective as the Bilt Hamber, but the spray is quite narrow, so it’s a bit more difficult to fully coat the wheel, and there’s no brush included.

Key specs - Bottle size: 500ml; Application method: Spray; Leave for: 30-40 seconds


3. Car Gods 54 Hermes Wheel Perfection Cleaner

Price: £9 | Buy now from Amazon


Unlike several products on this list, this cleaner is safe for use on all wheel types, thanks to its pH-neutral formula and the inclusion of sodium thioglycolate. Though the manufacture claims with regular use this product offers touchless cleaning, we suggest you brush the liquid onto the wheel for the most effective clean after it's sprayed on. Wash off after around five minutes for sparking results.

Key specs - Bottle size: 500ml; Application method: Spray; Leave for: 5 minutes


4. Auto Curators Flawless Cleanser

Price: £17 | Buy now from Auto Curators


You may not have thought there was such a thing as a luxury wheel cleaner, but the maker's bill this premium spray as “the finest indulgence in car care”. It’s certainly effective, taking just two minutes to achieve an extremely thorough clean. It’s also very expensive though: for everyday use the Bilt Hamber liquid is much better value.

Key specs - Bottle size: 1,000ml; Application method: Spray; Leave for: 1-2 minutes

Buy now from Auto Curators


5. E-TECH Pro-Class wheel cleaner

Price: £10 | Buy now from Amazon


This acidic cleaner is best avoided if you have scratched alloys: if the lacquer has been damaged, the fluid will begin to corrode your wheels. As long as your lacquer’s in good shape, however, it’s very effective. The spray is wide and even, and the formula removes caked-on dirt in around three minutes. It’s more expensive than pH-neutral alternatives, though.

Key specs - Bottle size: 500ml; Application method: Spray; Leave for: 2-3 minutes

6. Black Diamond Iron Out

Price: £7 | Buy now from Black Diamond Products

This pH-neutral cleaner has a distinctive minty smell, which nicely masks the unpleasant odour that normally accompanies this type of product. The manufacturer claims that it’s also more concentrated than previous formulations, and it certainly works quickly, taking around two minutes to dissolve brake dust (and turning a vivid shade of purple in the process). 

Key specs - Bottle size: 500ml; Application method: Spray; Leave for: 2 minutes

Buy now from Black Diamond Products


7. Autoglym Wheel Cleaning Mousse 

Price: £10 | Buy now from Amazon


This pH-neutral wheel cleaner is a lemon-scented liquid that foams up into a thick mousse when sprayed onto wheels. It clings onto alloys and plastic wheel trims well, but it does require a bit of scrubbing in with a brush for best results. Once applied the mousse transforms into a distinctive red colour so you know exactly when it's ready to be removed.

Key specs - Bottle size: 500ml; Application method: Spray; Leave for: 2-3 minute

8. Poorboy’s World Iron Remover

Price when reviewed: £14 | Buy now from Amazon

This pH-neutral solution is suitable for almost any surface, so it can be used to remove metal dust from bodywork as well as wheels, turning red as it does so. The trade-off is that it takes longer to work, and is more likely to leave remnants, requiring re-treatment.

Key specs - Bottle size: 473ml; Application method: Spray; Leave for: 5-10 minutes


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