Your questions answered

How to clean alloy wheels

Our top tips for keeping your car's wheels looking 'showroom fresh'

Alloy wheel cleaning

Most cars sold these days come with a set of smart and shiny alloy wheels as standard. However, it's often not long before they start to look faded and dirty. This is not surprising, as not only do wheels pick up dirt from the road and air, they're also exposed to the high temperatures emanating from the car's brakes, which can result in dirt getting 'baked' on to the wheels.

That said, electric cars' regenerative braking systems can reduce this phenomenon compared to a purely internal-combustion-engined car, as they allow for a degree of 'one-pedal' driving and reduce your reliance on the brakes to slow down the car.

Nonetheless, even an electric car's alloys will get unappealingly dirty eventually, so what's the best way to clean alloy wheels? Standard 'car shampoo' will do an okay job, but only surface dirt will be lifted off this way. Baked-on dirt can only be gotten rid of by using a specialised alloy-wheel cleaning liquid, while very hard tar deposits may require the use of some WD-40.

Wheel-cleaning fluids are generally best, however, as they're very effective at shifting dirt in just a single application and rinse off easily with water once you're finished the job.

You'll most likely clean your car's wheels while you're washing the rest of it. Many people favour pressure washers to make this job easier, but even these can struggle to shift that baked-on dirt we mentioned earlier. The wheel cleaner allows you to reach all the narrow gaps in a typical alloy, without damaging the wheel's coating in the process.

It's best to use latex or rubber gloves while washing alloy wheels, to keep both the cleaning product and brake dust off your skin. They can irritate it, and the dirt particles can get ingrained under your nails or into your skin.

The best wheel-cleaning products don't require too much work – you just spray them on, leave them for a few minutes to loosen the dirt, and then use water to rinse them off. Some will even change colour to reveal how much dirt is being removed. All use ingredients that won't damage your tyres or cause pollution if rinsed down a drain.

It's good practice to give your car's wheels a second wash once you're done using the cleaning product, however you should keep those gloves on while doing so, as there may still be some dust and particles present.

Now that your wheels are spotlessly clean, there are some steps you can take to keep them looking that way for longer, so you won't have to repeat the cleaning job as often. Specialist wheel wax can be used to treat the wheel after cleaning, creating a layer on the wheel that minimises the amount of brake dust accumulating in future.

Having cleaned your wheels, you can complete the car's 'showroom fresh' look by adding a coat of tyre shine to the four tyres – just be careful to spray it on the sidewalls only, not the treads, as this can affect the tyres' grip.

For more tips on cleaning your car, see our full guide packed with advice for you to bring your car to showroom quality. 

Most Popular

Fisker PEAR: first look at £25,000 electric city car
Fisker PEAR spy shot

Fisker PEAR: first look at £25,000 electric city car

The cut-price EV is due to be unveiled in the second half of 2023 and offer up to 310 miles of range
2 Feb 2023
New electric cars coming in 2023 and beyond
Polestars under cover
Coming soon

New electric cars coming in 2023 and beyond

With electric cars making up an ever-increasing proportion of sales, the industry is working flat out to launch new models – here's what's on the way …
3 Feb 2023
Top 10 best electric SUVs 2023
Best electric SUVs
Best cars

Top 10 best electric SUVs 2023

Electric SUVs combine style and practicality with low running costs, making them a very popular choice in the UK. Here are our top 10 favourites to bu…
26 Jan 2023