Wheel Cleaning: Do I use A Specific Cleaner, Water, or Soap?

You’ve seen it time and time again; a wheel is completely covered in brake dust and dirt, making the wheel look like it’s dark gray and it’s actually light silver. 

How does that come to be? The obvious reason as you’d expect is improper (or lack thereof) wash maintenance. 

If you don’t have a set schedule (or at least try to wash your car once a month), then not just on the whees, but in both your interior and exterior of your car, the brake dust, dirt, debris, and gunk will just accumulate over time. 

The problem is after you’e let it build over for a certain amount of time, you could potentially cause it permanent damage. Which we should all aim to avoid, right? 

So in this blog post, I’m going to break down the question of what type of cleaner should I use for my wheels. 

Why You Should Maintain Your Wheels 

As a preface, let me explain why you should care about your wheels in the first place. There’s going to be essentially two areas you’ll clean on your wheel:

  1. The face of the wheel 
  2. The inner barrel of the wheel 

99% of people only focus on the face of the wheel (the actual design and spokes of the wheel). However, the most build up and potential damage that can occur is in the inside of the barrel, the pockets of the lug nut wholes, and any tight edges. 

That’s because if brake dust sits there long enough, it’ll eventually start eating away at the material (wheel). So the brake dust can deteriorate the material and will cause irreversible damage. 

Not only that, but it simply doesn’t look as appealing when you have really dirty wheels as it’s pretty easy to spot dried-up gunk. 

Specific Wheel Cleaner, Water, or Soap? 

There’s a lot of people that would say you need to use a specific wheel cleaner to remove all the iron particles and shavings from the wheel so it doesn’t eat away at the material. 

But those wheel cleaners like Sonax Full Effect are not cheap, nor do they smell pleasant. 

Then you could simply use water but if you haven’t cleaned your wheels in months, perhaps the water will not have enough cleaning power to dissolve the brake dust. 

You can also use regular car soap to clean your wheels.

In my opinion, you can use all three of them when the situation makes sense.  For example, let’s say you clean your wheels (and car, I’m assuming) every week, then you probably won’t need a super aggressive cleaning solution like a wheel specific cleaner because they wheels aren’t that dirty. 

So a bucket of soap and water will do absolutely fine. 

Just as a side note, it’s also important to take into consideration, what type of cleaning tools you have to go along with the wheel solution. You can’t just spray a product and watch the brake dust slide away. You will need to agitate it with a brush. 

Use An All-Purpose-Cleaner

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, my recommendation would be to use an a all-purpose-cleaner (APC for short) to handle all your tire, fender, and wheel cleaning. You can dilute it 10:1 or 4:1 depending on the condition of the wheel. 

This will save you money because you can also use it on MANY other different surfaces on both the interior and exterior of the car. 

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