Car Care / Griot's Garage / Tech

Top 10 Wheel Cleaning Tips and Tricks

top-10-wheel-cleaning-tips_thumbnailWheels are a focal point of any automobile, so keeping them sharp and shiny is key. You never get a second chance to make a first impression! The task can be especially challenging because wheels get dirtier (and do so faster) than any other part of your car. There are two main culprits; brake dust and road grime.

Brake dust is tough stuff and can etch your wheel’s finish if left unchecked. Road grime is more of an aesthetic issue, but nevertheless an annoyance. Grime and dust together make quite the tag team. But fear not, we’ve got you covered withe these 10 wheel cleaning tips and tricks!

1: Choose The Right Cleaner

top-10-wheel-cleaning-tips_wheel-cleanerWheel Cleaner is made from the highest quality, eco-friendly, biodegradable ingredients. It is safe for all wheels, the environment, and is manufacturer-approved by BBS, Dayton Wire Wheels, and Tire Rack. Griot’s Car Care Wheel Cleaner is your go-to, all-purpose cleaning solution.

top-10-wheel-cleaning-tips_heavy-duty-wheel-cleanerHeavy-Duty Wheel Cleaner is still pH-balanced, non-acidic, and non-caustic, but it has a little more bite for tackling extra tough brake dust and dirty wheels. It is a thick formula that clings, and changes to a purple color, indicating it’s winning the battle. Heck, it even smells good.

top-10-wheel-cleaning-tips_chrome-wheel-cleanerChrome Wheel Cleaner uses a natural, citrus oil-based formula with an acidic balance strong enough to thoroughly clean the wheel, while accounting for how chrome repels liquids. Chrome Wheel Cleaner is not designed for use on polished aluminum or magnesium.

2: Hot Topics

Never spray water or cleaner on hot wheels. This can compromise your wheel’s finish and may also damage your brake rotors. Let wheels and brakes cool after driving and, when possible, avoid washing in direct sunlight.

3: One By One

Clean your wheels one at a time to avoid having the product dry on the surface. If you are using Heavy-Duty Wheel Cleaner, be patient and watch for the color changing effect. If the product does dry, you can always spray it again to reinvigorate the cleaning action.

4: The Rinse Cycle

Before spraying your cleaner product, thoroughly rinse the wheel with water. This allows cleaner to be carried to remote areas and tight spots of the wheel. Hose pressure also blasts out some of the dirt and sediment straight-away, which means the cleaner can work on the toughest stuff.

5: The Agitation Cycle

Brake dust can really have staying power, especially in the deep corners of your wheels. Griot’s Garage has a wide array of purpose-built tools to ease the cleaning of even the most challenging wheels, whether super-fine mesh or intricate, multi-spoke designs.


Using Heavy-Duty Wheel Cleaner in six easy steps.

6: Bucket List

If you use a bucket and wash mitt as part of your car cleaning regime, set aside a separate bucket and mitt just for wheels. Otherwise, you might pick up and transfer dirt or, worse, metallic brake dust that will wreak havoc on your paint.

7: Final Rinse & Dry

Always give your wheels a good final rinse, followed by a full wipe down with a drying towel. This helps keep water spots from forming. The Dirty Spots Towel is perfect for wheel drying!

8: Loose Cannon

Most people clean wheels after washing the rest of the car. If this is your process, keep a bottle of Speed Shine® handy to wipe up any Wheel Cleaner over-spray on your paint.

9: Lug Nut Blues

Lug nuts can be a challenge to clean (we’ve got a tool for that), and a source of frustration after the cleaning process. Water likes to pool in lug nut holes, and the moment you move your vehicle, water dribbles all over your previously pristine wheels. Avoid the lug nut blues and dry the holes thoroughly as part of your regime.

10: The Extra Mile

As with any aspect of car care, the details make all the difference with your wheels. Go the extra mile, and you’ll be rewarded! Try Wheel Cleaning Clay to remove embedded contaminants that washing alone doesn’t tackle. And every once in awhile, consider removing your wheels to clean the back sides. Your neighbors might think you’re crazy, but they won’t be able to deny the results.

Okay, you’ve read out Top 10 Wheel Cleaning Tips. Let us know yours in the comments!

Have fun in your garage!


  1. Nick Grippi says:

    Hello Team Griot,
    It’s funny… Except for wheel clay, I follow all the 10 (9) steps in your wheel process.
    Yup! My friends believe I’m somewhat extreme because one a month I remove each wheel to get every inch/mm of surface spotless.
    But I’m have a few advantages that some don’t
    An oversized 2 car garage and being semi-retired I have the time.
    Great products and ways great detailing tips.
    Kind Regards,
    PS: Have a “Waxeriffic Day”

  2. lon hultgren says:

    When are you going to develop a special wax for wheels? I’ve tried what’s available and have not been satisfied.

    • I use Poor Boys EX on my 911’s wheels at least twice yearly. I also use a swiffer before taking Otto out for a ride to quickly remove the dust. Then i just use regular car wash. Now the A6 is another story; chemicals all the way. It’s Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner and scrubbing. I’m about to purchase the blue clay and try it out.

  3. BrianPex says:

    And why isn’t waxing mentioned here? The most
    critical part of wheel care is making sure they are
    waxed after cleaning and wiping down!!!

    • Ion and Brian, thanks for your comments.

      Waxing your wheels after cleaning can definitely play an important role in keeping them in top shape. Protecting your wheels is most important throughout the fall and winter months and especially if your wheels are raw metal or chrome. Although all wheels are exposed to brake dust year round, this annoying residue won’t do harm if it’s cleaned off on a regular basis. However, wheels are exposed to many elements that can do a lot of damage during the winter months. Road salts and deicers are easily a worst enemy any wheel can face.

      So let’s add a tip. Griot’s Garage Paint Sealant, a 3” Red Wax Pad, and about an hour out of your day you can achieve lustrous protection that will last for at least a month. Keep in mind that consistent wheel cleanings (specifically with acid-based or HD cleaners) will shorten the life of the sealant applied to your wheels. We recommend re-applying once a month to ensure you always have a healthy coat of protection.

      Paint Sealant can also be used on raw metal wheels (polished aluminum, chrome, etc) but don’t forget to shine them up with Griot’s Garage Metal Polish or HD Metal Polish prior to sealant application.

      If your wheels are clear coated, painted or powder coated and could use a polish, check out our One-Step Sealant. One-Step contains the same protection that you get in our regular Paint Sealant, but it also provides a light polish to rid your wheels of any swirl marks, oxidation, or water spotting. Remember to use an Orange Polish Pad if you’re working on removing imperfections.

  4. KRIS CAPPS says:

    Sounds like I am not the only one that thought a special wheel wax would be a great idea. To me the wheels make the car. I always check out someone’s wheels to see if they are clean behind the spokes, a sign of a serious car nut.

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  7. I never knew that you shouldn’t clean the tires when they are hot! Is there another way to cool them off for cleaning beside putting water on them? I don’t want to damage the brake rotors, like you mentioned was possible.

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