The best wheel brushes for effective alloy cleaning

We're breaking down the different brushes you'll need to properly clean every inch of your wheels.

A close up shot of a Porsche's alloy wheel

by Ryan Gilmore |

Drink in some of the best alloy wheels ever fitted to cars and you'll very quickly go down a very deep rabbit hole. From the gaudy but cool gold units fitted to Clio Williams and early Imprezas down to the simple elegance of Minilites and Fuchs, you can quickly spend hours looking at icons.

And if you're fortunate enough to own a car with jaw-dropping alloys you'll surely be wanting to keep them clean. And nothing will help keep them clean like a good selection of brushes that'll collectively tackle built-up grime and leave your alloys looking fresh and fully detailed. We've broken down the different types of alloy brush worth considering as well as our favourite example of each.

The best wheel brushes

Meguiar's Vera Angle Wheel Cleaning Face Brush

The best wheel brush for wheel faces
Meguiar's Vera Angle Wheel Cleaning Face Brush
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The most obvious part to clean properly on an alloy wheel is the face. This is the part that people immediately see and is the best-looking part of any wheel which means it's important to clean it properly. A wheel face brush is designed to agitate dirt but features soft bristles to ensure there's no scratch risk to the alloy finish.

We like Meguair's option the best because it features those ultra-soft bristles that'll better lather up a wheel cleaner and help shift mud without scratching the face of an alloy wheel. It's also well-made and features a detachable handle for more vigorous scrubbing duties.

Read more about wheel face brushes here

EZ Detail Car Alloy Wheel and Motorbike Cleaning Brush

The best wheel brush for wheel barrels
EZ Detail Car Alloy Wheel and Motorbike Cleaning Brush
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After tackling the face of your alloys, the inner barrels are probably going to be worth cleaning too. The inner barrels will collect brake dust that is very stubborn and can contribute to pitting if not properly dealt with. The problem is that the inner barrel can be awkward to reach with a conventional wheel brush which is why a wheel barrel brush makes so much sense. These brushes can easily squeeze between an inner barrel and brake disc and effectively scub away grime without the need to remove the wheel.

The EZ Detail Brush makes use of flexible nylon bristles that are strong enough to dislodge mud but won't leave behind any surface scratches and won't lose their shape over time either. The malleable central shaft is vinyl-wrapped too which reduces the chances of accidental scratching and the rubber knuckle guard will keep your hand safe. For cleaning a wheel barrel nothing comes close.

Read more about wheel barrel brushes here

Sonic Scrubber Pro Detailer

The best wheel brush for lug nuts and intricate details
Sonic Scrubber Pro Detailer
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While lug nuts are tough and won't corrode for a long time, surface rust will spoil how they look if you don't scrub them now and again. Regular wheel face brushes are too big to navigate the small nooks that the lug nuts live in which means a smaller brush will be required to properly clean these areas.

We tested this electric lug nut cleaner from Sonic Scrubber and found it to be a very good way of scrubbing your wheel nuts without building up a sweat. It also ships with three other heads for interior and exterior cleaning which makes this brush a versatile cleaner.

Read more about lug nut brushes here

Mothers Tyre Brush

The best wheel brush for tyres
Mothers Tyre Brush
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Why go to all the effort of shining up your alloys if your tyres only get a quick blast with the pressure washer. Mucky tyres will start to brown over time which can ruin the look of a car which is why we suggest buying a tyre brush to keep them as dark as possible. Tyre brushes make use of tougher bristles to penetrate the tyre and scrub away the ingrained dirt that wouldn't be possible using a normal wheel brush. A quick word of warning however, these bristles can cause scratch damage to alloy wheels so make sure to be careful.

We'd recommend this tyre brush from Mothers because it's good value for money, well-made and designed to keep your hands protected. The bristles are tough and contoured to better cover a sidewall while the rubber lip on the brush will prevent scratches should the brush come into contact with a wheel.

Read more about tyre brushes here

Mothers Wheel Arch Long Handled Brush

The best wheel brush for cleaning arches
Mothers Wheel Arch Long Handled Brush
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A final type of wheel brush worth considering is a long-handled example for scrubbing the inner wheel wells of your car. This area is often ignored and hard to reach without removing the wheel which means dirt, salt and grime can easily build up here, eventually leading to corrosion.

This wheel arch brush from Mothers sports a 400mm handle which means it should easily be able to reach into the far corners of most wheel arches. The bristles shouldn't leave scratches on plastic liners and will help remove these nasty contaminants.

Read more about wheel arch brushes here

Kent Car Care Alloy Wheel Brush

The best wheel brush on a budget
Kent Car Care Alloy Wheel Brush
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If you're not wanting to pay a lot for wheel brushes then we suggest buying this budget wheel brush from Kent Car Care. It features robust bristles that will effectively remove dirt but may cause tiny scratches to appear in an alloy wheel. It also features a central metal spine that can leave nasty scratches on your wheels if you aren't careful. However, as a budget option it's still good so long as you're careful.

What you need to know about wheel brushes:

What should I look for in a good wheel brush?

You may look at these brushes and think that any old bristled object may suffice for cleaning your wheels. While you're technically correct, you risk damaging your alloys and the results won't be anywhere near as good.

Bristles - The general rule worth following is to go as soft as you can for cleaning anything metal, and tougher for cleaning tyres. There's little difference in terms of performance between lambswool, nylon and microfibre so it'll likely fall down to personal preference.

Versatility - If you have alloys with an intricate design you'll be wanting a tapered brush head to get into those hard-to-reach areas. Also, remember that smaller, more versatile wheel brushes can clean grilles and other external parts of your car that may be awkward to reach with a wash mitt (make sure you've thoroughly cleaned the wheel grime off them, of course).

Extras - Rubber coated edges will help prevent scratches if you accidentally catch an alloy with one and a rubber coated handle will continue to be grippy even when the brush is wet.

Alloys are hard and unforgiving which is why a knuckle guard will be a welcome addition to a wheel brush and should be prioritised if you don't want scrapped knuckles.

Look for a brush with no exposed metal elements or hard edges around the bristles. Not only will this help the brush last longer, but it also means your alloys won't get damaged while you're cleaning them.

What else do I need to clean my wheels?

Simply using a brush and some water won't give you the best results. We recommend looking at getting some proper alloy wheel cleaner to get top results. For a more thorough job, you may want to consider a fallout remover, pre-wash and even snow foam to help agitate and remove dirt.

It's also a good idea to invest in some microfibre towels so you can dry your wheels without leaving any nasty streaks. And once your tyres are immaculate, make your tyres look just as good with some tyre dressing.

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