The best alloy wheel cleaners

If you have alloy wheels, you need to look after them with a special alloy wheel cleaner product. Here are our favourites.

Applying wheel cleaner to a 4X4 wheel

by Chris Williams |

From Alfa Romeo Teledials to Ford Pepperpots, some alloy wheels are icons in their own right. More than any other component, they also define the look of a car: imagine a Clio Williams without gold Speedlines, or a 911 2.7 RS without painted Fuchs. Clean wheels are vital to keep your car looking its best. Thankfully, with the right product, you can do the job in minutes.

But which alloy wheel cleaner should you buy?

There’s a frankly bewildering choice of alloy wheel cleaning products available. And that’s before you get to wheel wax, sealant, tyre shine and more. Here, we’ve focused on straightforward, spray-on cleaners, to be used as part of your usual car wash routine.

Picking the right product partly depends on your budget, but our reviews – based on user feedback and real-world testing – prove you needn’t spend big bucks. We’ve also handed out Gold, Silver and Bronze awards, so you can choose a winner to suit your needs.

So, why do you need alloy wheel cleaner?

The wheels are almost certainly the dirtiest part of your car. They’re attacked relentlessly by road grime from below and brake dust from within. Unless you have a costly set of carbon-ceramic stoppers, this dust is mostly made up of iron – and the static charge it receives when heated makes it cling to wheels like chewing gum to a school desk.

Baked-on brake dust can be difficult to remove, particularly with regular car shampoo. That’s why you need a dedicated wheel cleaner, to dissolve the iron particles so they can be washed away. The right product will save you a huge amount of elbow grease.

We’re convinced that clean cars go faster, too. Just don’t ask us to back that up. Read on to see which alloy wheel cleaners we recommend.

The best alloy wheel cleaner

Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel Cleaner

Gold Award Winner
Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel Cleaner
Amazon

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Bang! And the dirt is gone. Actually that's a different product, but it applies equally well to Bilt Hamber wheel cleaner. Simply spray it on, wait for the solution to change colour (agitating with a brush if the wheels are heavily soiled), then rinse it off. The result is beautifully clean alloys in less than five minutes. A pH-balanced formula makes it safe to use on all wheels, too u2013 even chrome and magnesium rims. We've been using Bilt Hamber for years and, frankly, it's probably the only wheel cleaner you need.

Pro-Kleen Troll's Breath

Silver Award Winner
Pro-Kleen Troll's Breath
Amazon

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Troll's Breath is aptly named. It doesn't smell great, but its powerful formula removes contaminants embedded into the wheel surface for a really deep clean. It's popular amongst serious car enthusiasts. Despite a thick, gel-like consistency, it's easy to apply. However, you will need a sprayer.

Autoglym Custom Wheel Cleaner Complete Kit

The ultimate beginners kit
Autoglym Custom Wheel Cleaner Complete Kit
Amazon

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If this is your first foray into cleaning your alloys then what could be better than a complete kit. This set from Autoglym contains two wheel brushes alongside a wheel cleaner spray making it the ideal starter kit. The spray contains a blend of biodegradable surfactants, solvents, and alkalis meaning it's safe for chromed, anodised and polished aluminium wheels. The brushes will also prove useful for removing embedded dirt from your car.

26JPN Fallout

The best alloy cleaner for iron fallout
26JPN Fallout
Amazon

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Perfect for iron fallout and brake dust, we were incredibly impressed by this spray from 26JPN when we tested it. The formula changes to a nice purple when it reacts with the iron and it's easy to wash off too. While it's not as universal as the other wheel cleaning products here it is incredibly effective at what it's designed to do. Just don't smell any of it because it reeks of sulphur.

Autoglym Wheel Cleaning Mousse 500ml

Full coverage from this mousse
Autoglym Wheel Cleaning Mousse 500ml
Amazon

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Mousse is both a delicious dessert and an effective way to clean your car's alloys thanks to this product from Autoglym (need we say don't eat it?). pH neutral means it's safe for all wheel types (including chromed and anodised) and thanks to the foam's expanding nature it'll stick to the alloys with ease. The foam will even turn red when it's time to agitate it with an alloy wheel brush. A nice lemon scent aftwerwards is a nice bonus.

Meguiar's Ultimate Waterless Wheel & Tire

Best for wheels and tyres
Meguiar's G190424EU Ultimate Waterless Wheel & Tire 710ml Wheel Cleaner & Tire Dressing
Amazon

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Meguiar's has huge kudos in the modified car scene and this product is perfect for summer shows. It cleans wheels u2013 and shines tyres u2013 without the need for water, so is ideal for a spruce-up away from home. Just spray it on, then wipe your wheels clean. It even offers UV protection to shield them from sunlight. This product isn't suitable for very dirty alloys, but we love how quick and convenient it is.

Meguiar's Mirror Bright Wheel Cleaner

Best for chromed alloys
Meguiar's MB0522EU Mirror Bright Wheel Cleaner
Amazon

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Another Meguiar's product, this time for polished alloys. Pimped your ride with a set of XXL chrome spinners? Step this wayu2026 In fact, Meguiar's says its pH-balanced Mirror Bright cleaner also works on painted and aluminium alloys, but those with shiny wheels u2013 the kind you can see your face in u2013 should get the best results. The gentle formula dissolves brake dust, allowing you to rinse it away. Fans of the iconic BBS split-rim will be pleased to know it's safe for multi-piece alloys, too.

Pro-Kleen Dragon's Blood Extreme Iron Contamination Fallout Remover

Recommended
Pro-Kleen Dragon's Blood Extreme Iron Contamination Fallout Remover
Amazon

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The name u2013 Dragon's Blood u2013 sounds dramatic, and it looks equally striking too. An iron fallout remover reacts with brake dust to turn your alloys bright purple. Then, you simply rinse them clean with water. This product is great value (five litres for around the same price as one litre of Dragon's Breath) and pH neutral, making it safe for all types of wheels. A word of warning, though: it doesn't smell pleasant. 'Be prepared for a smell you'll never forget!' says maker Pro-Kleen.

What to consider when choosing a car alloy wheel cleaner:

What makes your wheels dirty?

Anywhere on your car will get dirty over time but wheels in particular can quickly start to look filthy. The road dirt on your alloys should wash away with standard car shampoo or wash/wax. Brake dust, however, is more tenacious, and requires a dedicated wheel cleaner to dislodge it. These products work by oxidising iron particles (the majority component of brake dust, along with some particles of carbon) to make them dissolve. After that, they can easily be rinsed or wiped away.

More basic cleaners dissolve brake dust on the wheel surface, while more powerful products (known as ‘fallout removers’) can also remove tiny particles embedded into the wheel surface. These are especially effective on heavily soiled wheels – e.g. for winter use.

How do I clean my alloys?

Make sure your alloys have cooled down before cleaning them, and rinse them with water first. Then spray on a generous amount of whichever product you have chosen, covering the whole wheel surface, and leave it for five minutes. Many cleaners will change colour to red or purple to show the oxidation process is working.

If needed, agitate the surface with a soft brush before rinsing the formula away with water (or wiping it away if using a waterless cleaner). The result should be sparkling alloys you can be proud of. Now you just need to clean the rest of the car...

How often do you wash your wheels?

If the answer is ‘not very’, you may need a more intensive cleaner.

Will acid-based cleaners be ok for my wheels?

If your wheels have a chrome or anodised finish, steer clear of acidic cleaners and go for products with a pH-neutral or alkaline formula. In all cases, avoid spraying wheel cleaner on the car’s bodywork or your hands. If it gets into your eyes, rinse them thoroughly with water and seek medical treatment immediately.

How do I protect my wheels after I've cleaned them?

Once you've dried your wheels with a microfibre cloth, add some wheel sealant to keep your wheels looking fresher for longer.

What are the coolest alloy wheels ever?

We’re going for Pirelli ‘P-slots’, as fitted to the Mk1 Golf GTI. And you?

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