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What Is the Easiest Way to Clean Car Rims?

Whether you’re a car enthusiast or someone that likes to keep your vehicle clean, cleaning the rims is a crucial step in car maintenance. It doesn’t have to be a chore you dread each week, though. Cleaning can be a simple task that will require less work if you do it weekly.

The easiest way to clean rims is by using a specialized rim cleaner. Spray it on, let it sit for a few minutes to break down the grime, then scrub with a soft brush and rinse off.

One common issue with dirty rims is the accumulation of brake dust, which is notoriously difficult to remove. To tackle this, use a non-acidic wheel cleaner that’s specifically designed to break down brake dust. Apply it to the rims, let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub with a wheel brush before rinsing thoroughly.

Another problem is the buildup of road salts and grime, which can lead to corrosion if not cleaned properly. For this, a simple solution of soap and water can be effective. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the rims after applying the soapy solution, ensuring to reach all the nooks and crannies. Rinse thoroughly to prevent soap residue, which can also cause damage if left to dry on the rims.

There are different remedies and methods you can use to clean your car rims, so be sure you understand what kind of rims you have and how you should clean them. What works for one kind of rim may not work for the other.

Know Your Rims

Rims are an essential part of a vehicle. They are what allows the tire to attach to the vehicle, making it able to roll. It’s important that this part of your car is made of sturdy materials and properly cared for, so it will last.

Cars used to be made with steel rims. They were the most affordable yet the most durable. Their popularity began to decline when aluminum started to be used because steel is quite heavy. Older cars may still have their original steel rims, but modern cars probably will not. 

Most modern cars use aluminum rims. They are lightweight and affordable, making them the ideal choice for any driver. Aluminum rims are typically alloyed with another metal like nickel or magnesium. Aluminum and magnesium rims are a great choice because they make braking and handling quicker and smoother.

Chrome is a finish that can be put on rims. This will not only make the rims look shiny and sleek, but will also prevent the rims from rusting. They add some weight and can be a little pricier than plain rims, but they will add to the lifespan of the rims, making it worth the investment.

Rims can be made to spin or have a colored finish to add some personality to your car. These add-ons don’t create a better driving experience or enhance the abilities of your vehicle, but they can be a fun way to personalize your ride.

Start With the Tires

Before you can clean the rims, you need to clean the tires. Shiny rims on muddy tires may look like a half-finished cleaning job, and your rims will only get dirty sooner because dirt and grime could fall off the tire and onto the rims. You should also clean your tires because they will last longer if they’re clean, and will be less prone to cracking and fading. 

To clean your tires, you will need a bucket, water, a pressure washer, a wash mitt, and dish soap. 

A pressure washer will make the job easier, but if you don’t have one, you can use a garden hose with a sprayer attachment to help create pressure. Pressure washing will knock off caked-on mud that will be difficult to get off otherwise. If you mostly drive in the city on paved roads, a garden hose should be sufficient. If you drive in the country or other muddy places and you have a lot of dirt, you will probably need water pressure.

Use dish soap because it will remove grease and oil. Dish soap is meant to clean harsh substances like grease, so it is the most effective way to wash your tires. You only need a tablespoon of soap per gallon of water. Scrub the tires with soapy water and a mitt. Be sure to get between each spoke so there won’t be any remnants of mud dripping onto the rims when you’re cleaning them later. 

After scrubbing with soapy water, rinse off all the suds with the pressure washer or hose. Don’t leave behind any suds since it will leave behind residue once it dries. 

Rinse the Rims

Rims should be rinsed before they are cleaned. Rims can have built-up dirt and rust on them that need to be loosened up before cleaning. For rims, you can use a garden hose with a sprayer attachment since you don’t need as much pressure as you do for tires. If you can use warm water, that will make it easier to loosen up any dirt that is stuck on the rims.

Try to rinse off as much dirt as possible so the cleaning process will be easier. You may have to go through the process more than once if your rims are especially dirty.

Clean the Rims

Clean your rims by using a cleaner that is slightly abrasive. Apply the cleaner all over the rims. Use more where there is dirt or rust caked up. Let it sit for at least thirty minutes, and then use a scrubbing brush or sponge to scrub off the dirt. Once you are done, rinse with the hose. If the rim did not get completely clean, repeat this process until there are no remnants of dirt or brake dust.

It’s important that all specks are removed from the rim before you move on to the waxing stage. Waxing creates a protective coating, so you don’t want to trap any particles of brake dust. Doing so could result in damage or stains over time.

You can use a rim cleaner that is sold in auto stores, or you can use at-home remedies if you prefer cost-effective methods. Do keep in mind that the safest option will be cleaners that are made specifically to clean rims. At-home remedies always have a risk involved since they aren’t tailored to the specific needs of your vehicle. 

Always spot test at-home remedies and new products before using them. It’s better to try them in a hidden spot rather than to scratch up the entire rim. Even though rim cleaner is made with rims in mind, there is a possibility that you buy the wrong product or that your rims are actually made with a different material than you thought. Spot testing will prevent major problems later. 

Oven Cleaner

Oven cleaner is often used and recommended by many drivers because it is a degreaser that’s meant to clean up tough spots. Oven cleaner should be sprayed evenly over the entire rim and left there for thirty minutes before you wipe it off. This will allow it time to work on grease, tar, and dirt so it will wash away with water.

Depending on which brand you use, the bottle may advertise that it will work on any stainless steel surface. This should work well on many car rims. If it doesn’t say it will work on any stainless steel surface, you should consider finding another brand or spot testing before you put it on the entire rim. Some drivers suggest that oven cleaner is not good for aluminum alloy rims, so that is something to keep in mind.

Dish Soap

Dish soap is also frequently used because of its degreaser ingredients. Since dish soap can also clean up oil, it’s a great option to use for both tires and rims. 

You can use dish soap on rims, almost just like you would for tires. The only difference is that you should use less water than you would for tires. Create a mix that is one part soap and one part water. Since you want your rims to shine, it is best to use more soap, so there is more degreaser to do the dirty work.

Let the suds sit for only a few minutes before you begin to scrub. Don’t let the suds dry, or they will leave marks on the rims. After applying the soap, scrub with a sponge and baking soda. The baking soda will provide an abrasive that will aid in removing rust and dirt.

This method works well, but as with any other method, use it a second time if the first time doesn’t remove every spot. Consider using other home remedies in addition to this one, since some of them are specifically used as a spot treatment. 


A great way to spot clean rims if they get splashed with mud or tar is to use WD-40. Spray enough to cover the spot and then scrub it with a brush. Rinse with water and make sure all WD-40 has washed away because it is a slippery substance that could potentially be dangerous if any is left behind.

Soft Drinks

Cola contains a phosphoric acid that can clean off rust; however, it isn’t a guarantee that it will clean it all off, so it may be a hit-or-miss experiment. If you’re in a pinch, it may be worth trying. Cola will make the surface sticky, and dirt will happily stick to it, so be sure to rinse all of it off with water.

Mixing lemon juice and a soft drink may be able to remove stains aluminum. Again, this may be more of an experiment than a solution. The soft drink will act as an abrasive while the acid in the lemon juice does the cleaning. Scrub with a brush after applying the solution to the dirty areas of the rim, and then rinse away with water.

Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, is a great way to clean off spots that didn’t come off during cleaning with soap or cleaner. Mix it with a little bit of water to create a paste. Apply the paste to the dirty area, scrub with a brush, and then rinse with water.

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What to Watch Out For

It’s reported that acid-based cleaners are great for eating through tough spots like rust and brake dust, but it will also eat through the clear coating of the rims. Rims have a clear coating to protect the metal; once the coating is destroyed or eaten away, the metal will begin to be damaged. 

If the clear coating is eaten away, water and air will get into the coating and damage the finish in a way that can’t easily be fixed.

You should also stick with soft or stiff brushes and never use steel wool. Steel wool will scrape at the clear coating and metal, which is damage that can be expensive to repair. You can also use microfiber cloths because they are soft and will not damage the rims.


After you have cleaned your tires, you should wax the rims so they will stay cleaner for longer. If you’re not a car enthusiast, you may think that waxing is an unnecessary step, but that’s not the case. Waxing provides a layer of protection over the clean surface, meaning that dirt and sticky substances won’t cling to the rims as easily, so you won’t have to clean them as frequently.

Rim wax can come in a spray can, making it a quick and easy application. All you have to do is spray it and distribute it evenly with a microfiber cloth or applicator. You should apply the wax weekly if you want to decrease the number of deep cleanings you do. If you wax weekly, water may be the only cleaning supply you need between coatings!

Always clean the rims before you apply a wax coating. You should never apply wax if there is dirt or dark spots present. You want to have a clean surface so the wax will adhere properly and distribute evenly.

Dressing the Tires

If you want to take the extra step in tire protection, you can dress them with tire dressings. Some will argue that this step should be necessary and not be seen as an “extra,” but it is ultimately up to you and how you choose to care for your tires. Keep in mind that the more work you put into cleaning and caring for your tires and rims, the longer they will last.

Tire dressing is a protective coating that prevents cracking because of the weather. Cracked tires will eventually lead to a blowout if they aren’t repaired or replaced, so it is important to keep the tires in excellent condition. They also protect against UV rays, which prevent the color of the tire from fading.

The tire dressing also keeps the tires looking in great condition by applying a black coat. Once you have cleaned the tire rims, a coat of tire dressing will make the entire wheel look as good as new.

To apply tire dressing, you will need an applicator pad. Tire dressing can be found at your local auto parts store or online. Make sure the tires are completely dry before applying the dressing because the dressing shouldn’t mix with water. Wipe off any water with a towel or let it air dry completely before proceeding. 

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You should apply the dressing to the applicator pad instead of the tire. Do not get the dressing on the rims, as it will make the surface dirty. 

Apply the dressing to the sidewall of the tire since that part doesn’t have any contact with the road. Make sure you coat the whole side evenly so it will dry properly.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning your tires can be a simple process that doesn’t have to take too much time and effort. There are three main steps you should never skip: rinsing, cleaning, and waxing. Using these steps frequently, at least once a week, will keep your car rims in great condition for a long time. 

It is always best to wash the tire before you wash the rims to prevent dirt from falling onto them later. You don’t want dirt to mix in with the wax later.

Rinsing the rim is an important step because it loosens up dirt, tar, and sticky substances that will be difficult to remove.

Cleaning is an important step that removes grease, tar, oil, and dirt. You can use a cleaner that is made specifically for rims so you can know for sure that it is safe to use on your rims, or you can use home remedies such as:

  • Oven cleaner
  • Dish soap
  • Lemon juice and baking soda
  • WD-40
  • Soft drinks
  • Cream of tartar

Always remember to spot test new products and home remedies if you are unsure about if they will work on your rims. It’s said that acid and steel wool will damage rims, so be sure you know the potential problems some of the home remedies may cause. 

Waxing your rims will add a long-lasting shine and will add a layer of protection so you won’t have to clean them as often. Waxing will also make it easier to clean; depending on how dirty your rims get between cleanings, water may be all you need to get rid of dirt.

Although not necessary, dressing the tires is a great way to prolong the lifespan of your tires by adding a layer that will protect against UV rays and prevent cracking. 

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