The best wheel cleaner

Adam Reeder

A pristine car with dirty wheels is simply not impressive. When people look at your car, the sight of the wheels can either be a huge letdown or a huge wow factor. That's why having a high-quality wheel cleaner is essential. You want people to marvel at the grace and beauty of your vehicle, not roll their eyes.

We can help you pick the best wheel cleaner for your needs. Just read the following helpful buying guide, and you'll learn everything you need to know about choosing a wheel cleaner. We also included reviews of a few favorites, like our pick for Best of the Best, Car Guys Wheel and Tire Cleaner. It's specially formulated to give your wheels a deep clean without putting toxic chemicals on your car or in the environment.

Considerations when choosing wheel cleaners

Wheel finish

There are a few different types of finish that come standard on chrome wheels. You might have polished wheels, powder-coated wheels, or machine-finished wheels. Polished wheels are shiny and reflective. Powder-coated wheels have a durable painted finish. Machine-finished wheels tend to have a matte grey finish. The type of finish you have on your wheels impacts the kind of wheel cleaner you need.

Cleaner type

Liquid vs. gel: Liquid wheel cleaner requires you to put more effort into scrubbing your wheels. A gel does a little more of the work itself. Because gel is more viscous than liquid cleaner, it holds better to a vertical surface and starts working against dirt and grime as it clings to your wheels.

Concentrate: While many wheel cleaners are ready to use right out of the bottle, some come in a concentrated liquid. These concentrates need to be mixed with water in order to be used. Although concentrates are sometimes more expensive, they also last longer than most pre-mixed solutions.


Think about how often you plan to clean your wheels when deciding how much wheel cleaner you need. Most wheel cleaners come in containers that hold between 16 ounces and a full gallon.


Some companies sell small refill containers of wheel cleaner. This is usually cheaper than the original purchase because it doesn't include the spray bottle.


Some wheel cleaners have a strong smell due to the chemical nature of the solution. If you have a sensitive nose, you might want to make sure you get a wheel cleaner that doesn't have a strong smell. Otherwise, you may be less likely to use it.


A number of wheel cleaners offer a 100% money-back guarantee. Although many people ignore these guarantees, they can save you a lot of money in the long run. If you purchase a wheel cleaner that comes with a money-back guarantee, make sure you keep your receipt and any other information required by the manufacturer.

Skin contact

Some wheel cleaners are more abrasive to the skin than others. If you plan to use a wheel cleaner that is acidic, you'll need to wear gloves while using it. You will also want to wear clothes that you don't mind ruining.

Environmental impact

For many, the environmental impact of any chemical solution they use is important. If you want to be environmentally conscious, look for a wheel cleaner that is made of environmentally friendly compounds. The bottle will likely state as much, as many manufacturers use their green status as an advertising chip.


The majority of wheel cleaners cost between $4 and $17 per bottle. The biggest factor in price is quantity. Most wheel cleaners between $4 and $12 are bottles that hold approximately 18 ounces.


Q. What is Plasti Dip?

A. It's a rubber coating that can be added to your wheels in order to protect them. Originally designed to coat the handles of tools, it helps keep your wheels protected and clean.

Q. What are acid-based wheel cleaners?

A. These are wheel cleaners that employ corrosive chemicals in order to clean the dirt and grime off of your wheels. An acid-based wheel cleaner will react with bare metal, so use these products with caution. Some may damage wheels that are not coated.

Wheel cleaners we recommend

Best of the best: Car Guys Wheel and Tire Cleaner

Our take: One of the best for effectiveness and long-term results.

What we like: Environmentally friendly formula is acid-free and nontoxic.

What we dislike: Expensive, but worth the cost.

Best bang for your buck: TriNova Hot Rims Aluminum Wheel Cleaner

Our take: For a low price, you can return your wheels to their original luster.

What we like: The bottle's spray tube is extra long for easy access.

What we dislike: Using in sunlight causes blotches on wheels and tires.

Choice 3: Meguiar's Hot Rims Cleaner

Our take: The foamy substance is great for cleaning vertical surfaces.

What we like: Effective at cleaning even the most stubborn brake dust.

What we dislike: Eats through clear coat on some wheels.

Karen Ridder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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