How to Clean & Detail Car Wheels

Car wheels are an often overlooked but important part of your vehicle’s overall appearance. Not only do dirty wheels detract from the look of your car, but they can also be a safety hazard if brake dust and grime build up on the wheels. 

Cleaning your wheels can always be a frustrating task, especially if you are not using the right products. Here are some tips for cleaning and detailing your car wheels to keep them looking and performing their best.

Gather the Supplies

Beginners get by with a bucket of soapy water, a brush, and a towel. Detailers use a pressure washer and a variety of brushes to complement the cleaners, degreasers, and dressings that are required to properly clean car wheels.

Wheel Brushes: 



Rinse Wheel Wells, Wheels and Tires

Begin by rinsing off your wheels with your pressure washer to remove loose dirt and debris. 

Clean Wheel Wells

Spray Special Force or Citrus Cleaner into the wheel well and let sit for 30-60 seconds. Use Medium Duty Wheel Well Brush to scrub the wheel well. 

Clean Wheels & Rims

It’s time to remove all of the soil, mud, oil, and grease from the rims or hub caps. Start with Detail King’s Citrus Cleaner for standard cleaning, along with a Large Cone Brush or Wheel Woolie for the inner barrel of the wheel, and a Soft Bristle Brush for the face of the wheel. If the wheels you are working on are aftermarket or high-end wheels that you want to be extra careful on, Detail King has you covered with Chameleon ‘Touch Free’ Wheel Cleaner. This premium wheel cleaner is a highly effective acid-free, pH-balanced cleaner for all types of wheels. It works best for steel, alloy, chrome, painted, powder-coated, uncoated, and anodized aluminum wheels. Simply spray & let it sit for a few minutes. You will see a color change happen as it is breaking down the metal particulates in the brake dust. Agitate if necessary or go straight to rinsing if not.

For wheels that have been neglected and need more extensive cleaning, we have a product called Brake Up Wheel Brightener. This is our most aggressive wheel cleaner and should be used with high caution as it is just a couple steps down from an acid.

Don’t forget to clean the lug nuts while cleaning the wheels if they are exposed. We have 2 great options for cleaning lugnuts – our standard Lug Nut Brush, and the ultra-soft 1.25” Boars Hair Brush for less aggressive scrubbing.

Watch this video to see how to remove brake dust:

Clean Tires & White Walls

You’ll want to deeply clean the rubber portion of the tire after cleaning the wheels. Properly cleaning tires so they do not “brown” can sometimes be a challenge. Our Tire & Whitewall Cleaner is a super concentrated, caustic, heavy-duty cleaning product designed just for rubber that will aggressively and easily clean the dirtiest tires, white walls, and raised white-lettered tires. Degreasers will clean well, but will also dry out the rubber and could actually cause premature cracking and other potential harm. Additionally, Tire & Whitewall Cleaner contains darkening agents to provide a richer look when you apply the final dressing and that will save you some money in the product! Use our Medium Duty Tire Brush or Low Profile Nylon Whitewall Brush depending on the size of the tire.

If your tires have whitewalls or white letters, or if you are working on Vogue tires you will want to scrub those last and you want to use a specific brush for these areas. If the tires are Vogue tires (they will have a yellow or colored ring around the whitewall, or have a “v” pattern to them), you want to use the Nylon Whitewall Brush because Vogue whitewalls are typically softer than regular whitewalls. For all other whitewalls or white letter tires, the Brass Bristle Whitewall Brush will be the best option!

Watch this to see how to properly clean tires, whitewalls, and white-lettered tires:

How to Polish Metal & Chrome Wheels

Removing oxidation from your metal or chrome wheel rims can prove to be a major challenge. Detail King’s Medallion High Gloss Metal Polish is excellent at restoring chrome, aluminum, stainless steel, brass, silver, and gold to their original shine. Medallion can be applied with a polisher or by hand. 

Apply Tire Shine Dressing

There are a variety of ways to apply tire dressing – from a standard hand applicator to a variety of pressurized machines. Our Super Blue Tire Dressing is one of our most popular products if a high-shine look is desired. For a lower shine, or more cost-efficient alternative, our Black Out Dressing is another good option. If you want a completely matte finish, or if you are applying dressing in a body-shop setting where silicone cannot be used, our Non-Silicone Engine & Tire Dressing is perfect for that!

For applying the dressing you have a variety of products to choose from including our simple Nylon Dressing Applicator, a Double-Wide Contoured Sponge, Swabby Applicator Tank, Dress Pro Canister, or Battery Operated Dressing Tank. Aside from the sponge and applicator, the last 3 options all have slight differences with regard to how you pressurize the tank. The Swabby pressurizes through a manual hand pump, the Dress Pro is pressurized with an air compressor, and the Battery Operated Tank uses a rechargeable battery to pressurize the tank.

Pro Tip: Use A Tire Shine Applicator

Detail King’s high-quality dressing applicator systems (see below) eliminate overspray, wasted product, and a ton of time when it comes to dressing tires. These systems painlessly dress the tires and avoid overspray on the floor or driveway. You will use WAY LESS dressing as you would with a conventional spray bottle and applicator. See the various options below and how each system works!

Watch this video on DK TV to learn how to use the Battery Operated Tire Shine Applicator Tank.

Watch this video on DK TV to learn how to use the Swabby Tire Shine Applicator Tank.

Watch this video on DK TV to learn how to use the Dress Pro Tire Shine Applicator Tank.

How to Protect Tires with Detail King’s Acrylic Gloss

Acrylic Gloss is a water-based, silicone-free tire dressing that when applied, will form a durable coating that will not only be dry to the touch but will also last for weeks to months at a time! This is a coating meant just for tires that remains flexible and helps shed dirt, water, and other contaminants much more than a traditional dressing. Watch this DKTV video to learn how to apply Acrylic Gloss Tire Dressing (formerly Complete Acrylic Tire Coating).

There you have it! By following these simple steps, you can keep your customer’s wheels looking clean and shiny. Not only will they look better, but they will also be safer to drive on as well.

Dressing car tires is an easy way to improve the appearance of your vehicle and make it look like new. It’s also an easy way to maintain and protect your tires from the elements. Here’s how to dress your car tires.

  1. Clean the tires: The first step in dressing your car tires is to clean them thoroughly. Use a tire cleaner specifically designed for this purpose. Spray the cleaner on the tire and use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub away any dirt, grime, and brake dust. Rinse the tire with water and allow it to dry completely.
  2. Apply tire shine: Once the tires are clean and dry, you can apply tire shine. There are many different tire shine products available, from sprays to gels, each with its own application methods. Generally, you’ll want to apply the product evenly to the tire, making sure to cover the entire surface. Most tire dressings will also provide protection to the rubber and keep them from drying out. 

It’s important to note that tire dressings should be applied only to the outer side wall of the tire, and not the tire tread as that will make the rubber slippery and the tires won’t grip the road properly. Tire Dressing should not be applied to the wheel or brake calipers, as it could damage those surfaces. Also, some tire dressings may cause slipperiness, so don’t use tire dressing on running boards, bed liners, pedals, floor mats, or anywhere someone would walk or put their foot.