So, you’ve just got yourself a brand-new set of wheels and are looking for the best way to keep them looking great? Or maybe you’re looking to step up your detailing game and want to start properly & thoroughly cleaning wheels that you already have? Either way, in the world of wheel cleaners, there are plenty of options to fit many different scenarios.
In this article, we will further explain what wheel cleaners are, what they do, when to use them, what type of wheel cleaner you should use, and most importantly, what wheel cleaner is best for you!
Why Wheel Cleaning Is Important
Wheel Cleaning significance is something that is often overlooked in the world of car care, which is unfortunate because properly cleaned wheels can truly transform the look of a car and take your details to the next level.
With your wheels being the only part of the car that is always in contact with the ground, they will inevitably pick up a significant amount of dirt and grime. If left unchecked for extended periods, this can lead to several things aside from a dirt-looking wheel. If you live in a snowy climate & don’t clean your wheels, a buildup of mag chloride and rock salts can begin to corrode the finish of your wheel. Loosely the same consequence is similar across all different climates around the world.
Live in a dry desert-like Arizona? Dirt can accumulate on the surface and harden, which can then scratch your wheels and lead to a dull and damaged finish.
“Aside from cosmetics, proper wheel maintenance can be largely beneficial and even required in some cases if you have an expensive set of alloy wheels or polished aluminum wheels.”
Keeping your set of wheels clean can help when it comes time to sell or trade the wheels. Also, why wouldn’t you want to clean & protect something you’ve spent your hard-earned money on?
Can You Use WD 40 to Clean Your Rims?
Sure, but the cons of doing so are going to far outweigh any pros that may come with it. Just about everything has been used throughout history to clean wheels, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything used has been the right choice.
WD40 might be great for that squeaky side door or helping to loosen rusted or seized bolts, but when it comes to wheels, it’s best to use cleaners that were specifically formulated with wheel cleaning in mind. So not only are you going to achieve better results, but you can rest assured that your wheels are being cleaned thoroughly & properly.
There’s been several products used throughout history to clean wheels – such as:
- Dish Soap
- All-Purpose Cleaner (APC)
- Wheel Acid
- PH-Neutral Cleaners
- Cleaners Containing Iron Removers
- Gel Cleaners
And the list can truly go on for ages; odds are if you’ve got a specific cleaner in mind, it’s likely been tried before in the past. Maybe not successfully, but tried, nonetheless.
Wheel Acids & Forms of Contamination
One of the most controversial on the list is likely to be wheel acids, and rightfully so. Since their emergence on the market decades ago, they’ve become quite popular for both good and bad reasons. The good? They can be very effective at doing their job.
By dissolving nearly all forms of contamination on the wheel surface, it makes quick and easy work of just about any dirt & grime you might have on your wheel. Unfortunately, that’s where the pros end, as the cons are where acid wheel cleaners really fall flat. Depending on the brand, most acid wheel cleaners are formulated with phosphoric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid, or sometimes even a combination of them.
“While they are very effective at dissolving organic & inorganic contamination, sometimes they can be too good at their job. For example, if left on the surface for too long or used on a sensitive surface, it can ruin the finish of your wheels.”
More importantly, though, all the chemicals mentioned above can pose a severe health threat to humans when used carelessly or improperly. So, while it might be cost-effective and fast working, I would definitely argue that the toxicity alone is grounds for exploring safer alternatives.
All Purpose Wheel Cleaners
All Purpose Cleaners can be deceiving. Though, as the name might suggest, there are instances where “All-Purpose” cleaners shouldn’t be used - wheels are a prime example of this.
All-purpose cleaners by nature will be alkaline or basic on the PH scale; when cleaning metals, you’ll want to reach for something that is either PH neutral or slightly acidic, depending on the task at hand. I know what you’re thinking, “you just said that wheel acids are harmful to health!” This is true, but not all acids pose threats to us as users & can even be gentle on surfaces.
A prime example of acids that are safe and harmless for humans is citrus; this is why a lot of homecare products you’ll find in stores are going to be lemon or orange infused, scented, based, etc. Not only do they smell great (and taste great as lemonade or orange juice), but they can also help tackle grit and grime! Now, I’m not saying to slice an orange in half and start scrubbing your wheels… that would just be a sad waste of OJ. Still, cleaners out there utilize the cleaning power of acids without posing a risk to your health or wheels.
More commonly used today are PH-neutral cleaners that focus on detergents & iron removal characteristics. Gyeon’s Iron Wheel Cleaner is the perfect example of this. It utilizes specific PH-neutral detergents that help break down road grime and a special ingredient that targets and dissolves ferrous deposits on your wheel and brakes – this active ingredient will be responsible for the dramatic purple color change you’ve likely seen in videos or photos.
“Not only is a PH-neutral formula going to be the gentlest way to clean your wheels, but it’s going to help keep any brake dust contamination at bay due to the iron removal factor.”
Safe and effective wheel cleaning is the name of the game with products like these. Still, the one caveat is that for them to work as best as possible, they will likely require light agitation with a brush or wash mitt to loosen and remove dirt and grime from the surface entirely; this is of course contingent depending on how dirty the wheel is & if you have any forms of protection on the wheel to aid in cleaning.
A fully ceramic-coated wheel will be much easier to clean than a bare unprotected wheel. Another benefit of using a PH-neutral wheel cleaner is that it won’t strip or damage a ceramic coating if you have one applied. The same cannot be said for its acidic counterparts. Unfortunately – repeated exposure to acidic cleaners can result in failure or removal of the ceramic coating you might have on your wheels.
What is The Best Cleaner to Clean Alloy Wheels With?
In the vast sea of wheel cleaners available on the market, finding one that works for you can be stressful. You’ll likely be asking yourself, “What wheel cleaner is the best?” or “What is the best wheel cleaner to remove brake dust from wheels?” or even “Why does it matter what wheel cleaner I use?”, and the good news is that once you understand what wheel cleaners can do.
The chemicals that go into making them can help you choose the correct one that is the most effective and efficient in your situation. In general, PH-neutral cleaners will always be a safe choice for most vehicles on the road today; they effectively clean any grime that has built up on the surface and can even dissolve iron contamination if you choose one with a formula like Q²M Iron Wheel Cleaner.
Can they require some mechanical abrasion via brushes or wash mitts? Sure, but it’s a very small price to pay to clean your wheels safely and effectively.
But let’s say you have a high-performance vehicle equipped with carbon ceramic brakes. Unfortunately, a wheel cleaner with built-in iron removers can become redundant and possibly harmful since carbon ceramic rotors are more sensitive and porous to cleaning products than their iron counterpart.
So instead, you should opt for something that will be a more detergent-focused product if you’re cleaning wheels housing carbon ceramic brakes. The perfect choice for this would be something like Gyeon Bathe – it will offer strong cleaning power, high lubricity, and plenty of suds to thoroughly clean your wheels without introducing additional chemicals that may be harmful to your expensive braking system.
Gyeon Quartz USA Wheel Cleaners
There’s not much left to say about acid wheel cleaners that haven’t already been said. They are highly corrosive chemicals that can be super effective and fast at their job. Still, with modern cleaning technologies and formulas, there are simply much safer alternatives that can do just as good of a job without posing severe health risks to the user or damaging the wheel material.
I hope this in-depth look into the world of wheel cleaners helped not only add to your knowledge of automotive detailing but also answer any questions you might’ve had regarding which wheel cleaner would be the best one for you.
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