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How to clean alloy wheels

Alloy wheels can get dirty pretty quickly. Here's how you can keep them looking fresh with an alloy wheel cleaner

Auto Express Product Awards 2016 - wheel cleaner

If you buy a new car, chances are it'll have a snazzy set of alloy wheels as standard. But these shiny (often) silver rims can soon start look grubby, mainly because they're perfectly positioned to collect more dirt than the rest of a car. Not only does an alloy wheel have to deal with everyday grime from the road and air, these drab brown deposits are mixed with dust from the brakes and can soon get baked on to your wheels, thanks to the oven-like temperatures created by the brakes and tyres.

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So how do you clean your wheels? You can use the same cleaner that you wash the rest of your car with, but it will only remove the surface dirt. To get rid of the baked-on dirt, you need a specialist alloy wheel cleaner. Some people may be tempted to use vinegar-based household products, while a can of WD40 is good for removing hard tar deposits. But a dedicated wheel cleaner is the best option if you want really clean wheels, as these products shift the dirt with just one application, and simply rinse off when they're done.

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• Best alloy wheel cleaners

If you're cleaning your wheels, you're probably doing the rest of the car at the same time. A pressure washer is a great way to blast most of the dirt off your car, including the wheels, but it won't take the baked-on brake dust with it. But an alloy wheel cleaner will deep-clean the wheel, getting into all the narrow gaps and penetrating the dirt. They can do this without damaging the lacquer or paint, too, saving you an expensive refurbishment in the future.

Ford S-MAX long-term - fourth report wheel cleaning

We'd recommend wearing rubber or latex gloves while cleaning your wheels, so you don't get covered in dust or cleaning product - some can cause skin irritation, while the fine dust particles can easily get ingrained in your fingers and under your nails.

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Our favourite wheel cleaners simply spray on, and you leave them to do their work before rinsing off. The best cleaners also change colour to show you exactly how much dirt is being lifted, while the ingredients they use mean they don't damage your tyres, and can simply be washed down the drain once finished.

We'd recommend giving the wheels another wash after using an alloy wheel cleaner, but again wear some rubber or latex gloves while you're doing it, because brake dust is made up of very fine particles that can get ingrained in your fingers and under your nails.

Best wheel cleaner - Bilt-Hamber auto-wheel

Once spotlessly clean, you could treat your wheels to a specialist wheel wax. This will add a protective layer that will help prevent brake dust from building up. Once you're done with your wheels, give your tyres a coat of tyre shine to get them back to their lustrous best.

Now your wheels will be looking good, hopefully for a long time, while regular washing will help prevent the brake dust from baking on.

How to clean your alloy wheels: top tips

  1. Get a specialist alloy wheel cleaning product.
  2. Use a pressure washer to remove any loose dirt.
  3. Put on some rubber or latex gloves.
  4. Apply your alloy wheel cleaning product as directed.
  5. Leave for the designated about of time.
  6. Rinse it off.
  7. Clean your wheels again to ensure all of the cleaner and any residual dirt is removed.
  8. Apply a wheel wax to add an extra layer of protection.

Need help deciding which alloy wheel cleaner to buy? See our best alloy wheel cleaners here...

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