Cleaning Rims at Home: How To Do It – 3 Easy Steps

The rims of your car get exposed to the worst kinds of dirt. Even if you’re a city driver, there’s a likelihood of dirt, brake dust, grease, and grime getting stuck on your tires. If you value car aesthetics or want to increase the lifespan of your car’s rims, you must ensure they stay clear of any imperfections. 

Here’s how to clean your car rims at home:

  • Rinse the rims using a pressure washer or garden hose.
  • Wash rims using soapy water and microfiber mitt or cloth.
  • Rinse again to remove soapy residue.

The above process is pretty simple, but it’s easy to make mistakes if you fail to pay attention to the details. In this article, I’ll explain these steps further to help you clean your car rims to perfection. 

Rinse the Rims Using a Pressure Washer or Garden Hose

Before you start working on the rims, ensure that you’ve washed the tires thoroughly. Ignoring the tires will render your work useless, as dirt from the tires will drop onto your rims. 

Once that much is done, gather the following items to properly rinse your rims:

  • Pressure washer or garden hose
  • Two buckets of water 
  • Rim-cleaning shampoo
  • Microfiber wash mitt or cloth
  • Hand and eye protection (vinyl gloves and sunglasses will do fine)
  • A non-plastic toothbrush (optional)
  • Wax or a protective coating (optional)

Ultimately, the purpose of rinsing down the rims is to loosen large dirt particles on your rims and tire. But this step also exposes all the dirt you need to clean from your rim.

A pressure washer works best, but if you don’t have one, a garden hose fitted with a sprayer attachment can substitute. Rinsing down using high pressure is crucial if you live in muddy environments. You can get away with using a low-pressure garden hose if you mainly drive on paved roads.

Notably, rims might be hot if you recently had the car running or if they were exposed to the sun for a while. Before you start washing your rims, use the pressure washer or garden hose to cool the rims. Run some water to cool the rims, then wait for several minutes for the rims to lose heat. 

This YouTube video by shows how you can assess the rim for dirt after rinsing it down.

Be sure to do a thorough job removing large pieces of dirt from the rims to save time scrubbing later.

If you have no garden hose or pressure washer, fill up your bucket a few extra times and at least give the rims a good splash. 

Wash Rims Using Soapy Water and Microfiber Mitt or Cloth

Follow the instructions provided on the rim-cleaning shampoo of your choice to mix a cleaning solution in one of your buckets. Then, use a microfiber mitt or cloth to scrub the rim. The microfiber material is the best option to wash the rim without scratching or damaging it, and it helps to prevent spotting. 

You can also use a non-plastic toothbrush to better reach the less-accessible parts of the rim. Still, the microfiber mitt or cloth should reach the entire rim if you do the job right. 

When washing the rims with soapy water, be sure to give those extra-dirty spots some extra attention. They’ll likely take more effort to get clean.

Rinse the tire using water from the pressure washer and check to ensure you’ve done a thorough job. If not, rinse the microfiber and proceed to clean the rim again. Repeat until you’re positive the interior and exterior of the rim are clean. 

Rinse Again To Remove Soapy Residue

Soap will clean your rims, but there are dangers associated with leaving soapy residue on the rims for a long time. Particularly, the residue can leave a stain or start damaging your rims. 

To avoid this, use the pressure washer to rinse the soapy residue off the rim. Be sure to get all the residue from inside and outside the rim and any that might have splattered onto other parts of the car

After you’re done rinsing, use a towel to wipe the water off the rim. 

Consider Waxing or Coating the Rim

This step isn’t necessary but recommended. 

Waxing or coating the rim with a protective layer will prevent debris from sticking onto the rim. It prevents frequent cleaning of the rims, so it’s something to consider if you don’t enjoy regular rim cleaning.

You can buy rim wax in a spray can, allowing for fast and easy application. Spray the wax and distribute it evenly using a rinsed microfiber wash mitt. 

If you wax regularly, you won’t need to deep clean your rims every time. 

Can I Clean My Rims With Dish Soap?

You can clean car rims with dish soap, but it’s best to clean them with dedicated car shampoo. Car shampoos better lubricate the surface, preventing scratches. Dish soap successfully removes grease stains, but fails to remove others. If you must use dish soap, use a gentle option heavily diluted. 

There are plenty of cheap cleaning options out there that claim to save money when cleaning rims at home. These cleaners may get the job done, but they may also damage your wheels and rims. Car shampoo, on the other hand, is specially manufactured to work on the stains on the car’s rim without damaging the rim or tire. 

There are many car shampoo brands to fit any budget and rim type. For instance, a wax-free shampoo is best if your car has ceramic coated surfaces; wax-containing shampoos degrade the ceramic coating rendering it ineffective. Be sure to pick the correct car shampoo for your rim type. The instructions on the shampoo should inform you whether it’s alright to use on your car’s rims.

Don’t get tempted to use dish soap because it is cheap and readily available. As stated above, dish soap can remove grease, but it’s ineffective for other types of stains. Ultimately, it doesn’t work on rims because it isn’t made for rim cleaning. Furthermore, it can remove the clear coat on rims and degrade tire rubber

What Household Product Removes Brake Dust?

Unfortunately, the ugly brake dust that collects on your rims is near impossible to avoid. Brake dust forms due to the brake rotor grinding against the brake pad. Essentially, this fine dust has elements from the rotor and pad. 

The household products that remove brake dust from rims are lemon juice and baking soda. Lemon juice has excellent cleaning properties, and baking soda provides an abrasive surface to scrub off stains. 

Here’s how to remove brake dust using lemon juice and baking soda: 

  • Put lemon juice into a spray bottle and spray the liquid on the rim, including the rim’s inner part. Sprinkle baking soda on the rims. (Combine baking soda with vinegar to increase its cleaning power.)
  • Using a wash mitt, scrub off the stains. 
  • Rinse with warm water and admire the cleaning power of lemon juice

If your car has aluminum rims, and lemon juice and baking soda fail to work, then consider using tartar paste. Simply apply some tartar paste on the rim, scrub, and rinse with water.  It should remove all the stains from your aluminum rim. 

Before you try any home remedy, conduct a spot test on a hidden part of the rim. Not only will this save you time if it ultimately doesn’t work, it’ll also prevent you from damaging your rim if the remedy doesn’t suit it. 

Does WD40 Clean Alloy Wheels?

WD40 has been used for almost a century as a degreaser and lubricant. It also removes grime and grease from most surfaces. It’s a multi-purpose product that you should have in your garage or workshop.

WD40 does not clean alloy wheels on its own. Stubborn stains require washing with soap and water before using WD40. Be sure to wipe off any WD40 that gets onto the tires or brakes. Solitary cleaning products work more efficiently, and you should turn to WD40 after exhausting other cleaning options. 

Take caution when using WD40 to clean alloy rims. If any of it splashes onto the brakes, it might reduce the system’s effectiveness, compromising your safety. Also, avoid applying WD40 directly onto the rim. Instead, spray WD40 on the cleaning mitt and use the glove to scrub off the stain. 

Key Takeaways

  • Rinsing the rims before washing them will remove large dirt particles. 
  • Use soapy water and a microfiber wash mitt to clean the rim.
  • Rinse the rim to verify you haven’t missed any spots.
  • Rinse again to remove any soapy residue from the rim and elsewhere.
  • Consider waxing or coating the rim after cleaning. 
  • Avoid using dish soap as a cleaning agent for rim washing.
  • Lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar are household products that can safely and effectively remove brake dust.
  • Only use WD40 to clean alloy wheels after exhausting all other options.


Ready to DIY: What is the Easiest Way to Clean Car Rims?

Dawn: How To Clean Tire Rims And Wheel

Avalon King: How to Properly Clean Car Wheels and Rims

CRS Automotive: 6 Mistakes to Avoid While Cleaning Car Wheels

Hunker: Household Remedies to Clean Aluminum Rims

Dictionary: Spot Test

WD-40: How to clean car alloy rims at home

Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge