We tested wheel cleaners by applying them to dirty tires according to the included instructions. We used a scrubbing brush to agitate the tires and took note of ease of use, grime penetration, and overall shine produced.
Many of these wheel cleaners were tested head-to-head on the same tire, applying each product to half of the wheel for a direct comparison. After each test, it was easy to rate cleaner performance side-by-side.
The WeatherTech TechCare acid-free wheel cleaner was tested separately from the five other cleaners in this list in order to update and expand our recommendations. While we were not able to use it on the same tire as any other wheel cleaners on this list, we did test it under similar conditions as the other cleaners and found it to be worthy of recommendation based on our experience.
Ease of Use
Our ease of use rating is based on the amount of time and effort it takes to apply a wheel cleaner. Spray-on wheel cleaners that require little agitation to work effectively score best in this category.
Grime penetration is a score of how well a wheel cleaner removes caked-in dirt and rust. Wheel cleaners able to remove thick rust with the least amount of agitation score best in this category.
Our overall shine score is based a wheel cleaner’s ability to produce a lustrous wheel shine. Those able to restore wheels to like-new appearance score best in this category.
Our value score is based on the cost of a cleaner relative to its performance in other categories. Wheel cleaners with the lowest cost per ounce that also produce satisfactory results score best in this category.
How We Score Products
Every wheel cleaner we test is given a score between 1.0 and 5.0 stars in each category. Here’s what those star ratings mean in concrete terms:
5.0 Stars: A 5.0-star rating means a wheel cleaner is among the best in a category.
- Ease of use: The wheel cleaner sprays on and requires nearly no agitation. It works with a single application.
- Grime penetration: The wheel cleaner removes all dirt and rust with little agitation
- Overall shine: The wheel cleaner restores wheels to a like-new appearance
- Value: The wheel cleaner is effective and costs less than $0.40 an ounce.
4.0 Stars: A 4.0-star rating means a wheel cleaner performs better than average in a category.
- Ease of use: The wheel cleaner sprays on and requires some agitation. It works with a single application.
- Grime penetration: The wheel cleaner removes all dirt and rust but may require some or significant agitation.
- Overall shine: The wheel cleaner restores wheels to a fine appearance, but not like-new.
- Value: The wheel cleaner is effective and costs less than $0.70 an ounce.
3.0 Stars: A 3.0-star rating indicates what is average or typical for a wheel cleaner, based on our testing experience.
- Ease of use: The wheel cleaner requires two applications to produce results on heavily soiled tires.
- Grime penetration: The wheel cleaner removes most but not all dirt and rust.
- Overall shine: The wheel cleaner improves shine.
- Value: The wheel cleaner is effective and costs less than $1.00 an ounce.
2.0 Stars: A 2.0-star rating indicates the product performs poorer than the average wheel cleaner.
- Ease of use: The wheel cleaner requires three or more applications to produce results.
- Grime penetration: The wheel cleaner fails to remove most dirt and rust.
- Overall shine: THe wheel cleaner does not improve tire shine.
- Value: The wheel cleaner is not very effective and costs around $1.00 an ounce.
1.0 Star: A 1.0-star rating indicates that the wheel cleaner performs well below expectations in a category.
- Ease of use: The wheel cleaner should not be used without training and special equipment.
- Grime penetration: The wheel cleaner is incapable of removing rust.
- Overall shine: Applying the wheel cleaner reduces tire shine
- Value: The wheel cleaner is ineffective and costs more than $2.00 an ounce.
Why Trust Motor1.com
Each year, we test over 350 auto products on vehicles and in our testing lab. Our team of product testers thoroughly researches top products, unboxes and puts our hands on each component, and tests the items on real vehicles before making recommendations to readers.
We publish hundreds of product and service reviews to bring car enthusiasts detailed guides on automotive tools, detailing kits, car seats, pet products, and much more. For more information on our testing methodology and how we evaluate every product, check out our methodology page here.
*Data accurate at time of publication. Products subject to availability.