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Best Wheel Cleaners

The safest, most effective way to clean aluminum alloy wheels is with purpose-made chemicals.
Written and Tested By:
Will Moore
Written and Tested By: Will Moore Senior Writer – Motor1 Review Team

Will has written for several major auto sites including Motor1 since 2020, logging hundreds of hours researching and testing products ranging from child car seats to torque wrenches. Will is also Certified by Safe Kids Worldwide as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (#T836339).

Last Updated 01/08/2024

Motor1 Reviews Team Take:

  • The best wheel cleaners in 2024 are Turtle Wax T-18, Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner, WeatherTech TechCare, Chemical Guys Diablo Gel, and Adam’s Polishes wheel cleaner.
  • A bottle of wheel cleaner costs around $20 and should clean about 20 wheels or last 5 cleaning sessions.
  • The best wheel cleaners are those that work quickly to penetrate and remove rust and grime, even with minimal scrubbing.
Best
Wheel Cleaner
Turtle Wax T-18 All Wheel and Tire Cleaner

A low-cost, heavy-duty tire cleaner that outperforms the competition.

Best
for Custom Wheels
Meguiar’s G180132 Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner

A powerful cleaner safe for custom-painted tires.

Best Value
Chemical Guys Diablo Gel

A concentrated cleaning gel that can be cost-effective.

CHECK PRICE
Best
For Bulk Purchasing
Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner

A high-powered, color- changing cleaner with a strong odor.

CHECK PRICE
Best Biodegradable Cleaner
WeatherTech TechCare Wheel Cleaner

A fast-acting wheel and tire cleaner that’s biodegradable.

What good is a car wash if your wheels are dirty? To have a car that’s clean from top to bottom, it’s important to invest in the best wheel cleaner you can find. The best wheel cleaner depends partially on the types of wheels you’re trying to clean. The most powerful cleaners are good at removing rust, brake dust, and the most stubborn dirt, but they can also remove paint and chrome if you’re not careful.


Wheel Cleaner Reviews

Five of the best wheel cleaners pictured outdoors with other cleaning materials including a water hose.

We tested several of the best wheel cleaners in head-to-head matchups to see which left our wheels the shiniest. We also sorted through Amazon customer reviews to learn how the products performed on other types of tires.

What Is The Best Wheel Cleaner?

We named the Turtle Wax T-18, Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner, Chemical Guys Diablo Gel, Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner, and WeatherTech TechCare as the best-rated wheel cleaners on the market in 2024.

Brand/ModelCostOverall RatingAward
Turtle Wax T-18$0.38/fl. oz.4.9Best Wheel Cleaner
Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner$0.45/fl. oz.4.6Best for Custom Wheels
Chemical Guys Diablo Gel$1.00/fl. oz. (concentrated solution)4.0Best Value
Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner$0.90/fl. oz.4.0Best for Bulk Purchasing
WeatherTech TechCare$0.92/fl. oz.3.9Best Biodegradable Cleaner

*Because cost data fluctuates, the prices in the table above are approximate values that our team regularly updates.

Wheel Cleaner Ratings: Our Testing Process

Our reviews team ordered several popular wheel cleaners from a variety of brands. After researching customer reviews, looking for cleaners that are known for their results, we ordered the most promising options for testing. We tested products side-by-side, evaluating ease of use, grime penetration, and overall shine. Each wheel cleaner was given a rating out of 5.0 stars based on these criteria.

Learn more about how we tested wheel cleaners here.

1. Turtle Wax T-18 All Wheel And Tire Cleaner: Best Wheel Cleaner

Turtle Wax T-18 Wheel And Tire Cleaner
Turtle Wax T-18 All Wheel and Tire Cleaner Best Wheel Cleaner
The Turtle Wax Wheel & Tire Cleaner.
  • Cost: $0.38/fl. oz.
  • Amazon review score: 4.5 out of 5.0 based on more than 5,200 ratings
  • Available sizes: 23.0 fl. oz. single bottle, 23.0 fl. oz. 6-pack

The Turtle T-18 All Wheel and Tire Cleaner was the cheapest and best-performing wheel cleaner we tested. This biodegradable formula penetrates grime and provides a like-new shine. We think it’s the best option for most drivers, though it may not be ideal for those with custom-painted (or non-aluminum) wheels.

You can see how the Turtle Wax T-18 performed in each of our testing categories below:

Review Category Score (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use 5.0
Grime Penetration 4.5
Overall Shine 5.0
Value 5.0
Overall Rating 4.9

Below are the pros and cons of the Turtle Wax T-18:

Pros
  • Protective barrier
  • Two-in-one wheel and tire cleaner
  • Single bottle can be used for multiple uses
Cons
  • Might require a few layers of spray for a more effective cleaning result

We compared the foaming Turtle Wax T-18 wheel cleaner head-to-head with Meguiar’s and Adam’s Polishes wheel cleaners. In both tests, Turtle Wax T-18 removed noticeably more caked-in dirt from the wheel than the competitors.

The Turtle Wax formula is also fast-acting, so you only need to wait about 30 seconds after application before scrubbing and rinsing.

A wheel cleaned by Turtle Wax T-18 wheel cleaner, Meguiar’s, and Adam’s Polishes wheel cleaner for comparison.

Like us, most customers are surprised at how well this low-cost tire cleaner performs.

“This is seriously the greatest stuff. I use a regular tire cleaner that they offer at the car washing place I go to, and it’s OK, but this stuff works almost instantly. You can see the rust and dirt just come out.”

– Holly & Nicole via Amazon

If there is an issue with the Turtle Wax T-18, it’s that it works too well. Some customers say that while it removes grime and brake dust, it can also deteriorate custom paint jobs.

“It did remove the brake dust deposits/discolorations on the aluminum wheels on my SUV without any issues. However, on my truck that has [silver-painted] metal wheels, it did discolor the rim and left it blotchy.”

– S. via Amazon

If you’re cleaning factory standard tires and aluminum wheels, Turtle Wax may be your best bet because it performs at a high level and is relatively inexpensive.

2. Meguiar’s G180132 Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner: Best For Custom Wheels

Meguiar’s G180132 Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner
Meguiar’s G180132 Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner Best For Custom Wheels
The Meguiar’s G180132 Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner.
  • Cost: $0.45/fl. oz.
  • Amazon review score: 4.5 out of 5.0 based on more than 2,800 ratings
  • Available sizes: 24.0 fl. oz., 32.0 fl. oz.

Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner is acid-free and pH-neutral, making it safe to use not only on aluminum wheels but also on custom-painted rims. The spray changes color as it works and has a pleasant aroma.

You can see how the Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner performed in each of our testing categories below:

Review Category Score (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use 4.5
Grime Penetration 4.5
Overall Shine 5.0
Value 4.5
Overall Rating 4.6

Below are the pros and cons of Meguiars Ultimate Wheel Cleaner:

Pros
  • Great shine
  • Clear instructions
Cons
  • Stickiness left after application
  • Involved application process

This was the second most effective tire cleaner we tested (left side of tire pictured below). It didn’t work quite as well as the Turtle Wax (right side), but this foaming wheel cleaner appeared to provide a like-new shine better than any of the other cleaners.

A wheel that was cleaned by the Meguiar's Wheel Cleaner (left) in comparison to the Turtle Wax cleaner (right).

Most reviewers note how well Meguiar’s works, even without scrubbing. While we used a cleaning brush during our test, many reported that simply spraying and washing was enough to fully clean their wheels.

“This product, in my experience, takes a lot of the ‘elbow’ out of the ‘elbow grease’ equation. Just spray on the wheels and let it do all the work.”

– RtDK via Amazon

A few customers mentioned issues if you leave the spray on too long before rinsing.

“Used as directed and left a sticky goo on my rims.”

– Max M. via Amazon

Other negative reviews claim the product didn’t effectively clean their wheels, but this is counter to our experience and the vast majority of other reviewers on Amazon.

3. Chemical Guys Diablo Gel: Best Value

Chemical Guys Diablo Gel
Chemical Guys Diablo Gel Best Value
The Chemical Guys Diablo Gel wheel cleaner.
  • Cost: $1.00/fl. oz.
  • Amazon review score: 4.6 out of 5.0 based on more than 6,100 ratings
  • Available Sizes: 16.0 fl. oz., 128.0 fl. oz.

Chemical Guys Diablo Gel Wheel Cleaner is sold in a concentrated form, making it effectively the cheapest wheel cleaner we tested. While the gel costs around $1.00 an ounce, the instructions require that you mix it with water before using at a ratio of 1:3. So you ultimately pay around $0.33 cents per ounce of cleaning fluid (less if you purchase by the gallon or half gallon). Some customers even report effective results after mixing the gel at a ratio of 1:6.

Diablo Gel is pH-balanced, and the manufacturer claims it’s safe for powder-coated and chrome wheels. You can see how the Chemical Guys Diablo Gel performed in each of our testing categories below:

Review Category Score (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use 3.0
Grime Penetration 4.0
Overall Shine 4.0
Value 5.0
Overall Rating 4.0

Below are the pros and cons of Chemical Guys Diablo Gel:

Pros
  • Sold in concentrated form
  • Acid-free and pH-balanced
  • Safe for custom paint
Cons
  • May take multiple applications to remove heavy grime

Diablo Gel works and can remove almost all grime, while providing a pleasing shine. However, it doesn’t produce the results of some other top-rated cleaners cleaners. On our especially rusted wheels, it took two passes with the Chemical Guys Diablo Gel to remove the thickest rust. Still, the product was effective, especially for the cost.

A side by side comparison of a wheel that was cleaned by Adam's Polishes (left) and Chemical Guys Diablo Gel (right).

The most powerful wheel cleaners dissolve brake dust even without agitation. Based on our experience and customer reviews, you’ll need to scrub a bit to clean your tires with Diablo Gel. However, this product is considerably less caustic than other wheel cleaners and represents a solid choice for custom wheels.

“Absolutely amazing product. This stuff is hands-down the best wheel/brakes/suspension cleaner out there that is 100 percent safe for all finishes and waxes/sealants.”

– Thumper via Amazon

If looking for a more powerful formula, you might find Diablo Gel disappointing.

“My Armor All works insanely better for the price at cleaning wheels and tires. That being said, [Armor All] has a tendency to eat away at the finish of my old Toyota wheels. So yes, the Diablo Gel is not as good but [is] a less harsh cleaner.”

– David via Amazon

4. Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner: Best For Bulk Purchasing

Adam's Wheel Cleaner
Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner Best For Bulk Purchasing
The Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner.
  • Cost: $0.90/fl. oz.
  • Amazon review score: 4.5 out of 5.0 based on more than 5,000 ratings
  • Available sizes: 16.0 fl. oz, 128.0 fl. oz., 640.0 fl. oz.

Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner is another acid-free, pH-balanced wheel cleaner that should be able to dissolve grime while leaving your wheels intact. Designed for use by detailing professionals, Adam’s Polishes is available in a 16.0-ounce spray bottle or 5.0-gallon container (buying the latter greatly reduces the cost per ounce).

You can see how the Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner performed in each of our testing categories below:

Review Category Score (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use 4.0
Grime Penetration 4.0
Overall Shine 4.5
Value 3.5
Overall Rating 4.0

Below are the pros and cons of Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner:

Pros
  • Non-greasy formula
  • Targets built-up brake dust and grime
Cons
  • Requires multiple coats
  • Poorly designed bottle

Adam’s Polishes (left side of tire pictured below) performed similarly to Turtle Wax and Meguiar’s. While it didn’t quite beat out Turtle Wax in a matchup, it was a close comparison. This is one of the few sprays that experienced color changing as it worked, which is a handy indicator of when it’s time to wash the cleaner off.

One feature of Adam’s Polishes that stood out is the odor, which was much stronger than the other wheel cleaners we tested. It smells very strongly of artificial cherry—not a terrible smell but something some consumers may find unpleasant.

A wheel that was cleaned by the Adam's Polishes wheel cleaner (left side).

Most reviewers corroborate our experience: Adam’s Polishes works really well, but it doesn’t smell very good.

“[Adam’s Polishes] wheel cleaner is good enough to react with the iron particles on the caliper and loosen them to the point it can be sprayed right off, with little to no agitation only if you use a pressure washer with a 40-or-less degree nozzle.”

– Bilal F. via Amazon

While the smell is certainly pronounced, we didn’t find it that unpleasant, and some reviewers even liked it. However, it does not smell like something you want to inhale, so be sure to wear a mask when using any chemicals, including Adam’s Polishes.

Adam’s Polishes wheel cleaner is designed to only remove rust and brake dust while keeping your paint and exteriors intact. However, at least one user says this product damaged his chrome tires.

“This stuff pretty much etched the finish and ate the finish off the center caps. I’ll give 2 stars because it did remove the brake dust, but I’m deducting 3 because it took the chrome with it.”

– Second Nature Customs via Amazon

5. WeatherTech TechCare Wheel Cleaner: Best Biodegradable Cleaner

WeatherTech TechCare Wheel Cleaner Best Biodegradable Cleaner
Product shot of a spray bottle of WeatherTech TechCare Leather Conditioner
  • Cost: $0.92/fl. oz.
  • Amazon review score: 3.9 out of 5.0 based on more than 15 reviews
  • Available sizes: 18.0 fl. oz.

WeatherTech TechCare offers two wheel cleaners, an acid-free wheel cleaner, and a heavy-duty wheel cleaner. We tested the acid-free wheel cleaner and it worked very well to remove dirt and grim without much scrubbing. While a little more expensive than other cleaners, this product is biodegradable as well as acid-free. It is safe to use on any tire and works quickly.

You can see how the WeatherTech TechCare wheel cleaner performed in each of our testing categories below:

Review Category Score (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use 4.5
Grime Penetration 3.5
Overall Shine 4.0
Value 3.5
Overall Rating 3.9

Below are the pros and cons of WeatherTech TechCare Wheel Cleaner:

Pros
  • Acid-free and biodegradable
  • Fast-acting
  • Odor-free
Cons
  • Relatively expensive

The TechCare wheel cleaner works quickly and effectively. The foaming action began immediately upon application and it allowed us to easily remove the dirt and brake dust that coated the tire of our test vehicle.

The formula is virtually odor-free and so may be an excellent choice for those sensitive to chemicals. We noticed no streaking when we polished the wheel after applying the TechCare cleaner.

By its nature, the WeatherTech wheel cleaner is less corrosive than other options. This makes it safer to use (for the user and the environment) but also limits its ability to destroy the thickest grimes. It worked perfectly on our test vehicle, but may not have quite the cleaning ability of Turtle Wax or Meguiar’s products.

There are fewer than 20 ratings for the WeatherTech TechCare acid-free tire cleaner on Amazon and even fewer ratings on RealTruck. Those who have bothered to write reviews of the product say that it works great and they are pleased with their purchase.


Wheel Cleaner Buying Guide

The main things to consider when purchasing a wheel cleaner are price and function. The best wheel cleaner can easily remove brake dust and road grime, leaving clean wheels that sparkle like new.

However, even with the best wheel cleaners, you must take certain considerations into account. For example, some wheel cleaners are PH-balanced and specifically designed for custom wheels and paint jobs. Also, the most effective wheel cleaners for aluminum wheels may eat through paint. Be sure you select a wheel cleaner that’s right for your rims.

You might also consider how much wheel cleaner you use. The best choice for an automotive detailer may not be the best option for someone who only occasionally cleans the wheels of their vehicle. Some wheel cleaners are available in bulk quantities or as concentrated gels and you must mix them with water before use.


Best Wheel Cleaners: Bottom Line

Wheel and tire cleaners are part of the car detailing kit that usually sees the most grime. Everything from dirt, break dust, and every other contaminant on the street works its way onto tires and rims. For car care enthusiasts, the Turtle Wax T-18 or the Chemical Guys Diablo Gel should work as great cleaning options. Overall, we think the following are the top wheel cleaners in 2024:

  1. Best Wheel Cleaner: Turtle Wax T-18 All Wheel And Tire Cleaner
  2. Best for Custom Wheels: Meguiar’s G180132 Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner
  3. Best Value: Chemical Guys Diablo Gel
  4. Best for Bulk Purchasing: Adam’s Polishes Wheel Cleaner
  5. Best Biodegradable Cleaner: WeatherTech TechCare

Wheel Cleaners: FAQ

Below are some common frequently asked questions about wheel cleaners:

What is the best product to clean rims?

The best product to clean rims depends on your tire and what you’re trying to clean. Only the most caustic products can fully remove deeply embedded rust. However, these may also damage chrome or polished metal.

Based on our testing, we believe Turtle Wax T-18 wheel cleaner is your best bet for removing any debris, but you should use Meguiar’s G180132 ultimate wheel cleaner for painted wheels and Chemical Guys Diablo Gel for chrome or polished metal.

Does WD-40 clean alloy wheels?

WD-40 isn’t good for cleaning alloy wheels. It’s better to use a dedicated wheel cleaning product such as Meguiar’s G180132 ultimate wheel cleaner, or Chemical Guys Diablo Gel.

Can wheel cleaner damage wheels?

Some wheel cleaners can damage the look and finish of your wheels. If you have chrome, painted, or polished-metal wheels, be sure to use a wheel cleaner that’s pH-balanced and acid-free.

How do you remove heavy brake dust from rims?

Use wheel cleaner to remove heavy brake dust from rims. Some of the best wheel cleaners for those in need of a heavy brake dust remover are Turtle Wax T-18 all wheel and tire cleaner and Meguiar’s G180132 ultimate all wheel cleaner.

Is wheel cleaner toxic?

Most wheel cleaners contain caustic chemicals that are toxic. Avoid ingesting or breathing in wheel cleaner fumes if possible.


Full Wheel Cleaner Testing Methodology

Five of the best wheel cleaners as tested and reviewed by our auto product team.

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

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.

Overall Shine

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.

Value

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.

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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.

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*Data accurate at time of publication. Products subject to availability.