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how to clean brake dust off alloy rims

How to Clean Brake Dust off Alloy Rims – Important Things to Know

One doesn’t have to be a car fanatic to want their car to look clean. Moreover, washing a car isn’t even that tiresome of a task. All you need to do is take some time out on a Sunday morning and treat your vehicle to an easy water-and-soap date. A few minutes of that and your car will be looking as good as new.

Yes, you can get your car shining like a new toy just like that. However, one question you may ask yourself after washing your ride is, “How to clean brake dust off alloy rims?”

The aforementioned dirt particles are not easy to remove at all. You can try your best to wipe brake dust off the wheels but it wouldn’t make a difference. And even if you are able to get the rims dust-free, it’ll only be a matter of a couple of days before they get dirty again. So, why not save your energy and work on a more effective solution?

Here, we’ll discuss brake dust and some helpful tips to keep your ride free of it.

Why Is It Not Okay to Leave Brake Dust Unattended?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to understand what is brake dust. For those of you unaware, it gradually accumulates on the rims of wheels. It has a charcoal-ish color. It comes from the brake pads, as well as the rotor when the exterior is exhausted.

It’s worth noting that these dirt particles do not indicate a problem with the brakes’ performance. They’ll continue to emerge every time the driver applies the brakes. So, there’s no stopping them.

But, if they’re not cleaned out regularly and are allowed to keep building on the rims, that could cause issues eventually. For starters, their presence screams “BAD LOOK!” Also, brake dust can slowly damage the coating tasked with protecting the rims. Even your paint job isn’t safe from this inconvenience.

So, it’s now clear as a day that getting alloy rims dust-free is as important as keeping a car clean.

For the job in question, one should bring in a dedicated cleaning agent i.e. a wheel cleaner.

What’s the Deal About Wheel Cleaners?

Wheel cleaners are chemicals tasked with, you guessed it, making the wheels spotless. In order for these cleaners to work, they must be applied and then left unbothered for a certain amount of time before you scrub them off. That time depends from cleaner to cleaner and is mentioned in the manufacturer’s guide.

We should also mention that not every wheel cleaner is suitable to come into contact with your car. Yes, some of these are so strong that they could damage the rim finish. Your goal is to get the chemical that is only strong enough to get brake dust off while being harmless to your alloy wheels. 

There are acidic, as well as non-acidic, wheel cleaners in the market. Thanks to the aluminum alloy coating, most modern rims can withstand acidity, which is strong enough to knock off the iron dust. However, these shouldn’t be left on the wheels for longer durations than required.

You can also go for a non-acidic cleaner but make no mistake about it, it’s not entirely non-corrosive either. Its alkaline nature could do quite the harm if you don’t follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

After spraying the cleaner on and letting it do its thing for the specified amount of time, you have to get a brush to get rid of the iron deposits. Then, just rinse clean and that should be it.

The Safest, Most Effective Wheel Cleaners – A Couple of Suggestions

The Safest and Most Effective Wheel Cleaners for cleaning brake dust off alloy rims
Shutterstock Licensed Image

While there isn’t a shortage of brands that roll out great wheel-cleaning products, the following three should be on the top of your list:

#1 Bilt Hamber Auto-wheel

For the last 15 years, Bill Hamber has been a leading name when it comes to formulating cleaning products that work and don’t empty your pockets. Their cleaner is pH-neutral, meaning that it’s neither acidic nor alkaline. Moreover, using it is like a walk in the park. There are no hidden signals to watch out for. All that is required from your end is to apply it and wait for it to turn red.

#2 CarPlan Demon Wheel

This is another affordable agent that gets the job done. Unlike Bilt Hamber’s cleaner, it’s not pH-neutral and is classified as alkaline. In order to get the best use out of it, consider adding water to it. This would greatly simplify the cleaning process.

#3 Simoniz Alloy Wheel Cleaner

This product has helped several car owners who used to wonder how to clean brake dust off alloy rims. It’s acidic in nature and highly effective. Its only downsides are its price and that it only works on wheels that are either painted or coated with lacquer.

 Other Methods of Removing Brake Dust from Wheels

Now that you have read about wheel cleaners, it’s time we discuss some other notable ways of tidying up rims.

Pressure Washing

Just like many other parts of the car, rims too can benefit by getting subjected to a good-ole pressure wash. This method ensures quick removal of the annoying dust particles covering up the wheels. But be very careful because if done the wrong way, this dust-removal technique can cause significant damage to the wheels.

For best results, make sure to keep the pressure at a stable level instead of going all in. Moreover, don’t just keep spraying in one spot without any interruption. Keep breaking the flow and going all over the rim.

Iron Remover

The thing about iron removers is that they can be considered more of a follow-up to wheel cleaners than being their complete alternative. Plus, they are mostly used for protecting paint jobs. Because, let’s face it, when you want to remove dust from any other part of the car but wheels, it wouldn’t make much sense to use a wheel cleaner.

When it comes to their role in cleaning up dusty rims, iron removers tend to do a great job of smashing dust deposits comprising iron. Therefore, instead of choosing it over a cleaner, find a product that is a mixture of both. That way, you’d neither have to worry about dust building up on the wheels nor struggle with getting rid of sizeable deposits.

Is It Possible to Keep the Wheels Clean Permanently and Block Dust from Ever Surfacing?

All the talk about wheel cleaners, iron removers, and pressure washing aside. It’s fair to be curious about wanting to know whether or not there is a way to ensure that your wheels stay clean and do not get dusty again.

Well, there are certain brake pads that do not get weary soon, and even when they do, they don’t leave dirt on the wheels. However, they are pretty expensive. You can also coat your wheels with Teflon. While this method will not prevent the rims from ever getting dust on them, it will slow down the accumulation process.

Additionally, the following tips might come in handy:

  • Use paint sealants: Once you are done cleaning your wheels, apply sealants to them. This way, not only your alloy rims but also your paint will be protected. Their hydrophobic nature will, to a great degree, prevent dust particles from sticking.
  • Keep your car clean: Make it a habit to wash your car regularly and keep its exterior, as well as interior, dust-free. This way, you might get rid of dust before it could get a chance to make a home on your rims and become stubborn.
  • Don’t be too hard on the brakes: Applying full force while braking and doing too much of it is a sure-shot way of ensuring that your rims get brake dust on them. A smart approach, in this case, would be to apply brakes a bit earlier than you have to and do it gently.


Dust particles on a car do not only make it look dirty but also cause significant damage to it, if left unattended. While regularly washing your car is the smart thing to do, the dirt accumulated on the wheels (courtesy of brakes) is hard to get rid of. Thankfully, there are special products in the market to remove brake dust. However, using them requires care and your undivided attention. The end goal should be to have a nice and clean ride.

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