Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

How to Clean EXTREMELY Dirty Wheels

I recently purchased some aluminum rims for my Toyota Corolla. They’re nothing fancy, but for $60 on Craigslist, they beat the heck out of the OEM steelies. They were in good shape, except they were insanely dirty. I’m not talking about mud or grease, I’m talking about the kind of caked on brake dust and grime that a pressure washer won’t even touch when you’re blasting it from a half inch away. I went to AutoZone to find something to take it off, and they recommended pH neutral aluminum wheel cleaner. It seemed logical that it would work, so I shelled out 5 or 6 bucks and got a bottle. It didn’t make any difference whatsoever. Later, I went to O’Reilly hoping maybe they’d have some beefier stuff. Sure enough, I was able to get Eagle One Mag Wheel Cleaner. The bottle said it was made with sulfuric acid, so I figured that the acidity might help to attack the brake residue. After trying it out, all I can say is WOW. That stuff did the job incredibly well. I removed the wheel and sprayed it down liberally with the Eagle One, and after it had a few minutes to soak, I scrubbed it with a cheapo Walmart toilet brush to really break up the dirt. After that, it didn’t even need a pressure washer to rinse away the brake dust. A rinse with a garden hose was enough to remove nearly all the brake dust and the wheel was almost as good as new. All I can say is that my wheels started out as bad as any wheels I’ve ever seen. They were so bad that even the techs at my local tire shop thought they were impossible to clean without grinding and refinishing. Even still, a $5 of Eagle One Mag Wheel Etchant and Cleaner and a generic toilet brush cut through the dirt and brake dust incredibly well and left the wheels looking better than ever. For anyone who has seriously dirty wheels, try this method of cleaning. It’s dirt cheap and you won’t be disappointed.

hmm, the age of the internet where everyone has a camera phone. and no pics? hard to see how any chemical can replace metal? a chemical will clean a hole but it cannot fill a hole. sort of like miracle in a bottle engine restorers. how any chemical can somehow make worn cylinder suddenly not worn? I will believe this incredible story when OP posts pics. I want to see the wheels as they are now. of course he will post a pic of another set of rims. he he. good trick.

Is there any finish left on the wheels? Most/all aluminum rims are painted, either clear or silver. If you’re now down to the metal, they will corrode over time. But it may not be rapid.

I tried Eagle One Mag Wheel Cleaner on dirty wheels and was not overly impressed. Actually, I had been using it for quite some time and near the end of the bottle I thought there must be something better.

By chance I stumbled onto DUB (developed by Meguiars) Amazing Color Changing Wheel Cleaner at the store. I had not seen it before. I knew I was nearly out of cleaner so I bought it.

"From green to clean."
This cleaner sprays on an awesome glowing neon green liquid and then foams. When it contacts brake dust and grime it turns ruby red and you can watch the gorp run right down and drip off. Really stubborn stuff can be helped with a light brush agitation before rinsing with water.

Ordinarily, wheel cleaning isn’t all that much fun, but with DUB it’s as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. :wink:


Brake dust is a problem for me. I have tried Eagle 1 and found it to be pretty good. I will look for Dub, though. Sounds like it may be better. Thanks!

Eagle One A-Z is my go to wheel cleaner. But the DUB wheel cleaner seems to be all the rage lately, I might have to give it shot. It sounds sort of like that Iron-X stuff.

I didn’t know about the DUB stuff. I may have to grab some for next time. It took a full bottle of Eagle one to clean all 4 of my wheels.