Cleaning Extremely Dirty Wheels and Tires: COMPLETE GUIDE

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how to wash wheels and tires

Car wheels and tires are some of the dirtiest areas on the car. All the brake dust, road grime, and debris tend to stick on them. If you don’t know the right way to clean them, it can quickly become your nightmare. 

I decided to show you a complete guide on cleaning your car’s dirty wheels and tires properly in today’s article. It’s a part of exterior car wash, and should be done correctly.

To clean the brake dust and other dirt particles from your wheels, you’ll have to use the right products and the proper procedures, especially if your wheels are extremely dirty.

To avoid making mistakes when detailing your wheels, make sure to follow all the steps in this article. You’ll quickly learn everything you need to get the cleanest wheels every time, no matter how dirty they are.

What You’ll Need

Before we dive into the exact steps, I want to show you all the products and tools you’re going to need in order to do everything correctly.


  • Wheel cleaner
  • Iron remover
  • Car wash soap
  • Tire dressing
  • Wheel coating


  • Hose or even better, a pressure washer
  • One bucket
  • Few microfiber towels
  • Microfiber drying towel
  • A tire brush
  • Two wheel brushes
  • One brush with a long handle for wheel wells
  • Detailing brush
  • Applicator pad

I know it seems too much at first, but all that will fit in one bucket that you’ll use for wheel cleaning (except the pressure washer, of course, haha).


Now let’s see 7 steps I do when I’m detailing wheels and tires on my car.

STEP 1: Pre-Rinse Wheels Thoroughly

pre-rinsing car wheels and tires

First things first, you should thoroughly rinse the wheels. That way, you’ll remove all the loose grime or debris that’s stuck on the wheels or tires. 

If you don’t do this step, large specks of dirt will stay on your wheels, and you’ll grind it to the wheels and scratch them.

Just take your pressure washer and thoroughly rinse the wheels, tires, and wheel wells. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can use your hose too. 

Just make sure to squeeze the hose at the end to get better pressure.

STEP 2: Spray Wheel Cleaner Onto The Wheels

spraying wheel cleaner onto the wheels

After the initial pre-rinse, I always like to spray the wheel cleaner onto the wheels and tires.

Spray the wheel cleaner onto the wheels, and let it dwell for around 30 seconds.

Wheel cleaner will help to remove most of the dirt, grime, debris, and brake dust. After it dwelled long enough, you can proceed to the next step.

STEP 3: Wash The Wheels With Brushes and Car Wash Soap

cleaning wheels and tires with car wash soap and brushes

Now it’s time to fill your wheels bucket with water and car wash soap. 

Car wash soap will lubricate both the brushes and wheels so you don’t scratch them. Also, it’ll help to clean even more dirt and grime.

In this step, I recommend you use five types of brushes:

  • Tire brush (some wider brush)
  • Long wheel brush (so you can reach all the spots)
  • Wheel brush for front side (also some wider brush)
  • Detailing brush (you’ll use it for nooks and crannies, such as lug nuts, brake calipers, etc.)
  • Long handle brush for wheel wells

Follow the order of recommended brushes to know which one to use first.

Make sure to always clean from top to bottom. It’s a general detailing rule, whether you’re cleaning the interior, exterior, applying protection, or drying the car.


  1. Soak the tire brush into the wash bucket and start agitating the tires to clean all the dirt and grime from them. Also, you’ll remove all the old dressings.
  2. Take a long wheel brush, soak it with soap and start cleaning the wheels. Make sure to thoroughly clean them, and try to reach inside the wheel barrels as much as possible.
  3. Use a wider brush to clean the front of the wheels. Just agitate the whole area until you completely clean it.
  4. The next brush I use is a detailing brush. Soak it into the bucket and start cleaning all those nooks and crannies that you couldn’t reach with any of the brushes. With the detailing brush, you’ll easily clean lug nuts, brake calipers, and other hard-to-reach areas. 
  5. The next thing I do is clean the wheel wells. Some people don’t do it when cleaning the wheels, but I think it’s an essential part. Wheel wells are like a magnet for all the road dirt and grime.
  6. The last thing I do is take a microfiber towel, soak it in soapy water, and clean the wheels once more. That’s the final step that will pick any grime and debris left behind brushes.

When you’re finished with all of those six steps, rinse the wheels again, and you’re ready for the next step.

STEP 4: Decontaminate The Wheels

Even though wheel cleaners help remove most brake dust, I like to use the iron remover after cleaning them with a wheel cleaner and soap. I recommend you use this CarPro IronX Remover (Check the price on Amazon now)

Iron remover will decontaminate the wheels and make them 100% free of any stubborn brake dust. 

Use a high-quality iron remover, spray it on the wheels and let it dwell for 30 seconds.

After spraying the wheels, you’ll see that iron remover changing color from transparent to purple. That is a reaction to removing all the brake dust.

Now, thoroughly rinse the wheels again, and let’s see the next step, which is protection.

Also, this is an OPTIONAL step since you don’t have to decontaminate wheels every time you wash them. 

For maintenance washes, cleaning them by using wheel cleaner and car wash soap is enough. I only use iron remover once every two or three months, depending on the milage I make with the car.

STEP 5: Protect The Wheels With Spray Coating

Some people like to use other coatings, but I’m a fan of the GYEON Wet Coat (check the price on Amazon now), which you use before drying the wheels.

It’s the easiest way to protect your wheels quickly. Wheel coating will prevent the dirt from sticking to the wheels and make it easier for you to clean the wheels next time. This GYEON wet coat lasts around 2-3 months.

Spray the GYEON Wet Coat onto the wheels face and inner barrels, and then rinse it off with a hose or a pressure washer.

When you rinse it, you’ll see all the water beads, which means that the wheel is protected.

STEP 6: Rinse and Dry Rims and Tires

drying wheels and tires

Now it’s time to do the wheels and tires’ final rinse and dry them. When rinsing them, you’ll see the water beads that I mentioned in the step above (if you used the same coating that I recommend).

You can dry them in two ways:

  • With air blower
  • With the microfiber towel 

I usually use microfiber towels. They’re very absorbent and delicate on the wheels. However, drying it with the air blower is much quicker.

STEP 7: Apply Tire Dressing

applying tire dressing with an applicator pad

The last step is to apply some dressing to your tires. For this, you’ll need an applicator pad and some high-quality tire dressing. I like to use tire gels since they last longer than spray dressings.

I recommend you use this GYEON Quartz Q2 Tire Dressing (see my review). Their wheel cleaner is also a fantastic product, so check that out too.

Tire dressings will protect the tires from the UV rays and other external factors, and it will give the tires a deep black like-a-new look.

Shake the product, add it to the tire applicator pad and work that into the tire.

When you finish applying the product, wipe off any residue or excess dressing with a clean microfiber towel.

Some Questions You May Ask

Here I decided to share some frequently asked questions about wheel detailing and answer them.

Does this method work for all types of wheels?
This method works for all types of wheels, except the matte wheels. If you have matte wheels, I recommend you check How to clean matte wheels.

How often to wash car wheels?
Wash them whenever you’re washing your car. I recommend you wash your car once every two weeks. I usually do a maintenance wash every two weeks, and every two months, I do a thorough cleaning of my vehicle.

Is it important to use an iron remover when detailing the wheels?
Most wheel cleaners will remove some of the brake dust too, but using the specialized iron remover is much more efficient. As I said earlier, you don’t have to use it every single time you’re detailing wheels and tires.

How long does it take to detail all the wheels and tires?
Usually, I can wash and protect all the wheels and tires in 20 minutes. If you’re new to this, it can take a bit longer in the beginning.

How often to apply tire shine and wheel coating?
I apply tire shine every time I wash them. Since wheel coating lasts longer than tire dressings, I apply it every 3rd time I’m detailing wheels.

Final Thoughts

Well, those were all the steps I do when I’m detailing my wheels and tires. I know that it may sound like too many steps, but that’s the way I do it, and I think it’s the best way, especially if your wheels and tires have been neglected for a while.

I’m 100% sure that you’ll clean even the dirtiest wheels by following these steps above. As I said at the beginning of the article, I’ll be very thorough and mention every single thing you need to do in order to get the best cleaning results.

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