Best alloy wheel cleaners 2023

| 26 Jan 2023
Classic & Sports Car - Best alloy wheel cleaners

Clean wheels are, in our opinion, the most important finisher to get your classic car looking smart and well looked after. No point cleaning it at all if you’re not going to get the wheels sparkling; it’s like cleaning the house and then not vacuuming the carpet.

The trouble is that even simple alloy wheel designs – never mind spoked wheels – can be fiddly to rid of brake dust and grime. That’s why we’re looking for a great alloy wheel cleaner that will dissolve tough dirt easily so that you don’t have to spend the afternoon using a toothbrush to agitate filth out of your car’s wheels.

Much as some of us car-cleaning nerds may consider that sort of job to be valuable ‘me time’, we still expect a good wheel cleaner to take the manual labour out of the job where possible.

We tested nine off-the-shelf alloy wheel cleaners, ranging from budget buys to premium products, with some being traditional acidic cleaners, while others rely on alkaline chemicals. Here, we find out which one’s best.

Alloy wheel cleaners

9. Normfest Rimol Gold

Classic & Sports Car - Best alloy wheel cleaners - Normfest

Volume: 500ml

This product is the most expensive here yet, in use, the rival it most resembles is CarPlan’s Demon Wheels, which is the cheapest cleaner we’ve tested.

It does its best work if you use water as part of the clean, rather than just for rinsing, when it will do a decent job of removing the worst of the grime.

Ultimately, though, at this price the Rimol Gold should trounce the opposition. And it doesn’t.

Classic & Sports Car says 2 stars

8. Mirror Bright Wheel Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best alloy wheel cleaners - Mirror Bright

Volume: 650ml

The Mirror Bright Wheel Cleaner has a nifty trick where it turns red after a few minutes to tell you that it’s ready to rinse, suggesting that it’s pH neutral even if it doesn’t state so on the bottle.

You won’t be disappointed with the results, as it leaves a bright, fresh finish to your wheels without much effort on your part, although you’ll get an even better finish with others such as the Bilt-Hamber or Chipex.

Classic & Sports Car says 3 stars

7. Simoniz Alloy Wheel Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best alloy wheel cleaners - Simoniz

Volume: 500ml

This is a good example of why acidic wheel cleaners haven’t been completely replaced yet.

Ultimately, this is no more effective a cleaner than others we have tested, but it gets to work on the dust and dirt immediately, and in a way that newer technologies can’t replicate.

Anyone who’s used to fast-acting mixes like this may well want to stick with them, but the acidity means that it can only be used on lacquered or painted wheels.

It’s also a harsher cleaner that you should to avoid if you’re looking to maintain a much-loved classic car, and don’t put it anywhere near wire wheels.

Classic & Sports Car says 3 stars

6. Autoglym Clean Wheels

Classic & Sports Car - Best alloy wheel cleaners - Autoglym

Volume: 1 litre

Acid wheel cleaners are normally the preserve of budget car-cleaning brands, but Clean Wheels is from one of the most trusted names out there. 

Don’t be surprised, though, because the results are good enough that it’s easy to see why Autoglym has kept this one on the shelves.

The acid mix needs more careful handling than alkaline and pH-neutral cleaners – you’d be wise to use gloves – and use is restricted to lacquered or painted wheels, so it is more restrictive. Don’t use it on wheels that have any damage to their surfaces, either.

If you’re okay with all of that, then the cleaning results are immediate and impressive.

Classic & Sports Car says 3 stars

5. CarPlan Demon Wheels

Classic & Sports Car - Best alloy wheel cleaners - CarPlan

Volume: 1 litre

The Demon Wheels cleaner is impressively cheap, and uses an alkaline action to react with really baked-on dust and dirt.

It’s a very similar brew to the Halfords cleaner, but we prefer the Halfords product, because the CarPlan product needs more elbow grease to get the best results. Dirt that the Halfords cleaner melts away required a bit of agitation with this one.

While it wasn’t suggested in the instructions, we also added a little water to help clean the wheels, as otherwise the formula felt a little dry. It seemed to really improve the results, too.

Classic & Sports Car says 3 stars

4. Halfords Alloy Wheel Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best alloy wheel cleaners - Halfords

Volume: 500ml

The Halfords wheel cleaner isn’t quite as effective as some others at shifting dirt and brake-dust with a simple spray and rinse; we had to get into the awkward corners of the wheel to get the best results.

You might need a couple of washes on really grubby wheels but, with a little effort, it does bring the wheel up really nicely.

The alkaline formula is safe for all wheel types and kind to wheels even if they’ve got cracked laquer or pitting, albeit not quite as surface-friendly as a pH-neutral alternative.

Classic & Sports Car says 3 stars

3. Chipex Seeing Red Wheel Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best alloy wheel cleaners - Chipex

Volume: 750ml

We’ve seen great results from Chipex in various other product tests, and we weren't disappointed here despite high expectations.

In fact, our only minor reservation came immediately after spraying Seeing Red on, when you get a really unpleasant eggy smell that no other cleaner here suffers from.

That matter aside, everything else is great. As the name suggests, when it turns red it’s ready to rinse and the cleaner simply melts away – taking even baked-on brake dust with it.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

2. Farécla G3 Pro Wheel Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best alloy wheel cleaners - Farecla

Volume: 500ml

Per volume, this is one of the most expensive options here, but if our winner didn’t exist you’d think the G3 was money very well spent given its performance.

Its pH-neutral formula is as safe as a wheel cleaner can be, making it gentle enough for use on just about any wheel including ones with chromed wire spokes.

More than that, the cleaning power is just brilliant, getting into all the crevices and awkward corners of even the trickiest wheels for effortless results.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

1. Bilt-Hamber Auto-wheel

Classic & Sports Car - Best alloy wheel cleaners - Bilt-Hamber

Volume: 1 litre

Essex-based Bilt-Hamber has established itself as something of a leading light in car care, formulating brilliant products that are often class-topping and tremendous value for money.

Auto-wheel is a case in point. The pH-neutral product is peachy to use: just spray it on, wait until it turns red, then rinse it off.

Its brake-dust-removing power is second to none, and we didn’t need to scrub or agitate even in the most awkward crevices of our alloy wheels.

Auto-wheel really is the best performer here. It's safe for any wheel including wire wheels, and not bad value, either.

It’s our overall winner.

Classic & Sports Car says 5 stars

The products or services referenced in this article have been reviewed independently by our experts. When you buy using the links on our website, we may earn a commission, but this will never influence our opinion or ratings