Every responsible car owner knows that car maintenance is an essential part of keeping it running better, for longer. Cleaning your wheels regularly and thoroughly plays a vital role in car maintenance. However, finding the best product that won’t damage or stain your wheels could be tricky.
More often than not, you won’t know (or even be able to pronounce) many of the ingredients that come in your wheel cleaner. Thus, many people opt for a homemade solution instead. In this article, you’ll learn how to make your own aluminum wheel cleaner, as well as how to create a DIY tire shine. But first, let’s talk about how to apply your wheel cleaner properly.
Cleaning Your Wheels in 3 Easy Steps
Because you aren’t getting a store-bought product, you’d think there aren’t any instructions you need to follow. However, there is a right and a wrong way of applying your wheel cleaner. Follow these 3 steps to ensure you’re wheels are clean and stain-free.
1. Give Them a Good Wash
If you plan on cleaning your whole car, always start with the wheels, so you don’t get any dirty water or brake dust on the rest of your vehicle. Additionally, you always need to make sure you start off with a clean slate, so you’re actually cleaning the wheels — rather than piling more dirt on. Rinse your wheels with clean water and make sure to reach every possible spot, including the lug nuts and screws.
2. Apply the Cleaner
Always apply your cleaner to 1 wheel at a time, and work on that wheel until it’s completely clean. If you spray the solution on all 4 wheels at once, it will probably dry off and become ineffective by the time you get to all of them.
3. Brush the Dirt Off
To get your tires squeaky clean, you’ll need to take a soft-bristle brush to loosen up all of the dirt. You can also use a wheel brush, as they might be more practical for cleaning because of their flexible stems. Additionally, you can purchase a lug nut brush if you want to make sure you can reach every nook and cranny.
To avoid damaging your wheels, try not to go ham with the brush and apply too much pressure to them. Also, always clean the barrel front to back, and make sure you reach through the spokes.
Because most homemade wheel cleaners have a paste texture, you need to brush and rinse everything off thoroughly. Finally, you can wipe everything down with a towel or let the wheels dry off by themselves. If you’re using a microfiber towel, you’ll ensure you don’t leave any pesky watermarks on your wheels. You can also add tire shine if you want your wheels to look as good as new.
What Not to Do
When you can, avoid cleaning your car in a closed garage or on a warm day. Increased temperatures and humidity could cause your cleaner to lose its power. So, to ensure you get the best result, always clean your wheels in cooler temperatures and a well-ventilated area. Also, don’t use any harsh brushes and towels, as they could damage your wheels.
Now that you know how to clean your wheels properly, as well as what not to do, let’s talk about the best homemade cleaners.
Top 5 Homemade Wheel Cleaners
If you love doing your own homemade projects and prefer staying away from toxic chemicals when cleaning your wheels — you’re in the right place. These DIY products are all made from common household items and come at a fraction of the cost of the store-bought ones. So, without further ado, let’s see how you can make them the best homemade aluminum wheel cleaners.
Baking Soda and Dish Soap
Baking soda is one of the best materials you can use to create an abrasive cleaner. Additionally, by adding dish soap, you can take advantage of its cleaning and degreasing properties. Combining these two ingredients creates the perfect cleaning solution — not to mention the smell will be pretty great as well.
- ½ cup baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of dish soap
- 1 gallon of hot water
- A soft brush
- A clean towel
- A rag or a sponge
- An old toothbrush
Simply pour your dish soap into some hot water before soaking the sponge into the mix. Then, sprinkle baking soda on your sponge or rag and gently run it against your wheels. You can use an old toothbrush to clean all of the little details and use a clean towel to dry your wheels off.
Lemon Juice and Baking Soda
You can use lemon juice and baking soda to clean your teeth, your home — and even your aluminum wheels. Considering how potent this solution is, it’s also incredibly safe and can be used on all types of materials. Additionally, it can even help you get rid of the more stubborn stains that even store-bought products can’t.
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- ½ cup of baking soda
- 1 cup of warm water
- A microfiber towel
- A spray bottle
Begin by pouring the lemon juice and water into your spray bottle, and shaking it well. Next, dip your towel gently into the baking soda, and start scrubbing your wheels. Apply small amounts of pressure, and keep cleaning until you get rid of all of the stains. Finally, rinse the solution off your tires with water, and apply shine if you want to.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner and Baking Soda
Most of us have toilet bowl cleaner laying around the house at all times. In addition to being quite cheap, this homemade cleaner is also quite effective — but you have to use it properly. Because toilet bowl cleaner may cause stains on your wheels, make sure you follow these instructions to the letter.
- 6 teaspoons of baking soda
- A toilet bowl cleaner
- Small brush
- A glass or ceramic bowl
- Spray bottle
- Rubber gloves
You need to put on gloves to make sure you’re safe from the chemicals in your toilet bowl cleaner. Next, fill a spray bottle with water, add baking soda, and shake the bottle before giving the mix a couple of minutes to settle.
Then, add small amounts of the cleaner into a bowl and dip the brush gently before you start cleaning. Finally, rinse the solution off thoroughly to make sure it doesn’t stain your wheels.
Tartar Paste Cream
You probably don’t want to go to the store and purchase tartar just to clean your wheels. However, if you have a tub laying around the house and don’t plan on eating it — why not use it to clean your wheels? This homemade cleaner is by far the simplest to make and requires only 2 things.
- 2 tablespoons of tartar cream
- A wheel brush
Simply apply the tartar cream on your brush and scrub your tires gently and thoroughly. When you get most of the dirt off, rinse your wheels with clean water. If there are any spots left, you can go back in with the solution as many times as you need.
Clean Your Screws and Lug Nuts with Coca-Cola
As I already mentioned, you need to clean all parts of your wheels — including the screws and lug nuts. Coca-Cola is another helpful product that can be used to clean various things around your house, including the drains, stains — and aluminum wheels. Additionally, Coke is perfectly safe and can be used to remove dirt and rust on many different materials.
- 1 cup of Coke
- An old toothbrush or tire brush
- 1 cup of dish soap
- Large spray bottle
- 1 cup of vinegar
- 1 bucket of water
Pour your Coca-Cola in a spray bottle and apply it to the rims and bolts. Then, give it a couple of minutes to settle and use the toothbrush (or tire brush) to clean the lug nuts and screws. Once you’re done, you can mix the vinegar, dish soap, and water into a clean spray bottle and use the solution to get rid of the Coke.
Homemade Tire Shine
When you’re done cleaning your wheels, you should add some shine to get them looking good as new. Additionally, the shine can lubricate your wheels and prolong their lifespan. If you’re not a fan of the strong chemical-based products, here’s how you can make your own tire shine.
- ½ gallon of water
- 1 drop of dish soap
- 50ml of baby oil
- Spray bottle
- Rag or old cloth
Pour water into your spray bottle before adding the baby oil and dish soap; shake the bottle before applying the solution. You can spray the mix directly on small areas of your tires and wipe them down with a cloth. Alternatively, you can spray the solution onto a rag, and shine your tires with it.
For more homemade tire shine products, read this article.
Final Thoughts on Homemade Aluminum Wheel Cleaners
Dirty wheels aren’t just an eyesore — they could be potentially dangerous for both you and your car. By letting the grime just sit on your car components, it can start eating into the rest of your car and cause a lot of damage.
Sure, you can go to the store and purchase a ready-made wheel cleaner — but where’s the fun in that? By making your own homemade cleaner, you can make use of the things you already have laying around your house, and save money. Additionally, you won’t have to risk damaging your car with harsh chemicals.
So, now that you know how to mix your DIY cleaner, how to use it and what not to do — everything else is up to you. Make sure to clean your tires regularly and thoroughly, and I can guarantee you’ll get that “good-as-new” shine every time.