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3 Simple Tips for Cleaning the Inside of Your Wheel Rim

If you take pride in keeping your car clean…then you know you’ve gotta keep those wheels clean—both inside and out. To me, the trickiest part of cleaning my truck is getting enough space to clean behind the wheel; there are so many crevices and places for brake dust to hide! But cleaning this area isn’t impossible.

In this blog post, I’ll break down what to do and 3 simple tips to help clean the inside of any wheel rim.

Frequently Asked Question

Should you clean the inside of the wheel rim?
It’s wise to clean the outside and inside of a wheel rim occasionally to reduce the risk of pitting caused by contaminants like brake dust that can permanently damage the metal. While most people never clean this area, it’s not a bad idea to take off your wheels every year to clean behind the rim.

1. Use a variety of wheel-cleaning brushes

It can be helpful to use a few types of wheel and tire brushes, even if you don’t plan to remove the wheels to clean inside the rim. Soft wheel brushes are ideal for lug nuts and won’t scratch the coating of the rim.

11-Piece Detailing Brush Set

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Detailing brush set

I keep a bunch of these soft-bristled brushes in my tire bucket and keep another set separate for interior cleaning only.

Longer microfiber wheel brushes work best at reaching the back of your wheel rim because they can fit in tight spaces. These brushes will be a staple in your wheel cleaning regimen, so it’s good to have a few on hand.

Microfiber Wheel Rim Cleaning Brushes

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You won’t realistically clean the inside of any rim perfectly without taking off the wheels, but the idea is to avoid brake dust or tar buildup over time.

2. Consider a wheel-cleaning stand

To avoid damaging the wheel rim, pick up a wheel cleaning stand if you decide to remove all wheels. You can also use wheel chocks to keep the wheel from rolling away; just be careful not to scratch the coating on your wheels by laying them face down.

The rollers on these wheel cleaning stands make it easy to rotate and clean the inside surface of the wheel. If you are considering swapping out summer and winter tires, this is a great accessory to have.

Car Tire Roller Stand

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3. Apply an iron and tar remover 

When cleaning the dirtiest part of your wheel—the inside of the rim—it helps to have a few specialty products that specifically treat brake dust, tar, and other substances. Before you use any specialty product or wheels, start with your favorite wheel cleaner to pre-treat the rim. I like a product called Super Clean because I can dilute it for interior and exterior use…and it’s pretty effective too.

After you’ve rinsed off your wheel cleaner, use a dedicated iron remover if needed; iron removers dislodge metallic particles that can cause pitting on the rim. Some iron removers turn purple when they react with these particles. I personally prefer gentler wheel products, like the Adam’s line.

Adam’s Iron Remover Spray

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Some products called ‘decontaminating sprays’ can also be used to clean wheel rims in addition to paint. I always recommend using paint-safe and more gentle wheel cleaners instead of strong chemicals that do all the work for you.

Caution!

Never use strong acids not designed for automotive use on wheel rims. If a product is so strong you don’t need to use a brush…it’s too strong!

Learn how to clean your wheels like a professional

Your wheels and tires are an investment you need to take care of! If you’re new to detailing and want to learn, check out our 101 guide on how to clean wheels and tires.

Once you wash and clean your wheels properly and add protection…you’ll find they’re much easier to keep clean. Clean your wheels every month or so…and you won’t have to worry about pitting and buildup that comes from neglect.

Happy detailing!

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Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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