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How to Remove and Prevent Brake Dust on Wheels (Like a Pro)

Is it time to remove that unsightly brake dust? If you notice a thick black film on your wheels, the answer is YES. Especially for shiny chrome or aluminum wheels, brake dust not only looks bad, but can cause permanent damage later on.

Simply put, the best way to remove brake dust is to use called a decontamination spray designed to tackle metallic particles on wheel rims.

But…there’s a bit more to know. In this post, you’ll learn how to remove stubborn brake dust and surface contaminants and have peace of mind your wheels stay in great shape.

Why remove brake dust from wheels?

If you put it off for too long, brake dust particles will have time to etch into the metal wheel surface or even your clear coat. At a microscopic level, brake dust cuts little tiny holes or indentations into the surface. The amount of dwell time before permanent damage varies, but as best practice, you should remove brake dust every time you wash your vehicle.

Brake dust is a mixture of particles ranging from brake pads, metal rotors, and even carbon fiber – which can do damage not just to wheels…but paint as well. Brake dust when on car paint is often categorized as traffic film.

Check out your post on how to remove traffic film safely if you have a thin black layer on your paint.

Over time brake dust particles will etch into any surface, causing permanent damage. For wheels, this process can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more.

How to remove brake dust from wheels

Frequently Asked Question

Can you use a pressure washer to remove brake dust?
You can rinse wheels using a hose or even a pressure washer with a low-pressure tip. Never use high pressure to blast off brake dust, as you can damage the brake rotor, pad, or wheel

Step 1: Rinse and clean the wheel with soap

To begin, give your wheels and tires a thorough rinsing cleaning with soap, a soft bristle brush, and a dedicated tire bucket. Since brake dust contains iron particles and other contaminants, always keep your main wash bucket away from wheel brushes or towels used on wheels.

Step 2: Apply an iron remover or decontamination spray

After rinsing, you can use either an iron remover or what’s called a decontamination spray to remove brake dust. We recommend an iron remover by 3D made in the USA and specifically made for brake dust. It’s purpose-built to remove metal particles and carbon residue…plus it turns purple on contact with brake dust.

3D GLW Series Iron Remover

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3D Iron Remover GLW Series

Step 3: Agitate with a brush, rinse, and repeat

it helps to use a long-handled wheel brush to agitate brake dust in hard-to-reach areas. I like to use a microfiber towel to remove brake dust on the front of the wheel and parts hard to reach. Whenever cleaning brake dust, be sure to wear gloves!

For best results, you may need to remove each tire to clean the inside surface of your wheels, especially for stuck-on or excessive brake dust. So long as you don’t neglect a  routine wheel cleaning process (and clean wheels the right way), heavy brake dust buildup shouldn’t be an issue.

Check out our post on cleaning the inside of a wheel rim for some pro tips on this process.

If you’re a car enthusiast, swapping out winter driving tires (and cleaning your old ones) is a good way to prevent brake dust buildup on the wheel over time.

How to prevent brake dust

All-in-all, you can’t prevent brake dust completely, but the good news is you can reduce accumulation using a wheel coating. Many ceramic coatings provide a shield against brake dust particles and make it more difficult for brake dust to stick.

Another way to prevent black brake dust is to switch to a different type of brake pad—like one made of ceramic. Ceramic brake pads generate lighter dust compared to traditional brake pads that contain carbon, rubber, and other dark particles. Many high-performance vehicles use ceramic pads because they handle heat well and provided consistent braking.

5 tips to protect wheel rims from brake dust

To conclude, here are some tips to protect your wheels from brake dust damage:

  1. Try aftermarket pads. Many modern brake pads are ‘low dusting pads’ made of Kevlar, synthetics, or carbon fibers that won’t stain wheels
  2. Install a brake dust shield. This device forms a protective barrier behind your vehicle’s backing plate to minimize brake dust
  3. Use a wheel coating. Many spray-on coatings like Hydrosilex contain ceramic properties that help repel brake dust. Many spray-on coatings are highly hydrophobic and even self-cleaning…which makes anything difficult to stick. It’s a good idea to apply these products to the wheel with an applicator pad to avoid contact with brake pads.
  4. Clean regularly. Wash your vehicle’s wheels at the first sign of brake dust buildup. Use the right product for the job.
  5. Don’t use harsh chemicals. Avoid super acidic wheel cleaners like muriatic acid. If it’s strong enough to remove brake dust without elbow grease, it’s too strong!

Learn how to wash wheels and tires like a pro

Check out our step-by-step guide on how to wash wheels and tires if you’re ready to see better results. Even though cleaning dirty wheels is simple, pairing the right product with the right process makes a big difference.

Ready to improve your washing and detailing skills?

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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.

1 thought on “How to Remove and Prevent Brake Dust on Wheels (Like a Pro)”

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful and step by step explanation on how to remove brake dust. I would like to share my way of preventing rusts and abrasions. I powder coat my rims instead of using wet paint. Powder coat is really reliable even with harsh weather.

    Reply

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