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Why Tires Turn Brown: How to Fix It and Blooming 101

So you’re dealing with brown tires even after washing? You’re not alone! A process called tire blooming is one of the most common causes of brown tires and while it’s not a bad thing…it can be annoying especially if you just bought new tires.

Undressed tires often appear brown when dry for the following reasons:

  • Tire blooming
  • Trapped dirt
  • Oxidized brake dust

In this post, you’ll learn why brown tires are normal and how to make them look shiny and full of color in a few simple steps.

Quick Tip

Always dress tires after cleaning them. Like lips without chapstick (bad analogy incoming), an unprotected tire can appear brown and dried out when unprotected.

Why tire blooming causes tire sidewalls to look brown 

Modern tires contain what are called blooming chemicals called antiozonants that help keep the rubber soft and prevent cracking over time. Over time, these antiozonant additives inside the rubber work to the surface of the tire and oxidize, causing tires to appear brown.

Both antiozonants injected into rubber and antioxidants applied to the surface of the sidewall help prevent cracking and dry rotting by protecting tires from UV damage.

Compared to today’s tires, those from the early 1900s didn’t contain these protectants, so they were much more likely to crack or dry rot in a shorter period of time. 

Thanks to improved tire manufacturing, today’s tires last longer and don’t wear as unevenly as those in the past…so there’s your silver lining :)

Does tire blooming go away over time?

The tire blooming process can stop and start over time as your tire ages, so it won’t go away completely. You’ll have to deal with blooming as the tire ages, but it’s pretty easy to treat.

If you scrub and dress your tires regularly, you can remove blooming chemicals (and people probably won’t even notice).

Check out our post on how to properly wash wheels for beginners if you need a refresher.

Brown residue on tires might just be dirt

In some cases, a layer of dirt could be the root cause of brown tires. In this case, a gentle all-purpose tire cleaner should be all you need. My tires typically stain during pollen season in the U.S. and after rainy weather when roads are wet.

Brake dust can also cause tires to appear brown

Since brake dust is made of iron and other metal particles, these contaminants can make tires appear brown once they oxidize. If brake dust is a problem, use an iron remover or decontaminating spray. 

These sprays often turn purple on contact when they react with the metal, and perfect to use if your vehicle’s brake pads leave behind lots of dust.

3 easy steps to remove brown stains from tires

The process of cleaning brown tires is the same, no matter if dirt or blooming chemicals are the culprit. Most all-purpose tire cleaners do a great job as an all-in-one solution, other tire cleaning products are ideal for treating specific contaminants like brake dust.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Tire bucket
  • Long handle tire brush
  • Hose and running water

Step 1: Rinse thoroughly to remove loose debris

Start by spraying down your vehicle to knock off dirt or grit on the surface of the rubber. I recommend washing tires before paint, and always using a separate tire bucket separate from your paint bucket. 

Keep that dirty brake dust water off the clear coat.

Step 2: Apply a diluted degreaser or tire-cleaning product

Next, spay on your favorite tire cleaning product and agitate with a handheld tire brush. I typically mix a concentrated product like Super Clean 4:1 when cleaning tires because it goes a long way. 

Quick Tip

Always dilute wheel cleaner properly if your tires are blooming, since strong chemicals can sometimes bring antiozonants from the inside to the outside of the tire.

Super Clean All Purpose Cleaner & Degreaser

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If you have larger tires, I highly recommend dilating products to save on costs. When you wash your car often, you can save money by purchasing products like tire cleaners in bulk vs. buying individual spray-on products throughout the year.

If your tires are filthy, a foam-based tire cleaner is a great choice because foam can dwell on the tire a bit longer than liquid to encapsulate the dirt.

Step 3: Agitate with a brush and rinse with water

Next, scrub the sidewall thoroughly with a handheld tire brush that fits the width of the sidewall and rinse off with water. You may need to move your vehicle to clean the part of the sidewall touching the ground.

I sometimes treat each tire a couple of times if blooming is severe or they are very dirty. That said, you don’t necessarily need to scrub tires every time you wash tires unless needed. If you keep your tires clean, just agitate lightly with soapy water and add another layer of tire dressing.

Step 4: Apply tire shine to restore richness and color

If your tires still look brown or faded after washing, apply a quality tire shine product once completely dry.  Even in severe cases of tire blooming, you can still return your tires to a natural-looking shine or a glossy finish. It all depends on the dressing used.

Check out our beginner’s guide to tire dressings if you’re not sure what you need to achieve the look you want.

In short, solvent-based dressings typically produce a high gloss shine and last longer than water-based dressings. However, if you prefer a more natural shine consider a a water-based dressing.

Want black tires? Regular cleaning is key 

Tire cleaning is pretty straightforward, but to see great results you need to know what products to use where…and what order to wash. Get our free Car Wash Cheat Sheet to learn what order to wash and what products to use for best results.

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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