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How to Clean Chrome Alloy Wheels

Updated March 23, 2017

Chrome, which gives vehicle wheels a bright, silvery shine, is made of a relatively soft metal called chromium. To get around chromium's softness, it is often alloyed with or electrically plated onto harder metals to produce parts such as wheels. Although chrome is durable and heat-resistant, it is vulnerable to rust; it will also lose its shine quickly as it gets caked with road dirt. Keeping chrome-alloy wheels clean will let their colour shine through and protect them against premature rusting. There are several easy ways to clean chrome.

Remove rust from chrome wheels using aluminium foil and vinegar or cola. To do this, ball up a piece of aluminium foil with the shiny side out, then wipe down the wheel with white vinegar (available at any grocery store) or cola (the fizzy drink). Either liquid is acidic enough to help dissolve any rust built up on the wheels. Just scrub the rust with the ball of aluminium foil in short, circular strokes, then wash off the vinegar or cola with water. Pat the wheel dry quickly after scrubbing.

Scrub away dust and lightly caked-on dirt using dish soap and water. Add some dish soap to a bucket of warm water, and dip a soft rag into it. Scrub the wheel with the rag until it looks clean, then wash the wheel with clean, soap-free water to remove any soap that would harden into soap scum. Dry the wheel quickly with a soft towel to avoid spotting.

Remove tarnish and caked-on dirt with white vinegar. To give the vinegar more cleaning power, add some baking soda to it, then dip a rag into the mix and scrub the wheel with it. You will need to regularly turn the rag over, as it will absorb the tarnish and grime quickly and can end up spreading it over the rest of the wheel. Wash and dry the wheel after doing this to remove any leftover vinegar.

Shine the wheel with chrome cleaner. Most automotive stores stock a range of liquid cleaners that, while often pricey and bad for the environment, will restore a shiny finish to your chrome quite quickly. To use them, pour some cleaner on a clean rag and wipe the wheel with it. Then use a second rag to mop up any excess, and shine the cleaned wheel.

Apply a couple coats of car-body wax. The first coat will smooth out any pitting in the chrome, while the second one can be buffed with a soft rag to a bright shine. To apply wax, just pour it onto a rag and rub a thin layer onto the wheel. Buff it by rubbing it with a clean cloth, then apply another thin layer and buff again.

Things You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Soft rags
  • White vinegar
  • Cola
  • Soft towel
  • Toothbrush
  • Dish soap
  • Chrome cleaner
  • Aluminium foil
  • Baking soda
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About the Author

Joshua Smyth started writing in 2003 and is based in St. John's, Newfoundland. He has written for the award-winning "Cord Weekly" and for "Blueprint Magazine" in Waterloo, Ontario, where he spent a year as editor-in-chief. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics from Wilfrid Laurier University.