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How to clean extremely stained wheels

Updated February 21, 2017

Wheels can become extremely stained if you allow brake dust to remain on them for extended periods of time. The brake dust will leave a yellow and black stain on wheels that can be difficult to remove. Wheels also can be stained and corroded by road salt and cinders used in harsh winter climates to treat icy roads. You can purchase specialised cleaning products from auto parts stores to clean your wheels or you can use common household products to remove the stains.

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  1. Spray wheels with degreaser cleaning spray. Allow to sit for a minute, then wipe clean with a rag. This will remove the surface layer of grease and grime to allow you to work on removing the stubborn stains underneath.

  2. Mix the detergent, vinegar and hot water in your cleaning bucket to use as a cleaning solution. Vinegar is an effective cleaning agent for removing dirt, rust and corrosion from metal.

  3. Apply the cleaning solution to the stains by dipping a cleaning rag in the bucket and saturating the area.

  4. Dip the scrub brush in the cleaning solution and use it to vigorously scrub the stains. You may need to apply more solution and allow it to soak for five to 10 minutes to penetrate the stains for easier removal.

  5. Dip a piece of aluminium foil in undiluted white vinegar. Rub the foil's shiny side on rust stains to remove them.

  6. Soak a steel wool soap pad in your cleaning solution and use it to scrub any remaining, tougher-to-remove stains.

  7. Spray with water to rinse the vinegar and soap from the wheels and reveal any remaining stains. Repeat the cleaning process, if necessary.

  8. Tip

    If you have expensive wheels and worry about damaging them, take your car to a professional car detailer who specialises in detailing performance vehicles and wheels.


    The combination of abrasive steel wool and detergent used in Step 5 is highly effective at removing many tough stains. However, steel wool may remove the finish from clear-coated wheels, so use this step only if wheels are older and worn.

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Things You'll Need

  • Degreaser spray
  • Cleaning rags
  • Cleaning bucket
  • 88.7ml. distilled white vinegar
  • 28.4gr. mild detergent
  • 1 gallon hot water
  • Scrub brush
  • Aluminium foil
  • Steel wool soap pad
  • Hose

About the Author

Amelia Allonsy

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.

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