We pitted eight of the best alloy wheel cleaners against each other in a blind test to find out which is the best wheel cleaner on the market in 2023.
Alloy wheel cleaners are one of those things you can never have too much of if you enjoy car detailing, especially as you go through it seriously quickly. However, if you’re spending all that money, you want to make sure that you’re using the best product you can. One that’s going to give you the best results. That’s why I’ve put together this comprehensive wheel cleaner group test to find out what the best alloy wheel cleaners are.
I brought together eight of the best car wheel cleaners and put them against each other to find out which one delivers the best cleaning power. These are all similar products in terms of cleaning potential, so it’s an even playing field.
Who is the tester?
Better known as Buffy, I’ve been talking and writing about cars professionally for over a decade or so now as editor to a number of different BMW magazines, currently Total BMW Magazine. While I’m most passionate about BMWs, I’m a petrolhead in general, and I love nothing more than a spotless car. Over the years of car ownership, I’ve developed a deep enthusiasm for detailing, and as a result, I’ve tested just about every detailing product out there. I have my personal favorites, but for this test it’s all about finding out which product truly is best.
How we tested the best alloy wheel cleaners
I carried out a blind test by having a colleague pour all the car alloy wheel cleaners into identical spray bottles without me knowing which product was which. The spray bottles were also all set to the same spray pattern on each test bottle. The test took place over one day, using one car, and each product only applied to half of one wheel. Using a cotton wool pad, I performed a swipe test on a portion of the wheel before using each product and doing another swipe test from the same area after use.
I applied the alloy wheel cleaners from the same distance, using the same number of sprays in the same motion and pattern to ensure even and equal coverage and a divider was used during application and rinsing to ensure that there was no cross-contamination. I didn’t use any brushes, eliminating this variable, and purely measured each product’s cleaning power. We also applied each wheel cleaner to a dry wheel and followed each product’s instructions for dwell time. I elected to use a hose with a jet spray pattern to rinse off the products due to the fact that not all users have a pressure washer.
1st Place – Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel
There can only be one winner of our best alloy wheel cleaners test, that is Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel. It was an exceptionally narrow victory, and there was almost nothing to choose between this and Autoglym Clean Wheels, but in the end, Auto Wheel just edged it in terms of sheer cleaning power. The most reactive wheel cleaner in this test, it turned its half of the wheel bright purple instantly and clung on tenaciously during its dwell phase, really attacking that tough, stuck-on brake dust and dirt.
The post-rinse visual inspection and swipe test revealed that it had delivered incredible results. It also happened to end up having to deal with the dirtiest portion of the dirtiest wheel on the whole car, making its performance all the more impressive. Honestly, there’s not much more to say – it just got on with doing its job and delivered sensational results, which is what you want from any product.
Price-wise, it’s the third most expensive per liter in its standard size, but its five-liter size matches Gtechniq for price. You can buy it in a 25-liter container, assuming you have the room and are happy to spend a large amount in one go. Although that will work out cheaper per liter of usage.
There’s no fancy packaging and flashy marketing here, just an incredibly impressive product that really delivers. Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel is the best alloy wheel cleaner here, and my group test winner.
2nd Place – Autoglym Clean Wheels
Upon initial application, I was left wondering if Autoglym Clean Wheels was actually doing anything. Unlike a lot of the other products we tested, it’s not a reactive color-changing wheel cleaner, so you don’t really see anything happening. However, it quickly became apparent that it was definitely doing some serious work, as the dirt began to dissolve in front of our eyes.
Post-rinse, the difference was clearly visible before I’d even reached for the cotton wool pad; the swipe test confirmed what we saw. Autoglym Clean Wheels put in an exceptional performance, effortlessly shifting some seriously baked-on brake dust. We were left very impressed with how little dirt was left on our cotton pad.
In its 500ml size, it’s the most expensive product in our top four, and at $24.95 / £17.49 it’s still more expensive than the others (just) if you buy the one-liter size. However, it’s money well spent, because this is a fantastic wheel cleaner and one I highly recommend. Autoglym takes 2nd place in our best alloy wheel cleaners test.
3rd Place – ValetPRO Bilberry Alloy Wheel Cleaner
Size tested: 500ml
RRP: from £13.49, buy now. Not available in US.
It was almost too close to call between ValetPRO’s Bilberry Wheel Cleaner and Gtechniq’s W6, but after staring at cotton wool pads for longer than I’d care to admit, ValetPRO just took the win by the narrowest of margins. It delivered very impressive results, and the post-test swipe showed a significant reduction in surface dirt remaining.
This is the only product in our top four that can be diluted, up to 10:1 for lightly soiled wheels. This means you can get up to 11 liters of product from a 500ml bottle, and if you clean your wheels often and thoroughly, you won’t need it at full undiluted strength. And, where the other cleaners either didn’t smell of anything or stunk of chemicals, ValetPRO Bilberry Wheel Cleaner has a lovely fruity scent, making it the most pleasant to use.
4th Place – Gtechniq W6 Iron & Fallout Remover
Gtechniq doesn’t have a dedicated wheel cleaner, but that’s clearly not an issue. The W6 Iron & Fallout Remover put in a very strong performance and delivered exceptional cleaning, leaving very little behind on the post-test swipe. The price is reasonable, and if you commit to the five-litre container, it works out at just a fraction under £12/liter, which makes it good value if you’re happy buying in bulk.
W6 Iron & Fallout Remover is also the only product in our top four that can be used on your car’s bodywork as well as the wheels, meaning you don’t need to buy a separate fallout remover, so that’s a bonus on top of the excellent cleaning power.
Best of the rest alloy wheel cleaners
Four out of our eight best alloy wheel cleaners delivered very similar results and performed equally as well as each other, and these are all good products which you’d be more than happy with.
Auto Finesse Reactive
Reactive has been designed to, in the words of auto Finesse, bridge the gap between a wheel cleaner and fallout remover, and is safe to use on all painted, powder coated and lacquered wheel finishes. Reactive will break down dirt, as well as chemically dissolving embedded ferrous metal particles.
Dodo Juice Deep Purple
Size tested: 1-liter
RRP: £20.99, buy now. Not available in the US.
Dodo Juice calls Deep Purple a full-spectrum wheel cleaner, and that means it is able to tackle all manner of dirt on your rims. Based on the company’s Ferrous Dueller fallout remover, its thicker formula means a longer dwell time, which improves cleaning power and it contains surfactants to remove road grime and dirt, while a little bit of added solvent allows it to soften tar spots.
Meguiar’s Hot Rims Wheel & Tire Cleaner
Hot Rims, safe for use on all clear-coated wheels, boasts Meguiar’s Xtreme Cling foam, which means it sticks to the vertical surfaces on your wheels and won’t simply slide away, giving its powerful formula more time to dissolve the contaminants on your wheels. At under $10 for a 24 Oz spray bottle, you simply can’t complain when the results are still very good.
Pro-Kleen Troll’s Breath
Troll’s Breath is a pH-neutral iron contamination remover that is safe to use on just about any surface – paintwork, glass, plastic, stainless steel, wheels as well as rubber. It dissolves any contamination it comes into contact with, and it also features a degreasing agent that helps to loosen dirt and grime.
How to buy the best alloy wheel cleaner
The first piece of advice we’d give here is to not rely on how well it appears to be working. Some wheel cleaners are very good at appearing to be working hard, by changing color radically. How much the product changes color on the wheels isn’t an indicator of how well it’s performing. As a result, don’t get sucked into marketing messages and images of wheels changing to a deep purple color.
Next, get used to the smell. The chemicals used inside of the formula make for some nasty smells. Again, one that smells nice or not so great isn’t an indication of how well it performs.
Almost all alloy wheel cleaners work better when you use a brush to agitate the dirt with the product. I skipped this step in my test above as I didn’t want the brush to be the deciding factor when it comes to cleanliness.
You want a pH neutral product that is safe to use on your wheel type. The above product recommendations are safe to use on any wheel type or finish. Although we would always check urge that you check the manufacturer’s instructions. Finally, do your research. Check reviews. Read best guides like the one you’re reading now.