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How to Clean Chrome Rims

by We Drive
Chrome Rims

Chrome wheels are a favorite among aftermarket car-owners. They have an easy to maintain mirror finish and can be cleaned with ease, making them ideal for those who love their chrome!

However, some upkeep needs to happen in order not only to keep the luster looking fresh but also avoid damage from occurring over time or exposure – like scratches on paint jobs caused by road debris being kicked up by tires spinning faster than they would otherwise roll if left without traction because of its rubberized surface.

Chrome wheels’ worst enemy

Brake dust is one of the most irritating substances you can find on a car. It’s made of adhesive and carbon fibers that come off your brake pads, tiny metal shavings from the rotor, or other parts rubbing against them in-gear – including those pesky nails!

The intense heat and friction make this mixture highly corrosive, but luckily there’s protection for chrome wheels which need regular cleaning because these surfaces are so soft they’ll get pitted quick if not cleaned regularly with special products designed just for protecting delicate metals like silver

It might seem inconvenient at first; however, repeated use has shown me how much better my rims looked after, only needing to clean them every month or so rather than every week.

Protection is only half of the problem brake dust forms a sticky barrier on your rims that can be very hard to remove if not cleaned properly, so don’t skip this step even if you have professional equipment because using strong chemicals without safety gear could ruin your day

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Materials needed

Masking tape – This will be used for taping off sensitive areas on your car where you do not want any hazardous liquid to touch or drip onto.

Bucket & Car shampoo – Any brand will do what is designed for cleaning cars. I personally use the cheapest one I can find since it’s all going down my drain anyway

Wheel cleaner – You’ll need special stuff designed just for chrome wheels, but ordinary wheel cleaner can be used if you dilute it heavily with water

Soft sponge or brush – Any kind of rag will do since all that’s needed is to spread the cleaning solution around. I found using my old wheel washer brush ideal because it has a big handle and is one continuous piece, making it easy to wring out. Soft sponges work well, too but not anything hard like scouring pads, as these might scratch your rims

Outdoor hose & Water supply – This should be obvious by now but make sure you have access to a water supply outdoors and a way to hook up a garden hose for easy use.

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How To Clean Chrome Rims – Step-By-Step

Don’t let dirty water and brake dust ruin your car’s cleanliness. Clean the wheels first, then wash!

1. Rinse the wheels to remove loose dirt – Fill your bucket with water and car shampoo, then pour all over the wheels – You don’t need to scrub them if you used a brush & applied plenty of soapy solution, just wait for it to soak in

2. Prepare wheel cleaner & spray on brake dust – Tape off any areas that shouldn’t be sprayed while putting on gloves and safety glasses

3. Spray onto rims twice before letting it stand for about 20-30 seconds until brake dust turns into bubbles – If it doesn’t do anything at first, give it more time but don’t let it get dry because this stuff works best when it’s wet!

4. Scrub each wheel thoroughly with a soft sponge or brush, then wait again for 5 minutes to let it break down

5. Don’t forget about the lug nuts. Spray onto the wheel surface and rub with a brush if you have one, otherwise use fingers carefully to keep from scratching the chrome. If the lug nuts are still dirty by this point, spray them too but do not attempt to unscrew or rotate them at all

5. Rinse all of the cleaners off with the hose – Don’t let any get into your paintwork. Keep it aimed at rims!

6. Dry & protect – Get your towels or chamois leather ready to soak up all of the water, then let it dry for 10 minutes before applying wheel wax

7. Put everything away and admire your new-look wheels! – If you had anything on them like brake dust which is hard to remove, you’ll see that dirt come right off on your towel. This stuff works better than any other polish I’ve ever used on my rims!

That’s it! Cars don’t have to be expensive to look good, and just a few steps can make a big difference in how they look from these small details. If you’re not already cleaning your car regularly, why not start now? Your wallet will thank me later if you start now because it’s a lot cheaper to maintain your car than buying a new one.

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Chrome Wheel Polishing Tips

When you do not use your car for an extended period of time, it is best to start with easy maintenance. Using fine steel wool, clean the rims and apply a thin coat of wax to prevent rusting. Remember that rust requires removal, so be gentle.

When cleaning the wheels, never pressure wash them because this could ruin their appearance or even damage them. You can use a brush, but only if there are no grime particles stuck tightly on the wheel. If you have hard-to-remove dirt, warm water with some dish soap will work just as well as anything else from removing this dirt from chrome wheels.

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If you want to achieve perfection when polishing chrome rims, follow these tips:

1. Clean the chrome wheelbase

Dirt can ruin the shine of your car, so it is best to start with a thorough cleaning. Wipe the upper portions first with a soft rag, then do the same for the lower ones.

2. Remove scratches and oxidation

You can use fine steel wool or an aluminum oxide compound. If there are deep scratches that need removing, you may want to opt for professional services like sanding and buffing.

3. Polish

Now, you can apply the chrome wheel polish (allowing it to dry first if using paste) or any other suitable product designed for this purpose. Apply using a soft rag in small circular motions until the entire chrome rim is covered with enough polish. Make sure not to miss out on any portions of your chrome rims because every little detail counts when polishing them.

4. Get rid of tar spots

Any traces of tar found while polishing your car must be removed while they are still wet. Use a bit of wax or mild adhesive remover so it will come off easily. When you are done, wipe the entire chrome wheel using a clean rag to ensure there are no traces of tar or any other residues.

5. Protect

You can apply carnauba wax for the best protection. Wax may be applied when the finish is still wet for better results in protecting your chrome rims from corrosion and rusting. Be sure that the portion has been covered in wax enough before wiping any excess away because too much wax can make it look messy. Let it dry for at least ten minutes before getting in your vehicle.

To remove corrosion caused by road salt, soak cloth towels with white vinegar overnight, then wrap each corroded rim in the towel and let sit for 24 hours.

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How To Clean Chrome Rims – Further Tips & Advice

Many people have been asking me how I keep my rims so clean-looking, and you’ll be happy to hear there’s not much to it! In fact, all you really need is a little bit of common sense and the right products.

I’ve come up with this list based on what has worked for me over years of cleaning cars, especially my own, which gets the worst abuse from the brake dust. I always seem to pick up where ever I go; trust me, it can get everywhere! So without any further ado, here are some basic tips for how to keep your rims clean.

1. Frequent Cleaning

Dishes are not the only thing that needs to be washed regularly; your car does too! At least every two months, your car should receive a good wash (preferably with a pressure washer), especially if you live in an area where there is heavy brake dust like I do. This will help prevent rust and corrosion in the long run.

2. Use A Degreaser

If there’s one word that best suits what you want when it comes to cleaning rims, it’s a degreaser. It cuts through anything, including brake dust which is the devils’ work when it comes to dirt on chrome wheels. It will also help remove tar spots, so they don’t turn into iron oxide, which is a lot harder to get off. Be sure to use one that doesn’t leave grease, oil, or any other residues because this will attract more dirt which you really don’t want.

3. Clean The Wheel Well

After degreasing the wheel, be sure to clean it properly around the wheel well areas where water likes to hide. Leaving this area untreated could cause rusting, especially if you live in an area with snow. So make it part of your routine maintenance schedule for taking care of your car.

4. Don’t Use Steel Wool

I’ve mentioned before that steel wool may cause media blasting and damage if not used correctly. Apart from that, it’s also very abrasive on chrome rims, so unless you have extremely dirty rims, you don’t want to start sandblasting your chrome rims or scratching them with steel wool.

5. Use A Proper Brush

You want to use a brush that is suited for chrome rims rather than the ones you use on your car because they are too abrasive; be sure to get one with soft bristles. Be sure not to wear gloves while applying the wheel polish or wax either otherwise, it’s like sandblasting without having any control; even washing it (if you do), remove them carefully.

6. Don’t Over Polish

To me, it’s easy to go overboard with polishing once I get started, but don’t get carried away! It only takes around 7 minutes of polishing per wheel, and that’s more than enough, especially if you’re using paste. Applying excessive amounts will only cause an exceeding amount of residue, which will attract more dirt and brake dust, which you really don’t want on your chrome rims.

7. Don’t Forget The Inside

To keep your chrome wheels looking brand new, don’t forget to wipe the inside of the wheel every time you wash it. If not, you will be surprised at how much rust and brake dust can get in there. I am sure that most people would never expect this of themselves. Still, it’s very easy to miss such a simple step, thus causing unseen damage over time.

8. Clean & Protect

Do both of these things together for the best results. Start by applying a good alloy wheel cleaner (not an electrical contact cleaner), then work it into all those hard-to-reach spaces with a brush and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Then rinse it off with some water, and be sure to dry the rims before applying an all-in-one chrome polish. This will help cover up any small scratches or blemishes on your chrome rims, thus giving them that “brand new look” feel.

9. Use The Right Products

There are more than enough products out there for cleaning chrome, so use one of these but avoid household detergents as they are more acidic, causing corrosion over time. These two products have worked well for me, so if you want to try either of them, go ahead but again, do your research first because what may work for some people does not mean it will work for everyone else.

10. Protect Your Investment

If you spent any money on chrome rims, you probably want them to last for as long as possible, so here are some tips on how to prolong the life of your precious cargo. If you can’t park your car under a roof or garage, at least use the best wheel covers you can find to keep your rims clean and protected. If using wheel covers, break them in properly before adding tire shine; otherwise, it will fling all over the place.

chrome rims

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How to Clean Chrome Rims – Frequently Asked Questions

How often should chrome rims be cleaned?

The best way to keep them clean is to do it at least once a month, but more than that would be ideal if you drive in dusty areas.

Is steel wool dangerous for chrome rims?

Yes absolutely! Steel wool causes media blasting and damage if not used correctly. Apart from this, it’s also very abrasive on chrome rims, so unless you have extremely dirty rims, you don’t want to start sandblasting your chrome rims or scratching them with steel wool.

It only takes about 7 minutes of polishing per wheel, and that’s more than enough, especially if you using paste rather than liquid. Applying too much will only cause excessive residue, which will attract more dirt and brake dust.

What kind of tools should I use for cleaning chrome rims?

A soft bristle brush and a soft rag will do just fine. You don’t need to buy anything expensive. If you are really insistent on buying something effective, then I would recommend getting a polishing kit for chrome rims.

Do chrome rims get rusty?

If left alone outside without any protection or just neglectfully washed, yes, they could get rust spots, but only if neglected. When using steel wool, be extremely careful not to scratch them! Unless you’re prepared to spend about $70+ per rim paying someone else to get rid of the rust spots or re-plate thick chrome pieces, I would strongly discourage you from sandblasting or using steel wool.

Is it OK to use a power washer on chrome rims?

NO NO and NO ! Using an electric power washer will cause damage in the long run if not used correctly. If you still insist on trying it, then at least keep the nozzle about 1″ away from the rim and don’t let it sit too wet for extended periods of time (try to dry them off with a clean rag as much as possible).

The biggest problem is that you’re not using any kind of wheel cleaner, which can cause unnecessary damage, so either buy one or use water sparingly! It only takes 30 seconds per wheel; trust me, it’s more than enough.

When should I use chrome polish?

Chrome polish can be used whenever you need to restore the shine on your rims. This will work better than household detergents, so if you want to try something different, go ahead but avoid using steel wool! Household detergents are too acidic for chrome rims and will cause corrosion over time.

Suppose you have extremely dirty wheels or stubborn stains. In that case, it helps to give them a quick scrub with steel wool first, followed by cleaning them with a mild soap like dishwashing liquid (just make sure they’re completely dried before applying the paste) and always finish off with a good coat of paste (liquid works as well but is slightly more wasteful). Is vinegar safe for chrome? Yes, only if it’s diluted enough, but I would recommend trying other alternatives mentioned above.

How do you prevent chrome wheels from corroding?

Treating the paint around rims with a good wax will help prevent corrosion. Apart from this, buying high-quality wheel covers or placing them under the car cover before parking helps keep moisture and dirt away. Don’t wash your car while it’s sitting under sunlight if possible. Try to clean it while it’s in shadows (the heat & sunlight causes moisture which corrodes the chrome). It takes less than 3 minutes per wheel, so no excuses!

What can I use to remove rust spots off of chrome rims?

Although not always advisable, if the problem is only on one spot applying an acid like CLR (calcium, lime, and rust remover) and baking soda (turns into a paste if mixed together) can help remove the rust. Be sure to decontaminate the rim after by washing it with soap and water. The spot will fade, but it will come back if the cause isn’t removed.

What kind of cleaner should be used for chrome rims?

Wheel cleaner is a must-have. There are many good brands out there, but I recommend buying a quality brand like Sonax (a tip is to buy it at Walmart, they’re usually cheaper). Their wheel cleaner can be diluted and doesn’t require a power washer to work.

Does chrome wheel cleaner damage the rim finish?

NO! However, if it gets on the tire, try not to let it dry as it may cause them to become sticky/gooey… But actually, it shouldn’t, so don’t worry too much about that – just keep away from rubber stuff for obvious reasons.

How long can chrome wheel cleaner sit on a rim before it starts to damage?

There shouldn’t be any problems as long as you rinse the wheel with water ASAP after applying the cleaner. Just keep away from rubber stuff for obvious reasons.

How do I clean chrome rims without using water?

Vinegar and baking soda paste are one option. Another way is to use WD-40 instead of water, but this isn’t very effective, so if you have the time and patience, go for vinegar or dish soap. Just don’t forget to re-apply wax after!    


Since chrome wheels are a costly addition to a vehicle, proper and regular maintenance is needed to keep them in good condition. This involves the use of mild soaps and cleaners while removing stains with effective chemicals. 

Safe and economical alternatives such as baking soda paste or vinegar can be used if required. A quick wipe with a towel will take care of dust and dry mud, and the occasional touch-up with a chrome polish stone will ensure they retain their shine.

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