Visit any parts store and you’ll see rows of products that claim to clean wheels. Just spray and rinse! After buying, spraying and rinsing, you end up with half clean wheels that beg you to take out the scrub brush and clean them the old fashioned way. And here’s the really horrible bit: OCD pistonheads keep after the “cleanliness is next to godliness” spray-’n-wash wheel-cleaning Holy Grail until their garages are littered—OK, carefully arranged—with half empty bottles of wheel cleaner. So, is there a genuine no-brush wheel cleaning solution?
No, and for good reason. Any liquid powerful enough to remove all the grease and grime from your wheels without a brush would eat through the wheel’s clear coating or painted surface and leave you with a cancerous catastrophe. However, after years of searching, I’ve found a product that works better than most at cleaning wheels with minimal post-application intervention.
I’m talking about Poorboy’s Spray & Rinse Wheel Cleaner. As you can see, the company takes its brand seriously. The formula is sold in a simple spray bottle with a cheap, glued-on paper label featuring Poorboy’s riff on Monopoly’s Mr. Moneybags. The 24-ounce bottle runs $9.95 at your local auto parts store. You can also purchase a quart bottle online for $15.95, or a gallon jug for $39.95. Since the wheel cleaner requires almost as much spraying as the side of a good-sized house, I recommend you go for the gallon.
Simply spray Poorboy’s Spray & Rinse Wheel Cleaner the on cold wheels. And then spray some more. And a bit more. And then, more. Keep spraying until your wheels are better coated than a Shake ’n Bake chicken breast. Wait a few minutes for the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome to subside and then rinse the wheels with a hose. A jet sprayer is ideal, as the pressure will thoroughly wash off the cleaner and the dirt.
Then . . . more spraying! I recommend wiping the wheels with a stiff brush, and then using a needle shaped brush, cleaning the area between the wheels and the lug nuts. One more spray and rinse and voilà! Your wheels are clean. But remember: don’t let the spray sit on wheels for more than a few minutes. This is some serious shit.
Poorboy’s Spray & Rinse Cleaner Wheel Cleaner is an acid-based product. So some basic, common sense precautions are required. Always spray downwind and use protective eyewear. I know it looks dorky, but if a sudden gust catches the product as you spritz, you may be temped to re-enact the final act of Oedipus Rex. (Been there, done that.) The good news: the human eye is the fastest healing part of the human body.
Another warning: the product should not be used on uncoated wheels. In undiluted form, the cleaner is plenty strong enough to damage an unpainted finish. Poorboy’s recommends diluting Spray & Rinse Wheel Cleaner by 50 percent and spot-testing to see if the solution works like alien goo on your cherished rims. Diluting the cleaner is also recommended if you’re a frequent (not to say obsessive) cleaner, both to protect the wheels and save cold, hard cash.
When I use Poorboy’s wheel cleaner, I also spray the liquid liberally on the inside of the wheel and onto the brake calipers. This helps keep the inside [somewhat] clean, and keeps the calipers looking presentable. However, if you’ve painted your own calipers, just say no. By the same token, the Spray & Rinse Wheel Cleaner may eventually eat through your car’s paint. So I’d definitely avoid over-spraying onto ANY painted surface, especially small areas of the body where the clear coat has chipped away, leaving thin painted or even bare metal surfaces.
I also recommend a thorough wash with water on the inside of the wheel, so that none of the cleaner sits on the brake pads or other brake parts. Overspray onto tires seems to have no affect, but Poorboy’s Spray & Rinse Wheel Cleaner is not and should not be used as a tire cleaner.
Since brushing is necessary (despite the company’s claim), I recommend a good quality short hair synthetic brush. Some detailers swear by boar’s hair wheel brushes, which are considered safer on wheels than the synthetic equivalent. However, they cost five times the price, and, in my experience, they don’t make much of a difference. Just avoid aggressive rubbing and have a little patience and you’ll avoid scratching your wheels.
Overall, Poorboy’s Spray & Rinse Wheel Cleaner is an excellent product that comes as close as you can get to a true spray and rinse product. Once your wheels are cleaned, a simple regimen of weekly sprays will keep them looking good, avoiding the dirt, grease and grime build-up that’s harder to remove over time.
Should this be a TTAC-approved product?