By on December 27, 2007

sprayrinse.jpgVisit 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.

before.JPGThen . . . 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.

after.JPGI 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.

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13 Comments on “Poorboy’s Spray & Rinse Wheel Cleaner Review...”

  • avatar

    i use meguiars’ wheel cleaner and a lot of paper towels; after reading your entertaining description of multiple applications of the poor boy “acid product” and the related cautions i’m certain my conventional method is quicker, much less messy, and carries no risks of wheel/paint damage.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    I have the cheapest and best way of keeping wheels clean…Soap and water with a rag and five minutes out of your day. When I used to work at a BMW dealership, we would clean up the cars for the customers. We would just run over the wheels with a rag and warm soapy water, and get them plenty clean and bright again. People would come up and ask how we got the wheels so clean, and we tell them how.

    You wouldn’t even begin to get near a close guess when asked how many of them said “You mean, we have to do it by hand?”

  • avatar

    I’ve been cleaning my wheels by hand with whatever I wash the rest of the car with, no problems whatsoever, for as long as I’ve been driving cars.

  • avatar

    Most of the OEM wheels sold today are polished alloy with a clear coat of paint. It shouldn’t be treated any differently than other painted surfaces if you’d like the clear coat to last. Most of these “wheel cleaners” aren’t very gentle to those surfaces and should be avoided on those surfaces.

    Now if you have a genuine set of polished and unpainted rims or *gasp* real wire wheels with a similar finish, an acid based product is fine, as long as you follow the rules, and don’t forget the metal polish afterwards (as if any anal retentive pistonhead could…).

    But for most – use the bucket of car wash soap (after you’re done with the rest of the car), a sponge, or a very soft wheel brush if necessary.

    And don’t forget to wax your clear coated wheels!

    That being said, Poorboy’s products are usually a very well made product that does the job as good as any other, if not better.

  • avatar

    I can see this stuff working great for baked on brake dust/grime, but a 50/50 mix of Simple Green and water with a soft brush works. But I admit it takes more elbow grease.

    But…its an all purpose cleaner that won’t eat up my paint. I’ve used Simple Green and a Scotch Brite pad (i.e. something like wetsanding, but without sandpaper and with soapy water) when the going gets tough and it works well.

  • avatar

    I have the bane of wheel cleanliness… a set of wire wheels on my dad’s old Jaguar. They are simply impossible to keep clean.

    Once a year I get out the “BF Hammer” and bang the knock-offs… well… off, then proceed to methodically scrub and floss the wire wheels to like-new condition. This process takes the better part of a day and to be honest, I don’t mind a bit. It is part of the ritual and enjoyment of being the caretaker for a classic car.

    I perform the required lubrication of the suspension and hubs, put the wheels back on, and drive the car to the local show-n-shine. After that the wheels get a casual scrub with a big soft brush and some soapy water a few times over the summer. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    Come springtime it starts over again.

    I’d spray caustic chemicals on the daily driver maybe, but the old girls gets nothing but my loving elbow grease!


  • avatar

    is it wrong that i avoid hard to clean rims like the plague? i didn’t buy a car once because the rims had those funky fake bolt looking things around the edges. I kneeled down, looked a them, turned to the owner and asked, “how do you keep these clean?” he just smiled and said, “Oh, it’s not that hard.” whatever.

  • avatar

    Pressure washer.

    Wipe down with rags or brush.

    Pressure wash again.



    Waxing painted rims is the single best thing you can do to speed your rim cleaning time. Brake dust doesn’t stick as well to waxed rims, lessening its build-up. Also, the wax helps for the next time you have to clean the rims.

    Maybe TTAC’s next product review should be of low cost consumer level pressure washers.

  • avatar
    Scorched Earth

    While I’m not a fan of the way Poorboy’s World rebadges ChemicalGuys products and jacks up their prices, Spray and Rinse is a unique wheel cleaner. It’s one of only two that I’ve found is truly spray and rinse. I almost never need to use a brush with this stuff, and I’ve tried A LOT of wheel cleaners.

    The only other product as effective is Meguiar’s Wheel Brightener, which is less than $20 a gallon and definitely preferable to S+R. I’m still working on my $40 gallon of S+R however…if you wash your wheels weekly and apply a sealant to the wheels every once in awhile, you never need anything more than the same carwash shampoo you use for the wheels.

    Comedian – waxing is great but make sure you use a synthetic polymer sealant, rather than a carnauba wax. Sealants are anti-static and tend to reduce the attraction of dust, while carnaubas attract brake dust, causing it to accumulate much more quickly.

  • avatar

    Thanks for that info on wax. I didn’t know that, but luckily I’ve been using synthetic for a while so I guess I lucked out.

  • avatar

    +1 for using the Simple Green route (although I’ve always used it full strength, but I’m sure 50/50 would do the job also.) If you wash your car with any kind of regularity it’s more than strong enough and you don’t have to worry about what it’s doing to your wheels. I always wash my tires & rims first, so after the Simple Green cleaning I always wash my (now clean) rims with the car wash soap. Never had any issues doing it this way to speak of.

    Of course, if the stuff (i.e. brake dust etc.) sits on there for months, then you are going to need to use something like this with some “persuasion” behind it.

  • avatar

    As I read along and got to the part about acid, I’m like “f that!”. As said by others, ye old rag and soap method works just fine. Yeah it’s a bit of a chore, but worth it not to damage your car with acid.

  • avatar

    Seems like more trouble than it’s worth, especially if I have to wipe them anyway.

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