Top 8 Best Wheel Cleaning Brushes
By | Last updated: April 29, 2021
Aleksandr Kondratov/Shutterstock.com

If you tend to skip over our DIY post weeks, perhaps this one will be more to your liking. While not everyone wants or has the space to wrench on their own ride, there’s a solid chance that most gearheads like to have a few cleaning tools on hand.

Attacking your car’s wheels with a general use brush isn’t the best of ideas; they may contain bristles stiff enough to cause scratches. Also, that brush may have held some dirt from the last time you used it on … something. The best solution is to pick up a specific wheel cleaning brush and keep it reserved for hoop duty.

We’ll recommend a few in this post that require the use of a power tool but in the interest of trying to include every gearhead we will also feature some handheld options as well. After all, the only grease you should have on your wheels is of the elbow variety.

1. Editor's Choice: Griot's Garage Micro Fiber Wheel Wand

This two-pack of brushes feature a microfiber brush head that’s just the ticket for getting in and around the intricacies of some wheel designs. In fact, they would have been fabulous for the turbine-style wheels on your author’s 1989 Lincoln Mark VII, a remnant from this site’s Panther Love days that only a few long-time readers will remember.

These brush heads attached by ultrasonic welding which is likely a common practice in reality but nevertheless sounds very cool. At least there’s little chance of it detaching during a vigorous cleaning session and scratching up your car’s wheels.

Pros/Respected brand name, compact size
Cons/Some complaints about handle quality
Bottom Line/Tuck a couple in your detail kit

2. Mothers PowerCone 360 Metal Polishing Tool

Here is a tool that isn’t specifically marketed as a wheel cleaner but can certainly be used as one. Its patented spherical cone extends polishing ability and effective surface area, proving the point that companies – even ones singularly focused on a particular sliver of the car world – benefit from an R&D budget.

Mother’s says this tool shines a wide range of automotive surfaces including billet, chrome, stainless steel, and aluminum. In other words, most of the stuff of which wheels are made. A quick swap bit permits easy and fast installation into the power drill of your choice

Pros/Thoughtful design, easy-to-use
Cons/Drill not included
Bottom Line/Saves yer elbow grease

3. Chemical Guys Short Handle Wheel & Tire Brush

Not every wheel brush needs to be a long and thin unit or one that is mounted on the end of a power drill. This cleaning tool blends old-school design with modern technology from a company that knows what they’re doing when it comes to car care.

Feathered ends of bristles are said to deliver a safe and gentle cleaning to your car’s wheels, removing caked-on grime and grease from those filthy and disgusting hoops. A heavy-duty non-slip handle offers a good gripping surface while the large brushing area should make quick work of wheel surfaces.

Pros/Big brush surface, tapered bristles
Cons/Difficult to get in small areas
Bottom Line/Pairs well with fine detail tools

4. Adam's Wheel Brush – Car Detailing Brush

Yeah, this brush is markedly similar to the green one listed above from Chemical Guys. But there are a few key differences – and we’re not just talking about the color. This one apparently has a bit of a shorter handle for better scrubbing. The specs bear that out, with this brush measuring just 8 inches from tip to tail, about 1.5 inches shorter than the other brush.

It’s also double the price, so judge yourself accordingly in that arena. There are only about two dozen reviews for this product; most of them are highly complementary. Adding an extra dose of internet security is the fact that shoppers are directed right to an Adam’s Polishes store instead of a third-party reseller.

Pros/Great brand name, zomg it's red
Cons/More expensive than similar brushes
Bottom Line/Premium price for a premium product

5. Brush Hero Wheel Brushing Set

If you have multiple surfaces of different toughness to clean, then the crew at Brush Hero asserts that their multi-brush set fits the bill. Their smaller packages come with just one replacement brush but this set includes three, all of which serve a different function.

A soft black brush is good for sensitive surfaces, while a tough white brush is better for serious muck. There is an even tougher blue brush for the most resistant stains and a tall black navigator brush for those hard to reach spots. No batteries or electricity required: the Brush Hero connects to a garden hose and is powered by water pressure alone.

Pros/Works on water pressure, quartet of brushes
Cons/Proprietary system means Brush Hero replacement costs
Bottom Line/A unique take on an old problem

6. SPTA Wheel & Tire Brush Car Detailing Kit

This option is surely in the off-brand corner but it seems to have good ratings from real-world customers. The kit includes nine different items for a reasonable price. The main star is a 15-inch bendable brush that looks for all the world like those long-reach dusters they sell on the shopping channel. There is also a short handle brush with a large face.

Also included are five detail brushes of varying sizes, good for farking crud out of the wheel’s lug nuts areas and other intricate space. Rounding out the set is a brush intended not for wheels but for the A/C vents in a car’s cabin. A microfiber towel is tossed in for good measure.

 

Pros/Nine piece set, affordable
Cons/Some reports of janky brush quality
Bottom Line/One can rarely have too many detailing tools

7. Takavu Master Wheel Brush

This is essentially the long brush from the kit listed just prior, complete with polypropylene bristles and an easy-grip handle. It is about half the length, though, so the seller promotes it as a wheel cleaner for motorcycles or other thin-rimmed rides (the back tire on a superbike doesn’t count, pedants).

Still, this brush will make for a good cleaning tool, needing just a bucket of hot water and your favorite automotive cleaner to go to work. A hilariously named ‘rubber ring protector’ means you can clean your car’s wheels with wild abandon without worrying about hitting your knuckles on bare metal.

Pros/Just a brush and nothing more
Cons/What's that brand again?
Bottom Line/Basically a giant pipe cleaner

8. Woollywormit Wheel Brush

Slightly inappropriate (or hilarious – your choice) brand name aside, this product offers a lot in a small package. The main item is a 13 inch long flexible microfiber-covered brush designed to fit between wheel spokes and openings. This will permit cleaning more than just the surface of a wheel.

Also included? Little microfiber nubbins to get in those pesky lug nut areas. In fact, the seller claims this is the only patented wheel brush with an integrated lug nut cleaner. Every package includes two different-sized lug nut cleaners, each of which comes with 4 cleaning sponges. This is serious OCD-level stuff, folks.

Pros/Great for fine detail work, lots of attachments
Cons/You're done for if your buddies find out
Bottom Line/A bit over the top but who cares?

Wheel Brush FAQs:

Won’t this old t-shirt rag do the same job?

Sure – if you want to be an absolute slob. Ok, perhaps that’s a bit harsh but there’s no disputing the fact that specialized tools like these do a better job than some old rags. With these types of wheel brushes, you’re pretty much assured there will be no stray bits of dirt or metal (other than the ones you introduced yourself) on the tool. This helps keep your car’s wheels in top shape.

Should these be used with a liquid cleaner?

Probably. Make sure to read the instructions that accompany the brush, as some types don’t play well with chemicals. The same goes for the cleaning solution itself – follow the instructions and initially try some in an inconspicuous area if you’re not sure. There’s one liquid that is sure to be easy on your wheels – plain warm water. Take care not to use household soaps since they may have additives that can harm the delicate finishes on vehicle wheels and paint.


From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Rental Reviews, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main Photo Credit: Aleksandr Kondratov/Shutterstock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

19 Comments on “Best Wheel Cleaning Brushes: Wheely Clean...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I suppose the one argument I could make for black wheels is that it gets you out of cleaning silver ones, which is a MAJOR pain in the behind. The alloys on my car have a major talent for collecting brake dust in the hardest-to-reach places.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Perfect article for the upcoming winter wheel swap. “removing caked-on grime and grease from those filthy and disgusting hoops” I find a narrow soft brush works best for washing, then a cloth to polish off.
    P.S. It’s Punctuation Day, so I used some.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    If stiff bristles harm a car’s wheels— wtf are rocks and road debris going to do to them?!

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Being naturally lazy, I rule out wheels that look like a PITA to clean. Thinking about changing to *low* performance brake pads to reduce brake dust too ;)

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Meguiars Wheel Clean and a medium stiff brush from the Dollar Store and you’re good to go. No need to make this any more complicated then it needs to be

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    One of the worst things about car maintenance, especially if you’ve got a German ride with their insane brake dust.

    I really enjoy washing my car, I sometimes help out to keep family member’s cars clean for them. My mother’s BMW has about 2 million spoke alloys, always covered in brake dust. I bet I can wash the entire exterior in about the same time it takes to clean all these stupid spokes. I got something like #8 and it helps but it still doesn’t get into the deep corners all that great, which means you have to use more force to jam it in there or you still need to use some sort of rag or something.

    God I hate cleaning wheels.

    I honestly have been attracted to buying certain cars if they just have a nice, basic, 5 spoke design or something. Look at the rims and think yup, i can clean that whole thing in about 30 seconds.

    I’ve not found any wheel cleaners or anything that works other than just getting in there with a rag. Otherwise you’re gonna miss spots.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I recently learned that power washers are great at pre-washing a lot of the grime off of wheels. Makes the scrubbing part a bit less messy.

    Now how do I clean the inside of the wheel effectively without removing it? That’s my bugaboo.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Hey, news I can use. With the exception of the Miata, every vehicle I own has wheels with fussy nooks and crannies I can never quite get clean. If I buy by clicking Shop Now, TTAC gets a little $$$, right?

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I have the #3 Chemical Guys brush, which I have been using with CarGuys Wheel Cleaner. Would recommend both, but can’t stop thinking about a better mechanized approach.

    The #5 Brush Hero is appealing, but wonder about a) torque and b) always rinsing the cleaner away, when you’d like to scrub with the cleaner still on the wheel.

    Business opportunity (maybe):
    a) OEM: Paint the wheels the color of brake dust and be done.
    b) See the “RotoScrub” wheel cleaning brush – something like that but with a longer, pointy brush – using a drill for rotary motion.
    c) Check out the “Spyder Products Nylon Brush Attachment” – the brush attaches directly to a reciprocating saw. If you substituted a longer, pointy brush you could get a very useful (perhaps?) ‘in and out’ motion.
    d) Ultrasonic wheel cleaner (like a giant oscillating toothbrush).

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Ceramic brake pad compound minimizes brake dust and works fine for street use. My track car’s race pads, on the other hand, produce lunar quantities of dust.

    I just use a power washer — no brush required, very effective.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Both my Highlander and my Bolt have machined wheels with painted black pockets (the Highlander’s three-season tires are on take-off wheels from an ’18 Highlander SE). I’m discovering after a couple years of ownership of both that I hate the painted black pockets for the same reason I hate black cars. Clean them with a brush and they show swirl marks. To make them properly shiny you have to polish and wax them just like a black car finish. Such a pain in the behind.

    On the other hand, the Highlander’s winter tires are on the factory “Chromtec” wheels, which are fake chrome plating on a plastic wheel cover bonded to the surface of the aluminum wheel. They’re unfixable if scratched and look ugly, but they really do clean off perfectly with a simple wash.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I remember

  • avatar
    SavageATL

    I have never tried it for cleaning wheels, but that mother’s power cone thing is the best thing ever made for polishing silver. I have enormous quantities of silver and it gets in to all the nooks and crannies of finely detailed silver. Messy, but removed tarnish quickly and effectively like nothing else.

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