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When you wash your vehicle, clean the wheels and tires first. This will prevent overspray or grime from splashing onto already-clean panels. If you like to clean your wheels and tires with soap and water, use a separate wash and rinse bucket and soft bristle brush.
Choose a cleaner that is appropriate for the type of wheels you have. Roughcast aluminum and chrome can withstand stronger cleaners than coated, painted, or anodized wheels. The cleaner will say what it is suited for on the label. For example, Mother’s All Purpose Wheel Mist can be used on any type of wheel, but their Chrome/Wire Wheel Cleaner is not safe for coated wheels. If you are not sure what kind of wheels you have, use a cleaner that is safe for all wheels.
I prefer to use a cleaner that works on the tires, too. Wolfgang Tire & Wheel Cleaner is a gel formula that clings to both the tire and the wheel surface to penetrate below the surface. It loosens brake dust that has crept into tiny holes in the metal and into the pores of the rubber. A little agitation with a brush will allow Wolfgang to work even better.
You’d be surprised how many tire and wheel brushes are out there. Basically, you want to look for a brush with feathered bristles for the wheels. This will prevent scratching. The Montana Original Boar's Hair Wheel Brush is a great option.
For tires, use Mother's Contoured Tire Brush. Tires require a stiffer brush to really scrub the rubber. Don’t be afraid to put a little elbow grease into it, particularly if your tires have layers of old dressings on them. These layers will turn brown and make your tires look worn out if you don’t scrub them off.
Always clean your tires and wheels one set at a time to prevent the cleaner from drying. Wash and then rinse with a strong jet of water before moving to the next tire.
Don’t forget to dry your wheels! Use a Cobra Microfiber Detailing Towel or a terry cloth towel, but not one that you plan to use on any other part of your vehicle. Once a towel is used on the tires or wheels, it should always be used for tires and wheels. Drying prevents water spots and helps you remove every last bit of the brake dust.