How To Clean Brake Dust Off Of Aluminum Wheels (Rims, Wheel Cleaner)

How To Clean Brake Dust Off Of Aluminum Wheels

Brake dust is the unfortunate result of the friction between the rotor and brake pad slowly disintegrating the brake pad into fine layers of dust.

Those layers of dust tend to accumulate on your aluminum wheels, ruining the positive aesthetics of your vehicle. 

So, how to clean brake dust off of aluminum wheels? For cleaning brake dust off of aluminum wheels or rims, dish soap and warm water will do the trick and possibly a brush to clean those aggravating, hard-to-reach areas. There are plenty of brake dust cleaners on the market as well which included: 

  1. Car Guys Wheel Cleaner
  2. Bug Splatter N All
  3. Carfidant Wheel Cleaner
  4. Pressure Washer

For the most part, soap and water is a quick fix, but there are ways to reduce—if not completely eliminate—the dust accumulation from brake pad wear and tear.

As with most things in the automotive business, preventative maintenance is key, especially purchasing preventative parts. 

What Kind Of Brake Dust Cleaners Work?

Brake dust accumulation, which has had enough time to build up several layers, is even harder to clean off than what you can do with a routine car wash.

Thankfully, there are many brake dust cleaners on the market that will make your job easier. 

  • Car Guys Wheel Cleaner: This wheel cleaner is designed to clean both the wheel and tire by penetrating stiff layers of accumulated brake dust.
  • Bug Splatter N All: This is an all-purpose cleaner that is strong enough to clean off the dried, dead carcasses of the unfortunate bugs (here’s to you love bugs) on your front bumper and windshield.
  • Carfidant Wheel Cleaner:  With a ph-neutral formula, Carfidant can penetrate thick layers of brake dust without leaving behind a sticky or oily residue.
  • Pressure Washer: This one goes without saying. It can penetrate the tiny crevices in the wheel and quickly knock off layers of brake dust. Careful not to spray in one spot for too long, as it could cause damage.

There are plenty more where those came from and the benefit of using the cleaners is that they can penetrate better than soap and water.

A pressure washer will also do the trick, albeit with care and attention so that you don’t end up etching something into the aluminum wheels. 

Water and soap are more than enough if you are pretty industrious when it comes to washing your car, with the chemical cleaners needed for those who may skip a month or so when it comes to a good car wash. 

Taking the car out to the local car wash seldom produces the results you need either, even if you pay $25 for the wash and wax, rainbow scented, color bonanza, extra special car wash. 

Brake dust will be left behind on the aluminum, which goes to show that spending $25 on an automated car wash is an absolute waste of time. 

Cleaning heavy brake dust off aluminum rims >> Check out the video below:

Preventative Brake Dust Cleaners

It’s better to prevent brake dust build-up than having to clean it off every time. Plus, it will make it much easier to clean off any brake dust residue that does manage to cling to the surface. 

There are a ton of brake dust preventative products out there. Always look for ones that are good for aluminum, long-lasting, and have minimal cleanup. 

Preventative maintenance is a great way to go to keep wheels clean and free of excessive brake dust. Even as they wear down, they’re still effective enough to make cleaning easy so you can put on the next coating. 

Another problem with brake dust is its corrosive properties. Given enough time, it can eat its way into the aluminum and make for a nasty-looking wheel. 

Preventative coatings solve this problem by serving as a sacrificial coating that negates the corrosive properties of the brake dust—what little dust is allowed to stick that is. 

Look Into Better Brake Pads

In the same vein as preventative maintenance sprays and coatings, there are better brake options available in the auto parts business that cut down on excessive brake dust.

Higher quality brake pads also last longer and, as a result, create less brake dust. 

Ceramic Brake Pads are an excellent example of superior brake pads that will last longer and avoid brake dust accumulations on the wheels.

They are more expensive than standard brake pads but that’s a short-term expense versus saving more money over time. 

As ceramic brake pads slowly break down, they also create brake dust—though far less than standard brake pads—except ceramic brake dust is clear.

Clear brake dust doesn’t show up nearly as well against the backdrop of an aluminum wheel surface. 

So even when you do accumulate some brake dust, the wheels will still look shiny and new. Ceramic brake pads provide better stopping power, and since they break down so slowly, they’ll last a very long time before they lose their viability and need to be replaced.

As with coatings, ceramic pads are great as a preventative against brake dust problems, so if you enjoy shiny, large-diameter rims, ceramic pads are the way to go.

All Things Considered

Cleaning brake dust from your wheels isn’t supposed to be difficult, like replacing a timing chain, especially if you utilize plenty of preventative maintenance.

Soap and warm water are effective cleaners in the short term, but for long-term results, protective sprays and coatings are better options.

If you’re willing to fork over some extra dough to keep those wheels nice and shiny, ceramic breaks a must-have commodity.

They last longer and as they break down, the accumulated dust is clear, avoiding the nasty brown/rust color of heavy brake dust on your wheels. 

When it comes to automotive aesthetics, preventative maintenance is every bit as important as it is with the internal parts and machinery.

Here are some of my favorite tools & equipment´s

Thank you for reading this article. I hope it helps you find the most recent and accurate technical and repair information for your car. Here are some tools that I use as an automotive technician and hope you´ll also find helpful.

There are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I´ll earn a small commission. But in all honesty, these are the exact tools that I use and recommend to everyone, even my own family. (NO CRAP)

To see all my of most up-to-date recommendations, check out this resource that I made for you!



Jeff is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Reatta. Jeff has been creating written and video content about transportation, automotive, electric cars, future vehicles as well as new, used for more than 18 years. Jeff is based in Boulder, Colorado.

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