How Do I Care For My Painted Wheels?

Painted wheels are both tough and delicate, like a beautiful cashmere sweater that is designed to hold its shape and drape beautifully, but also needs a little TLC in the washing department. Painted wheels can withstand some incredible forces and attacks from nature and the road, but they need a particular type of care to maintain their beauty while they’re being all resilient. 

Any wheel that’s been finished with a clear-coat protectant (as any professionally-finished painted wheel should) needs to be cleaned with a product that is both non-abrasive and non-acidic. While, yes, water clearly qualifies, water alone is usually not enough to remove brake dust particles, road dust and other nebulous flotsam and jetsam that build up on all wheels that move.

Most commercial cleaning products - even those labelled as specifically for wheels - don’t meet these criteria. 

Most easy-cleaning products tell you in the instructions to spray them on and leave for a couple of minutes before removing. These are generally low-acid products (hooray so far), but they also have a penchant for eating away the protective clear coat on your finish (not-so hooray). This effect doesn’t even take that long to start showing - even just a few uses can eat through the protective clear coat and start munching away at the painted finish beneath (yikes!), as well as allowing moisture and external forces to have their turn too. So even though the original product was technically low-acid, its effect on the clear coat allows high-acid external forces access to the paint finish beneath and can seriously corrode and ruin your paint finish. This can even apply to full-service and drive-through car washes, who may use acid-based cleaners to do the job (always check before speeding your car through a new wash service).

So what to do?

Some good and safe cleaning product suggestions are P21S, Wheel Wax and even Simple Green (all available from These are all low-acid products that won’t strip the clear coat from your paint finish. Wheel Wax has the added advantage (when applied to just-cleaned wheels) of providing an extra protective finish that repels road and brake dust and makes it easier to clean off anything that does stick to your wheels. It’s a bit like water rolling off a duck’s back (sorry, threw in a bit of fancy nature science there…).

If you’re still not sure about going near your glorious wheels with a sponge and a cleaning product, give the professionals at Salt City Wheels a call at 801 425 3044. Our experts will be happy to give you advice that won’t send you running for the repair shop.