How to Clean Black Rims: Secrets for Keeping your Gloss or Matte Black Wheels Clean

If you’ve just upped your wheel game and want to know how to clean your new black rims and keep them that way, you’ve come to the right place. Black rims can attract more attention, but equally more dirt than chrome rims and they can be more delicate to work with. In this article, we will discuss how to clean black rims without any damage to your rims, your vehicle or your tires. We will discuss how to prepare your vehicle, how often you should clean, what types of products to buy and more, but first…

Cleaning Black Rims: Steel or Alloy, Gloss or Matte?

Nissan 370Z black matte rims

Nissan 370Z black matte rims

When cleaning your black rims, you must first identify the material you are working with, along with the finish. Steel rims are the most readily available, are usually coated black and covered with a hubcap. Steel rims tend to be the most affordable on the market, but fall short on vehicle performance. The weight of the rims lowers the vehicle’s centre of gravity and tends to adversely affect acceleration and handling. The added weight, however, makes for a better performance when driving on snow and ice, digging the tire harder into the ground and providing better traction. Aluminium alloy rims, on the other hand, continue to gain in global popularity despite the increased price tag; they are much lighter and therefore contribute to a better overall driving performance.

Aluminium is also much easier to work with than steel, allowing for more varied customisation. 

Generally speaking, rims will be finished in one of two ways – a gloss finish (shiny and reflective) or a matte finish (dull and opaque). Most rims will have a gloss finish but the matte look is very fashionable and gaining in popularity. Occasionally, some newer models will have a combination of these finishes and might need a specific cleaning solution. If you’re in any doubt, consult your owner’s manual or get in contact with the manufacturer. You could cause irreparable damage to your wheels by cleaning your black rims while using the wrong solution.

Recommended Solutions for Cleaning Black Rims


There are a huge amount of products on the market available for cleaning black wheel rims. The best advice is to find solace within that market. Do not be tempted to use homemade or  general purpose cleaning solutions, and ensure that any brushes, sponges or cloths that you use are as soft or firm as the job requires. You will need the following:

Buckets

It is essential that you live, wash and die by the two bucket method. 5-gallon buckets are best, and you should prepare one with cleaning solution, and one with warm water for rinsing your brushes, sponges, and cloths. It is best to label your buckets ‘wash’ and ‘rinse’ respectively to make sure you do not interchange the two while fully engrossed in cleaning your black rims.

Microfibre cloths

The more microfibre clothes you have, the better. Buy a bargain pack; they are excellent for cleaning, polishing and drying black rims and it is best to use a fresh one whenever possible, particularly when you have reached the drying stage. Microfibre cloths have much more, smaller fibres in the material than cotton cloths and therefore can clean deeper and more thorough than their traditional counterparts.

Brushes

Top tip: Wrap the metal part of your paintbrushes in electrical tape to avoid scratches on your rims or bodywork if you slip while cleaning. 
You will need to have a selection of wheel, tire and lug nut brushes in varying sizes. It is also useful to have a couple of paintbrushes and a toothbrush for the smaller areas. All the brushes you use on your black rims (especially matte finish) should be soft bristled brushes. Tire brushes in particular are far too stiff and will cause irreparable damage to your rims.

Cleaning solution

Full black wheels cleaning solution

Full black wheels cleaning solution

Cleaning solutions vary enormously and it is important to read the bottle carefully to ensure you have the right type for your black rims. No-sling tires and rims cleaning solution can be acceptable.  If you are in any doubt, contact the manufacturer. Waterless cleaners make the process quick and easy, with no need to spray the wheel with water afterward. For matte finish rims, a pH neutral, wax free shampoo is recommended.

Polish and Wax

Polish and wax will help your black rims maintain a long lasting, showroom quality shine. Make sure you always check the label and contact the manufacturer if you are unsure about using any polish or wax on your rims.

Cleaning your Black Rims

Cleaen glossy black wheel

Cleaen glossy black wheel

Stage 1: Rinse the rims

You are aiming to remove as much excess dirt and grime as possible in this stage. The best thing to do is use a standard garden hose with a spray nozzle; if this is not possible an old wet rag will do, but ensure you wipe your rims gently to avoid scratching the surface with unseen particles of stone and dirt.

Stage 2: Apply wheel cleaner to your black rims

Washing the black painted wheel

Washing the black painted wheel

The wheel cleaner you use will depend on the finish of your rims. It is best to allow the cleaner to sit on the rims for 5 minutes or so to allow it to work. Try to do this in a shaded area when the wheels are cold, but ensure the ambient temperature is over 0°C.

Stage 3: Gently but thoroughly scrub your black rims

Using whichever brush is appropriate to the area scrub your rims in a circular motion where possible, working from the top of the wheels down to the bottom. If you are cleaning your wheel arch and tires as well, work these into your top-to-bottom routine.

Stage 4: Rinse and dry your black rims

If you are using a water-based cleaner, rinse your rims using a hose, or pressure washer if you have access to one. If your cleaner is water free, wipe your wheels with a clean microfibre cloth. Dry your wheels thoroughly with a lint-free towel, large rag or clean microfibre cloth.

Stage 5: Apply polish and wax

Waxing the black wheels

Waxing the black wheels

Polishing your black rims will help with their overall shine. Use sparingly with a microfibre cloth or polishing pad in a circular motion. A coat of wax will help protect your clean rims from the atmosphere, dirt and brake dust. Apply a thin layer of wax to your rims and massage it into your wheels using a microfibre cloth in a circular motion.

Keeping your Black Rims Clean

For the best, longest lasting results, it is best to clean your black rims once a fortnight and apply polish and wax once every second wash. Remember:

Happy cleaning!

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