How to Remove Brake Dust from Wheels

Removing Brake Dust

Source I Sunny/flickr

Follow these steps to remove unsightly, damaging brake dust from alloy wheels, and prevent future build up.

We’ve all seen, and maybe even driven, THAT vehicle before—the one with a telltale build up of reddish-brown or black brake dust obscuring the metal wheels’ once smooth, shiny surface, making it look as though it hasn’t been detailed in months.

Brake dust doesn’t just look bad. If allowed to build up on the wheel, it can also damage the wheel’s surface by permanently pitting it. And no amount of elbow grease using just ordinary soap and water is going to remove brake dust either. That’s ok though, because you can remove brake dust quickly and almost effortlessly using a brake dust cleaner or brake dust remover. Here’s how.

Vehicle System
Brake System
Skill Level

This is a good project for new DIYers

Time to Complete
1 hour
  1. Learning how to clean steel or alloy wheels’ brake dust is fast and easy, and takes about 15 minutes per wheel.

    Start by making sure the vehicle’s wheels are cool to the touch and are out of direct sunlight. They'll stay cooler that way and won't dry before you're done cleaning.

  2. Rinse the wheels with the hose and water to remove heavy dirt and debris. This will also prevent the dirt from scratching the wheel’s surface during cleaning.

  3. You should've already selected a brake dust cleaner for rims based on whether you have steel rims, alloy, or ones with a clear coat. Read the wheel cleaning fluid’s label to ensure it’s safe for the type of wheels you’re cleaning, and to find out how long to let the wheel cleaner work its magic before you start scrubbing the wheel.

  4. Pro Tip

    The best wheel cleaner for brake dust is a matter of personal preference. Most important is to pick one that’s safe for your wheels’ finish.

  5. Spray one wheel with the cleaner and allow it to soak for the designated length of time. Almost immediately you’ll notice the brake dust start to break down and run off the wheel.

  6. Using a soft-bristle brush, brushes of different sizes and/ or a washing glove mitt, gently scrub the wheel’s surface, including between the spokes and around the tire valve stem, to remove brake dust. You'll need a brush that's stiff enough to get the job done effectively, but still soft enough to not damage the wheels' finish.

  7. Pro Tip

    Have a variety of brush sizes on hand for cleaning in and around hard-to-reach spots on the wheel. You may find crevices and other areas that are tight enough that you'll need a toothbrush.

  8. Rinse the wheel with the hose and water. Now that it’s clean you may notice that you missed some brake dust. If so, repeat steps four through six.

  9. Dry the wheel using a clean rag.

  10. Once you’re satisfied with the wheel’s appearance, and it’s completely dry, apply a layer of vehicle wax to the wheel surface, following the wax manufacturer’s directions. The wax helps prevent brake dust build up and makes it much easier to remove during future cleanings.

    And there you have it—clean, protected wheels in under an hour!

Last updated June 20, 2018