Home > Buying Guides >  

Ranking the best brake dust cleaners on the market!

Find out Which Product is the Best Brake Dust Cleaner Currently on Sale

Best Overall Choice

Eagle One A2Z All Wheel & Tire Cleaner

Check Latest Price

Best Premium Choice

CarGuys Premium Wheel Cleaner

Check Latest Price

Best Budget Choice

3M Wheel and Tire Cleaner

Check Latest Price

Brake dust removal

Do you see that black, dusty, gunk-like substance all over your wheels? That’s called brake dust, and it’s more than just unsightly – it’s terrible for your ride.

Brake dust builds up over time on rims and hubcaps during the normal life of any vehicle. Brake dust isn’t hard to accumulate, but it is hard to get rid of thanks to its uncanny ability to get stuck in the small ruts and divots in your rims.

Brake dust is ugly and will eventually cause etching and erosion on your wheels in addition to staining any aluminum wheel it comes in contact with. We’d say it’s also worth mentioning that inhalation or prolonged exposure to certain types of brake dust has been linked to health issues.

When it comes to keeping your wheels and your lungs in tip-top shape, it’s important to remove brake dust as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, removing brake dust from your rims, hubcaps and aluminum wheels is far easier said than done.

What is Brake Dust?

Officially, brake dust is over 90% iron and 10% accumulated road grime and dust. Brake dust is caused by your steel and cast iron brakes continually rubbing against the brake pads.

The majority of automotive brakes and brake pads are made from a semi-metallic material arranged in groups of fibrous steel.

Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. It’s much stronger than iron and far denser, which means when the two metals come in contact with each other, steel is going to erode the much softer alloy every time.

Steel is used in creating automotive brakes and brake pads. The regular and frequent abrasion of the two braking elements causes the steel fibers to scratch and gouge microscopic iron dust particles and larger metal shavings out of both braking components.

The brake dust then gathers around the wheel as a dark, viscous residue that is next to impossible to remove without specialty cleaners.

What’s more, if you plan on continually using your vehicle you will need to maintain a regular regimen of cleaning your wheels and removing the damaging brake dust.

Why is Brake Dust Bad For My Wheels?

Brake dust is terrible for your wheels because the microscopic iron and carbon particles, created by the continuous abrasion of the automotive brakes and brake pads, can cause corrosion, pitting, and permanent damage to your alloy and aluminum wheels.

Brake dust isn’t only damaging to your wheels, rims, and hubcaps; it’s also a threat to your clear coat and the underbody of your vehicle. The carbon and iron fibers cause erosion. Metal erosion plus water and road grime accumulated from regular driving is the perfect recipe for a rusted frame and crumbling undercarriage.

What are the Best Products for Removing Brake Dust?

Brake dust can be avoided – or at least minimized – by purchasing specialty carbon fiber and nonmetallic aftermarket brakes and brake pads.

However, most car and motorcycle owners are not willing to invest the extra money in aftermarket brakes and brake pads. We recommend purchasing a specialty brake dust cleaner and applying it to the affected wheels, following the brake dust removers printed instructions until the wheel is completely clean of brake dust and brake dust residue.

How To Remove Brake Dust

Brake dust is removed via specially designed wheel cleaners, heavy duty solvents, and good old-fashioned elbow grease. In order to be entirely confident that you have removed all of the damaging brake dust from your wheels, we recommend you follow these steps:

Park in a level area with ample drainage

We need to think about the environment before we do any work on our vehicle, even cleaning them. The chemicals and solvents used in brake dust cleaners are not always environmentally friendly. Ensure you have parked your vehicle far from any creeks and environmentally protected areas.

Remove hubcaps

 Lots of cars come with hubcaps that are just as susceptible to brake dust and road grime as the wheels beneath them. Whether you are cleaning your hubcaps, wheels or both, you’ll ensure the most thorough clean if the hubcaps are removed and washed separately.

Hubcaps are easy to remove. Most pop right off.

Ensure the wheels are cool

 The wheels of your car heat up from friction between the brake pad and the brake rotor (disk) when you drive. If you have recently driven your vehicle, allow your wheels to cool down before proceeding.

Prepping the surface of the wheel

Here is where you give your wheels a through regular cleaning –

  • Spray away the dirt and grime that can easily be removed with a hose or pressure washer. There is no use trying to remove brake dust when the wheel is still covered in regular dust.
  • Combine automotive soap and water. If you don’t have any automotive soap or cleaners, regular dish soap will work just fine.
  • Wash the wheel with an automotive sponge to ensure full coverage inside the spokes and along the wheel edge where it meets the rubber of the tire.
  • With a hard bristle brush or heavy sponge, scrub any stuck-on grime and dirt from the wheel.
  • Thoroughly rinse the wheel of any soap and remaining road grime. If the wheel is still dirty, repeat the washing and rinsing process until clean.
  • Protect yourself. Just as brake dust can be damaging to your health, so can the brake dust cleaners that are meant to remove it. Brake dust is a stubborn nuisance and requires an arsenal of heavy duty and powerful chemicals to be dealt with properly. You don’t want to get these chemicals on your skin, but you especially don’t want them in your eyes or mouth.
  • Apply brake dust cleaner to the surface of the wheel. Apply your chosen brake dust cleaner to the wheel, being sure to include the entire outside and inside of the wheel and the spokes.
  • Allow the cleaner to “work its magic.” Most wheel and brake dust cleaners require time to soak in. Some cleaners foam up and form exotic colors while others simply rest on the surface of the wheel and chemically dissolve the brake dust.
  • Once you have waited the indicated amount of time, grab your hard bristled brush or hard sponge and apply some elbow grease to the wheel. Scrub the problematic areas of the wheel thoroughly. Brake dust is tricky and stubborn. You will need to roll up your sleeves and put a solid effort into scrubbing all the brake dust from your wheels.
  • Rinse and repeat if necessary. After all, it is brake dust we’re talking about here. You may need to repeat this process several times before all of the brake dust is removed from the wheel.

Top Ten Brake Dust Cleaners of 2020

Brake dust is one of many automotive nuisances that exist, but it’s a stubborn nuisance that doesn’t just simply go away. Brake dust will keep coming back as long as you decide to drive your vehicle.

We sifted through the hundreds of various automotive and wheel cleaners on the market to find the best of the best.

What we found was that although there are a number of somewhat effective homemade solutions to brake dust, none seem to have the deep-cleaning effect or grease-removing power of the top ten brake dust cleaners compiled here.

The brake dust cleaners that didn’t make the list either lacked the cleaning power to remove normal brake dust accumulation or required far too many applications to get the job done.

Best Overall Choice

1. Eagle One A2Z All Wheel & Tire Cleaner

Check Latest Price

Eagle One is one of the most trusted brands in car care, and nothing cleans better than the A2Z All Wheel & Tire Cleaner.

A2Z was specially designed to cling to the surface of the wheel and dissolve brake dust and road grime. A2Z All Wheel & Tire Cleaner foams upon contact with the wheel while alkaline builders eat away at the molecular composition of the brake dust, loosening its hold on the microscopic pits and fissures of the rim, wheel or hubcap.

Eagle One designed A2Z to be acid-free and safe for use on all wheels and tires. Eagle One states that A2Z is their best-selling wheel cleaner and after witnessing how effectively it removed stuck-on brake dust, we can easily see why.

A2Z is available in a 64 oz bottle and attachable hose sprayer for easy application.

2. Griot’s Garage Wheel Cleaner

Check Latest Price

The chemists at Griot’s Garage knew what they were doing when they developed Griot’s Garage Wheel Cleaner to tackle brake dust. Griot’s Garage Wheel Cleaner has a specially designed formula that is highly effective on road grime and quickly removes etched-in brake dust from the surface of the wheel.

Griot designed their wheel cleaner to cling to road grime – and especially brake dust – to safely and completely remove any trace of the substance. Griots was extraordinarily effective at dissolving the sticky grime that brake dust loves to cling to.

Griot’s advertises “tough but gentle cleaning” from their wheel cleaner, which is safe to use on all wheel and rim types including chromed, polished, powder-coated aluminum, and steel.

Griot’s Garage Wheel Cleaner is one of the more affordable brake dust cleaners on our list and is available in eight, thirty-five, twenty-two ounce and gallon sizes.

3. Meguiars Hot Rims All Wheel Cleaner

Check Latest Price

Meguiars has been a trusted name in car care since 1901, and they put every ounce of that experience into the Meguiars Hot Rims All Wheel Cleaner.

Hot Rims destroys brake dust and eats through road grime like a hot knife through butter. The specially-engineered cleaning agent is designed to cling to the surface of the wheel. One or two sprays applies a foaming agent that effectively removes stuck on brake dust.

Meguiars Hot Rims All Wheel Cleaner is available in a 24 oz. bright pink bottle that distinguishes it from the other cleaners at the automotive store, but the flashy bottle certainly isn’t needed for Hot Rims to be chosen over the rest of the products on the shelf.

Meguiars Hot Rims All Wheel Cleaner is safe to use on all wheel types and should be available anywhere you buy your automotive products.

4. TriNova Wheel Cleaning Gel

Check Latest Price

TriNova engineered a high-end wheel and tire cleaner for high-end vehicles but managed to leave the high-end prices in the garage. TriNova Wheel Cleaning Gel is acid-free, so it won’t do more harm than good when applied to your wheels.

TriNova’s wheel cleaner comes as a fast-acting gel that seeps into the small nooks and crannies that spiderweb across wheels that have been eroded by corrosive brake dust. The gel, when buffed and washed away, brings the accumulated brake dust with it.

TriNova Wheel Cleaning Gel is safe for use on all wheel surfaces including aluminum wheels, chrome, polished, and alloy.

TriNova comes in a black bottle that looks as good as it cleans. TriNova is fast acting and easily removes brake dust with one simple application.  Whether you drive a luxury SUV or a used taxi cab, your wheels will be looking great and brake dust free.

Best Premium Choice

5. CarGuys Premium Wheel Cleaner

Check Latest Price

CarGuys is the professional detailing brand of choice, and the wheel and tire cleaner that they have engineered is exceptional at fighting brake dust.

CarGuys Premium Wheel Cleaner is a PH-balanced and environmentally friendly brake dust cleaner. Its concentrated cleaning gel quickly clings to brake dust and is easily whipped away. It’s suitable for hubcaps, wheels, and rims of all types, and comes in a sleek 18 oz. bottle.

When applied with some elbow grease and a quick scrub, no road grime, dirt or brake dust stands a chance.

6. Sonax Wheel Cleaner Plus

Check Latest Price

Sonax Wheel Cleaner Plus may look like just another brake dust cleaner on the automotive store shelf, but this cleaner absolutely destroys brake dust. Sonax Wheel Cleaner is acid-free and safe to use on all wheel types.

However, what sets Sonax apart from the other brake cleaners is the display of colors once applied and in action. When applied to the surface of the wheel, Sonax’s patented formula is red. However, as it quickly dissolves the molecular bonds that hold brake dust to your wheels, it turns green.

Furthermore, Sonax is completely PH balanced so it can be used on your wheels over and over without wearing down down the surface or removing the finish.

Sonax is one of the faster-working brake dust cleaners on this list. You can watch the cleaner work as its specially engineered formula quickly eats its way through brake dust and stubborn road grime.

7. Mothers Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner

Check Latest Price

There are few more recognizable cleaning brands on the market than Mothers and, as the saying goes, Mothers knows best.

Mothers is a powerful foaming cleaner. Its fast-acting cleaning agent easily dissolves road grime and removes brake dust. Mothers Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner is one of the more powerful brake dust removers on the market.

It’s so powerful, in fact, it’s the only brake dust cleaner on the list that isn’t safe to use on all wheels, rims, and hubcaps. Mothers Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner should only be used on factory/OEM coated wheels and hubcaps.

Mothers Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner comes with a spray on, rinse off design that safely boards and dissolves brake dust and leave zero residue.

Mothers Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner is a powerhouse on this list of the best brake dust cleaners because it makes quick work of even the most stubborn brake dust build-ups.

Best Budget Choice

8. 3M Wheel and Tire Cleaner

Check Latest Price

3M is a trusted expert in the field of automotive cleaners and the 3M Wheel and Tire Cleaner is specially engineered to dissolve brake dust build-up in one simple step.

The special cleaning agent removes all of the most stubborn road grime and leaves your wheels completely brake dust free.

3M Wheel and Tire Cleaner is the only cleaner on the list that is billed as a “tire restorer” which means, besides efficiently removing brake dust build-ups, it actually removes unsightly scuffs and scratches, too.

3M Wheel and Tire Cleaner comes in a 16 oz. bottle and is sold in four packs nearly anywhere automotive products are sold.

9. Nanoskin Speedy Brite Organic Wheel & Tire Acid Cleaner

Check Latest Price

The only organic brake dust remover on our list is the Nanoskin Speedy Brite Organic Wheel & Tire Acid Cleaner, but just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful.

Nanoskin Speedy Brite was developed with a low-PH organic-acid formula that quickly dissolves brake dust with one easy application. The brake-dust-removing technology embraced by Nanoskin lifts and dissolves all brake dust deposits.

Nanoskin Speedy Brite is non-corrosive to both metal and skin. It is also non-fuming, so you never have to worry about breathing in toxic chemicals.

Nanoskin Speedy Brite is safe to use on all brake dust affected types of wheels including clear coated, painted, aluminum, polished and anodized.

10. Chemical Guys Diablo Gel Wheel Cleaner

Check Latest Price

If the name isn’t to your liking, the results of using Chemical Guys Diablo Gel Wheel Cleaner will keep you coming back every time you need to remove more annoying brake dust.

The Chemical Guys Diablo Gel Wheel Cleaner is safe on skin and all types of wheels. Its powerful cleaning gel quickly breaks down and loosens brake dust deposits and is easily scrubbed away.

The Chemical Guys Diablo Gel Wheel Cleaner has a citrus-based formula that promises that your wheels will not only be brake dust free but also spotlessly clean. What’s more, the Diablo Gel wheel cleaner protects plastic hubcaps, wheel covers, factory alloys and vinyl-wrapped finishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will brake dust cleaner damage car paint?

Any solvent made to remove a substance that is petroleum-based like brake pad dust is also capable of stripping the waxy finish off of car paint. While this won’t directly cause damage, it can cause the paint to wear away faster over time. You should avoid getting brake dust cleaner on your paint but if it does happen, wash it off and don’t worry too much.

About Jacob Doyle

I am a Chicago-born writer with a thirst for everything automotive. I live by a simple rule; travel far, work hard and never stop writing. If I am not writing away, you can find me wrenching on my 1989 Ram Charger or wrecking something with wheels.

'); } });