Best Brake Dust Cleaners for 2021

Damaso
| Last Updated: January 21, 2021

Even with high-quality brake pads and rotors, brake dust can accumulate quickly, providing an unsightly layer of grime on your vehicle’s wheels and calipers.

Thankfully, wheel cleaners provide a thorough cleaning solution to this issue. With a high-quality cleaner and a bit of elbow grease, you can remove brake dust buildup and provide a gleam to your wheels that accent the overall aesthetic of your vehicle.

Our Top Picks for Brake Dust Cleaners

  • Highly effective formula
  • Acid-free chemistry
  • Changes colors as it works
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  • OE & aftermarket safe
  • No harsh odors
  • Environmentally friendly
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  • Fast-cleaning formula
  • High capacity bottle
  • Can be diluted
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Comparison of the Best Brake Dust Cleaners

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Multi-Surface Safe: Acid-free, pH balanced, safe on all wheels
  • Ease of Use: Spray on, lighter jobs require no scrubbing, heavy require some scrubbing
  • Amount in Bottle: 16.9oz, will clean large wheels about 2 times
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  • Multi-Surface Safe: Very safe, even safe on aftermarket powder-coats and specialty finishes
  • Ease of Use: Spray on and minimal scrubbing needed
  • Amount in Bottle: 16oz, will clean all four wheels a few times depending on size
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  • Multi-Surface Safe: Safe on most wheel surfaces
  • Ease of Use: Spray on, let sit, & lightly brush off/Effective on more than just brake dust
  • Amount in Bottle: 32oz, can clean many sets of wheels with one bottle
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  • Multi-Surface Safe: Safe for alloy rims & pH balanced
  • Ease of Use: Spray on & very minimal scrubbing required
  • Amount in Bottle: 32oz, you can clean many sets with just one bottle
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  • Multi-Surface Safe: Incredibly safe, even BBS wheels approves of formula; pH balanced
  • Ease of Use: Spray on, let sit, & lightly scrub off
  • Amount in Bottle: 35oz, clean a lot of wheels with this one bottle
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  • Multi-Surface Safe: Safe on most surfaces
  • Ease of Use: Spray on, wait for color to change, lightly scrub off
  • Amount in Bottle: 24oz or 32oz, many uses in both bottle options
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  • Multi-Surface Safe: Safe for all factory & clear-coated wheels, but also safely cleans tires
  • Ease of Use: Dual spray pattern sprayer; spray on, let sit, scrub off
  • Amount in Bottle: 23oz, will clean a decent amount of wheels before depletion
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What is Brake Dust?

Brake dust is a byproduct of metallic particles as a result of your brake pads and brake rotors bringing a vehicle to a stop. Yet what makes brake dust more problematic is that it bonds to your wheels and calipers due to the high levels of heat given off during braking.

SuperClean All Wheel Cleaner (Source)

That’s when wheel cleaners become your greatest ally. Unlike normal cleaning detergents or soap, wheel cleaners are specially formulated to cut through brake dust and remove it with ease. By spraying this cleaner on your wheels and letting it rest, you can wipe away brake dust, leaving your wheels with a shine that looks just as they did when you drove the vehicle off the lot.

Are All Wheel Cleaners the Same?

Although companies market wheel cleaners in several different ways, i.e., no-scrub, heavy-duty, etc., the product generally falls into one of two categories: decontamination (“decon”) products and general wheel cleaners.

Decontamination Products

Decontamination products, also known as iron remover wheel cleaners, use a special formula to remove caked-on brake dust from wheels, calipers, and the surrounding paint. Overall, these products are more expensive than general wheel cleaners, especially because they don’t come in a concentrated form. However, using decontamination products every two to four times you clean your wheels can keep brake dust from cooking into the surface and damaging the finish. 

General Wheel Cleaners

General wheel cleaners also remove brake dust effectively each time you wash your vehicle. These chemicals often use a mix of acid fluoride salts, organic solvents, and detergents (or any mix thereof) to cut through heavy brake dust.

Care should be taken when washing the car to remove these cleaners within five-to-10 minutes due to the corrosive nature of the salts. But when used regularly or in conjunction with decontamination products, general wheel cleaners are an effective product to give your wheels a lasting shine.

What to Look for When Buying a Brake Dust Cleaner

Not all brake dust and wheel cleaners are created equal. So when you’re shopping for a decontamination product or general wheel cleaner, here are some considerations to take into account.

Color-Changing Formula (Decon Products)

Color-changing formulas in brake dust and wheel cleaners are a godsend, especially to novice or DIY car detailers. Once sprayed onto your wheels and calipers, these products change color so you know when to rinse off the excess, taking the guesswork out of the equation.

Safe-on-Paint Formula

If you use semi-metallic brake pads, you’re certain to have more brake dust than ceramic brake pad alternatives. Yet for towing, hauling, and high-performance vehicles, using semi-metallic brake pads is unavoidable. Therefore, you might find more brake dust on the body of your vehicle.

In these cases you should use a wheel or brake dust cleaner that’s safe on paint. By choosing this type of product, you can reduce the chance of damaging your car’s paint job by using an aggressive wheel cleaner.

Eco-Friendly Options

Due to the thick, stubborn buildup of brake dust on your wheels, many manufacturers use harsh chemicals to cut through the grime. But like other types of chemicals (household cleaners, liquid fertilizers), these are harsh on the environment and may contaminate groundwater. As a result, look for eco-friendly brake dust cleaners that balance cleaning power and environmental safety.

Quick Take - Best Brake Dust Cleaners

In summary, here are the best brake dust cleaners:

  1. Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect
  2. Adam's Eco Wheel Cleaner
  3. SuperClean All Wheel Cleaner

Review of the Best Brake Dust Cleaners

Brake dust cleaners and wheel cleaners come in a variety of price points and chemical formulas. Yet choosing the right one isn’t easy, especially if it’s your first time buying a wheel cleaner. To guide you to the ideal product for your needs, here are reviews of some of the most reputable brake dust cleaners on the market today.

Sonax (230200-755) Wheel Cleaner Full Effect - 16.9 fl. oz.,Silver

PROS

  • Acid-free formula
  • Chemical dissolves iron for a deep clean
  • Less scrubbing necessary than similar products
  • Color-changing formula (fluorescent yellow to purple)
  • Safe on all types of wheels (alloy, chrome, aluminum, plastic, etc.)

CONS

  • Large quantities needed to remove excessive brake dust
  • Strong chemical smell; use in ventilated areas or outdoors

What Type of Cleaner is This?

Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect is an all-in-one wheel cleaner that provides the power of a decontaminant with the shine and cleaning power of a general wheel cleaner.

What Are Others Saying About it?

Some users report that the product works as advertised, requiring little to no scrubbing or agitation to effectively remove brake dust buildup. Others say that a wheel brush is still necessary to remove a majority of grime. In addition, the smell is strong enough that some buyers have switched to competitors.

Should I Choose a Different Option on This List?

Those with weak stomachs or strong olfactory senses may find that this product overwhelms their senses. An eco-friendly cleaner or one with more natural ingredients such as Adam’s Eco Wheel Cleaner is perhaps a better option.

Bottom Line

Used by professional detailers and consistently ranked as one of the best wheel cleaners available, Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect is a hassle-free way to remove brake dust and deliver showroom-ready wheels. However, some might find the strong smell off-putting.

Adam's New Eco Wheel Cleaner 16oz - Safely Clean Any Wheel Finish - Tough on Dirt and Brake Dust But Gentle on Your Wheels and The Environment

PROS

  • High-foaming for a deep clean
  • EPA-approved eco-friendly formula
  • Mild smell compared to similar products
  • pH-balanced formula is safe for wheels, calipers, and paint
  • Safe on all wheel finishes, even anodized and powder coatings

CONS

  • Some claim inconsistency in product quality
  • Some claim its not strong enough to break through heavy brake dust

What Type of Cleaner is This?

Adam’s Eco Wheel Cleaner is a general wheel cleaner that cuts through heavy brake dust and dirt without leaving any ill effects on the environment. Its heavy foaming formula also allows for deep penetration without harming the wheels or surrounding area.

What Are Others Saying About it?

Users of this product report that the formula is rather thin, causing it to drip off the wheel and requiring larger quantities of the product to complete a wheel cleaning. With mild agitation, this removes most brake dust.

However, some users also state that it’s ineffective in removing copious amounts of brake dust, as well as leaving a film behind on wheels. Hence, this product should be used regularly (every one to two weeks) to effectively clean wheels and given a thorough rinse (preferably with a pressure washer).

Should I Choose a Different Option on This List?

Although this product uses gentler chemicals to reduce environmental contamination, it may not have the cleaning power of some of the other products on this list. Drivers who are harder on the brakes or use brake pads that cause more brake dust may find that Sonax or SuperClean works better for their needs.

Bottom Line

For the environmentally conscious, Adam’s Eco Wheel Cleaner is perhaps the best option available. Plus, the mild odor can limit the nauseous feeling that some other chemicals may cause. Those who want a deeper clean for significant amounts of brake dust may want to try a stronger formula.

Best for the Money:
SuperClean All Wheel Cleaner

All Wheel Cleaner, 32 Oz, PK6

PROS

  • Odor-free formula
  • Lower price point than many competitors
  • Only has to set for one-to-two minutes before rinse
  • Foaming action requires little to no scrubbing or agitation
  • Leaves tires with a nice sheen, eliminating the need for separate tire cleaner

CONS

  • Some users may not like the acid-based formula

What Type of Cleaner is This?

SuperClean All Wheel Cleaner is an acid-based general wheel cleaner that’s formulated to remove dust, dirt, and grime associated with brake dust and everyday driving.

What Are Others Saying About it?

Users of this product report that both ready-to-spray and concentrate options provide the opportunity to save money while also getting the results they want. However, other users state that SuperClean leaves a residue on all areas that are not easily rinsed, even with agitation.

Should I Choose a Different Option on This List?

Because of the strong acid-based formula, this wheel cleaner requires delicate care when applying. Testing a small area is strongly recommended to ensure that it’s not too abrasive to wheels or the surrounding paint. As a result, some drivers may want to use an eco-friendly or acid-free formula, such as Sonax or Adam’s Eco Wheel Cleaner.

Bottom Line

With little to no odor and powerful formula that requires little to no brushing, SuperClean All Wheel Cleaner is a convenient, affordable option. However, drivers worried about damaging their wheels or paint may want to choose a less abrasive cleaner.

Best Brake Dust Professional (BDP) Wheel Cleaner:
DipYourCar Brake Dust Pro

DipYourCar Brake Dust Pro 32oz - Touchless Wheel Cleaner, Safe On All Wheels! Quickly Removes Brake Dust and Grime - Spray On and Rinse Off!

PROS

  • Works effectively even on Plasti Dipped wheels
  • Acid-free, pH-balanced formula most wheel types
  • Color-changing formula takes away the guesswork
  • Formula requires only small amounts of spray to work effectively
  • Touchless formula allows cleaning of wheels without any agitation

CONS

  • Super strong odor is off putting to some users
  • Some users report staining to the paint of their calipers

What Type of Cleaner is This?

DipYourCar Brake Dust Pro is an acid-free general wheel cleaner. But unlike competitors, this product touts itself as the only one that requires no agitation. Instead, the product recommends using a power washer to remove excess grime after spraying the product on the wheel.

What Are Others Saying About it?

Users of this product report that it’s specially formulated for Plasti Dipped wheels, whereas other cleaners cause the dip to fade or soften. However, some users report that similar products of the same quality are available at a cheaper price.

Should I Choose a Different Option on This List?

Drivers that don’t have Plasti Dipped wheels may find that this product is expensive compared to other formulas. Also, squeamish users may not be able to stomach the smell of the wheel cleaner, even outdoors or in well-ventilated areas.

Bottom Line

For those that have Plasti Dipped wheels or want a touchless wheel cleaner will find that DipYourCar Brake Dust Pro should check all their boxes. Budget-conscious drivers or those that have to clean several cars may find that other products provide more value for the money.

Griot's Garage 11106 Wheel Cleaner 35 oz

PROS

  • Non-staining formula
  • Safe for all wheel types
  • Leaves wheels with a nice shine
  • Doesn’t require liberal use for a thorough cleaning
  • Product only has to set for 30 seconds before agitation and rinse

CONS

  • Some users report that the formula is ineffective on excessive brake dust buildup
  • Some users report that wiping/agitation is necessary after rinsing to remove excess brake dust, despite claims

What Type of Cleaner is This?

Griot’s Garage Wheel Cleaner is a general wheel cleaner featuring a pH-balanced, acid-free formula. As a result, it won’t damage wheels, cause corrosion to rotors or calipers, or ruin the paint.

What Are Others Saying About it?

Although many users report that this product works better than store brand products, some say that it lacks the effectiveness of other cleaners in a similar price range. On the upside, eco-friendly car owners love the biodegradable formula, as well as a mild smell compared to other wheel cleaners.

Should I Choose a Different Option on This List?

Drivers that have Plasti Dipped wheels may want to opt for DipYourCar Brake Dust Pro, as it’s specifically formulated for those types of wheels. In addition, thrifty buyers may find that SuperClean yields similar results for a lower price.

Bottom Line

One of the most reputable names in car cleaning products, Griot’s Garage Wheel Cleaner is a premium product that’s great for removing caked-on brake dust in an eco-friendly formula. However, vehicles with brake pads that produce large amounts of brake dust may require a harsher or more potent product.

Meguiar'S G180124 Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner, 24 oz

PROS

  • Acid-free formula is safe for all wheels
  • Gel formula clings to wheels and uses less product
  • Color-changing formula to know when it’s ready to rinse
  • Users report no other products needed to clean wheels afterward
  • Decontaminants help remove metallic dust leftover from brake pads

CONS

  • Some users report that the product leaves a gooey mess that’s hard to remove without a power washer

What Type of Cleaner is This?

Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner is an all-in-one decontaminant and wheel cleaner that’s acid-free and ph-balanced to safely remove brake dust, dirt, and grime from wheels of all types.

What Are Others Saying About it?

Detailers and car enthusiasts find that this product may provide the best value of any wheel cleaner thanks to its low price and overall quality. While some DIYers prefer other brands to this one, even some seasoned drivers can’t tell the difference between this and higher-priced products.

Should I Choose a Different Option on This List?

For heavy amounts of brake dust, users may want to go with a more abrasive cleaner such as Sonax or SuperClean. Users with eco-friendly tastes may find the acid-free formula acceptable, but for a completely green product, Adam’s Eco Wheel Cleaner is the better option.

Bottom Line

With a 115-year-old brand name, Meguiar’s is one of the most trusted and reputable brands in the industry. With the company’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner, buyers get a product they can rely on, especially to remove brake dust and dirt. However, those worried about a consistent, leftover residue may want to look elsewhere.

Eagle One E301454600 All Wheel and Tire Cleaner

PROS

  • Doubles as a tire cleaner
  • Acid-free, no-scrub formula
  • Foams on contact for more coverage per bottle
  • Removes brake dust, as well as grime and other buildup
  • Also works as an engine degreaser 

CONS

  • Some users report that the sprayer works poorly

What Type of Cleaner is This?

Eagle One All Wheel & Tire Cleaner is a general wheel cleaner and tire cleaner that removes dirt and brake dust with little if any scrubbing necessary.

What Are Others Saying About it?

Many users report that you can’t find a better wheel and tire cleaner for the money, providing great value. However, others say that this cleaner significantly damaged their wheels and left a thick residue, even after rinsing.

Should I Choose a Different Option on This List?

For those worried about preserving aftermarket wheels or non-factory wheels, other products such as Sonax, Meguiar’s, or SuperClean may put their mind at ease. The formula isn’t designated as eco-friendly, so green consumers may opt for Griot’s Garage Wheel Cleaner or Adam’s Eco Wheel Cleaner.

Bottom Line

For the price, few other products can boast the cleaning power of Eagle One All Wheel & Tire Cleaner. But those with Plasti Dipped or aftermarket rims may want to consider options specifically formulated for their needs.

Safety Considerations for Decontaminants and Wheel Cleaners

Because decontaminants and wheel cleaners contain harsh, abrasive chemicals, users should use caution and proper equipment when using them. In addition, brake dust is harmful if respirated due to the metals contained in brake pads. Here are some basic safety considerations when using these products.

Wash Hands Thoroughly

If you decide not to use personal protective equipment, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after coming into contact with the product, as it can cause adverse reactions to skin exposure.

Personal Protective Equipment

Due to water spray pushing dirt, grime, chemicals, and metal (from brake dust) into the air, users should wear personal protective equipment at all times. This includes gloves, goggles, and a respirator or mask.

Use in a Well-Ventilated Area

The chemicals used in most wheel cleaners and decontaminants are toxic to humans. Therefore, users should only apply these products in a well-ventilated area or outdoors. As a last resort, a respirator should be worn if in an enclosed space.

How To Stop Brake Dust

Although you can’t eliminate brake dust completely, drivers can take several steps to reduce the amount of brake dust produced. The most pronounced way to reduce brake dust is to switch to ceramic brake pads. These create far less brake dust than non-asbestos organic or semi-metallic brake pads.

If you’re still not satisfied, putting a ceramic coating on your wheels will also help reduce brake dust. With this coating, your wheels are far less susceptible to the caking of brake dust. In addition, this coating creates a hydrophobic surface, making it easier to remove brake dust in the future. A typical ceramic coating lasts about two years.

How To Remove Baked On Brake Dust From Alloy Wheels

Removed stubborn, baked-on brake dust from alloy wheels isn’t always easy. That’s why you should follow these steps to help you get rid of brake dust with maximum efficiency and minimal time.

  1. Start by spraying/rinsing the entire wheel.

  2. Spray on tire cleaner and let it rest for the amount of time specified.

  3. Scrub the tire walls with a brush.

  4. Spray on wheel cleaner; dilute if necessary.

  5. Brush behind and on the face of the wheel.

  6. Use a detailer brush for hard-to-reach surfaces.

  7. Rinse.

  8. Use a decontaminant/iron remover and set for the specified amount of time.

  9. Rinse.

  10. Finish with a wheel protectant and dry.

Don’t Forget A Good Wheel Brush!

While some products tout a “no-scrub formula,” this rarely works for most baked-on brake dust. That’s why you should consider a dedicated wheel brush for your vehicle. Remember that these should be used only for your wheels, as the cross-contamination with sponges, rags, and car-washing products can damage other parts of your vehicle. Here are three top-rated wheel brushes:

  1. Chemical Guys Wheel & Tire Brush, Short Handle

  2. Chemical Guys Acc_M10 Wheel Woolies Wheel Brushes (3 Brushes)

  3. Metal Free Synthetic Wool Wheel Brush

Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty on the Best Wheel Cleaners

With a bit of elbow grease and a specially formulated wheel cleaner or decontaminant, you can remove brake dust effectively. Not only will your wheels look brand new, but you’ll have the satisfaction of getting down to the nitty-gritty without the expense of a professional detailing company.

Meet the Team!

Drive55

Who Chose These Products?

Our Product Expert

Steve has been maintaining and modifying vehicles for over ten years. He grew up like most of us did: progressing from Hot Wheels & Legos to racing games like Gran Turismo, eventually taking everything apart just to see what made it tick. His career path was pretty clear early on!

Steve is currently a Certified Auto Repair Technician who graduated top of his class; he's rebuilt engines, transmissions, suspension, and everything in between. Steve also runs his own Youtube production covering hot automotive topics called Cars Simplified. He currently terrorizes the streets of New England in an iconic American classic: the Pontiac GTO.

Who Wrote This Article?

Damaso Sig

Our Automotive Journalist

Damaso has been in the automotive world since he was 14 years old and his father decided to bought an auto repair shop. Years later, his passion for electronics, computers, and automotive mechanics motivated him to graduate in Mechanical Engineering and venture into the sales of automotive equipment.

For years Damaso worked as a technical advisor assisting car dealerships, tire shops, and even the plants of Toyota and Mitsubishi that operate in his country. He has over 25 years of experience reporting on topics ranging from DIY jobs, technological analysis, automotive news, and more. He is a wealth of information and a valued member of our team.
@damasosanoja

Damaso

Damaso has been in the automotive world since he was 14 years old and his father decided to bought an auto repair shop. Years later, his passion for electronics, computers, and automotive mechanics motivated him to graduate in Mechanical Engineering and venture into the sales of automotive equipment. For years Damaso worked as a technical advisor assisting car dealerships, tire shops, and even the plants of Toyota and Mitsubishi that operate in his country. He has over 25 years of experience reporting on topics ranging from DIY jobs, technological analysis, automotive news, and more. He is a wealth of information and a valued member of our team.