Easy cleaning of heavy brake dusted wheels

It was in 2002 when we began looking into making a wheel cleaner. We already had a set of alloy wheels with the finish badly damaged thanks to big names' supposedly safe “all wheels” cleaner. Which was obviously not safe for ours. Not wanting to have this ever happen to anyone else, the chemists were given the task to make a safe one for us. A lot of different formulas were put forward, but we found holes in all of them. We needed something pH balanced, i.e. non acidic or alkaline, biodegradable and be safe for ALL wheels. It also had to cut the time down in cleaning the round friends on our cars.

We were recommended a new type of wheel cleaner made by a large German company, which worked surprisingly well, but the toxic smell had us gagging! Finding out what the ingredients were I was very happy not to be inhaling it anymore, as a great carcinogen was being used in its formula. But cancer catching ingredients aside, it worked quite well and had a funky colour change reaction on the wheel, so we began to look a bit closer.

Young Casey who works for us mentioned that it smelt a lot like a hair treatment they sometimes use in hairdressers. She also mentioned how good this hair care product was for cleaning metal in the salon. From that we were able to isolate the active ingredients and began trying to work out how they could be made into a real car care product. So starting from scratch our journey to make this specialist wheel cleaning formula began!


Leave it to Beaker

Our lead chemist “Beaker”, isolated the three items which were causing the reaction with the brake dust. It was found that there were a number of different ways it could be formulated with chemicals a lot more effective and safer than the overseas hair care product knock-offs. He also managed to add a few trick, gentle cleaning ingredients, including a degreasing agent, plus a gelant wetter to make it spread better, not dry as quickly, and stay thicker to allow better penetration time on the side of the rims. It took about a year of work, with dozens of subtly different batches made to trial in different conditions, with the one we have in production now being judged by ourselves and other hard core enthusiasts/elite professionals to be the winner. Best of all we now get all the ingredients for this product locally, so she is 100% all Aussie!


Not acid, not alkaline, so what is it?

Our Wheely Clean is a revolutionary type of cleaner that utilises a chemical reaction with metal oxide/brake dust that changes its state to a water-soluble complex, for easy removal with a hose. It will do about 80% of the cleaning job for you on really dusty wheels and close to 95% or more if used weekly on a daily driver. With its active degreasing ingredients, it also does a great job at removing built up road grime you can expect on any wheels. It is pH balanced and contains no acid or alkaline ingredients, so it's safe for all wheels including painted, alloy, anodised, chromed, clear coated, powder coated, aluminium, stainless, billet - the list goes on!!

How to use

It’s pretty simple to use, but there are a couple of simple tips to remember. Firstly, don’t let it dry; if you do, it means you will have to go and give the wheels another wipe, meaning more work! Use it in the shade and ensure the wheels are cool enough to touch. Same goes for brake callipers, we have not personally experienced an issue, but due to the different finishes used on some callipers, we don’t suggest spraying it directly onto them, as it can flash dry and mark some of the lesser quality finishes. Like any type of wheel cleaner out there, with some brake rotors, zinc plating can be affected near the hat, but it’s a simple fix to just have this area sprayed and sealed in a heat-coated paint. In nearly all cases it will not bother most people, as the wheel usually hides this area of the rotor.

Step 1

Easy application

Shake the bottle really well, then spray onto a dry wheel in a sweeping motion. Do one, or a maximum of two wheels at a time, making sure to get good coverage. If the product does not get on all the brake dust and grime in the wheel, it cannot clean it off. This is why we like to suggest using a wheel brush. It has a very 'unique' smell that is normal, if you're the rare one who is a bit sensitive to it, we would suggest wearing a mask.

Leave it on the wheel for about a minute.

Step 2

Brushes for dirtier wheels

A wheel brush is good to spread the product around on dirty wheels, especially when cleaning off heavy brake dust. We recommend and use Wheel Woolies, which may look like a glorified toilet brush set, but we find they work a real treat and can get in places normal brushes cannot reach.

We also find its great to use and keep your brushes in a wash bucket with suds, like any of our car washes you keep for just using with the brushes. It water and moisten the bristles for when you're brushing the rim. This will also save you from spraying too much product as your spreading it out more effectively over the wheels' surfaces.

We don't sell the Wheel Woolies or brush sets through our retail networks yet, but we do have them available for special order if you'd like a set. Just call us on 1800 351 308, or you can get them at any of our Detailing Days or Open Day events (more information on them here at our Events page).

Step 3

Leave and watch the colour

You will see a change of the product from clear to a purple, dark red, even black colour (if there is really heavy brake dust). This colour change is the unique and safe chemical reaction breaking down the brake dusts' iron particles into a water soluble complex on the wheel.

Zombie wheels...

Close up of the chemical reaction at work. You can see why we almost gave this product the name zombie wheels!

It's important to point out is that it's safe on the wheels' surface and this chemical reaction is doing most of the hard cleaning work for you.

Step 4

Hose it off

After the minute is over, thoroughly hose it off with a strong stream of water. We recommend using a good pressure washer for a perfectly clean wheel! It all washes straight off with water, no dangerous residue, very quick and easy.

Wipe dry with a clean cloth, or as we suggest, take it for a drive around the block which also cleans the residue off the brake rotors.

All done

Now that's a rim-markably, mag-nificent, Wheely Clean rim. ;)  

More tips and notes:



We say that the Wheely Clean, when used without agitation or a wheel brush will clean about 80% of the grime away on dirty wheels when used with a pressure washer. Now this is with road grime, which usually comes if you have driven in rain and the like. Also, the first time you clean a really dirty wheel (especially inners) it could be a lot less, so you will need to use some agitation or wheel brushes to help the Wheel Clean out. After this initial clean, if it's just brake dust, it will clean closer to 95% of it off when used with a good pressure washer. We strongly recommend that you continually clean your wheels or a regular (weekly) basis to keep it working this way.

For a 100% clean, use a good soft bristle wheel brush (like Wheel Woolies - dip it in some water before use), especially for the heavier built up areas, like the inner wheel. It only takes an extra minute to do and is worth the minimal effort used. 

Looking Green?

It can turn some lead wheel weights green. If it concerns you, don’t worry as you can easily bring back the original grey finish with a gentle scrub with a brush or cloth and our Auto Body Gel or Agent Orange cleaner.  

Tar remover?

Wheely Clean will not remove tar from your wheels. For this, we strongly suggest our great Ta Ta Tar cleaner, nothing works better than that!

Safe on plastic dipped wheels and more

Yes it's safe on plastics. Things like wheel nut covers, wheel centre caps, mud flaps, inner body covers etc, even protective films like spray on plastic dipped wheels and vinyl wraps.

Ceramic brakes

If you have the uber expensive ceramic pads fitted, you will not see the purple chemical reaction as there is no iron in the pads, but you will notice it still works great as a cleaner. Perfectly safe and recommended to use for these types of brakes and rotors.


Brake rotor faces

On the bare steel face of the brake rotors you will sometimes see some light oxidisation residue form after washing. Our suggestion is to take the car for a drive and the first time you hit the brakes, it will all be cleaned off.

Exposed nuts

Wheel nuts that is. Like on a lot of our older race cars like the Ford GTHO's. We spray the steel wheel nuts with an anti-rust agent like a lanoline spray and wipe the area down so you dont get oxidisation on any exposed steel.

If the nuts are rusted you will see the formula remove the rust. Just be sure to spray them with lanoline spray afterwards.

Can it stain my driveway?

As Wheely Clean is water soluble, it washes away with water, so make sure you rinse the area well around your wheels when done. Most surfaces have no issues, but we have seen some slight marks on old, unsealed concrete if not washed away and left to dry, but they can be easily scrubbed off. If you have any concerns you can always wet the area around the wheels before use.

Interestingly, you will notice the colour reaction also happening on the ground after rinsing the area down the first time. This is as the brake dust is washed off the wheel and the chemical reaction continues after getting cleaned off the wheel. So don't be scared to give a second rinse to the wheel area 5 minutes later, or wash the car straight after cleaning the wheels (which is what we do).

Biodegradable? And THAT smell...

Yes, Wheely Clean is a biodegradable product.

This product does have an interesting fragrence. Believe it or not, we actually have got it smelling better over the years! It's still a lot less offensive than others who use similair chemistry and it's become a real focus for us to make it better with each and every revision of its formula. 

Paint decontamination?

Some of the professional detailers might see this product as an ideal decontamination tool for cleaning embedded iron in your cars' paint. It does work for this, however we don’t suggest using it or any others for this type of job. Unless you can be 100% certain they will not get on non coated or exposed steel on inner non coated surfaces like guards, vent & cowl panels etc, as it will react on the bare steel if it's not washed off completely and try to keep working on the exposed area, helping create rust.

Unless you really have an issue with iron deposits on your car, keep it for what it works best on. The wheels!

Finish it right

To finish it off right, get some of our Tyre Sheen. It leaves the perfect finish on the tyre, not too shiny, but not dull as you can see in the final shot below. This does not fling off onto your car, will not wash off in water and it smells like jam doughnuts!

Apply with one of our cut down Sacrificial Muffy Sponges or a sponge applicator for the perfect finish. The best tyre shine product we can make and loved by so many of our great fanatical car care fans.

Any questions?

You can get this epic wheel cleaner at all of our great retailers nationwide. Find your closest store in the link at the bottom of this article. 

If you have any questions or feedback about this article please contact me by email - dan@bowdensown.com.au or call our office on 1800 351 308

Love your car,

Dan Bowden

Dirty Deeds

Dirty Deeds

A very useful 2 cloth pack, created for all the dirtier jobs around your car and bike.

$24.99 View Product

Wheel and Tyre Care Pack

Wheel and Tyre Care Pack

This is all you need to care for your cars 4 round rubber friends.

$44.99 View Product

Tyre Sheen

Tyre Sheen

Get a long-lasting classy sheen, that doesn't fling

$22.99 View Product

Wheely Clean

Wheely Clean

The fast and easy way to remove heavy brake dust.

$22.99 View Product

Wheel Woolies Pack gets a Little Kinky

Wheel Woolies Pack gets a Little Kinky

For years we have been looking for great quality wheel brushes, but every single type we tried never met our expectations in the quality or how good/safe they were to use. Then we came upon the Wheel Woolies...

$109.99 View Product

Tyre Sheen: Our perfect, no-fling tyre shine product
Tyre Sheen: Our perfect, no-fling tyre shine product
Your essential car washing guide
Your essential car washing guide