Reviews | The Drive

Best Brake Dust Cleaner: Get Rid of the Grime on Your Wheels

These cleaning products make it oh-so-easy to tackle brake dust, build-up, and other dirt and debris hiding on your wheels.

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BYHeather Fishel/ LAST UPDATED ON June 3, 2022

If you’ve noticed your wheels are looking grimy and dirty, you’re likely not just seeing the dirt that’s collected during drives. Rather, you’re probably seeing the results of all of your braking on the road — black dust that’s tough to remove and tends to stick into the nooks and crannies around your rims. That dust, brake dust, is impossible to avoid as it’s created every time you slow or stop while you’re behind the wheel. And while it’s released in small amounts, over time all that dust can really build up. The best way to remove it? Employ the help of a brake dust cleaner, a cleaning solution that’s specifically formulated to fight those unsightly deposits and restore your shining, clean rims with a little elbow grease.

Best Overall

Armor All Heavy Duty Wheel and Tire Cleaner Foam

Summary
A highly capable, quick-working cleaner that eliminates brake dust easily and changes color so you know when it’s done working.
Pros
  • Spray, wait, and clean application
  • Adds protection against future dirt and debris
  • Works even on longtime buildup
Cons
  • Not safe for all factory wheel finishes
Best Value

Blaster Non-Chlorinated Brake Cleaner Spray

Summary
With a budget-friendly price and strong cleaning action, this brake dust cleaner is safe to use on almost any surface and component around your wheels.
Pros
  • Affordable price
  • Easy spray-on application
  • Works on all kinds of gunk, from brake dust to grease to oil
Cons
  • Bottle is somewhat small
Honorable Mention

Eagle One All Wheel & Tire Triple Cleaning Foam Spray

Summary
With this brake dust cleaner, you don’t have to fight buildup and grime; you can get rid of it in just three quick steps and with very little elbow grease.
Pros
  • Spray-on application with no scrubbing required
  • Safe for all finishes, clear coats, and painted wheels
  • Fast-working
Cons
  • Spray nozzle and trigger can fail easily
Best Brake Dust Cleaner: Get Rid of the Grime on Your Wheels

Summary List 

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

I chose the best brake dust cleaners by searching for products that were tough on brake dust deposits and gentle on your car’s finishes and metal surfaces. I sought out cleaning products formulated to tackle iron, which changes color as they break down iron molecules. However, I also considered cleaning products that were labeled nontoxic and low-VOC, as well as safe for a variety of finishes, wheels, and paints. The products that became my top picks are those that user reviews mentioned worked effectively, efficiently, and without much difficulty. From foaming to spray-and-wipe, these cleaners include every variety you can shop. 

Best Brake Dust Cleaner Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Brand: Armor All
  • Size: 22 ounces
  • Cleaner Type: Foaming

Pros

  • Intense, hard-working foaming action
  • Doesn’t require deep scrubbing to be highly effective
  • Goes on blue, turns white when finished
  • Applies an invisible protective coating

Cons

  • May remove factory coating on some wheels

When it comes to a hardworking brake dust cleaner that makes removing buildup a breeze, the Armor All Heavy Duty Wheel and Tire Cleaner Foam fits the bill. This cleaning solution lives up to its name, providing a heavy-duty solution to fight even longtime brake dust and get your wheels sparkling once again. This cleaner instantly foams up when sprayed, and it goes on blue. Once it’s broken down the iron buildup, it turns white and is ready to be washed away. All you have to do is spray, wait, and scrub away (and you don’t have to scrub hard). Plus, as an added bonus, once you’ve washed the foam away, you’ll be left with an invisible layer of protection that can repel new brake dust, road grime, and dirt for up to one month. However, it’s worth noting that this tough and effective brake dust cleaner isn’t safe for all wheel finishes. Users say it can remove the factory finish on some wheels, leaving you with less protection, less shine, and potentially some visible damage.

Specs

  • Brand: Blaster
  • Size: 14 ounces
  • Cleaner Type: Liquid spray

Pros

  • Flushes out brake dust, oil, grease, and more
  • Can be used on brake parts, wheels, and other surfaces
  • Safe on painted surfaces
  • Easy application

Cons

  • Bottle is somewhat small

When it comes to value, it’s hard to beat how much Blaster Non-Chlorinated Brake Cleaner Spray offers in its affordable package. This single cleaning solution is safe for your wheels, most finishes, painted surfaces, and even brake components, allowing you to give everything underneath your rims one very thorough cleaning. Plus, you’ll get a good bang for your buck thanks to the affordable price of this product. In every aerosol spray bottle, you’ll get a liquid formula that sprays on and stays liquid. Once it’s applied, the cleaner gets to work dissolving oil, grease, brake dust, and all other surface contaminants that may be present. You can spray it right onto your car’s components, and it’ll do the job without requiring any scrubbing. The only potential drawback is the 14-ounce bottle is somewhat smaller than other products, leaving you with a little less cleaning power.

Specs

  • Brand: Eagle
  • Size: 22 ounces
  • Cleaner Type: Foaming

Pros

  • Works on brake dust, grease, and grime
  • Safe for all factory-coated, clear-coated, and painted wheels
  • No scrubbing required
  • Rinses completely clean once finished

Cons

  • Spray nozzle and trigger can perform poorly

Eagle One All Wheel & Tire Triple Cleaning Foam is a spray-on brake dust solution that takes pretty much all of the hard work out of cleaning your wheels and rims. In fact, it’ll even clean your tires. This cleaning solution creates a thick foam once it’s sprayed onto your wheels, and it breaks down brake dust as well as grease and grime. After it’s done working, you can rinse it off with water and you’ll see shining, sparkling rims once again. That’s it – there’s no scrubbing or tough wiping required. You’ll be left with nothing but pro-level results, including brilliant tire shine and glistening rims. The cleaning solution can pull dirt and grime off of surfaces without any real intervention, making it a fuss-free option for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time doing detail work. And you can rest easy knowing it’s safe for all factory-coated, clear-coated, and painted wheels or rims. Users love how easy and highly effective this brake dust cleaner is. But there is one drawback: The spray nozzle and trigger are prone to breakage. These two components can leave you frustrated with small streams of cleaning solution or failure to spray.

Specs

  • Brand: Griot’s Garage
  • Size: 22 ounces
  • Cleaner Type: Liquid

Pros

  • Gentle on rims, finishes, and painted surfaces
  • Breaks down brake dust and grime
  • Non-acidic, pH-balanced, and non-caustic
  • Sticks to surfaces while it works

Cons

  • Does require elbow grease and scrubbing
  • May not completely remove sticky substances like tar and grease

For a gentler formula that won’t corrode or strip your wheels, Griot’s Garage Heavy-Duty Wheel Cleaner can easily tackle stubborn brake dust without wrecking your exterior. This brake dust cleaner is specifically formulated to be gentle enough for all surfaces and finishes, from your tires to your rims to your exterior paint. It’s non-acidic, non-caustic, and pH-balanced, and it can be used without worry on uncoated aluminum, powder-coated metals, anodized metals, chromed metals, and painted surfaces without stripping or damaging finishes. Application is easy, too, and you only have to let the cleaning solution sit for three to five minutes before scrubbing it away and rinsing clean. Plus, it even turns deep purple when it’s finished working so you know when to get to work. The only potential drawback to this brake dust cleaner is it does require some elbow grease. While some users note that you don’t need a lot of effort to get rid of the dirt and debris, others mention that it can take some serious work. The results may depend on how much brake dust you have hanging around.

Specs

  • Brand: Mothers
  • Size: 24 ounces
  • Cleaner Type: Foaming

Pros

  • Non-acidic formula is safe for clear coats
  • Easy to apply and clean off
  • No hand drying required
  • Works on brake dust, grease, dirt, and grime of all kinds

Cons

  • Can eat through paint on painted surfaces
  • May leave streaks after rinsing

If you’re searching for an acid-free formula, Mothers Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleanser will meet your needs. This quick-cleaning solution is made with no acid in its mix, which makes it safer for more finishes (and gives you a little more peace of mind). It can be used on both your wheels and your tires, and it’s safe for factory or OEM wheels and rims. It’s also a clear coat safe formula, meaning you can apply it to alloy, steel, or chrome surfaces with clear-coated finishes. As a foaming cleaner, this brake dust solution sprays on, sits, and foams until it penetrates all of the grime hanging onto your wheels, and then can be rinsed away. And it works on grease and oil in addition to brake dust, too. While this brake dust cleaner is non-acidic, this detail doesn’t automatically make it safe for all finishes and surfaces. In fact, one of the biggest complaints about this cleaner is its harsh results on paint. It can eat through paint and even fade or bleach the color of paint. And some users note that it can leave behind streaks even after it’s been rinsed away.

Specs

  • Brand: Armor All
  • Size: 32 ounces
  • Cleaner Type: Foaming

Pros

  • Works on brake dust, grease, and grime
  • Seeps into nooks and crannies automatically
  • Leaves behind shine and wet, black tires

Cons

  • May stain exterior paint
  • Can strip the finish on some metals and rims

If you’re dealing with seriously tough brake dust that other cleaners can’t completely eliminate, you might want to enlist the help of Armor All Extreme Wheel & Tire Cleaner. This foaming action cleaner is made for heavy-duty dust, dirt, and debris of various kinds. And when you apply the spray to your wheels, it’ll cling to the surface, bubbling up to seep into even the tight nooks and crannies of your rims so all of the brake dust is tackled. The foam penetrates for just 30 seconds, then can be wiped off, rinsed, and dried. With a triple-action formula, it can lift away even the most stubborn baked-on dirt, including brake dust that hasn’t been cleaned off in a while. However, because this Armor All brake dust cleaner is made for tackling serious dirt and grime, it isn’t a gentle formula. That means that it can strip the finish off some rims, like matte finish rims, and it can potentially stain or strip paint off your car’s exterior, too. Be careful about your application, and make sure you follow the application instructions to avoid problems.

Our Verdict

When it comes to ease of use and effectiveness, even in the face of seriously stuck-on brake dust, a bottle of Armor All Heavy Duty Wheel and Tire Cleaner Foam is one of the best allies you can have. For even more value and the ability to clean brake dust as well as grease, oil, and other contaminants, Blaster Non-Chlorinated Brake Cleaner Spray is another great, value-rich pick. 

Things to Consider Before Buying Brake Dust Cleaner

You can find a quality brake dust cleaning product easily, as long as you know what qualities make up the most effective picks. Here’s what to consider and take note of as you shop for a top-tier cleaner. 

Types of Brake Dust Cleaners

Iron Removers

The most potent brake dust cleaners are those that are formulated to remove iron. They include ingredients that able to interact with the iron present in brake dust, changing the molecules – and the color of the stuck-on dust itself – so it can be completely broken down and wiped away. These cleaners, because they’re tough, may not be suitable for more delicate rims, like those with a finicky or extra-shiny finish. 

Acid-Free and pH-Balanced Cleaners

If you are dealing with more delicate or carefully finished rims, you may want to enlist the help of an acid-free, pH-balanced cleaner. These gentler formulas can still be highly effective at tackling brake dust that’s built up on your rims, but they won’t be harsh enough to strip off your finish or wreck the appearance of your rims. These can also be more eco-friendly formulas; just check the labeling and ingredients if that’s something you want in your acid-free and pH-balanced brake dust cleaner. 

Degreasers

Degreasers are often promoted as brake dust cleaners, but their effectiveness can vary based on a product’s exact formula. If a degreaser can’t handle iron, then it may not wholly remove brake dust. And if you are opting for a degreaser to eliminate grease as well as dirt and brake dust, make sure you’re sticking with a wheel and rim degreaser. Other degreasers may not be formulated properly or safely for your rim and wheel components. 

Key Features of Brake Dust Cleaners

Applicator or Application Method

Most brake dust cleaning products are easy to apply. These solutions typically feature adjustable spray nozzles or aerosol spray nozzles, allowing you to target your spray and product application. However, you want to make sure you won’t be fighting with the nozzle as you try to get into the nooks and crannies of your rims. The applicator should make it easy to both keep the cleaning solution where it’s meant to go and stay free of issues like clogging and breaking.

Nontoxic and Low-VOC Formula

While some of the toughest brake dust cleaning formulas are, of course, filled with chemicals, it’s possible to find a cleaner that’s both effective and nontoxic. In fact, if you’re working with more delicate rims or a finish that requires special care, you’ll want to shop specifically for a cleaner that’s nontoxic and low-VOC in its formulation. You can find these cleaners pretty easily; they’re available in the same formats as any other brake dust cleaning solution. And overall, they’re safer for paint and other surfaces of your wheels or vehicle exterior that may not do well with harsh VOC-filled alternatives. 

Wheel-, Metal-, and Paint-Safe

In addition to taking a look at the ingredients and formulation of any brake dust cleaner, make sure to check how it may affect your car exterior. When you’re spraying this cleaner, it can get everywhere. So, if you’re worried about potential damage or discoloration to your paint, your rim finish, or other car components, opt for one that’s wheel-safe, metal-safe, and paint-safe for all finishes. This can give you peace of mind and allow you to clean up stuck-on brake dust without worrying about where the spray solution winds up. 

Brake Dust Cleaner Pricing 

On average, you can expect to spend between $5 and $10 for a single bottle of brake dust cleaner. You’ll find spray nozzles, aerosol sprays, and every type under the sun within this affordable price range. If you don’t need a full-size bottle, you can find budget-friendly options for as little as $5 or less. If you want to buy brake dust cleaner in bulk, you can find quart or gallon bottles for $15 to $30, but these are really for those who perform regular cleanings (or are dealing with some seriously stubborn brake dust). 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: What will dissolve brake dust?

A: In order to fully remove brake dust, you’re going to want to employ the help of a rim-safe, paint-safe iron remover. You want a cleaning formula that can interact with – and break down – iron molecules present in brake dust to completely get rid of it.

Q: Does vinegar remove brake dust?

A: Vinegar and baking soda is a popular cleaning combo, but it isn’t the most powerful or effective option for eliminating brake dust. It can work on grease, so you can try applying vinegar if you’re seeing a lot of grease buildup on your rims, but you’re better off using a targeted cleaner for brake dust in particular.

Q: Does WD-40 clean brake dust?

A: WD-40 can get rid of oil, grease, and brake dust on your rims, but only if you choose a dedicated WD-40 brake dust cleaning product. Your regular ol’ container of WD-40 may damage components of your wheels, and it’s not the best

Q: Can I use engine degreaser to clean brake dust?

A: You shouldn’t use an engine degreaser to clean your brakes or any brake dust. It’s made for a totally different kind of grease, with ingredients that are suited for your engine and not your wheels or rims. Stick with a made-for-brake-dust cleaning solution.

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