How to Clean Car Tires – The Ultimate Guide

When most car owners wash their vehicles, they don’t give much thought to the tires. But if you spend a little time treating and cleaning your tires, your car will rock an extra nice shiny and clean appearance.

The ultimate in clean, jet black and shiny looking tires is made possible by using cleaners, gels and tire shine. All of which are designed to make them look like new.

Man in a cap cleaning car tires on a silver car

In this article, we’re going to show you a few great ways that you can regularly use to keep your wheels and tires clean and pristine.

Is it a difficult process? How long will it take, and what do you need? Let’s see.

Skill level: Beginner.

Time to complete: A few hours, depending on the types of products you use and their instructions.

Tools needed:

Cleaning With a Tire Cleaner Solution

To get the best results, you want to wash your car tires with a product designed specifically for the job in hand. You could use a regular car shampoo or even dishwasher detergent, but the end result will not be as good.

Before I get into the step-by-step written description of how to clean car tires, I thought I’d provide a good instructional video for you to follow.

The video contains some expert tips from a professional while he shows you first hand how he gets car tires looking their absolute best with a brush, some tire cleaner and an application of tire shine.


Hopefully, you enjoyed the video and learned a few things?

Let’s now get into the instructional part of this guide.

Step 1: Make Your Choice of Cleaner

There are plenty of products specifically made for cleaning the tires of a car. All you need to do is spray some of this cleaner on the tires, and then follow the directions about how long you should be leaving it on.

If you decide to use car wash soap instead of a tire cleaner, it’s going to leave a residue, and they’re not going to shine. This is because the soap that’s made specifically to wash cars is designed to clean the paint and the clear coat of the car, not the tires.

And vice versa, using a tire cleaner on the other parts of your car is going to affect the paint of your car, so avoid doing this.

However, there are tire cleaners on the market that are very versatile. If you don’t have two different cleaners, don’t make the mistake of getting a tire cleaner for the wheels.

Step 2: Let it Sit

Rubber tends to be fairly porous, so it’s difficult to remove all the brake dust and grime from them. You should let the cleaner rest and do its job on the tires for a few minutes so that it will adequately soak into the rubber and remove as much dirt as possible.

You’ll also need to make sure you’re following the instructions about how long it should be sitting on the tires.

Make sure you immediately use a clean piece of cloth to remove all of the overspray that’s on the wheels or the paint.

Step 3: Start Scrubbing

If you can see that your tires have browned or have a white layer on them, which is typically caused by a lot of grime, you need to do some scrubbing.

Do this by using a stiff bristle brush to get them thoroughly cleaned. Feel free to use plenty of pressure to get the best results.

Don’t worry about the brushing motion when you’re doing this, as long as you’re using the same motion when you’re brushing the rest of the entire tire.

Make sure you’re using a brush that’s stiffer than the one used on car paint. Don’t use steel-tooth brushes because they can puncture the rubber, which then leads to leaks.

Step 4: Rinse Everything

After you’ve scrubbed as much of the grime off as you possibly can, it’s time to get a hose and rinse everything.

You can also try using either a pressure washer or a high-pressure hose so you can decrease the quantity of the dirt that will remain on each of the tires. If you don’t have one, we’ve researched and discuss the best pressure washers for cars here.

The cleaners that are specifically designed for tires are safe for the environment, so there’s no need to worry about the cleaner and the water from the rinsing running off in your yard.

Wear some eye protection to avoid any injuries during this stage though, especially if you’re using a power washer.

Step 5: Repeat the Cleaning (if It’s Necessary)

After you’ve thoroughly scrubbed the tires, used the tire cleaner and rinse everything off. If you still see either some white or brown layers, you’ll need to repeat the entire cleaning process.

Start out the same as you did before, by applying the cleaner, then waiting a few minutes for the setting process. Then, once again, scrub everything and rinse off the tires.

Step 6: Use a Tire Gel

If the tires of your car are still looking brown, even after you’ve cleaned them several times, it’s time to get a tire gel to use.

This is a product that will revert the rubber back to their original shine and color.

Most tire gels are applied using a sponge, but check the instructions to be sure. Apply the gel to one tire, then rinse.

Repeat the same process for all the tires, going over each one separately.

Using a Tire Dressing/Shine

Cleaning your tires is only the first step. To have them jet black and shiny, looking like new, and to preserve and protect them from the corrosive actions of the weather and road grime, you also need to nourish and protect them with tire shine.

For part of this process, you’ll need to use a towel, but you won’t be able to use the towel on any other parts of your car after. If you do, you could end up damaging the top clear coat or the paint of the car with the dirt the towel picked up from the tires.

Step 1: Dry the Tires

Start by drying each sidewall of each tire since this is the most visible part and the easiest one to clean, focus most of your attention there first.

Step 2: Choose the Tire Dressing or Coating

Next, you’ll need to get a tire dressing, but make sure that the one you get doesn’t have silicone listed as one of the ingredients.

The best choice is to go for a water-based dressing. Although this may not provide the immediate shine you may want, it doesn’t require a lot of upkeep to maintain it.

Apply thin layers of the tire dressing with the sponge, all over in even layer.

If you don’t want to use tire dressing, you can try applying a tire coating. Some coatings are relatively permanent, even lasting through extreme weather. The coating creates a glazed layer that also protects your tires.

Apply the coating the same way you did the tire dressing, with a sponge.

Step 3: Repeat the Process (If Necessary)

If you’re not satisfied with the result after the first application, apply more coats to achieve the desired shine for your tires.

Step 4: Wait to Dry

Finally, depending on which tire coating brand you’ve chosen, you’ll need to wait for the drying process to finish. Make sure the coats have dried completely before you drive the car.

Check the instructions to see how long you need to wait for your specific brand, and then use the buffing pad to buff off the tire coating.

After you do this, your tires are going to look brand new. Make sure you’re buffing in circles to get the very best results.

Clean Your Tires While You’re Also Washing Your Car

The wheels, along with the tires, are the filthiest parts of the car, so if you’ve decided to wash your entire car, get to these parts first. That way, there won’t be any dirt splattering all over your newly cleaned car.

Make sure that you’re using a different bucket for the tires and wheels.

When you stop and hit the breaks, the brake pads wear and create brake dust. This type of dust particle can easily make scratches in the paint of the car and isn’t environmentally friendly, so make sure you’re using entirely different cleaning supplies when you’re washing the tires.

Finally, if you decided to use tire cleaner, you should know that it can remove the wax or the clear coat off of your car, or even dull the paint. It’s a very strong chemical that’s made to disintegrate grime, so the ingredients are very harsh and can damage powder-coated or painted wheels.

Final Thoughts

Now you know how to clean car tires and the necessary equipment. Whether you choose to clean them with a tire cleaner, dressing, or just regular soap and water, this guide has hopefully helped you achieve your desired result.

Remember to be prepared, avoid getting cleaning products on your car’s paintwork and make sure the coatings are dry before driving off in your tire-shined vehicle.

If you have any other recommendations concerning tire cleaning, any questions, or any other tips we may have missed, feel free to share them in the comments section below.

From childhood go karting and motocross, to collecting and obsessing over scalextric, matchbox and radio controlled cars, I've always had an obsession with cars. Learning through manuals, books, trial and error, and more knowledgeable family members, I've also enjoyed tinkering with the mechanics and electronics of any vehicles I've owned. Now, over 3 decades later, I've started this site as a place for me to share my knowledge, to teach others how to care for and maintain their vehicles themselves, at home, so they can get the most of their vehicles and save a pretty penny compared to always seeking out professional help.

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