7 Actionable Steps To Clean And Polish Chrome Wheels

7 Actionable Steps To Clean And Polish Chrome Wheels


Shiny chrome wheels are awesome, but not so much when you see rust, or worse, holes in them. 

Chrome wheels are a sought-after addition when buying a car and for good reason. Clean and polished chrome wheels have a mirror-like shiny finish that draws attention giving your car’s paintwork an exquisite compliment. 

But chrome is a delicate metal. It can quickly accumulate dust and debris thus causing it to need consistent and careful upkeep. But because it’s a soft metal, polishing it is relatively easy compared to alloy and steel wheels. 

Like I’ve said in my previous wheel-related blogs, this part of the car is at risk of pitting. The brake dust it constantly gets in contact with causes etching and with intense heat, bakes on the contaminants on the surface. 

How can chrome wheels keep clean, shiny, and rust-free? Here’s a 7-step process you can easily follow. 

Let’s get right to it!

Step 1: Prepare Everything You Need

Spare yourself from going back and forth to get things you forget, it’ll save you so much time. 

To clean and polish your chrome wheels, you’ll need:

  • Chrome wheel cleaner
  • Car cleaning gun
  • 1 bucket of water to rinse the car cleaning gun’s nozzle
  • Microfiber towel for drying
  • Chrome polish or metal polish
  • Ultra-fine steel wool pads if you use metal polish (graded 0000)
  • Chrome wheel protectant
  • Applicator pad 

When you’ve got everything ready, it’s time to move on to step 2. 

Step 2: Rinse Wheels 

It’s important to get the wheels wet before you apply the chrome cleaner. Rinsing it will soften mud and loosen dirt and other contaminants so it’ll be easier to get rid of them. 

One of the best ways to pre-rinse your wheels is to spray water with air pressure onto them. This helps dislodge surface dirt and get to the nooks and crevices. 

rinse chrome wheels

Everything has to be thoroughly wet so no dust gets stuck to the wheels, especially to the tight spots for a long time. Again, chrome is a soft metal, it can easily get corroded. You can prevent this if you’ll be able to dislodge all the dirt that has clung to it when you wash it. 

The first step to ensure this is to remove all the dirt you can right from the start. 

To achieve this kind of rinse, you can use a car cleaning gun or a pressure washer. 

Step 3: Apply The Chrome Wheel Cleaner 

Because of how delicate a chrome wheel is, it’s best to choose a non-acidic chrome wheel cleaner. Use a car cleaning gun to apply it on the surface. It agitates stubborn dust without touching the surface at the same time the cleaner is applied, saving you time.

The less surface contact, the lesser potential for scratch marks. Something you can’t achieve when you use a brush or a sponge. 

Recommended Reading: The Best Way To Wash A Car Without Scratching It

A car cleaning gun also makes sure you get the cleaner on tight gaps, lug nuts, and other hard-to-reach portions of the wheels. 

You want to make sure you break up all the dust thoroughly to ensure there’s no breeding ground for rust. 

Recommended Reading: Does Washing A Car Prevent It From Developing Rust? (Rust Prevention Steps Included)

Tip: Avoid washing in direct sunlight. It dries the wheel faster causing spots, stains, and watermarks. 

While you’re on to it, clean the wheel wells too. Mud and dust get kicked onto that area, potentially falling and scratching the chrome surface and eventually causing corrosion and pitting. 

Don’t use the chrome cleaner for the wheel wells, there’s an appropriate cleaner for it. You can use either of these 3:

  • Body solvent
  • Degreaser
  • All-purpose cleaner 

Since the car cleaning gun agitates the dust off the wheels and wheel wells, brushing the surfaces won’t be needed anymore. The car cleaning gun’s strong air pressure will substitute for the brushing part. 

If the surface is heavily filthy, rinse the car cleaning’s nozzle often using the bucket of water. 

Recommended Reading: 4 Simple Steps To Protect Wheel Wells Even If It Gets Dirty All The Time

Step 4: Rinse 

After you get rid of all the contaminants on the chrome wheels, it’s time to give it a thorough rinse. You can utilize the car cleaning gun again by replacing the cleaner on the container with pure water. 

This ensures you rinse even the tight gaps to prevent spots and stains. 

This step is pretty straightforward. Once done, you can move on to the next step. 

Step 5: Wipe It Dry 

Drying the wheels with a microfiber towel helps absorb excess water faster and thus prevent water stains. If you have dryer sheets at home, you can also use this as an alternative to the microfiber towel.  

Step 6: Polish Your Chrome Wheels

For this step, you can use either a chrome wheel polish or a metal polish.  

If you opt for chrome polish, use an applicator pad to apply a modest amount of the product to the wheels. Then buff it with the other side of the applicator pad. 

If you want to finish buffing faster, use an applicator pad or a polishing ball attached to a power drill.  

Make sure you finish buffing one wheel before moving to another. Unlike alloy wheels a chrome polish doesn’t need a long dwell time, you can start buffing after you apply the polish. 

If you choose to use a metal polish, use the ultra-fine steel wool pad to apply the product. Use the steel wool pads graded 0000. Anything coarser than this might scratch the chrome surface and leave unsightly marks. 

These wool pads are flexible so you can mold them to the surface’s shape. It must be coupled with gentle wiping. Too much pressure can also damage the surface. 

polish chrome wheels

When you achieve your desired shine, wipe off the excess polish with a microfiber towel. 

Just remember though that if your wheels have a powder or clear coat, the abrasives on the metal polish will eat through it. 

In this case, it’s best to use a non-abrasive chrome polish. 

Step 7: Apply A Wheel Protectant

After getting the shine you want, seal the surface using a chrome wheel protectant. It usually comes in wax form so you can use another applicator pad to wipe it on the wheels. 

After getting a thorough coverage, buff one wheel at a time. This gives back the shine from the chrome polish and prevents brake dust from clinging to the wheel’s surface. 

You’ll have less dirt to clean the next time around. Best of all, you lessen the chances for rust to develop so you can keep your chrome wheel’s shine and integrity for a long time. 

Last Thoughts

A shiny chrome finish is not enough. Your chrome wheels must also maintain their durability. There’s no use in having a stunning wheel finish when pitting prevents it from being sturdy. 

chrome wheels


If you follow the 7-step process, you’ll achieve both these things. 

Try it at home, and see how shiny and sturdy this process can result. 

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