Can You Clean Your Chrome, Alloy And Steel Rims With Bleach

I just hate when my rims get dirty. Mud I can handle, but those greasy stains, oh god, I hate those. So how to clean them? You are probably thinking Bleach.

Using bleach to clean your rims has good and bad sides. As we all know, there are Chrome, Alloy and Steel Rims. Bleach reacts differently with these metals. Cleaning with bleach can make your rims shine, but leaving the bleach for too long may cause some damage and discoloration to the rims.

Let’s dive deeper into the subject:

Before you start cleaning your rims,  first you must know the material they are made of. As I said earlier, bleach reacts differently with metals. If you are not sure about the material, here are some pointers:

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How To Know If You Have Alloy(aluminum) Rims?

Aluminum or Alloy Rims are made of light metals such as aluminum, nickel, magnesium, or a combo of these metals. These types of rims are lighter than the ones from steel, therefore they offer performance advantages. Also, in extreme driving conditions, having aluminum wheels can be a big plus, as they are able to dissipate the heat away from the brake components. There are many ways you can check and confirm that your rims are alloy.

  1. Visual Check: If your wheel has a hubcap, then its probably a steel. Same goes if your rim is painted black and doesn’t look like an aftermarket wheel.
  2. Magnet Check: Place a magnet on your rims, if the magnet doesn’t stick, your wheel is either aluminum or magnesium.
  3. Acid Test: Magnesium is very reactive metal, especially when in contact with acids. Take your wheel out and apply some vinegar on the back. If the vinegar bubbles, then your wheel is magnesium.

Cleaning Alloy(aluminum) Rims With Bleach

Bleach is probably the most used cleaning product, but that doesn’t mean that you should use it for everything. Because of its oxidizing properties, bleach is used for disinfection. Using bleach at full strength can cause some damage to surfaces. When used to clean Alloy rims, bleach cannot cause immediate corrosion. However, if you leave the bleach for too long, your rim may change color and turn black.

My Advice: I would probably stay away from using bleach while cleaning Alloy(aluminum) rims. Using it will cause some damage over time.

How To Know If You Have Chrome Rims?

Custom rims are referred to as a modified rim. People that choose custom rims usually make them larger than normal. They are known for their strength, visual appeal, width, and weight. Custom wheels come in 3 finishes: Chrome, Polished and Painted. Chrome rims are covered with a clear coat. Polished rims are just alloy wheels that have been polished. Painted rims come in many different colors.

Cleaning Chrome Rims With Bleach

Chrome rims are the crown jewel of your car. No matter how good the rest of your car looks if your chrome rims are dirty. There are a lot of cleaning products, but they can be pricey. So you want to know if you can clean your chrome rims with bleach. The answer is NO! Bleach is an aggressive alkaline which will damage your chrome and leave a permanent damage. Since bleach is a no-no, and you still need to clean your chrome rims, here are some homemade cleaning solutions:

  1. Vinegar: Acidic Cleaners can remove dirt and grime. Vinegar is also known to remove rust from wheels. You can use a full strength or a 50/50 solution with water. Apply it on the rims and leave it for 5 minutes. After that rinse the rim with water.
  2. Aluminum Foil: Cut off a piece of aluminum foil and make a ball. Rub the aluminum foil on your wheels and let the chemicals from the foil do the magic. After that rinse your wheel.
  3. Baby Oil: Apply oil to your rims. Make sure you don’t apply a lot. Rub the rim with a soft brush and then rinse it.

How To Know If You Have Steel Rims

Steel wheels are split into two categories: Cost and Cosmetic look. Steel rims are usually $100 less than alloy rims, which is a much more affordable option. They are heavier and great for snow travel. Steel wheels are known for their durability and strength and can withstand more potholes and bumps than the other rims. Once damaged, the steel wheel must be replaced.

Cleaning Steel Rims With Bleach

You shouldn’t clean your steel rims with bleach. Why? There was actually a study made where steel surfaces were submerged into bleach. After 11 days, the steel surfaces were taken out and rinsed into the water. There was a definite corrosion, pitting and staining. This show that cleaning steel rims with bleach will not immediately corrode your rims, but over time they will become damaged. Do not worry, I will share my favorite way to clean steel rims:

  1. Mix soap and water and get a stiff bristled brush and clean all the dirt and debris. After the rims are dried off, wipe them with a towel previously submerged into rubbing alcohol.
  2. If you have rust on your rims you can use chemical rust remover and brush the rims with a wire brush.

How To Clean Your Tires?

After cleaning your rims, you now probably want to clean your tires as well. Washing your tires only with pressure washer won’t cut it. Also, be careful. It takes only 5 seconds of direct spray from your pressure washer to damage your tires. So, when it comes to washing your tires, I am sorry, but you will have to roll your sleeves.

I have tested a couple of ways to clean tires and all of them work. Choose whichever option works best for you.

1. Using a Tire Cleaner:

There is actually a chemical made strictly for cleaning tires. Please make sure that you do not spray your rims, as it may have some negative effect on the paint. Leave the cleaner to sit for a minute or two. Use a stiff brush to clean the tires. Don’t be afraid to apply a lot of pressure if you want to get the best results. Rinse the tires with a hose. As I said earlier, please do not use a pressure washer. A regular garden hose will do the job. If you don’t like the results, feel free to repeat the process over and over again until you get the best results. If your tires are still not clean enough, you can apply a Tire gel with a sponge and then rinse it off.

2. Tire Dressing:

Dry the tire with a towel. Apply your water-based tire dressing. For best results, read the instructions of the tire dressing. If you want, you can use a tire clear coat instead of tire dressing. Again, for best results read the instructions on the bottle. Allow the chemicals to dry off for 1 hour and wipe it with a microfiber towel.

3. Clean Your Tires While Washing Your Car: 

You can clean the rims and tires first. Use a separate bucket for your rims and tires. Use the chemicals mentioned above.

How To Stop Your Rim From Corroding?

The main reasons why your rims are corroding are brake dust and road salts. Brake dust is a powder reside created when you hit the brakes on your car. This residue is very sticky and gets on your wheel easily. Corroded rims may lead to consistent loss of air pressure, and not to speak about the cosmetic look. There are some ways you can protect your rims from corroding.

  1. ProtectaClear is a chemical that can protect alloy, chrome and steel rims from corroding. It is a clear, self-leveling coating and easy to apply. This chemical will keep your rims safe when you drive through road salts. What you need to do is apply 3 coats on your rims. Pause between applying to leave it room to dry off.

Is Your Rim Damaged?

Spending all this time cleaning your rims and tires, you will have the chance to inspect your rims and see if there are any damages. Scratches on your rims represent a cosmetic problem. There is a way to fix that.

  1. Clean the scratched area with a towel.
  2. Make the scratches smooth with a sandpaper.
  3. Scuff around 6 inches around the repair area.
  4. Mask off the wheel with some old newspaper.
  5. Apply 4 light coats of primer. Do not spray the area where you did not sand.
  6. And the final step, spray paint. Chose a spray paint same as the color of your rims and paint it.

If your rims are bent, dented or cracked from hitting a pothole, sanding and spray paint won’t do the job. For this issue, you will have to take your rims to a professional because the heavy machinery is needed and you probably don’t own this type of equipment.

As always, thank you for reading. If you have any questions or concerns or even washed your rims with bleach before reading this article, please share your experience in the comments.

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Hi there. I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018 and a car detailer for 10 years.

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