This came up because I found out a coworker was using the same wash mitt he uses for his wheels to wash the finish on the car. Big no-no when we consider what brake dust is composed of and all of the water, sand, dirt, gravel, and other abrasive things the tire and wheel see that don't necessarily make it on to the finish. I took a couple photos to help him out and then I figured, what the heck, I'll make a thread here. This won't be a revelation for many of the regular viewers but hopefully it will help some folks.
Preface: this is to clean a mild to moderately dirty wheel. If there were severe brake dust, etc. we'd break out the Sonax Full Effect and do a couple things differently (maybe even remove the wheel if it was super
Here's everything you will see me use: A bucket of wash water (Meguiar's D111 and a grit guard), various brushes (Scrub brush from Lowes**, Speedmaster wheel brush, Autozone mitt**, Clean Wheel Lug Nut Brush), The Absorber chamois, Adam's Tire shine & foam applicator. Also note that other than the obvious things, the mitt and chamois I use for this are only
used on wheels, door jambs, or the engine bay. The goal is to keep things used on parts of the car that typically have more concentrated or abrasive dirt from being used on the finish.
**No need to get fancy for these items to use on the wheels
1. Scrub the tire and wheel face with the scrub brush to loosen any big dirt. This will also cover a lot of surface area with minimal effort.
2. Clean the barrel with the wheel brush making sure to agitate both back and forth and side to side (note the dirty suds dripping out).
3. Clean the sides of the spokes and any concave areas with the [dedicated] wash mitt.
4. Clean the inner fender liner (this can contribute to the perception of a very clean car). I also like to do the rotor hat for the same reason.
5. Use the lug nut brush to clean around the lugs, the valve stem, and any severely concave areas (I learned this after seeing little spots I missed in inside corners at the base of the spokes the next day).
6. Rinse the inner fender and wheel with a moderately hard stream of water. I also like to stick the nozzle in above/behind the rotor to rinse the suspension components and dust shield as they accumulate dirt that can drip onto the wheel making the next cleaning harder. (This is where I wash the car, including blowing off excess water with the leaf blower; the following steps come after that's done)
7. Lately I've been giving the wheel a quick shot of Meguiar's D156 detail spray, just because. From there I immediately dry any extra water on the surface with my [dedicated] chamois.
8. Apply tire shine. I strongly prefer using an applicator to control the application and avoid mess/excess. After the shine is applied I take a dirty microfiber and go around the rim/lip of the wheel in case the applicator deposited some dirty product on the wheel edge.
9. Admire your work!
I know others have their own techniques so keep doing whatever works best for you, but that's how I do it in case it helps anyone. At a minimum, keep a dedicated wheel mitt around!