How To Clean Brake Dust Off Rims

Updated: Apr. 28, 2023

Are your car's wheels looking grungy? Chances are it's brake dust buildup. Here's how to clean brake dust off rims quickly and easily.

Next Project

20 to 30 minutes per wheel




$10 to $30


As you apply your brakes, the pads rub against the rotors, which slowly wear out and give off dust. Much of this tends to settle on the inside and outside of the rims, making them dirty and dingy. Excessive brake dust buildup can eventually cause your rims to corrode.

Luckily, brake dust is easy to clean with the right tools and approach. Keep reading and we'll show you how.

Tools Required

  • Bucket
  • Car jack (optional)
  • Dish sponge with abrasive pad on one side
  • Hose or watering can
  • Lug wrench (optional)
  • Spray Bottle
  • Toothbrush

Materials Required

  • Brake dust cleaner (optional)
  • Dawn dish soap or car soap
  • Disposable shop towels
  • Water
  • White vinegar

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

Prepare Cleaning Solution

  • Fill your spray bottle to the three-quarters mark with white vinegar.
  • Add Dawn dish soap to the vinegar. Aim for approximately one part soap to 10 parts vinegar.
  • Screw on the cap, then shake the bottle to mix.
    • Note: You could buy dedicated brake dust cleaner solution, but I find this inexpensive homemade cleaner works great 95% of the time.

1 Prepare Cleaning Solution Robert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 2

Apply Cleaning Solution

  • Jack up your vehicle and remove the first wheel you want to clean.
    • I clean the rims of my summer tires during winter and vice versa so I never have to remove the wheels for this job.
  • Generously spray all dirty and dusty surfaces on the outside and inside of the rims with the cleaning solution. Chances are the inside surface will be much dirtier.
  • Let the solution sit for 10 to 15 minutes to dissolve the brake dust deposits.

2 Apply Cleaning Solution Robert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 3

Wipe Off Most of the Dust

  • Beginning with the inside surface of the rims, wipe away as much brake dust as possible with disposable shop towels. You’ll probably go through two or three towels per rim.
  • Wipe every surface you sprayed. The brake dust should wipe away easily. If it doesn’t, spray on more cleaning solution, wait another 10 minutes, then wipe again.
  • Flip the wheel over and wipe down the outside face of the rim.
  • There’s no need to be super thorough here. You’ll wash the rims soon, so a little remaining brake dust residue doesn’t matter.

3 Wipe Off DustRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 4

Wash the Rims

  • Drizzle some Dawn dish soap or dedicated car soap into a clean bucket. Add some warm water to make a foamy solution.
  • Flip the wheel over so the inside surface of the rim again faces up.
  • Use a dish sponge with a mildly abrasive pad on one side to wash the remaining brake dust off the inside surface of the rim. Concentrate on any particularly dirty areas, scrubbing firmly. Rinse your sponge often in the water bucket.
  • Use a toothbrush to clean any stubborn areas, reaching into any nooks and crannies. Continue until all the brake dust is gone.
  • Flip the wheel over to expose the outside surface and repeat the washing procedure.

4 Wash RimRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 5

Rinse the Rims

  • Use a hose or a watering can to rinse the soap and any remaining brake dust residue off the rims. Rinse the inside surface first, then flip the rim and rinse the outside.
  • Inspect the rim carefully. Scrub away any patches of brake dust you missed, then rinse again.
  • Re-install the clean wheel on your vehicle, or put it in storage.
  • Repeat the procedure for the other three rims.

5 Rinse RimRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman