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What is a wheel cleaner

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Within detailing, there are many different types of product. Within the group of cleaning products, there are sub-categories. Amongst them is the wheel cleaner. This is a specific cleaning products designed to clean wheels. This product will be specifically aimed at removing dirt that is most common for this area, such as brake dust, grime, mud, tar and several more. Not all wheel cleaners attack all these contaminants, but most attack many of them.

Why use a dedicated wheel cleaner?

Wheels come into contact with several types of contaminants that paintwork hardly comes into contact with. This means that a normal shampoo isn’t always capable of cleaning these types of dirt. Claying and/or polishing the area can sometimes be difficult and most people don’t want to take there wheels off every week. Using a dedicated wheel cleaner will make it much easier to remove stubborn dirt that won’t move otherwise. You could achieve similar results with clay, but your clay will wear a lot quicker and you increase the chance of severe marring. In general terms you can conclude that a dedicated wheel cleaner will simply make your job a lot easier.

Low, high or pH neutral

There are wheelcleaners on the market that have a very high pH value (higher then 7) which would mean that they are alkali. Other have a very low pH value (lower then 7) which would make them acidic. And there are wheelcleaners that are pH-neutral (around 7). Many detailers are convinced that only pH-neutral wheel cleaners are safe, but this is not entirely true.
It all depends on what alkali or acidic ingredient is used.
Some manufacturers have spent a lot of effort into researching the effect a certain ingredient has on specific dirt, and remove the ingredients that are not specifically targeted at a certain type of dirt.

For example: a manufacturer discovers that hydrochloric-acid is very good at removing traffic film, but it also stains polished steel and aluminium. That manufacturer can research what the active ingredient is that is causing the stains and what the ingredient is that is making it clean properly. If they can successfully filter out the ingredient that causes stains, they can achieve a product that will clean properly without leaving stains. The finished product can still be very acidic, but it won’t stain polished steel or aluminium. All the benefits, none of the drawbacks.

Some manufacturers spent a lot of time in this research and development, other don’t. If you are in doubt about your product contact the manufacturer or your supplier. You can also test on a small area first and see if detailing fora has discussed the product before.

Different uses

Ceramic coatings have a very high chemical resistance against acidic liquids (pH lower then 7). This means that it allows you to clean off contaminants that are very difficult to remove with a normal shampoo. Washing the car with a low pH solution can remove very stubborn dirt. This will give the ceramic coating a deep clean and improve sheeting and beading again.
Be careful though, because some unprotected materials (like trims) can be either damaged or stained by this. Rinsing is also very important afterwards.

Common mispercetions

  • Although a fallout remover cleans (among other areas) wheels, it is not a dedicated wheelcleaner
  • A wheel cleaner that is alkali or acidic does not have to be a bad thing, it completely depends an what type of alkali or acidic ingredient is used
  • Always take care when using a wheel cleaner. It is highly recommended to try any dedicated cleaner on a small place before using it on a bigger surface!
  • Take especially big care when working with aluminium, diamond cut rims or unprotected/unpainted metals
  • A wheel cleaner can be used on every surface, however great care has to be taken because it is not always certain how it reacts with particular surfaces

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