The Best Wheel Cleaner – Mothers vs Sonax

Best Wheel Cleaners - All Cleaners
After hours of thorough testing and 28+ wheels cleaned, we concluded that Mothers M-Tech and Sonax Wheel Cleaner were the top wheel cleaners. Read on to find out why Mothers was able to edge out Sonax as our pick for the best wheel cleaner.

Keeping a car’s wheels clean has become quite a difficult task. Wheels are getting more and more spokes, creating more hard to reach places for brake dust to settle. We have been very disappointed with wheel cleaning products in the past, as they all seem to make empty promises of a “spray on, spray off” perfect shine. So naturally, we wanted to put some of the top products to the test to see which was the best wheel cleaner. Please keep in mind that the products we are testing are designed to clean a car’s wheels, which are different than tires (tires are the actual rubber that is mounted on the wheel).

Spoiler Alert: If you have come here to find the magical wheel cleaner that cleans every nook and cranny of hard to reach brake dust with a simple spray on and spray off, you’ll be disappointed. To our knowledge (and vast experience with wheel cleaners), there is not a product that can truly clean all brake dust and grime off of a wheel without some scrubbing involved. Yes there are some extreme cleaners that can do this, but they are not meant for wheels and can be very damaging to the finish of wheels.

Preview
Our Pick
Mothers 25924 M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner, 24 fl. oz.
Sonax (230200-755) Wheel Cleaner Full Effect - 16.9 fl. oz.
Meguiar's G180132SP 32 oz. Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner
Wheel and Tire Cleaner  - Safe for all Wheels and Rims - Works on Alloy Chrome Aluminum Clear-Coated Painted Polished and Plasti-Dipped Rim - Wheel Cleaner by CarGuys
Title
Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner
Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect
Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner
Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner
Prime
Price
$10.70
$16.34
$9.28
$16.97
Our Pick
Preview
Mothers 25924 M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner, 24 fl. oz.
Title
Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner
Prime
Price
$10.70
Details
Preview
Sonax (230200-755) Wheel Cleaner Full Effect - 16.9 fl. oz.
Title
Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect
Prime
Price
$16.34
Details
Preview
Meguiar's G180132SP 32 oz. Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner
Title
Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner
Prime
Price
$9.28
Details
Preview
Wheel and Tire Cleaner  - Safe for all Wheels and Rims - Works on Alloy Chrome Aluminum Clear-Coated Painted Polished and Plasti-Dipped Rim - Wheel Cleaner by CarGuys
Title
Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner
Prime
Price
$16.97
Details

Wheel Cleaners We Tested

To find the competitors for this review, we utilized our own experience with a wide array of wheel cleaners and scoured the internet for top rated and top selling products. The list we came up with include some very well known brands and some not so well known brands:

Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner

Sale
Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner
  • CLEANS AWAY HARMFUL SALT AND WINTER GRIME - Most people dont know how corrosive road salts are to their vehicles. Salt will eat away at your wheels, damage protective clear coats, and quickly create rust spots. CarGuys Premium Wheel Cleaner will safely and effectively wash it all away!
  • ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY Do you know why over the counter products are so CHEAP!? Because they use DIRTY and CHEAP chemicals that are harmful to the environment. All of our products are made in the USA by hard working Americans and conform to all safety regulations. This has been specially formulated to be Acid Free, Non-Toxic, and pH balanced. You can be sure that our products are safe!
  • SAFE ON EVERY WHEEL OR TIRE Will NOT damage or stain your wheels. It WILL clean any and every kind of wheel or tire that you can put on your vehicle. Alloy, Aluminum, Anodized, Chrome, Painted, Polished, Clear-coated and Plasti-Dipped Rims! If its not on this list, the answer is yes, it will work!

Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner

Sale
Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner
  • FAST ACTING: Active gel quickly dissolves heavy brake dust and turns purple as it dissolves brake dust
  • PRISTINE WHEELS: Tough on road grime and dirt, but not your wheels
  • SAFE FOR ALL WHEELS: Acid free and pH balanced - safe for all wheel finishes

Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner

Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner
  • Quickly and Easily Cleans Both Wheels and Tires (Including Blackwalls and Whitewalls)
  • Foaming, non-acidic spray removes dust, grease, dirt and grime
  • Safe for painted, clear coated, alloy, Steel, Modular, chrome or Factory treated wheels and hubcaps

Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect

Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect
  • SAFE ON ALL WHEELS: Acid-free, pH balanced formula won't damage wheels. Safe on various wheel finishes including: Chrome, Aluminum, Steel, Clear Coated, PVD, Painted, Plastic Wheel Covers, Magnesium, AND Aftermarket Wheels
  • WATCH IT WORK: The color changing formula activates when it comes in contact with the ferrous metals (iron) from brake dust or other dirt and grime. Full Effect sprays on fluorescent yellow, then turns deep red or purple as it dissolves brake dust
  • ADVANCED AND EFFECTIVE CHEMISTRY: Full Effect, non acid wheel cleaner attaches and emulsifies stubborn baked on brake dust. Simply spray on, let it dwell, watch for color change, agitate if necessary, and rinse with water. *For best results rinse using high pressure water

Features & Pricing

All of the wheel cleaners we are reviewing have similar pricing and have similar features. All claim to be acid free, safe on all types of wheels, spray on – spray off products, with Car Guys being the only product that says to dry the wheels after cleaning. Both the Sonax and the Meguiar’s wheel cleaners also claim to change color once they come in contact with brake dust. Of course, these products can claim many things, so we decided to put those claims to the test.

Initial Testing

Spray On, Spray Off Test

To narrow down the field, we had our reviewers test each of the products on their own cars. First, each reviewer was instructed to use each product exactly as directed on the instructions of the bottle. Since each wheel cleaner claimed to not need any scrubbing (a few said scrubbing/agitation can help with extremely difficult spots), the first round of wheel cleaning was just spray on, spray off.The results were underwhelming to say the least. No wheel cleaner truly cleaned an entire wheel with the spray on, spray off test. The only standout during this test was Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner since it was able to give our tires a good cleaning, but we’re not here to tell you which is the best tire cleaner.

Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect
Application Sprays on thick, poor coverage Sprays on thin, good coverage Foamy and thick, poor coverage Wide spray, best coverage
Smell Fruity smell Sulfur-Type Smell Fruity Smell Slight sulfur smell
Wait Time 3-5 Minutes 2-4 Minutes 30 Seconds 3-5 Minutes
Cleans light brake dust
Cleans heavy brake dust

Scrubbing Test

Next, we decided to spray the wheel cleaners on the wheels, and then scrub the wheels using a wheel brush to lift up some of the brake dust and grime, and then spray off the cleaner. The results of this test were more promising:

Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect
Cleans light brake dust
Cleans heavy brake dust

Right away it was easy to narrow our field down to three. The Meguiar’s wheel cleaner not only smelled the worst, but it also was unanimously voted as the worst cleaner among all of our reviewers. The remaining three products were able to clean all of the light brake dust on our wheels, and they all were able to remove most of the heavy brake dust and grime areas.

Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner and Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect emerged as the top two products. They both cleaned the heavier brake dust significantly better than the Car Guys Premium Wheel Cleaner. In addition, Sonax had a wonderful wide sprayer that made application the easiest. Both Car Guys and Mothers had the worst sprayers, as they sprayed on thick, causing us to have to use more product to get full coverage.

The Finalists – Mothers vs Sonax

Mothers vs Sonax Wheel Cleaner

Our top two contenders were Mothers M-Tech and Sonax Full Effect Wheel Cleaners. They both cleaned our wheels better than the Car Guys and Meguiar’s. To crown our king of wheel cleaners, we needed to do a head to head test. So we tested Mothers and Sonax on the front wheels of a sports car with multiple spoke wheels that have hard to reach and hard to clean areas. We sprayed on the wheel cleaner, scrubbed the wheels thoroughly with a wheel brush, and then sprayed the cleaner off. We took before, during, and after photos for each:

Mothers M-Tech Wheel Cleaner:

BMW Mothers Wheel Cleaner Test, Before, During, After

Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect:

BMW Sonax Wheel Cleaners Test, Before, During, After

As you can see, both wheel cleaners did a sufficient job at cleaning the wheels. It was very hard for us to choose between these two wheel cleaners as they each have pros and cons.

The Mothers Wheel Cleaner did an amazing job at cleaning the wheel and the tire and smelled great. However, it had a terrible spray nozzle that made the application to the wheels a chore in and of itself. Also, after cleaning the wheel, we did notice that it had a tendency to leave behind some white residue on the wheels. The only way we were able to keep this from happening was to wipe down the wheel with a cloth after washing, so for that reason the Mothers Wheel Cleaner isn’t a true spray on, spray off wheel cleaner.

The Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect was almost as good at cleaning the wheels and it had the best sprayer out of the field. The only downside for the Sonax was its terrible sulfur smell. Compared to the Mothers, it also loses a point for not doubling as a tire cleaner.

The Best Wheel Cleaner

Mothers M-Tech Wheel Cleaner

As hard as this decision was, we have to give the crown to Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner. It was the best at actually cleaning the wheel, even though the application of it wasn’t the easiest, and you may have to wipe down the wheel afterwards with a cloth. We believed that the cleaner result was worth the extra effort. If the extra effort bothers you, we have no issues recommending the Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect as it was a strong second place finish that performed great.

The Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner performed great at both cleaning the wheels and the tires of our test cars, and we strongly recommend it to anyone looking to buy a wheel cleaner for their car. It is our pick as the best wheel cleaner.

Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner
  • Quickly and Easily Cleans Both Wheels and Tires (Including Blackwalls and Whitewalls)
  • Foaming, non-acidic spray removes dust, grease, dirt and grime
  • Safe for painted, clear coated, alloy, Steel, Modular, chrome or Factory treated wheels and hubcaps

Tips For Cleaning Your Wheels

To help make your wheel cleaning experience as efficient as possible, we decided to put together a quick list of tips when cleaning your car’s wheels. These tips are essential for getting the best results and the cleanest wheels around.

Get Yourself a Quality Wheel Cleaner

A quality wheel cleaner will make your wheels shine like a diamond with a little bit of scrubbing. Our analysis above on multiple wheel cleaners should give you a good idea of which to buy. Quality wheel cleaners won’t damage your wheels and will make the entire cleaning job as easy as possible.

Wheel Brushes Are Great for Brake Dust

A wheel brush to agitate the brake dust areas on your wheel is a must. Wheel brushes are extremely effective at removing brake dust in hard to reach areas. Here is the best wheel brush that we recommend:

Sale
Chemical Guys - The Goat Boar's Hair Detail Brush
  • Gentle yet effective - will not scratch surfaces
  • Long-life chemical resistant handle made of metal
  • Versatile cleaning tool

Utilize a High Power Sprayer

Use a high power sprayer when rinsing the wheel cleaning solution off. This is more effective than a traditional hose.

Dry Your Wheels

We recommend drying the wheels with a cloth after cleaning, as this can wipe away any excess wheel cleaning solution that may leave behind residue.

Final Thoughts

Whichever wheel cleaner you choose, it is important to consistently wash your wheels to prevent brake dust from permanently damaging your wheels. Whether you choose to use the Mothers or Sonax wheel cleaner, each has proven to be a quality wheel cleaner at a quality price. We hope to see you driving around with sleek shining wheels!

Mothers M-Tech Wheel + Tire Cleaner
  • Quickly and Easily Cleans Both Wheels and Tires (Including Blackwalls and Whitewalls)
  • Foaming, non-acidic spray removes dust, grease, dirt and grime
  • Safe for painted, clear coated, alloy, Steel, Modular, chrome or Factory treated wheels and hubcaps