The Best Ways to Clean Rust Off of Rims

by Sam Eggleston
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Rafael Andrade/Demand Media

Rust can form on rims for a number or reasons, spanning simple brake dust buildup to moisture in the vicinity of where the rims were being stored. Cleaning the rust off of rims can be a challenging and often daunting task to those who aren't aware of the tactics and tips to get the rims shining like new again.


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Most rims that have just a little bit of rust on them need nothing more than a scrub brush and hot water with degreasing soap to get them clean. Wash the entire rim with the hot water and soap and then scrub at the rust with the brush. For stubborn rust, which is typically caused by brake dust, upgrade to a wire brush or a No. 0000 scouring pad. This will likely clear up the rust and allow you to buff the rim with a microfiber cloth to shine it back up.


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For that hard-to-remove rust that just doesn't want to let go of a rim, go to the auto parts store and find a tire cleaner that is acid-based. These cleaners will work wonders on rust and come from a variety of companies. Savage Acid and Mother's Wheel Mist are two very well-known types of acid-based cleaners. These kinds of cleaners are normally used by professional detailing companies. Make sure to follow the directions, employing scrub brushes when needed in order to maximize the cleaner's potential.


For rims that are heavily rusted and will not respond to the use of acid-based cleaners, sandblasting is recommended. Use a heavy-grit sand with the blaster to wear away the rust and scrape the rim clean. Be mindful, however, that sandblasting will remove any paint from the area of the rim surrounding the rusted area.

If you do not have a sandblaster, you can normally find a machine shop that, for a price, is willing to do the blasting for you.

This type of rust removal should only be used on rims that you plan on refinishing and repainting.

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