Alloy wheels are not invincible, in fact they need a lot of care. Even more important when the finish of your wheels is polished/machined & laquered - you can tell this finish by the way it is shiny, almost mirror like, either all of it or just in places..
Lets start this mini-guide with a simple rule of thumb
Saying that though lets face it you may very well want to use a wheel cleaner which you wouldnt consider using on your cars paintwork. These days there are so many wheel cleaners on the market its hard to tell which ones will work and not ruin your precious alloy wheels finish.
Following this simple 10 step guide can help
1) Make sure your wheels are cold to the touch BEFORE you put any type of wheel cleaner on them.
2) Rinse your wheels with cold water. Avoid very high pressure washers & very hot water.
3) Use ONLY a non-acidic cleaner, known as Alkaline. This is not generally corrosive and should not eat into the paint finish.
4) Follow the manufacturers instructions & and NEVER leave it on your wheels longer than it tells you too.
5) Use a micro-fibre pad ideally and keep it clean by rinsing it in clean water as you use it. Avoid normal sponges, they pick up and hold grit too easily. NEVER EVER use a brillo pad, pan scourer etc...sound obvious? We've had customers use both of these and lots more besides.
6) If you have to use a brush to clean difficult spots use only a soft brush designed for alloy wheels
*TIP Try a soft paint brush to agitate the cleaning solution. Wrap over the metal area with electricla tape to stop scratching happening. Paint brushes are always softer than alloy wheel brushes.
7) Rinse your wheels thoroughly to make sure all the cleaning solution is completely removed.
8) Alloy your wheels to dry completely.
9) You can finish the job by applying a good quality car wax then buffing it off. This will give your wheels a protective coating against the elements. Use inside and out. Just make sure the wax you choose is suitable for ALL paint finishes. Autoglym Super Resin Polish is excellent but there are many others out there including waxes designed specifically for use on alloy wheels. Hard waxes containing a high level of Carnuba are extremely durable and will not harm your wheels.
10) Give them extra protection by using a alloy wheel sealer such as Autoglym Wheel Seal.
An extra note or two to bear in mind - NEVER EVER USE ACID CLEANERS...read on
Virtually all hand wash/drive thru car washes use acid to clean wheels. Its quick,cheap and yes it will remove brake dust & road grime. Tell them not to use it! This will absolutely ruin your alloy wheels over time, 100% GUARANTEED!! Using acid to clean wheels will also render your wheel warrenty invalid. YES, manufacturers can absolutely tell acid has been used and its the first thing they will look for. DONT RISK IT!
Also avoid automated car washes. The wheel cleaning brushes push so hard on to your wheels they will scratch the finish. Besides, they dont even clean wheels very well so avoid.
Basic rule to remember. The best way to give your alloy wheels a lovely, long life is to clean them yourself by hand with warm, soapy water. Apply wax. Cover stone chips with clear laquer, such as clear nail polish. This will seal the break in paint and prevent water from getting between the paint layers.