How to Clean Aluminum Rims & Trim


John asked: How do I clean aluminum tire rims? I also would like to now how to clean the little strip of aluminum around the tail lights.

Keeping your car looking it’s best includes the tires and trim. When these components are aluminum, you can really make it shine! Follow these steps to polish the aluminum and clean it so it looks like new.

You Will Need:

  • Aluminum or metal polish such as Flitz
  • Dremmel with buffing wheel
  • Tape
  • 0000 Steel wool

Steps to Clean the Aluminum:

  1. Begin by determining if the aluminum has a protective coating over it. If the discoloration is under the clear coating, that will have to be removed first.
  2. Tape off any areas around the trim to avoid scratching or getting the polish on the painted areas.
  3. Next, apply the metal polish following the manufacturer’s instructions. It may help to use the 0000 steel wool to apply the polish.
  4. Use a dremmel to buff the surface to a shine!

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Trim shine is a commercial product that can be applied to the surface to make the aluminum shiny. Reapply every two weeks or when it becomes dull again.
  • Nevr-Dull is a metal cleaner that removes tarnish and returns it to the original shine.
  • If the cloudiness or tarnish are not removed with polishing, the damage is under a coating that must be chemically removed.
  • For cleaning aluminum tire rims, try Acrysol and follow with a polish. Clean in a well-ventilated area as the fumes can be overwhelming.
  • Rims and trim come in different types of aluminum and may react differently to various cleaners. Whenever possible, test a small, hidden area to ensure there are no adverse effects to the metal.


  1. Larry says:

    Aerosol bathroom cleaner works great. Spray it on, wipe on with a rag, let it set and rinse. Takes about 2 minutes per wheel; repeat if really dirty.

    Aerosol bathroom cleaner works great on almost everything: walls, metal, general cleaner, glass (not on wood). I even use it to wipe my TV/computer screen, stainless steel, plastic, appliances, microwave, metal; try it on everything.

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