Tire Care – Cleaning & Dressing

Dry, brown, and deteriorated tires make any wheel look horrible. To restore the fresh new rubber appearance requires a pretty simple formula:

1) Clean with any effective & safe all purpose cleaner or degreaser

2) Dress with a good long lasting water-based dressing.

So how do we not spend a fortune on different types of dressings and cleaners? Choose the right setup that’s safe, effective, and just lasts.

Cleaning Tires

Cleaning the tire is essential since it removes excess dressing and browning in the tire to establish a clean base. Any good degreaser or all purpose cleaner will strip the tire to a clean base as long as you agitate with a good tire brush.

Here are some following popular cleaners:

HiTemp Tire Cleaner, Meguiars All Purpose Cleaner Plus, Meguiars Super Degreaser, Eimann Fabrik Tire Cleaner, Chemical Guys Grime Reaper, Westley’s Bleach White, Zep Citrus or Purple Degreaser, P21S Total Auto Wash

There are a few dual action wheel & tire cleaners that are effective for complete wheel cleaning:

Amazing Roll Off, Autoglym Custom Wheel Cleaner, Optimum Power Clean

Dressing Tires

There are a 2 major ways in which dressings are applied: aerosol (foam or spray), liquid (spray or gel). Aerosols usually overspray and often are consumer based since they are restricted to land shipping. Foam Aerosol are nice and convenient locally however they can’t be adjusted gloss wise. Gels and sprays are the most common since they can be shipped anywhere and are adjustable in appearance.

Tire dressings fall under two main categories:

Solvent based dressings containing petroleum distillates often found in aerosol form. They are slowly falling out of favor for a number of negative reasons:

– often oily, greasy, and attract grime to tires

– sit on top of the surface often slinging onto the vehicle

– deteriorate rubber causing excessive browning & dehydration of the rubber.

– the shine might be brilliant, but may not last since the dressing isn’t absorbed into the tire

– have a tendency to sap out useful conditioning agents such as Antiozonants

– excessive buildup can occur with overspray

Water based dressings that are applied via spray or liquid format. Often milky in appearance, water based dressings are very easy to work with a few positive factors:

– dilatable to whatever appearance a user wants

– non greasy or messy application wise

– often petroleum distillate & solvent free

– absorb into rubber to nourish and last longer

– often contain UV treatments to protect rubber

– continually more popular environmentally with absence of VOCs

A Note about the Browning Process

Rubber is not naturally black from the start of its creation. Tires are grey in nature and are treated with a number of conditioners so it can withstand dirt, heat, flex, and uv damage. One of the most beneficial ingredients are Antiozonants that are treated into the tire to withstand abuse. Browning is the normal process in which migration of the antiozonants flush to the surface due to wear. Usually you can see this process in which a normal dark and fresh looking rubber becomes dull and brownish overtime.

Improper tire dressings exacerbates the browning process. This often seen when solvent dressings oversaturate a tire. Solvent dressings that are ill applied often have run off that splashes onto the car surface and dulls the paint. This is why water based dressings are far better for your tires. Not only do they go on easily and cleanly, water based dressings are not harmful if there is overspray.


Optimum Optibond Tire Gel (Tire Shine) – used as a wheel well & tire dressing. buff for matte look, more layers equals more wet look

Zaino Z16 – a hit among Zainoholics, use on exterior rubber, plastic trim, weather stripping, and tires

Poorboy’s Bold N Bright – use on whitewall and tires, cleans and dresses at the same time

Chemical Guys: Liquid ExtremeShine, Natural Look, Extreme VRT, Silk Shine – CG has tons of dressings so chose at will. VRT is more of a lotion.

Jeff Werkstatt Satin Prot – used for vinyl, rubber, plastic, and rubber, cleans & protects on exterior or interior

Showroom FX/TropiCare White Pearl – can be used as a tire, trim, and plastic dressing, one of the more popular choices for its durability

Swissvax Pneu – definitely a boutique product for the concours/show related users

Gloss It TRV – no solvents, no petroleum, non hydro carbon based.

303 Aerospace Protectant – UV protectant for viynl, leather, rubber, and plastic, a good dressing staple

Finish Kare #108


Meguiars Hyper Dressing – highly dilutable product for natural or glossy look, cheap & good results.

Meguiars #40 Vinyl & Rubber Conditioner or All Season Dressing


Duragloss 253 Tire & Rubber Dressing – great consumer driven product

Mothers FX Tire Shine/Reflections Tire Care


Ultima Tire & Trim Guard Plus – multi surface tire, trim, wheel sealant. can be used on vinyl, rubber, plastic and metal.

Tuf Shine Permanent Tire – applies a sealant to seal the tire, not a normal protectant

A Few Notes on Dressings

– when applying dressings: you have a range from Super Wet Glossy or Natural Matte Deep Black. It all depends on the dilution of the dressing and how many layers are applied. Products like Hyper Dressing, OptiBond, Bold N Bright all have this adjustment factor. More layers and thicker dressing = wetter shine, Less layers and more buffing = more matte natural look.

– For harder or medium compound tires, use less dressing as the dressing won’t saturate as heavily. Soft tires are better for basecoats and easier saturation.

If you are more curious into the chemistry have a read from this forum post:

Good Silicone / Not so good Silicone:

a) Water – based silicone dressings; usually a milky-white liquid,(Polydimethylsiloxane (PDS) – doesn’t contain petroleum distillate; silicone oils, waxes, or solvents that can harm rubber and/or vinyl over time. Water-based dressings use a combination of natural oils and polymers to offer a non-greasy, satin finish. Some of these products also contain ultra violet radiation (UVR) blocking agents to help keep tires from cracking, fading and hardening. Most, if not all water-based dressings are environmentally friendly / biodegradable, whereas solvent-based silicone is not.

b) Solvent-based silicone dressings, usually a clear greasy liquid, (Dimethal (DMS) that contain petroleum solvents as a cleaning agent, they remove the elasticity from vinyl, rubber and paint; causing them to evaporate out of the substrate, leaving behind a dry inflexible surface. Most high gloss products are based upon DMS silicone oil, the difference between water and solvent based is in the carrier system used. Solvent based products use a hydrocarbon silicone to suspend the product. When you apply it, the solvent evaporates leaving the dressing’s active ingredients (Silicone oil) behind; solvent-based silicone is not biodegradable.

In Summary:

Best results for any dressing: have a clean dry tire, apply dressing according to manufacturers direction. allow to absorb, then buff off or layer according to glossiness

My current setup for cleaning is HiTemp Tire Cleaner, Poorboy’s APC, and Optimum Power Clean. Power Clean is so useful since it clean an entire wheel at the same time, however I still have a gallon of the HiTemp Tire Cleaner that has to be used.

Dressing wise if I wanted a longterm treatment, I’d experiment with Tuf Shine. Otherwise Optibond as a gallon makes for a huge quantity & quality bundle. I’ve been hearing good things about Showroom FX’s White Pearl.

Enjoy the shameless Detailed Image & Optimum Car Care plugging!


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