How to Clean Car Tires and Prevent Tire Blooming

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How to Clean Tires and Prevent Tire Blooming

Many car owners are unaware of the proper steps on how to clean car tires.

The tires in your car are supposed to be black. If you notice the tires are exhibiting a brownish stain (particularly on the tire sidewalls) then congratulations. You are now witnessing firsthand the onslaught of tire blooming.

New tires are relatively easy to clean since they are still fresh from the factory. But as the tire ages over hundreds or thousands of miles, oxidation takes place in the tire sidewalls, hence the occurrence of tire blooming. It looks like traces of dried mud and it looks ugly as hell. It makes the tires look old, and it makes your car look dirty and dated.

clean black tires
Cool car Johann!



I will discuss the causes and prevention of tire blooming along with the easy steps on how to clean car tires without spending too much on automotive cleaning products.

Tire Blooming – The Brown Stain that Simply Won’t Go Away

I have a lot of experience dealing with tire blooming. Growing up in an average-sized household, we had three vehicles at our disposal, and my dad’s car was the worst. Don’t get me wrong, my dad LOVES cars and he loves driving as well, but he doesn’t know jack shit about cleaning cars.

One time it got so bad that I decided to clean his trusty Japanese compact. I was washing my own car anyway, so I decided to play the role of a responsible pre-adult son.

What bothered me most was the presence of those nasty brown stains on my dad’s car. His car had an Alpine White paint job, and I had no problems removing the paint stains (I’m pretty sure you’re familiar how easy it is for stains to adhere to a white car) with a proper polish and wax, but dealing with tire blooming was a different matter altogether.

My dad washed his car whenever he had the time, but it was just a wet and wipe affair. You know the process. Grab a hose, wet the car, and wipe with a cloth. No car shampoo was utilized in the process, and the tires weren’t given a good scrubbing either.

I personally clean my car often and I never had to deal with tire blooming. My dad’s car taught me how to get rid of tire blooming. Today I will share with you everything you need to know in order to forever eliminate those ghastly brown sidewall stains that simply won’t go away.

The Cause of Tire Blooming

Have you heard some tales about tire dressings causing those brownish stains on the tires? Those are just tales with no scientific proof. In fact, the main cause of tire blooming is caused by the tire itself.

It’s true that neglect will accelerate the appearance of brown stains in your tires. Frequent cleaning is necessary to prevent tire blooming. But even though you clean your tires regularly, the tire blooming will eventually return, unless you do something about it.

The main cause of tire blooming can be blamed on an organic compound called anti-ozonant. This compound is added to the rubber mixture in the tire manufacturing process.

Anti-ozonant is a popular additive used in almost all exterior rubber and plastic components. This organic compound protects the plastic or rubber from premature deterioration caused by exposure to extreme weather elements. It prevents the material from drying, peeling, and cracking, even after many years of direct sun exposure.

The use of anti-ozonant is most prevalent in tire manufacturing. You should actually be thankful because anti-ozonant is the reason why modern tires last longer and are more resilient to environmental hazards.

However, the rubber compounds in your tire are engineered to retain a specific level of anti-ozonant to be continually pushed on the outside of the tire to protect the surface and the sidewall from oxidation. When the anti-ozonant is exposed to air, moisture, and heat, it quickly oxidizes into a brownish residue. That’s the story behind tire blooming.

You can also blame the manufacturing process, specifically the tire mold. Tire makers spray an anti-stick compound called mold releases on the inside of the tire mold. This prevents the finished product (the new tires) from sticking to the molds. This anti-stick compound will bond with the tire and will actually hold more anti-ozonant to the tire surface.

Tire Dressings are NOT the Culprit

Tire dressings will actually prevent tire blooming by further protecting the tires from oxidation. Whether you prefer to use silicone-based or water-based tire dressings, tire blooming will still occur in the absence of proper and habitual cleaning. That’s a fact.

If you applied tire dressing the last time you washed your car, you should clean the tires properly with soap and water using a tire brush BEFORE applying a new coat of tire dressing. Simply smothering a fresh coat of tire gel on a dirty tire will only mask the dirty appearance. Worst, the dirt underneath will bake to a crisp as you drive your car. In this case, don’t be surprised if you see brown stains on the tires after a week of driving.

If you’re going to use tire dressing, make sure to check out our guide to choosing the best tire shine to keep those tires black

Bring Back the Black – How to Clean Car Tires

Periodically washing or cleaning the tires will prevent tire blooming. If your tires are already victim to those unsightly brown stains, there’s no need to be alarmed. Here is the easy way to clean car tires so you can bring back the blackish new look of your rubber.

Give Chrisfix’s video a quick watch before moving on!

Things you need:

  • Dish soap
  • Small plastic bucket
  • Foam applicator pad
  • Tire brush
  • Tire dressing or tire gel
  • Clean and dry towel

Step 1: Park the car in a safe and level area. It is a good idea to clean the tires every time you clean your car. We will be using dish soap for this procedure but you can use car shampoo if you prefer.

Take note that you should NEVER use dish soap to wash your entire car, but it is extremely effective in removing tire bloom and brake dust on your wheels. In order to get rid of tire blooming, we need a cleaning agent that can quickly dissolve oil and grease, and dish soap fits the bill. If you want to use a commercially-available wheel and tire cleaner, you can go ahead and do so as long as you don’t let the cleaner soak in the wheels and tires for too long.

Step 2: Rinse the tires with clean water using a hose. If the tires are super dirty, don’t be afraid to use a tire brush as you rinse the tires with water. This will help remove excess mud and dirt for easier cleaning.

Step 3: Grab a small bucket. Add about a tablespoon or two of dish soap to the bucket and add water. The cleaning solution should be mildly concentrated and foamy. You should create enough of the cleaning solution to effectively clean all four tires.

Step 3: Use a foam applicator pad or cloth to clean the tires. Dip the pad into the cleaning solution and apply liberally to the wheels and tires. Use a tire brush to mildly scrub the sidewalls of the tires.

Avoid using a tire brush on your gorgeous alloy wheels. Use a cloth to clean every nook and crevice of your wheels to prevent scuffs and scratches.

Step 4: Rinse the wheels and tires using a garden hose. Make sure to remove any traces of the cleaning solution by rinsing them properly.

Do not allow the cleaning solution to dry completely on the wheels and tires before rinsing with water. This will leave soap stains on the wheels and tires.

Step 5: Wipe the tires dry with a clean cloth. Make sure that the tires are completely dry before applying tire dressing.

Step 6: Use a separate applicator pad to apply tire dressing or tire gel on the sidewalls. Make sure that the entire surface of the sidewall is covered with tire gel. You don’t need to apply an overly thick coat. Simply apply more tire dressing when the applicator begins to dry.

You can also use a tire gel spray if you prefer, but I prefer tire gel that can be applied by hand. It allows me to get up close and personal with the tire so I can inspect the surface for cuts, uneven wear, and cracks while applying the tire gel.

You’re done! By this time, your tires will be restored to their former glory and your car will look good as new.

duck shakin
Those are some clean “ducking” tires!

Tire Cleaning Tips

Here are tire cleaning tips that you need to keep in mind:

    • Clean the tires every time you wash your car. I know it may not be convenient to wash the tires with soap each time, but regular cleaning is the single best way to prevent tire blooming.
    • Clean your tires one set at a time to prevent the cleaner from drying out. Rinse each wheel and tire immediately after cleaning with soap or tire cleaners.
    • Other people prefer to wash the tires after washing the car, while others prefer to clean the tires first. I personally prefer cleaning the wheels and tires before washing the car simply because I use a different type of cleaning solution to clean the tires.
    • If you don’t have tire gel or tire dressing, you can also use Armor All Protectant to revitalize the look of your tires. Spray an ample amount of Armor All to an applicator pad and apply evenly on the sidewall. Armor All will prevent cracking, fading, and discoloration on rubber, vinyl, and plastic surfaces. The downside is that it won’t last as long as tire dressing, especially if you constantly drive over long distances or when it rains.
    • Only wash the wheels and tires when they are cool to the touch. Do not spray water on hot wheels.
    • Another product that I recommend is McKee’s 37 Tire Coating. It is an acrylic-based resin that forms a chemical-resistant coating on the tires. This product earns the distinction of providing several months of protection even if you drive in the rain. The downside? The product is a bit costly (but it’s worth it since a single bottle will last you a long time), it needs to cure for about an hour after applying, and you can’t drive your vehicle in the wet for at least 3 hours after application.


It is relatively simple to clean car tires and eliminate tire blooming. As long as you regularly clean and detail your wheels and tires at least once a week, then you can take comfort in the knowledge that tire blooming will not get a chance to develop even if your car is constantly exposed to extreme weather conditions. Don’t wait for tire blooming to appear before you act! In this kind of situation, prevention is the best cure.

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