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Ultimate Tire Care Guide – Cleaning & Dressing

Ultimate Tire Care Guide by Liquid Finish

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

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

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

Choose the right setup that’s safe, effective, and has longevity for proper tire care.

Cleaning Tires: Essential Tire Care Preparation

To cleaning a tire it is essential to remove excess dressing and browning in the rubber 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. Your objective is to create an almost greyish hue to the rubber. A few popular cleaners that I recommend:

tire care
tire care

Optimum Power CleanTuf Shine Tire Cleaner, and HiTemp Tire Cleaner, are among my most favorite tire stripping cleaners. Meguiars All Purpose Cleaner Plus, Meguiars Super DegreaserP21S Total Auto Wash, and Zep Citrus or Purple Degreaser are other safe cleaners available. There are a few dual action wheel & tire cleaners that are effective for complete wheel cleaning at the same time: Amazing Roll Off, Autoglym Custom Wheel Cleaner, and Optimum Power Clean.

tire care

To ensure proper cleaning use a dedicated tire brush such as the Tuf Shine Tire Brush. A useful trick is to apply multiple applications to the ruber when dry and wet.

Dressing Tires: Wet Tire Care

There are two major ways in which dressings are applied: aerosol foam or spray, and liquid spray or gel. Aerosols usually have overspray and often are consumer based since they are restricted to land shipping. Foam aerosols 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 have a  number of negative reasons that can drastically affect proper tire care:

  • – 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 positive tire care attributes:

  • – 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 care 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.

Boutique & Prosumer Options

tire care

tire care
tire care

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

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, Extreme V.R.P – VRP is more of a lotion.

Prima Nero – wonderful easy to use and water based

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

Others to consider are: Swissvax Pneu, Blackfire Tire Gel, Zaino Z16


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

Meguiars #40 Vinyl & Rubber Rubber & Conditioner or Meguiars All Season Dressing


Duragloss Tire & Rubber Dressing – #253, #281, #321 are 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 Tire Clearcoat – applies a sealant to seal the tire, not a normal protectant


tire care

Buff & Shine Tire Applicators or Black Hex Grip Tire Applicators will work greatly. Anything foam based can work, as well as using a paint brush which makes dressing extremely easy.

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.


The best results for any properly treated tire is to have a clean dry tire, apply water-based dressing , then buff off or layer according to glossiness. My current setup for cleaning is Tuf Shine Tire Cleaner and Optimum Power Clean. Dressing wise if I wanted a longterm treatment I would go with Tuf Shine Tire Clearcoat. Otherwise Optimum Opti-bond Tire Gel as a gallon makes for a huge quantity & quality bundle.

Enjoy our proper tire care guide. The essential key is to heavily clean your rubber and always treat with a water based dressing.

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