Tire Cleaners and Dressings:
Understanding the difference

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Multi-purpose products are always a great find. But using tire cleaners and dressings as a multi-purpose strategy is not one I personally recommend, just as I don't use professionally.

Perhaps in the short term it will seem easier and appear to be the winning combination, but unless you are trying to short-cut your way through life and car care, I don't recommend an all-in-one tire cleaner and dressing. If you are looking to reduce your world down to that level, you might as well go in search of home made dressing for tires...which I also don't recommend.

Separating Tire Cleaners from Tire Dressings

While tire cleaners and dressings do exist as a single product, I professionally recommend you keep these tasks as separate parts of car care and detailing.

  • Tires are subject to excessive levels of dirt that most all-purpose tire cleaners/dressings cannot adequately perform for long term use.
  • I can simplify the process for you so that you can use a tire cleaner that is suitable for many, many uses, and will work very well on cleaning your tires before you put a quality tire dressing on them.
  • See this link for my professional grade Super-Degreaser for my choice as a fantastic tire cleaner.

And for this reason, I will keep this page dedicated to tire dressing suggestions and helping you find what I consider two exceptional tire dressings that I have tested and used professionally for a very long time. I am also going to make my "super simple" tire dressing recommendation.

They will all perform with professional grade results, and you can decide which one represents the best value for you based on size and cost.

Best Water Based Tire Dressing

While I have been a big advocate of using water based tire dressings for many years, it seems the industry has responded and the concept has began to catch on to mainstream car care and detailing.

"Darren, why do I even need to be concerned with a water-based tire dressing versus any other type of tire dressing?"

Glad you asked!  

Why choose a water-based tire dressing?

  • You want to be able to clean the old dressing off before you reapply a new coating of tire dressing.
  • You can dilute the tire dressing down with tap water for other detailing jobs like engine detailing, interiors, wheel wells.

Which Tire Would You Prefer on Your Car?

Darren's Professional Tips:

  • I prefer a shiny sidewall of my tires.
  • There are tire dressings that dry completely and do not allow dirt and dust to accumulate and stick to your tire's sidewall. (The recommended dressing's below are a perfect example)
  • I stay away from the clear, ultra glossy tire dressings as these are typically loaded up with silicone's and solvents that make them very resistant to removal. Generally these are retail products. These hyped up tire dressings remain tacky and allow dirt and dust to accumulate to a high degree. The fact that these high gloss formulations require solvents and added silicone's to make them super glossy also makes them super tacky.
  • I choose a quality tire dressing that is water based, but is also water-resistant. I want the ability to remove the old layer of dressing using a quality degreaser each and every time I reapply a new layer of tire dressing.

"The picture below is what happens over time as your tire builds-up dirt and brake dust."

"Darren, I'm a bit confused! You preach using a water-based tire dressing, but how can a water-based dressing also be water-resistant?"

Glad you asked!

Think of it like latex paint. Back in the day we only had oil based paints. Because of the harmful chemicals used in these oil based products, the industry responded by developing water based products that are safe for people and the environment. The car care industry has responded in-like, just as virtually every other industry.

When you allow water-based latex paint to dry, it then creates a water proof barrier. The same holds true for many water based waxes, sealants, and tire dressings.

Chemical Guys VRP and
Meguiar's Hyper-Dressing:
Vinyl, Rubber, Plastic

Choose to shop Amazon:

Chemical Guys TVD_107_16 V.R.P. Vinyl, Rubber, and Plastic Super Shine Dressing (16 oz)

  • Water base.
  • Great shine without overly glossy.
  • Won't sling onto your car paint.
  • Professional grade.
  • Can also be diluted down with water.
  • Comes in smaller size if you are just beginning.

Meguiar's D17001 Hyper Dressing - 1 Gallon

  • Water base.
  • Great shine without being overly glossy.
  • Won't sling tire dressing onto the side of your car.
  • Professional grade tire dressing.
  • Can be diluted down with water and used for any of your dressing needs. Wheel wells, interiors, tires, exterior trim, etc.

Tire Cleaners and Dressings:
The simpler Approach

As I said at the top, I would be offering what I call my super-simple approach to a top rated tire dressing.

Adam's Tire Shine 16oz - Achieve a Lustrous, Dark, Long Lasting Shine - Non-Greasy and No Sling Formulation

  • Perfect for the driveway detailer or car enthusiast who doesn't need a 5 year supply of tire dressing.
  • Will perform to professional level results despite this being packaged and labeled as an enthusiast level.
  • I have used this in my professional world and promise you will love it! (I still love it to this day!)

Tire Cleaners and Dressings Summary

You are now part of a select group of people known as the informed and educated. With that said, I will add a few closing comments and take you a little deeper down the rabbit hole of all things related to tire dressings.

Things that even so-called professional detailers don't even know:

  • All tires have a shelf-life regardless of the tread life. This means you may have a tire 5 years old that still has more than half the tread life left but begins to crack on the side walls.
  • Just like everything else in life, not all tires are created equal. So choosing the best or shiniest tire dressing will largely be effected by the tire itself, not by any tire cleaners and dressings you happen to choose.
  • I view tire dressings as temporary and sacrificial barriers of visual enhancement. I know I want to be able to clean the old dressing and dirt off each time I detail or wash my car, so I accept I am not looking for a once-a-year tire dressing application.
  • Since I understand that tires have a shelf life of approximately 4-7 years, I know that as  rule I am going to wear my tires out so I do not concern myself with the endless marketing manufacturers use to sell their products with claims about UV inhibitors.
  • I also don't concern myself with claims about tires fading; this is more about slick marketing than any actual valid point of concern.

Tire Dressing Applicators

Just when you thought we were done with tire cleaners and dressings! Let's not forget about tire dressing applicators:

Popular Dressing Applicator

Chemical Guys ACC_3002 Durafoam Contoured Large Tire Dressing Applicator Pad (Pack of 2)

  • Ideal for use with any tire dressing you happen to choose.
  • Sharp edge for precision application.
  • Washable and reusable.

Applicator Darren Uses Professionally

Kraft Tool PL600L General Purpose Large Turtle Back Cellulose Sponge Box

  • I cut in half for the perfect balance between a thick end and a sharp edge for details.
  • By cutting in half, you are getting 2 for the price of 1.
  • I get mine wet and wring out each and every time before I apply dressing to sponge.
  • Lasts a very long time.
  • The one I use and prefer professionally.

Self-Cleaning Squeeze Bottles

The Chemical Guys VRP is a very thick consistency, and for this reason, I prefer to use these self-cleaning squeeze bottles to dispense from. Other tire cleaners and dressings can be used with traditional sprayers.

Meguiars 16 Oz. Self Cleaning Dispenser Bottle 3 Pack

  • Ideal for use with any thick tire dressing.
  • I do not like spraying tire dressing as a rule from traditional sprayers as it gets dressing over-spray onto your freshly detailed car; this will prevent that.
  • Also very useful for any of your detailing products where the original container simply sucks (many of them do). From liquid polishes, to liquid waxes, to dressings.

Best Tire Dressing Applicator:
Video Tutorial

Pay It Forward:
Tire Cleaners and Dressings

At this point you should have much better understanding on the subject of tire cleaners and dressings.

I also hope that I have helped you become an informed car owner and consumer! Now go out and share what you have learned!


Share this page to your favorite social media site and help me by paying this forward!


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