How to Clean White-Walled Bike Tires

Your bike’s white-walled tires have turned yellow? These techniques will help you clean them and make them white again.


White-walled tires are the nicest kind of tires for a vintage bike. However, they also stain quickly and eventually turn yellow.

White-walled bike tires can be cleaned with a variety of products. Just be careful not to use harsh chemicals, as they will dry out the rubber and cause it to dry rot over time.

Getting started cleaning your white-walled tires is simple. There are just a few things that you have to keep in mind before you get started. Read on to find these out.

When White-Walled Tires Turn Yellow

There’s no doubt that white-walled tires are one of the most gorgeous kinds of bicycle tires that you can buy.

The spinning white ring looks absolutely majestic as you cycle through the city streets and race down the road. The only problem is that they stain quickly and need to be cleaned regularly.

The white color makes dirt and grime much more visible on these tires than on normal tires. Because of that, white-walled bike tires have a tendency to turn yellow—and lose their pristine looks—all too quickly.

The good news for first-time owners of white-walled tires are that there’s not as tricky to clean as most people think. If your tires have turned an unappealing yellow, there’s no need to worry. Just grab the cleaning supplies below and use the technique we’re about to share with you.

The Cleaning Supplies You Need

To clean white-wall tires, the first thing you need to do is make sure you have all of the cleaning supplies you need.

You’re going to need:

An abrasive cleaning pad, such as an SOS Pad.

You will also need to have a tire cleaner spray, such as Black Magic Bleche-Wite. These will clean the tires and get most of the stains and blemishes out.

You should also get some baking soda and a magic eraser. These will help to brighten the tire up after you’ve cleaned it, and they will help you erase any further stains or blemishes that you find in the sidewall.

Another good idea is to go ahead and buy some sort of tire protectant, like Armor All. This is a special coating that you will apply at the end to help protect the white wall tires from the harmful UV rays of the sun. White wall tires are particularly vulnerable to these rays.

Finally, you also need to make sure that you have a scrub brush or scrubbing pad so that you can scrub the tires with the cleaning products that you have gathered.

How To Clean White-Walled Bike Tires, Step-by-Step

First, gather all of the materials that we have discussed in the section above.

You can find these in the automotive departments of most big-box stores. You can also pick them up at any auto shop. Read the instructions carefully to see if there are any specific directions they have for you to use.

How to clean the tires:

Put on rubber gloves. If you have glasses or sunglasses, wear them for eye protection.

Spray the tire cleaner on the dry tire and leave it for 4-5 minutes, preferably in the shade. Don’t use tire cleaner on a rainy or windy day.

Wet your sponge and wipe away the dirt and grime from the tire. A gentle, circular motion goes a long way. Don’t scrub too intensively and avoid using too much force, because you can damage the white wall.

Rinse, preferably with lukewarm water.

(If it’s been a while since you last cleaned the tire and it’s still a little dirty, repeat the above steps a second time.)

With the tire still wet, sprinkle some baking soda on a damp cloth. Then use the cloth to wipe away at the tire, again in gentle and circular motion and this not with a scrub brush.

While cleaning the tire with baking soda, rinse it off every now and then to gauge your progress and see whether it’s clean enough. It’s better to reapply cleaning product when you need it instead of go overboard and damage the white wall.

Once the white-walled bike tire looks spick and span, thoroughly rinse it, pat it down with a dry cloth, and let it air-dry, but not directly in the sun, for a couple of hours.

The last step to do is to apply the tire protectant that you bought earlier.

Apply the tire protectant to the entire tire—treads, carcass, sidewalls—and not just the white walls.

This will help “seal” the rubber on the tire by restoring some of the oils and resins that you washed away, protecting it from the exposure to the UV light rays from the sun and the moisture out on the road. These are harmful to the tire.

Now you are ready to start riding your bike again.

Take These Precautions

Be careful about what cleaning products you choose to use.

For example, chlorine based cleaning products will work very well at first for cleaning your tires off. However, these will dry out the rubber of your white-walled tires.

This will lead to excessive, premature wear on the tire, and so you will have to dispose of them and replace them sooner than you normally would (most bicycle tires last a few thousand miles).

You should also avoid using alcohol-based cleaning products for the same reason.

These are particularly harmful to white-walled tires, but they will also dull and strain black rubber as well. This is because alcohol evaporates quickly, and along with it evaporate most of the oils and resins protecting the rubber.

Avoid using these when you are cleaning any sort of tires.

Another reason why it is important to avoid using harsh chemicals such as alcohol, bleach, and chlorine is that, over time, these will cause the tires to discolor. You don’t want your tires to turn more and more yellow the more you clean them!

As with any cleaning task, this gets easier the more often you do it.

Avoid letting stains, dirt, and grime build up on your white-walled tires. Make a habit of cleaning your tires once a week or two.

This way, they will always look in mint condition—and you will not have to spend long periods of time cleaning off dirt and grime that has built up over a long period.

It is particularly important to stay on top of a regular cleaning schedule with white-walled tires, because… well, they’re white. Any dirt, grime, stains, blemishes, or mud that gets on these tires will be much more visible than it would be on a regular black tire.

Final Thoughts

It is important to keep cleaning your white wall tires regularly so that they do not turn yellow. Keeping a regular cleaning cycle with these cleaning tips will help you keep your tires clean, pristine, and beautiful.