How to Clean White Letters on Tires

The white letters on your tires are not very pleasing to the eyes when dirt and stain invade them. Dirty white letters could make your tires look old. You can make your tires black again to look new, but if the white letters turning brown require a separate job.

There are multiple ways to turn the letters on your tires white again. The use of SOS pads appears to be a popular technique. Other methods include bottled cleaning solutions, bleaching agents, nail or barbeque brushes, fine sandpaper, scouring pads, and toothpaste.

I will talk about these solutions individually to give you an idea of how they work and decide which one to use. Read on and enjoy!

Why Are White Letters on Tires Turning Brown?

Before discussing the possible solutions, let us first understand how the white letters on tires turn brown.

The first possible reason is poor maintenance. If you do not regularly clean your tires, dirt can accumulate on the white letters on the tire’s sidewall. Road chemicals may also cause some reactions causing the prints to turn brown.

What could be the other possible reasons aside from poor maintenance? This article covers the reasons why the tire sidewall turns brown. The reasons include antiozonants, mold release, and silicone.

Tire rubber compound includes antiozonants elements to prevent drying or cracking. Over some time, this element can push itself out of the tire. When it comes in contact with oxygen, it could leave a brown residue on the tire’s sidewall.

As for mold releases or the non-stick lubricants applied to the tire, they don’t necessarily cause the tire to turn brown. However, they contribute to the problem by keeping antiozonants on the tire’s surface, keeping the brown residue.

Silicone tires can also contribute to the sidewall or the sidewall prints turning brown. Silicone-based tire dressings are sticky and can allow dirt and dust to hold on to the tire’s surface. If you do not clean your tires regularly, this dirt and dust could make your tire sidewall and the sidewall prints brown.

Cleaning White Letters on Tires

Take a look at the options below on how you can clean off the white letters on your tire. 

SOS Pads

SOS pads are a popular solution in keeping the tire sidewall letters white. You can see in this thread how people are satisfied with how SOS pads work on cleaning the white prints of the tire.

Although, it can sometimes be challenging to completely clean up the letters using SOS pads, especially if they are deeply engraved. 

Below are the steps you do to use SOS pads:

  • Step 1: Buy a pack of SOS pads.
  • Step 2: Wash your tire to remove the dirt and dust around the rim and the tire’s sidewall. You can use the regular car washing soap to clean up your tires.
  • Step 3: Scrub the letters using the SOS pads. You will see how the letters become clean from the brownish color and dirt.
  • Step 4: Before completing the washing process, use the SOS pad to scrub the other sidewall parts to remove the dirt and dust in the area.
  • Step 5: Complete the process using plain water to wash off the soap on the tire.

Watch the video below to see how simple the process is:

Cleaning Solution/Solvents

Some people suggest the use of cleaning solvents such as WD40. Is it effective? The people who have tried it say it is effective and the process is quick.

However, some car owners are hesitant to use this method as it can potentially deteriorate the tire because of the possible chemical reaction.

Below are the steps:

  • Step 1: Buy WD40 or any cleaning agent.
  • Step 2: Clean up the tire first by doing a regular wash.
  • Step 3: Spray the solution to the letters on the tire and rub off the dirt using a regular carwash towel.
  • Step 4: Do a final wash to eradicate the dirt off your tires and wash away the chemical.

Below is a short video showing how to do it.


Bleach is a chemical that typically features sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide. The use of this chemical is to whiten or sterilize materials.

Like how the cleaning solvents discussed above work, this solution can also potentially clean the white letters on your tire’s sidewall.

However, experts warn car owners to stop using these harsh chemicals as they can affect your tires negatively. Here is a good article showing how different chemicals affect tires.

Below are the steps to do it:

  • Step 1: Buy a bottle of bleach.
  • Step 2: Ensure your tires are clean by doing an initial wash.
  • Step 3: Spray the bleach on the letters or the white areas to be cleaned and wait for about 10 minutes.
  • Step 4: Rub the area off using a standard carwash cloth.
  • Step 5: Do a final wash.

See the video below to see a sample of how to do it.

Video source: 

Nail Brush/Barbeque Brush

This method is another traditional way of cleaning tires that most car owners use. All it takes is to find a stiff type of brush like a nail or a barbeque brush and a regular washing soap.

It does work in most cases, but it requires more effort for you to brush off the dirt on the white letters on your tires. There will be occasions that it will not give you the best result, especially if the letters are severely dirty or brown.

Here are the steps:

  • Step 1: Find a brush for you to use. You must have one somewhere in the house.
  • Step 2: Do a regular wash on your tire using water and soap.
  • Step 3: Brush the areas of concern using your nail or barbeque brush. Repeat the process over and over again until you achieve your desired result.
  • Step 4: Complete the wash process.

See the video below to give you more ideas on how to do it.

Fine Sandpaper

Sandpapers do magic. I have tried using sandpaper to clean many areas of my car, like the rim, the dashboard, and the tires. Many people have also shared their experience using fine sandpaper to clean the white letters on their tires, and the result was terrific.

The process of doing it can be a little painful, especially if you do it manually or by hand, but it will be worth it.

See the steps on how to do it below:

  • Step 1: Buy a piece of 320 or 400 grit sandpaper. It should not cost you much.
  • Step 2: Clean off your tires by washing them.
  • Step 3: Rub the sandpaper over the letters using your hand or a sander (if available).
  • Step 4: Do the final cleaning process of your tires.

Tip: If you choose to use this method, you need to be extra careful not to scratch the side of your wheels.

Here is a video showing how to do this method:

Scouring Pads

Some car owners also shared that they have successfully cleaned up the letters on their tires using scouring pads like Scotch Brite. Does it work? Well, these guys would not be sharing their experiences if it didn’t work.

However, it would be best to acknowledge that one method may work for some people but not for others. You have to test out different ways until you get the job done.

See the steps on how to do this method below:

  • Step 1: Buy a scouring pad.
  • Step 2: Do a regular wash with your tires.
  • Step 3: Rub the scouring pad on the letters repeatedly until you obtain your desired result.
  • Step 4: Complete the cleaning process using plain water.

Toothbrush and Tooth Paste

Really? Yes. Some people have tried using this, and it works to some extent. All you have to do is head on to your bathroom and grab your toothpaste and brush. Of course, use the old toothbrush for this process. 

See the steps below:

  • Step 1: Clean your tires.
  • Step 2: Get hold of your toothpaste and the old toothbrush.
  • Step 3: Brush the letters as if you were brushing your teeth.
  • Step 4: Repeat the process until you see your desired result.
  • Step 5: Do the final wash with plain water.

Below is a video showing the application of this method:


To conclude, it doesn’t matter what method you use to clean the white letters on your tires. However, my favorites are the use of SOS pads, sandpaper, and toothpaste. I feel that they are safer for my tires and are not very expensive.

When applying the methods, you need to consider whether the process is safe for your tires. Most chemical agents like WD40, bleach or other cleaning solvents may also do some magic in cleaning the letters on your tires. However, they may cause some chemical reactions that would damage the tires.