Brake Cleaner

The Different Uses of Brake Cleaner

Editor's note: This blog from 2016 was updated in 2023 to include additional resources.

Brake cleaners are powerful solvents designed to remove dust, dirt, and grime from brake parts. However, brake cleaner has uses beyond your vehicle brakes and can be a cost-effective way to tackle grimy messes in your home or shop. 

The following are alternative uses—and warnings—for your brake cleaner so that you can get the maximum use from your product:

Clothing Stain Removal

Perchloroethylene, the chemical most commonly used at dry cleaners, is also a chemical used in chlorinated brake cleaner. Brake cleaner can be used in the removal of food stains, including oil stains from greasy food. Remove tough stains in clothing by rubbing a small amount of brake cleaner on the stain and then washing the garment in water. Remember to do this in a well-ventilated area, and wear gloves as these chemicals can irritate the skin.brake_cleaner_uses_img-1

Cleaning Floors

Whether you’ve spilled oil on your shop floor, or you’ve stained your carpeting, brake cleaner can be used to remove tough substances from most surfaces. For oil spills in the shop, first remove the oil using an absorbent, then scrub the residue with brake cleaner. Scrubbing with brake cleaner can also remove stains from concrete driveways and patios.

If you are removing a stain from carpeting, spray some diluted brake cleaner onto the stain and let it sit for several minutes before brushing the spot. Since brake cleaner can cut through glue and adhesives, do not let the brake cleaner get deep into the adhesive that binds the carpeting and the floor.

Removing Ink and Paint

Brake cleaner can effectively remove streaks from permanent markers, paint, and nail polish that gets on counters, tables, or walls. Non chlorinated brake cleaners often contain acetone and other chemicals that are helpful in removing marks or accidental spills made by you or your children.

Gun Maintenance

Many gun owners swear by brake cleaner to get the metal parts of their firearms spotless. This can be a cheaper alternative to popular gun scrubbers on the market, though brake cleaner can strip paint, wood finishing, and necessary lubrication from the firearm. Use a lubricant or gun grease after cleaning, and stick to non chlorinated brake cleaner for the safest option.

Inappropriate Uses for Brake Cleaner

Protect these surfaces with careful application and small amounts of product at one timeIn order to prevent ruining certain surfaces, avoid using brake cleaner on plastics, rubber, and any painted surface that you want to maintain.

In addition, read the safety information on all products before use. Working with solvents can be dangerous, as exposure to their toxic vapors can result in serious illness. To stay safe on the job, it is essential to ensure adequate ventilation and to wear protective gear such as gloves or eye wear at all times. Furthermore, setting up shop away from sources of extreme heat and making sure there are barriers between you and potentially flammable liquids will help protect you while doing any project that involves these hazardous materials. This is especially true for welding. Vapors from chlorinated solvents can break down into phosgene gas, a highly toxic gas that can immediately cause low blood pressure, emphysema, heart failure, and even death.

If used properly, brake cleaner can be an inexpensive, multi-purpose solvent for the shop or the home. Make sure to use caution with all chemicals, and make safety your first priority when using brake cleaner for new purposes.


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