Brake cleaners are powerful solvents designed to remove dust, dirt, and grime from brake parts, but these potent cleaning agents can also be used in other auto shop and household applications. 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.
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.
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
In order to prevent ruining certain surfaces, avoid using brake cleaner on plastics, rubber, and any painted surface that you want to maintain. Protect these surfaces with careful application and small amounts of product at one time.
In addition, read the safety information on all products before use. Non chlorinated brake cleaner is flammable, and chlorinated brake cleaner can give off fatal fumes when in contact with heat and certain chemicals. 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.