Brākleen cleans parts & clothes but won't save you from going on an environmental guilt trip

Originally published at: Brākleen cleans parts & clothes but won't save you from going on an environmental guilt trip | Boing Boing


Do not use Brākleen to kleen your Brā through


Brake parts cleaner is nasty, nasty stuff. I frequently get my hands dirty with cars and cycles, and I’m not shy with the solvents, but I have deep respect and fear of brake cleaner.


Been making a decent living cleaning crap for over 30 years. Brake parts cleaner and carb cleaner are in my van. But for the last few years those two cleaners rarely come out. Too harsh if spilled on anything plastic.

My goto solvent is xylene, not as damaging as acetone or lacquer thinner and a lot slower to evaporate. It’s an awesome adhesive remover and it dissolves grease making it easy to clean up big gobs of grease.

I expect cancer will do me in but so far so good.


Came to say the same as @MrShiv. Worked on cars and in shops my whole life, and while brake cleaner is amazing stuff for certain jobs, 99.9% of the time we have way milder things that work just as well. A can now lasts me years because I use Simple Green, isopropyl alcohol or acetone for all the stuff I used to use brake cleaner for. It’s extremely rare to need a solvent that powerful. Back in the day we used to buy that stuff by the case. Now we know better.

Don’t get it on your hands and wear a respirator if you use it.


Like @VeronicaConnor says, Simple Green does a lot of what people use Brakleen for, with a bit more elbow grease and way fewer neurotoxins.

The non-chlorinated brake cleaner may not work as well, but the chlorinated stuff is horrific if you get it hot. Welding with any left at all on the metal creates phosgene gas and can cause multi organ failure.


I have a 1929 Little Giant power hammer under power in the shop, and I’m planning on doing a full refurbishment for it’s centenial celebration, everything but the bearings since the Babbit is fine and I don’t want to mess with it. That means stripping off a full century’s worth of grease down to bare metal so I can prime and paint it – and it’s a total loss lubrication system, you have to spend a few minutes greasing up zerks and pouring oil into resevoirs before firing it up, and there are places where the grease is just caked on it. If it wasn’t so heavy, I’d look at getting it to one of those professional hot caustic machinery cleaning machines they use to degrease train engines, but I’m thinking this stuff, simple green or similar, and a lot of toothbrush time is in my future.

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Simple Green is how I clean oil and old crud off my machines. Works great. Once in a blue moon I’ll bust out the brake cleaner for a stubborn spot of old cosmoline or something, but it’s rarely needed. Acetone is also a great all-around degreaser. For thicker more stubborn stuff, there are a number of automotive degreasers that work great that are still a lot milder than brake cleaner, so check your local auto parts store as well.

For removing old paint for a restoration, try Citrus Strip. It’s great!

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Yeah, Brākleen will “F” a Brā up, Brah! ^____^

On my last four brake jobs I used the non-chlorinated version and it worked just fine at removing the factory oil-film on the rotors. If I ever have any doubt I hit it with a propane torch and just burn off the oil, it goes up pretty easy.

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We learn slowly, don’t we?

My dad kept a supply of Chlordane for years because it was his insecticide of last resort.

My brother and I sealed a flat roof with a material that used toluene as a carrier. We even wore the carbon-filter masks but I swear that I coughed from a tickle in my throat for at least 12 months after.

And of course, we grew up fixing our own cars and always kept Brākleen on hand.

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You used to be able to buy Methyl Ethyl Ketone in any paint or hardware store. I think you still can in many parts of many countries. That stuff should probably not be in the hands of us plebes. It’s pretty awful.

Back on the farm my dad would wash his hands in gasoline after working on the machinery. Safe, no, but a hell of a solvent. No grease or oil can withstand it. Luckily we have Fast Orange and Gojo these days (not to mention nitrile gloves). :grin:


I have a mentor that called it Methyl Ethyl Bad-Shit, and the stories I’ve heard are truly horrific!

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We called it Methyl Ethyl Death


Yep, I’ve got a can of MEK in my garage right now. Gotta love Ace Hardware. They also sell lots of various kinds of acids.


A secret source for a lot of strong chemicals is the pool aisle at hardware stores. They have sneaky names like “pH reducer”, but that shit is hydrochloric acid. There’s other good ones too.

Another good source is salon supply stores. You can buy full strength hydrogen peroxide and other things. The stuff you get at the drug store is very diluted.

Laboratory supply stores will still sell alarming shit to you also. It’s a bit surprising how many crazy things they will sell anyone no-questions-asked. The safety mechanism seems to be that most people don’t know what some of that really dangerous stuff is or what it’s called. It’s also generally very expensive and in small quantities so I guess that keeps most people from doing anything too stupid.


This is one of my favorites:


The actually sell it enclosed in a thick sealed plastic bag – y’know, just in case.


Oof, yah, add drain cleaners to the list of “crazy shit regular people probably shouldn’t have”. :grin:

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