What Are The Best Brake Cleaner Sprays? – 2020 Reviews
Keeping your brakes clean is vital to staying safe on the road. Fortunately, brake cleaning sprays are an easy and effective way to remove unwanted gunk and build-up from practically any type of car or truck.
But you don’t want to use just any ol’ brand. The specific ingredients and type of cleaner can make a big difference in its usefulness. Check out our top picks for brake cleaners in 2020 and our complete how-to guide:
Compare our top 3 picks for best brake cleaner spray
- #1 Pick – CRC Brakleen Brake Parts Cleaner (Chlorinated)
- #2 Pick – CRC Brakleen Brake Parts Cleaner (Non-Chlorinated)
- #3 Pick – 3M 14 oz High Power Brake Cleaner
- #4 Pick – Throttle Muscle Brake Parts Cleaner
- #5 Pick – Johnsen’s Non-Chlorinated Brake Cleaner
- #6 Pick – CRC Brakleen 50-State Formula with PowerJet Technology
- Guide To The Best Brake Cleaner Sprays
- What is Brake Cleaner?
- What are the Benefits of Cleaning Your Brakes?
- How Do I Use Brake Cleaner?
- Step One: Move Your Car to a Well-Ventilated Area
- Step Two: Prepare the Can
- Step Three: Remove the Tire
- Step Four: Spray the Cleaner onto the Brakes
- Is Brake Cleaner Safe?
- What’s the Difference between Chlorinated and Non-Chlorinated Cleaners?
- Final Thoughts
#1 Pick – CRC Brakleen Brake Parts Cleaner (Chlorinated)
A versatile, fast-acting brake cleaner from a trusted manufacturer of specialty repair chemicals.
- Cleans pads, liners, and all other brake components
- Made from trusted chemical manufacturer CRC
- Not for sale in CA, NJ and other locations
- The chlorinated spray does pose health risks
CRC claims their Brakleen product is “the original brake parts cleaner.” While that’s probably just marketing hype, CRC does have a well-established reputation for creating quality automotive and industrial cleaners.
The canister holds 19 ounces, which is enough for multiple cleanings. It’s formulated to remove grease, brake dust, brake fluids, oils, and other contaminants. Spray it on brake pads, linings, and other brake parts. It’s non-flammable.
Like all brake cleaners, check your local regulations regarding use. Brakeleen is not for sale in California, New Jersey, the Catalina Islands and possibly other locations.
#2 Pick – CRC Brakleen Brake Parts Cleaner (Non-Chlorinated)
A non-chlorinated version of CRC’s classic Brakleen formula.
- Removes build-up from brake pads, linings and more
- Safe for use on plastic and rubber
- Non-chlorinated formula
- Extremely flammable
- The non-chlorinated formula still poses health risks
If you like Brakleen’s original formula, but can’t or don’t want to use a chlorinated cleaner, their non-chlorinated version is worth checking out.
It effectively removes oil, grease and other contaminants from your brake. Spray it on linings, pads and more.
Unlike the previous product, this brake cleaner is extremely flammable. Never use it on hot metal surfaces. However, it is safe for use on most rubber and plastic.
Non-chlorinated doesn’t necessarily mean safe. Always take proper precautions to avoid breathing in the spray or letting it touch your skin. However, it’s a great option for areas where chlorinated cleaners are banned.
#3 Pick – 3M 14 oz High Power Brake Cleaner
An effective, strong brake cleaner with an ergonomic handle for precise spray control.
- Strong, multipurpose formula
- High-powered spray
- Comfortable, ergonomic handle
- Trusted 3M brand
- Formula not allowed in many states
With the excellent quality you’d expect from the brand, 3M’s High Power Brake Cleaner has a multi-purpose formula which removes tough deposits from practically all braking components. It tackles dust, oil, tar, grease and more.
The ergonomic actuator fits in the palm of your hand. The light trigger is easy on your fingers after long periods of use, even though the spray remains consistently strong. The high-powered stream flushes the brake system to wash away hard-to-reach deposits of gunk. The formula dries quickly and leaves behind no residue.
While laws vary by location, the spray is not available in California, New York, Utah, New Jersey, and many other states.
#4 Pick – Throttle Muscle Brake Parts Cleaner
Keep your brakes free from grime no matter where you are with this brake cleaner complaint with regulations for all 50 states.
- Approved for use in all 50 states
- Strong, non-chlorinated formula
- High-pressure spray blasts away dirt
- The spray can be hard to aim
This non-chlorinated brake cleaner from REV Your Cause blasts away brake build-up. It cleans pads, liners, caliper slides, screws, and other brake components.
The high-pressure spray is easy to aim. You can blast away dirt and crud even from several feet away. However, the strong spray can be a little unwieldy, so be sure to protect yourself and your vehicle’s paint before use.
#5 Pick – Johnsen’s Non-Chlorinated Brake Cleaner
A reliable, strong brake cleaner for areas which restrict VOC content to 45%.
- Powerful, non-chlorinated cleaner
- Covers large areas quickly
- Dries in minutes
- Leaves behind no sticky residue
- Not available in all states
Johnsen’s non-chlorinated brake spray is a good choice for areas which restrict chlorinated cleaners. However, it’s not available in California, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire or Utah.
It’s a strong, reliable spray which removes oil, grease, brake fluid, and more. You can use it on basically all types of ABS, disc and drum brakes.
The large spray nozzle allows you to cover large areas with ease. It dries quickly and leaves behind no residue.
#6 Pick – CRC Brakleen 50-State Formula with PowerJet Technology
Another offering from CRC, this Brakleen formula meets VOC regulations for all 50 states.
- Meets regulations for all states
- Non-chlorinated formula
- Powerful spray
- Highly flammable
This Brakleen formula can be used in all 50 states. It’s a non-chlorinated formula which removes dirt, oil and more.
As with all non-chlorinated formulas, the spray is highly flammable. It should not be used near flames or on hot components.
While the other Brakleen formulas spray well, only the 50-state formula uses the PowerJet technology. It creates a powerful blast which washes away build-up from deep within the braking system.
Guide To The Best Brake Cleaner Sprays
What is Brake Cleaner?
Brake cleaner is used to clean your vehicle’s brake pads and discs. It’s a sprayable liquid stored in an aerosol can. It’s used to remove practically any type of gunk including dirt, grease, oils and brake dust.
Most brake cleaners are fast and simple to use. You spray the cleaner onto the brakes then wipe it up with a towel or cloth. The chemicals in the cleaner do the heavy lifting; they’ll loosen and remove even thick, stuck-on grime.
Essentially, brake cleaners are a specialized oil remover. Aside from brakes, they can safely be used to clean an engine bay, suspension parts, and other engine components. They can also be used to remove silicon and similar materials.
What are the Benefits of Cleaning Your Brakes?
Brakes are arguably the most important part of your car. After all, safe stopping is the key to safe driving.
Brake function can be severely impacted by dust, oil, and other build-up. Dirty brakes lose power over time. They take longer to slow and stop a car.
Cleaning helps maintain a firmer brake pedal. Additionally, cleaning can sometimes stop brake squeaks and squeals by removing build-up from inside the brake drum.
Note that “brake dust” is a different issue than dirty brakes. Brake dust is gray-black dust made up of iron particles. It’s the natural result of the grinding of the cast iron brake rotor in the brake pads. Brake dust isn’t harmful to your brakes, but it can coat your wheels.
Generally, you can remove brake dust with soapy water. Brake cleaner is used to remove oil, road build-up and other debris which builds up on the brakes themselves.
You’ll want to check your brakes for dirt if you feel a difference in the effectiveness of your brake pedal. If your car feels like its stopping slower than normal, dirty brakes might be the cause.
How Do I Use Brake Cleaner?
Use brake cleaner is easy, even if you’re not much of a grease monkey:
Step One: Move Your Car to a Well-Ventilated Area
Brake cleaners contain a variety of solvents and chemicals. To avoid accidental exposure, only use brake cleaner in an open, well-ventilated space.
If you’re working in a garage, keep the door open while cleaning and for at least an hour afterward. Running a fan in the garage (facing outwards) also helps sustain air flow.
The chemicals in many brake cleaners can stain your driveway or garage floor. Parking your car on a tarp or scraps of cardboard helps protect the ground underneath.
Step Two: Prepare the Can
Remove the cap on the can. Attach the thin, plastic tube into the spray nozzle. It should be taped to the side of the can.
Step Three: Remove the Tire
You’ll need to take off the wheel to properly access the brakes. While removing each tire sounds like a hassle, it’s fast and easy with the right equipment. Check out our guides to the Best Floor Jacks and Best Jack Stands.
Step Four: Spray the Cleaner onto the Brakes
Spray the cleaner on and around your brake system. Target the discs, drums, calipers, pads, and all other components.
The spray works through the nooks and crannies of the brake system to dislodge gunk and debris. Most of it will simply slide off your brakes. Use a shallow pan or tarp to collect the material.
Brake cleaner is applied a lot like spray paint. Hold the can about 12 inches away from the brakes. Start spraying at the top of the brakes. Spray side to side while moving downward. The cleaner will run down the length of the brakes washing away contaminates as it descends.
After spraying the brake components, you’ll then need to wipe away the cleaner. Use a soft, clean cloth. You shouldn’t need much elbow grease. The cleaner will loosen the debris so it will practically fall off the wheel when touched. Repeat the spray and wipe process as often as needed until all build-up is gone.
Allow the wheels and brakes to dry completely before moving your car.
Is Brake Cleaner Safe?
Brake cleaner is safe when used properly. But it does contain a variety of potentially dangerous chemicals including acetone, methylene chloride, and tetrachloroethylene. Exposure can damage your eyes, skin, and more.
Stop using brake cleaner immediately and move to an open, well-ventilated area if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Skin redness, itchiness or other irritation
- Blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting
Only use brake cleaner in an open, well-ventilated area. Follow all safety guidelines printed on the label. Additionally, wear protective gloves and eyewear when using the cleaner.
Brake cleaner can also potentially damage your car’s paint. Covering sections of your car with newspaper or brown paper protects your paint from any wayward spray. Also, spray the cleaner in short, controlled bursts. Avoid working in a location with high winds.
Never use brake cleaner on a hot car. The chemicals in the cleaners can actually explode if they make contact with hot metal. Brake cleaners and hot metals are a toxic, potentially deadly combination. Allow the car to completely cool before applying brake cooler.
What’s the Difference between Chlorinated and Non-Chlorinated Cleaners?
Brake cleaners can be either chlorinated or non-chlorinated. Chlorinated cleaners contain chlorinated solvents within their molecular structure. It’s a possible carcinogen which is banned in many cities and states. Always check local rules about both types of cleaners.
Chlorinated cleaners are the most common type. Despite the health hazards, it’s a very effective brake cleaner which dries much faster than a non-chlorinated cleaner.
Non-chlorinated cleaner contains no chlorinated solvents, but it’s not exactly safer for either your health or the environment. However, non-chlorinated cleaners are the best choice for removing water-based build-up.
Most regulations will be based off a percentage of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) allowed in the spray. VOC’s are a variety of chemicals released into the from various liquids and solids. Most brake cleaners will display their VOC percentage on the label.
Keeping your brakes clean is much easier than many people think. Brake cleaner does most of the work for you. Make regular cleanings part of your vehicle maintenance routine. Not only will it help keep your brakes in excellent shape, but it’ll also help keep you safer behind the wheel.