Is Brake Cleaner Flammable? Safety Tips & Best Practices

Few things are more frightening than a car on fire. Even the smallest sparks can cause significant destruction if you work with fuel and flammable chemicals. But what about brake cleaner, which differs from brake fluid and is also referred to as parts cleaner? Can it put your vehicle at risk of becoming engulfed in flames?

Brake cleaners are beneficial for your brake system but are often overlooked as being potentially hazardous. It's essential to know the risks of this powerful fluid before using it and igniting something dangerous!

The focus of this article will be on understanding brake cleaner and answering the question - is brake cleaner flammable? We'll examine all aspects of it, including its composition, usage, toxicity, and whether or not it's truly flammable.

Is Brake Cleaner Flammable

Is Brake Cleaner Flammable?

Yes. Brake cleaner is a flammable petroleum-based product that should be handled with care. However, brake cleaners come in two types, chlorinated and non chlorinated. Non chlorinated brake cleaners tend to have alternative chemicals, making their solvents more flammable.

It’s also important to understand that both kinds of brake cleaners have specific uses - not just for brake parts - and both should be handled with care and stored safely.

Chlorinated Brake Cleaner

A chlorinated brake cleaner is a solvent used to clean automotive brakes and brake parts. It has excellent solvency and volatile properties, making it an ideal choice for heavy-duty cleaning tasks. 

It contains more chlorine atoms and solvents within its molecular structure. In addition, these cleaners have been around longer and are widely popular. The two main components in a chlorinated brake cleaner are tetrachloroethylene and methylene chloride.

Thanks to tetrachloroethylene, these brake cleaners get their fast-drying and de-greasing properties. And methylene chloride further enhances the cleaning abilities of tetrachloroethylene. Together, they give chlorinated brake cleaners the ability to clean your brakes quickly while not leaving any residue.

Chlorine-based brake cleaners can also be used as a chlorinated carburetor cleaner to clean and unclog your carburetor. The most significant advantage of chlorine brake cleaners is their ability to dry off quickly while fighting off dirt and grease. 

So, is brake cleaner flammable when dry? The fast-drying chlorinated brake cleaners are typically non-flammable.

While chlorinated cleaners may seem incredible, their advantages come at a cost. Chlorinated brake cleaners have been linked to several health issues. For instance, respiratory issues, nervous system problems, and carcinogenic properties are the byproducts of these brake cleaners.

Therefore it’s crucial to be mindful when using a chlorinated brake cleaner.

Non Chlorinated Brake Cleaner

While a non chlorinated brake cleaner tends to have fewer harmful health effects, it is undoubtedly a lot more flammable.

Non chlorinated brake cleaners are hydrocarbon built. These hydrocarbons can be high-boiling point mixtures or low-boiling point aliphatic compounds. Their lipophobic solvents are ideal to use with grease and oil. These brake cleaners can also be used for guns.

Non chlorinated brake cleaners are not as fast drying as chlorinated brake cleaners, and their solvents are also highly flammable.

Heptane and n-hexane are the main chemicals used to make non chlorinated brake cleaners. The former, heptane, is often distilled from oil and is toxic and highly flammable. Exposure to heptane can also cause dizziness, incoordination, nausea, and even unconsciousness. If you think that's bad, its long-lasting effects are even worse!

While you may have thought heptane was flammable, the second chemical in non chlorinated brake cleaners, n-hexane, is even more flammable. N-hexane tends to linger in most workspaces and can potentially create explosive vapors, so it's vital to use them in well-ventilated areas. In addition, the effects of n-hexane can be problematic, and exposure to it can lead to nerve damage.

Therefore, non chlorinated brake cleaners should be treated with extreme care and given the same amount of attention as chlorinated brake cleaners, if not more.

Is Brake Cleaner Flammable 1

How To Store Brake Cleaners?

Now that you understand both brake cleaners' properties and potential dangers let’s see how we can store them safely.

As a starting point, both kinds of brake cleaners should be kept in an area away from heat. In addition, it would be best to keep the brake cleaners in their original containers since manufacturers understand the risks and design the containers as safely as possible.

However, accidents can happen, and if you find yourself in a situation where you need to transfer the brake parts cleaner to another container, make sure the new container has a lid that fits tightly, and always remember to label it.

What if you’re not using your brake cleaner for long periods? As odd as it may sound, consider freezing it! Freezing the brake parts cleaner will prevent it from evaporation and also reduce the risk of contact with heat sources.

Brake Cleaner Usage Tips

While brake cleaners can be flammable, they’re also great cleaning products that help cleanse, degrease and remove dirt, dust, and harmful substances from your precious vehicle brakes. Just make sure you use them correctly.

First, always read the instructions listed on the brake cleaner. Also, wear protective clothing - possibly hand protection, goggles, and a respirator if you need to. In addition, always work in a well-ventilated area and avoid closed and congested places. Furthermore, keep your parts cleaner away from heat sources, and never smoke while using them. Finally, keep your children and pets away from where you’re using and storing brake cleaners to avoid accidents.

Final Thoughts

Back to the original question - is brake cleaner flammable? Brake cleaner is a powerful and effective product when used properly, but it should be handled carefully, as it can present serious fire and health risks.

The best way to ensure your safety is to ensure you're using the correct type of brake cleaner for the job. In addition, take precautions by wearing protective gear, learn about flammable surfaces and containers, and always store brake cleaner in appropriate locations. By following these simple steps, you'll know that your work environment is much safer.