Can I Use Brake Cleaner on My Gun?

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You might have heard from other gun owners that they sometimes use brake cleaner to clean their guns. You are probably wondering and asking yourself “can I use brake cleaner on my gun?” In this article, I will tell you why some people use brake cleaner on their guns.

Can I Use Brake Cleaner on My Gun?

While you can use brake cleaner on your gun and it would still do a great job at cleaning, brake cleaner will strip all oils in your gun. This means you’ll need to re-oil it everywhere after using brake cleaner.

Brake cleaner is not harmful to metal finish, yet it can damage the stock finish because it strips off oil. It also eats away at plastic components and loosens painted sights. As long as you re-oil every part of your gun, brake cleaner won’t damage your firearms.

Cleaning gun parts with a brake cleaner

A lot of gun owners use brake cleaner when they run out of alternatives. Most of them don’t encounter any problems with using one. While options such as brake cleaners and vegetable oils are cheaper alternatives for gun cleaning, be aware that they may also break your gun.

What Is a Brake Cleaner?

Brake cleaner is a colorless cleaning substance. It’s a solvent that evaporates without leaving any dirt or residue in metal or glass surface. People mainly use brake cleaner for cleaning brake disks, engine parts, and other metal components that greases a lot.

Modern brake cleaners are non-chlorinated and consist of aliphatic or aromatic compounds with polar solvents like ethanol, isopropanol, methanol, and acetone. The old version of brake cleaner damaged the ozone resulting in companies remaking it.

Brake cleaners damage most plastic materials. Brake cleaner manufacturers use metal spray cans because of this. If it can damage plastic, it also has the capacity to damage your skin. Make sure not to expose your skin to the harmful chemicals for a long time.

What Is Brake Cleaner Used For?

Most people use brake cleaners for degreasing and wiping dirt off of metallic areas in car parts. However, it’s best not to use it on painted surface areas and chemical sensitive areas. Brake cleaners get rid of fats, oils, resins, dust, and tar in a car. Most people apply brake cleaners before they start painting, electroplating, or repairing their car.

Close up of a bicycle chain

Aside from degreasing automobiles, you can also use brake cleaners for things such as:

  • Removing stains
  • Floor cleaner
  • Ink and paint remover
  • Gun cleaner

While brake cleaners can be an alternative cleaning solution, it’s not as effective as what it’s not meant to do. It’s always better to use products designed for the job. Brake cleaners can also cause side effects if you used them as an alternative carelessly.

Is Gun Scrubber the Same as Brake Cleaner?

Gun scrubber and brake cleaner have almost the exact same chemical composition. If you are planning on using a brake cleaner, make sure it’s non-chlorinated. Both gun scrubber and brake cleaner are degreasers, so you need to re-oil after using them.

Brake cleaner takes a longer time to dry compared to a gun scrubber. On the other hand, gun scrubber dries instantly without any residue. Other than that, there is not much difference between the gun scrubber and brake cleaner for cleaning guns.

What Should You Not Use Brake Cleaner On?

Even if it’s a cheap alternative, there are things that you should not use brake cleaner on. Brake cleaners will strip your paint, wood, plastic, and lubrication on your firearm.

If you can, avoid applying brake cleaner in these areas. Make sure you read the safety information before trying it. Some brake cleaners are flammable and some can even be harmful to inhale if it makes contact with heat or certain chemicals.

Couple cleaning their rifles

Can Brake Cleaner Kill You?

While the brake cleaner does its job as a cheaper gun cleaning alternative, there are risks that you need to be aware of. When the brake cleaner gets hot, it produces a by-product called phosgene gas. Phosgene gas, even in small doses, may cause scarring in your nose and lungs and causes your pancreas to shut down.

However, this only applies to chlorine brake cleaners. Non-chlorinated brake cleaners don’t have this risk involved. However, they can still be harmful to your skin, and inhaling them for too long can cause various side effects such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Stupor
  • Incoordination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Dermatitis
  • Chemical pneumonitis
  • Unconsciousness

What Precautions to Take When Using Brake Cleaner?

Brake cleaners are effective can be seriously harmful if you use them incorrectly. There are certain things you can do to reduce and eliminate the risks involved from using a brake cleaner.

  • Keep it away from delicate areas like your eyes, skin, and nose.
  • Wear protective gear like masks and safety glasses when applying brake cleaner.
  • If the brake cleaner comes in contact with your eyes, rinse your eyes with water for at least 3 minutes. If irritation doesn’t stop, go to a doctor.
  • Use brake cleaner in an open and well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling harmful chemicals.
  • Store in a cool and well-ventilated area.
  • Keep brake cleaner away from explosives and fire.
  • Do not spray it on fire and don’t expose it to direct sunlight.
  • Follow safety and warnings from the brake cleaner’s manufacturer. 

Chemicals Included in Brake Cleaners

IngredientsChlorinated Brake CleanerNon-Chlorinated Brake Cleaner
Tetrachloroethylene IncludedNot Included
Carbon Dioxide IncludedIncluded
Heptane Not IncludedIncluded
Acetone Not IncludedIncluded

Related Questions

What Should You Not Use Brake Cleaner On?

Avoid using your brake cleaner on plastics, rubber, and any painted surface that you want to maintain. You can still use brake cleaner just use with careful application and in small amounts.

Can I Clean My Glock With Brake Cleaner?

You can clean your Glock with brake cleaner. It’s one of the most effective alternatives for cleaning the Glock.

Does Brake Cleaner Damage?

A brake cleaner can damage your skin. It contains carcinogens that can damage your body in the short term and also cause cancer.


You can use brake cleaner as a cheap alternative, similar to using mineral oils for cleaning your gun. However, you must keep in mind that it is not as good as gun cleaning solvents. It can also be harmful to you and your gun. If you plan on using it, make sure to follow the safety precautions I mentioned above.

James Forrester is a lifelong gun and firearms owner, and an even bigger advocate for gun safety. He created with the purpose of sharing helpful tips and educating others on how to keep guns and weapons safe and secure.