Brake cleaner vs acetone. What are the differences?

We are all familiar with the traditional myth of brake cleaner vs acetone. The myth states that brake cleaners will melt rubber pads and cause the pads to stick to your shoes.

While this myth has been debunked multiple times, it still persists in some circles, and for this reason, I have decided to write about both brake cleaners and acetone compared.

May it be price or availability? This article discusses both products and shows the differences between them.

What is Brake Cleaner?

Brake cleaner is a mixture of water and chemicals used to clean your car’s brakes. The chemicals in brake cleaners are designed to break down grease, oil, and other gunk that builds up on the wheels and brakes of your car.

Brake cleaner contains a variety of different ingredients that help dissolve the gunk on your car’s brakes. These ingredients include:

Hydrogen peroxide – This ingredient breaks down organic material such as grease or oil. It also helps dissolve metal shavings from brake pads and calipers.

Sodium hydroxide or lye – This ingredient dissolves solidified brake pad materials and metal shavings that have been left behind by sanding. It also helps dissolve metal filings that have become stuck in the grooves of the brake pad pistons.

Alcohol – This ingredient breaks down any remaining residue left behind by sodium hydroxide or lye. Alcohol can also be used to remove tar stains from your car’s driveway!

What is Acetone?

Acetone is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It is one of the simplest esters, formed by the removal of one hydrogen atom from ethanoic acid (an organic compound).

Acetone can be distilled under a high vacuum at temperatures as low as -78 °C (-109 °F) to give a clear liquid with a characteristic sweet smell. At room temperature, acetone has the odor of fruit.

Acetone is used as a solvent for many organic chemicals and for cleaning purposes. It is also an important component in nail polish remover, gasoline additives and pesticides, soaps, detergents, and other products.

The main ingredients of acetone are ethanol (EtOH), propylene glycol, and acetic acid (CH3COOH). Ethanol is often added to acetone to prevent it from evaporating too quickly or becoming contaminated with water vapor during processing or storage.

The presence of water in acetone would cause it to separate into two parts—a volatile product (acetone) and an immiscible phase (water).

Differences between brake cleaner and acetone

There are some major differences between brake cleaner and acetone. First of all, acetone is more concentrated than brake cleaner and is able to clean paint much more effectively.

So it’s a good idea to buy a bottle of acetone that has a higher concentration than what you need for your particular job.

Brake cleaner is designed to dissolve the oil on your vehicle’s surface while acetone dissolves the paint, which is why it is used by auto body shops to remove rust and pitting from cars.

Brake cleaner also works differently than acetone. Brake cleaners tend to be water-based and contain surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), while acetone contains no surfactants at all.

Another key difference between brake cleaner and acetone is that acetone is generally used in a spray bottle or spray gun instead of being applied with a brush.

This makes it easier to apply since you don’t have to worry about getting too much on your hands or clothes if you have any leftover product in the bottle.

Acetone is also more volatile than brake cleaner so you’ll have to be careful when working with it around open flames or sparks.

Finally, acetone does not evaporate as quickly as brake cleaner which means that it can stay on the surface longer than other solvents.

Similarities between brake cleaner vs acetone

Both brake cleaners and acetone are used to clean and dry the braking surfaces of a vehicle. Both are also used in automotive paint solutions.

Advantages of Brake Fluid

There are a number of advantages to using brake fluid in your car.

It’s safe – no matter what the weather, brake fluid won’t freeze or spill. It can also absorb excess moisture from the air, so it won’t cause rust on your rotors or pads.

It lasts longer than regular oil – you can expect brake fluid to last longer than regular oil because it doesn’t break down as quickly. Brake fluid is also less likely to get contaminated with water and dirt, which can lead to corrosion in your system.

It doesn’t attract dust and dirt – Brake fluid is not dusty like oil and doesn’t attract dirt like grease does. This means that you won’t need to wash your car every time it rains or when it gets dusty outside!

Disadvantages of Brake Fluid

Brake fluid can contaminate other components of your car that are not affected by oil changes, such as the transmission and clutch.

Brake fluid can cause corrosion on certain metals when mixed with water and evaporates quickly, leaving behind a residue that attracts dust particles and dirt to become embedded in it.

The fluid may be contaminated with other chemicals such as antifreeze or windshield washer fluid, which can harm your car’s engine if this contaminant is present in the right amount.

Advantages of Using Acetone in a Car

  • The cleaning action can be enhanced when it’s applied under heat for about 10 minutes.
  • It removes dirt, grease, and grime from the surface of any type of surface.
  • It also dissolves road tar, which can be used in making artificial leathers for cars.


The disadvantage of using acetone as a brake cleaner is that it can damage your paint and vinyl. It’s also a very toxic chemical and should be handled with care.

Acetone is a very effective and safe way to clean your car’s brake pads, but it can leave a residue on the rim of the disc brake pad. This residue can cause excessive wear and tear on your brakes, which could lead to failure.

If you use a cleaner that contains acetone, be sure not to use more than what’s recommended by the manufacturer. Use too much acetone and you may find yourself in need of new brake pads sooner than expected.

Final thoughts

In summary, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use both cleaners in your car at the same time but if you’re just starting out then it’s probably better to start with one and work your way up from there rather than trying to use both at once.

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