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So you made the “won’t happen to me” mistake and worked on your brakes in your regular clothes. And now you’re looking at a super “oigly” (oily AND ugly) brake fluid stain on your jeans. If you’re in this boat, don’t panic!
There are several remedies you can try out. From your regular dish soap to WD-40 (that’s right!), or even a can of Coke! If you’re ready to go to greater lengths, you can buy (or borrow) a pinch of heavy-duty hand cleaner that mechanics use.
Take the Handyman’s Approach With Waterless Mechanic’s Soap
Waterless mechanic’s soap like Lava isn’t just good for washing a mechanic’s dirty hands. It also works great for cleaning tons of different auto shop materials out of clothes.
This is a dry soap. What that means is that you don’t need to mix it with water in order to effectively lift your brake fluid stain. Here’s how to use this approach:
- Rub the soap onto the stained area.
- Let the soap sit on the fabric for about half an hour so that it can sink into the fibers and work on the brake fluid.
- Rinse the soap off and repeat.
- Wash the fabric in the recommended settings.
- Air-dry the piece of clothing as you usually would.
Most of the time, following these steps will get the brake fluid out of your clothing. If not, you can move on to one of the following approaches.
Raid Your Kitchen for Natural Cleaners
Another easy method to get brake fluid out of your clothes involves a couple of household products. You’ll need:
- Dish soap
- Cornstarch, baking or baby powder (basically any kind of fine powder that absorbs well)
With your gear in hand, you’re ready to get to work! Grab the stained clothing and then follow these steps:
- Spread a generous amount of powder onto the stained area.
- Let it sit on the fabric for a couple of hours.
- Shake the powder off the clothing.
- Rub your favorite dish soap onto the stain. [Some people claim their regular laundry detergent works too. But I prefer more sustainable detergent options that are less harsh, and I doubt they’d work!]
- Wash the clothing in the laundry machine as normal.
- After you’ve washed the clothing, air-dry the clothes.
Check to see if the brake fluid stain is still there. If it is, repeat the process. This should get the worst of your stain out, and by repeating you can tackle even the toughest stains.
Shampoo is designed to get grease and oil out of your hair. If it works on your hair, there’s a good chance it will work on clothing as well!
- Start by soaking the stained clothing in a bucket of water.
- Gently rub shampoo into the stained part of the fabric.
- Wash the fabric in laundry detergent.
- Rinse the fabric out thoroughly until the water runs clear.
- Hang dry the clothing.
After the clothing is fully dried, you can place it in the dryer if you’d like. Just make sure to check to see that the stain is fully removed from your clothing. Otherwise, the heat from the dryer can set the stain making it impossible to get out.
Try a Coca-Cola Stain Killer
Coke cleaning toilet bowls and rusty metal is not an urban myth! So there’s no harm in trying it on your stain from brake fluid or brake dust grease.
- Find an area where you can make a mess. We recommend doing so outside so that you don’t get coke in places you don’t want it.
- Then, pour some Coca-Cola on the stain and allow it to soak into the fabric for an hour or two until its acids work their magic.
- After the time is up, wash the fabric on the recommended settings. After the clothing comes out of the laundry machine, air dry it.
Just remember that this method is best for dark clothing. If you use it on white clothes you run the risk of staining it with Coca-Cola instead of brake fluid!
Bonus: If Nothing Else Works…
Enter WD-40, the world-famous lubricant.
The reason why I’m recommending this method as your LAST resort is simple. WD-40 also leaves stains on fabrics.
But the thing is, it also acts as a degreaser. So you’ll need to be ready to take the bad with the good (while only hoping for the good).
To make the most of it, apply a tiny amount of WD-40 directly onto the stain. Leave it for not more than 5-7 minutes, then use any of the methods above, then wash normally.
So, in a way, this spray will act as a pre-pre-treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you remove brake fluid stains?
Regardless of the material you’re working with, our favorite method is using your common dish soap or shampoo as a pre-treatment to regular washing. If that doesn’t work, try a mechanic’s soap, which is heavy-duty and much more effective.
Is brake fluid corrosive to clothes?
Brake fluid is a highly corrosive substance. You should wipe it off metal, clothes, and other surfaces immediately to ensure that it doesn’t eat away at the material.
How do I get brake fluid smell out of clothes?
If you didn’t spill any brake fluid onto your clothes, a normal wash cycle with an added tablespoon of baking soda and half a cup of white vinegar will get rid of the smell. But if you have a stain too, the smell will only go away once you manage to clean the stain.