Engine degreaser vs brake cleaner

The right tool for the job

This is an essential work principle any vehicle repair shop needs to adhere to. Yet, when you use the wrong tools your job can become more difficult and take a lot longer to complete.

When you need to get grease and dirt off your engine or brakes you need the right degreasing tool to handle the workload. Some people say there is little difference between these two cleaning formulas.

To find out if there is and how much difference, just continue to read our comparison. It has the information you want to know about.

What is engine degreaser

This is generally a petroleum-based product that cuts through engine grease quickly and gets it to slide off fast. There are some water-based formulas but those tend to be more expensive than the petroleum-based options.

All you have to do is spray on, wait a few minutes for it to work, and then hose off the grease and your engine is clean. There is a chance that this product will leave a residue behind.

What is brake cleaner

This product depends heavily on isopropyl alcohol to cut the grease and evaporate quickly so that no residue is left. To some, this is a step up from the engine degreaser as it removes grease without disassembly of parts.

Because it has a little extra cleaning power than a regular engine degreaser, a brake cleaner can damage plastic and rubber parts. Designed to clean brakes, this product has a variety of other uses as well.

The cost of brake cleaner vs. engine degreaser

Keep in mind that the overall costs of these two workshop products will vary from store to store. Where you buy it and what city you live in will influence the price. Different stores will have specials as well which makes it hard to quote an accurate and precise cost for either product.

For a comparison and ballpark price quote, we looked at the Amazon marketplace to give the best indication of the cost of these two grease cleaners. For brake cleaner, we saw a non-flammable option that was just about $5 for one aerosol can.

A non-chlorinated brake cleaner started at $12 and went up to $76 for larger sizes, while two other options ranged between $36 and $46 approx per case. On the other hand, the engine degreaser was by far the cheaper of the two.

Aerosol cans were listed at under $10 while their gallon counterparts cost up to $16 depending on the brand. All the prices for brake cleaner were for aerosol cans as no gallon options were listed.

The pros and cons of brake cleaner


  1. It works fast
  2. The product is easy to use
  3. No disassembly required
  4. Anyone can use it without special requirements needed to be met
  5. Has multiple uses
  6. Evaporates quickly
  7. Leaves no residue
  8. Comes in chlorinated and non-chlorinated formats


  1. Can be expensive
  2. You pay a lot for a little amount
  3. Can damage other products and surfaces
  4. Non-chlorinated products not as effective as chlorinated ones
  5. Non-chlorinated ingredients can be harmful to the environment
  6. Chlorinated formats are banned in California and some countries
  7. Non-chlorinated products are flammable and slow to dry

The pros and cons of engine degreaser


  1. Comes in two types either water or petroleum-based
  2. The petroleum option is cheaper than brake cleaner and water-based degreaser
  3. Water-based is gentle and mild
  4. Petroleum is a natural cleanser
  5. Water-based options are environmentally friendly
  6. The water-based option is safer to use
  7. Both are easy to use
  8. Makes your engine look new
  9. Can prevent mechanical problems


  1. The petroleum-based option can harm other surfaces
  2. The water-based product is more costly than the petroleum products
  3. Cannot be used on your brakes, leaves an oily residue behind
  4. Leaves an oily residue behind on many engine parts
  5. A limited number of uses

The uses for engine degreaser

You may think that degreasers are just can be used everywhere. Their purpose is to cut grease and you should be able to use one for your engine on different products.

Some people have tried that and have soaked, their keyboards, mouse, sandals, and other household products in engine degreaser and found a lot of success in doing that. Other people may not be so brave.

There are some products you should not use engine degreaser on because it does not dry residue-free. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use engine degreaser on your brakes.

If you try this you will find that you may have to go to a brake cleaner to get the residue off and protect your brakes from any harm. The brakes won’t work as well if you use an engine degreaser on them.

This product works best when it is restricted to vehicle grease and parts.

The uses for brake cleaner

This product is supposed to be superior to engine degreaser and its cost reflects that belief. It is a very good grease cleaner and probably more effective than an engine degreaser even when use don different moving parts in your car.

But brake cleaner does more than just clean your brakes. It can help you find leaks in different hoses. Then it works on cleaning up CV joints, springs, linings as well as cleaning your carb, clutch parts, fuel pumps, and oil parts to name a few extra uses.

Plus, it can remove oil and grease stains from clothing. Just spray a little on the stain and wash your clothes. Not to mention that it removes those same stains from carpets, concrete floors, patios, and other floor surfaces.

Then the non-chlorinated format helps remove permanent marker and other ink stains as well as some house paint stains. Just do not use this product on those items made from plastics, rubber, or painted surfaces.

Some final words

Both products do their jobs as claimed. They work well and have the ability to rid your car’s engine and brakes of grease and oily stains. However, if you want to have your engine spotless with no residue, then you should go with the superior product, brake cleaner.

It may cost more but it does its job better than an engine degreaser. Plus, it does not leave a residue that you have to spend time removing from engine parts. Both products have their place in your vehicle workshop, it is just that brake cleaner is probably the best degreaser you can use.

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