Brake Fluid as Paint Remover: Does it Work?

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Brake fluid, a common household item typically used in maintaining automobiles, also holds a surprising secret: its effectiveness as a paint remover. While it may seem unconventional, brake fluid’s chemical composition makes it a viable alternative to traditional paint strippers, offering a more affordable and readily available solution.

While brake fluid is primarily used for maintaining hydraulic brake systems in vehicles, its unique properties make it a suitable alternative to conventional paint strippers. Its ability to break down the bonds between paint and the underlying surface allows for easy removal of paint without damaging the material.

What is Brake Fluid?


Brake fluid, a common automotive fluid used to maintain hydraulic brake systems, might surprise you with its hidden talent as a paint remover. While its primary purpose is to ensure smooth and safe braking in vehicles, brake fluid’s unique properties make it an effective tool for stripping paint off various surfaces.

Can I use Brake Fluid as a Paint Remover?

Yes, you can use brake fluid as a paint remover. Brake fluid, found in your car’s brake system, can take off paint because of its strong chemicals. These chemicals can break down the paint on surfaces. When brake fluid touches paint, it makes the paint weak and causes it to peel. This happens because the brake fluid reacts with the paint.

Using brake fluid to remove paint is risky. It’s not made for this job and can be dangerous. Brake fluid is harsh and can damage the surface under the paint.

There are products made just for removing paint that are safer and work better. So, while brake fluid can remove paint, it’s better to use proper paint removers.

How to use Brake Fluid as Paint Remover

Brake Fluid As Paint Remover

Using brake fluid as a paint remover is risky and should be approached with caution. It’s always better to use products specifically designed for paint removal to avoid potential hazards and ensure the safety of yourself and the environment.

Brake fluid can hurt your skin and eyes and its fumes are bad to breathe. Pick a well-ventilated area, like outdoors or a space with lots of air moving. Cover the ground with newspaper or a plastic sheet. This catches drips and protects the area.

Pour brake fluid into a small container. Don’t use it too much. Use a paintbrush, and gently apply the brake fluid to the paint you want to remove. Don’t rush. It’s a slow process. The brake fluid starts reacting with the paint, making it soft and loose.

Removing the Paint

After applying brake fluid, wait. Give it time to work, 5-10 minutes. Check to see if the paint is getting soft. If it’s ready, take a scraper. Scrape gently. You don’t want to damage the surface under the paint. Remove the softened paint carefully.

After scraping, clean the area. Use soap and water. This removes any leftover brake fluid and paint bits. Check your work. If you still see paint, you might need to repeat the steps. Again, apply brake fluid, wait, and scrape. Keep cleaning the area until you’re happy with the result.

Final Cleaning

Once you’ve removed the paint, it’s important to clean the area thoroughly. Leftover brake fluid can cause damage over time. Use a clean rag and a mild detergent mixed with water to wash the surface. This step ensures that all traces of brake fluid and loosened paint are gone. Rinse the area well with clean water.

After rinsing, dry the surface with a clean, dry cloth. Be thorough in drying, as any remaining moisture can affect the surface, if it’s metal, leading to rust or corrosion. Inspect the area to ensure all paint and brake fluid residues are removed.

Disposal and Safety

Disposing of the used brake fluid and paint scraps is an important final step. Brake fluid is hazardous. You can’t just throw it in the trash or pour it down the drain. Collect the used fluid, paint scraps, and any contaminated materials like rags or paper in a sealable container.

How long does it take for Brake Fluid to strip Paint?

Brake fluid can start stripping paint in a short time, but how long exactly depends on a few things. It takes about 5 to 10 minutes for brake fluid to begin softening and breaking down paint. This time can change based on the type of paint and how thick it is. Thicker or stronger paint might take longer to get affected by the brake fluid.

For thin paint layers, brake fluid can remove the paint in 5-10 minutes. For thick paint or strong paint like enamel or polyurethane, it might need 15-30 minutes or more to work.

If you’re not sure how long brake fluid will need to take off paint from a surface, try it on a small, hidden spot first. Put a little brake fluid there and watch how quickly the paint gets soft or comes off. This test will help you know how long it will take to remove paint from the whole area.

Does Brake Fluid remove paint from Plastic?

Yes, brake fluid can remove paint from plastic, but it’s not always safe. Brake fluid is strong and can break down many types of paint. When you put it on painted plastic, it can make the paint soft and easy to scrape off. This is because the chemicals in brake fluid, like glycol ethers, are good at breaking down paint.

But, brake fluid can also damage the plastic itself. If you use brake fluid on plastic, you have to be careful. Test it on a small area first to see if the plastic can handle it.

There are safer ways to remove paint from plastic. Products made just for this are better. They take off the paint without hurting the plastic. So, while brake fluid can work on plastic, it’s risky and might not be the best choice.


Brake fluid can remove paint, but it’s not the safest or best way to do it. It’s true that brake fluid, with its strong chemicals, can break down paint on various surfaces, including metal and plastic. This makes the paint weak and easy to scrape off. But, the risks and problems of using brake fluid for this job are big.

There are many products made just for removing paint. These are safer and work better. They take off paint without the risks that come with brake fluid. So, while brake fluid does the job, it’s better to use the right tools for paint removal.


Can brake fluid remove paint from your car?

Yes, brake fluid can remove paint from your car. If it spills on the car’s paint, it can make the paint peel or get weak. But, it’s not a good idea to use it on purpose for removing paint. It can damage the car’s surface and other parts.

Is brake fluid safe to use as a paint remover?

Using brake fluid as a paint remover is not safe. It’s harsh and can harm the surface under the paint. It’s also bad for your health if you touch or breathe it. Plus, it’s harmful to the environment. Safer paint remover products are better for this job.

How long does it take for brake fluid to strip paint?

Brake fluid usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes to start stripping paint. But, this time can vary. It depends on the type of paint and the thickness of the paint layer. Thicker or stronger paint might need more time to get affected by the brake fluid.

Does brake fluid work on all types of paint?

Brake fluid can work on many types of paint, but not always perfectly. It’s better at removing some paints than others. For example, it might struggle with very durable or specialized paints. And, it’s important to remember that while it can remove paint, it can also damage the material underneath, especially plastics.

Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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