I'll be the first to admit that this one has been hard for me. I clean cylinder heads, axle bearings, calipers, crankcases....the list goes on.

I want to be clear here. I am not talking about professional shops. I'm talking about all the people out there working on cars, motorcycles, snowblowers, etc...in the home workshops or underneath an awning at an apartment complex.

I've used

  • solvent and a brush

  • water soluble cleaners like Gunk

  • all manner of nasty stuff

In the last decade or so I've switched primarily to Simple Green. It washes grease and buildup away pretty good. I can then bake my parts in an oven I have in my workshop but I still use a bunch of carburetor and disc brake cleaner. I get oil and various chemicals on the floor of my shop. I clean it up with various solvents and simple green. I wash it away. It's horrible.

My point is, I do this poorly. It's better than most I've seen but at the end of the day I would give myself a poor rating.

I really don't want to be told what a bad a guy I am. I already know.

What I do want to know is how I can be more successful.

What can I do to reduce my chemical footprint with general parts cleaner?

What could be recommended to people who were apartment bound in terms of parts cleaning methodology and cleaners?

What could I do with methodology to reduce my chemical footprint in a small workshop?

  • Just to understand what you're looking for.. You would like to find a better way, a less environmentally harmful way of cleaning parts with good results that's better than Simple Green?
    – cdunn
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 19:26
  • A better method overall of being a guy working on things. I use carb cleaner, I spray it. Think of cleaning and engine case and the big crap mess it makes....and how you do it. Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 19:40
  • @cdunn I modded the question up a bit. check it. you found a hole. ty Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 19:42
  • Related question
    – Zaid
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 3:27
  • Should I close it? Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 3:53

3 Answers 3


There is a new-ish product on the market called Bio-Circle. This is about as earth friendly as it gets.

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The way this stuff works is there are live micro-organisms which ingest oils and other organic contaminants, turning them into water and carbon dioxide. The great thing about it is there bio-remediating liquids maintain their cleaning power over time (the micro-organisms don't readily die-off). If the solution sits for too long and the stuff does die off, you can easily get a recharge for it and it's back up to where it should be.

I know the physical footprint of this is probably a bit large for an apartment, but would work well for a small shop. I haven't found anything like it which helps you stay away from dangerous/toxic chemicals which are normally used to clean parts. Best of all, this stuff works great!

Here is a video of Jay Leno talking about it in his (in)famous garage.

NOTE: I have no connection, nor affiliation with the owners or makers of this product ... Just trying to answer the question honestly.


If you're in a city those DIY car wash places with the coin-op power-sprayers recycle and filter all their water. so that's a good place to clean the outside of your engine.

most places that take waste oil will also take dirty solvents

I don't know what the best solution for contaminated paper towels is landfill, incinerator, or something else.


Water, Dawn (dishwashing detergent) and rubbing alcohol makes a great solvent, and it's not too hard on the environment.

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