There are some other threads on other websites about cleaning up brake fluid. But I just wanted to get a more organized, concise answer here on SE.

Wanted to confirm that cleaning up brake fluid just requires water and the same detergent you would use to wash clothes. Because brake fluid is water soluble.

It doesn't matter the type of brake fluid, does it? (mine is Honda DOT 3)

Or the material that the brake fluid is spilled on? My mess is on some cotton clothes, polyester clothes, and the plastic/vinyl/rubber synthetic material of the cargo tray in Honda cars. (mine was the cargo tray for an Acura RSX)

Honda cargo tray examples:


Thank you!

  • Doesn't matter. Just use a bit of those orange based cleaners and wipe it off. :)
    – race fever
    Apr 19, 2016 at 3:47

1 Answer 1


Standard automotive brake fluid (DOT 3,4 and 5.1) are made from polyethylene glycol (PEG). PEG is soluble in water, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, benzene, and dichloromethane, and is insoluble in diethyl ether and hexane. A long way of saying it will clean up with soap and water.

DOT 5 brake fluid is diorgano polysiloxane (Silicone). It is not soluble in water.

It can be challenging to clean from vehicle interior. Laundry detergent will work fine on the clothes. I prefer something a little more gentle on interiors, such as Dawn brand dish soap. Brake fluid is so water soluble that not a lot of soap is needed. But a whole lot of water is required to get it all out of porous items such as carpet. On items like carpet we remove it from the vehicle and slowly, gently use a pressure washer. You might even see the brake fluid take stains out of some fabrics.

  • You should also include DOT5.1 as being water soluble, just like DOT3/4. Apr 19, 2016 at 1:53
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 You are correct. I will add it to the list. I have not actually ever seen that fluid. Apr 19, 2016 at 2:08
  • @FredWilson Any preferred type of soap? Also, does laundry detergent work just as well as soap? Apr 19, 2016 at 21:41
  • For the soap question see update to answer. Apr 19, 2016 at 23:57
  • @FredWilson Does cleaning brake fluid get much harder or different if the mess is allowed to sit for a long time? It's been about 9 months since my mess was made, doh! Apr 21, 2016 at 22:52

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