Degreasers: How They Work and Which One to Choose

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 12, 2022
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What is a degreaser? It’s a cleaning product that removes tough grease, dirt, and fat from surfaces by breaking chemical bonds. There are different types of degreasers, such as solvent-based, petroleum-based, water-based, and alkaline-based. It’s crucial to follow safety precautions when using degreasers since they can be harmful if ingested or inhaled.

In this article, I’ll provide you with all the information you need to know about degreasers.

What is a degreaser

What You Need to Know About Degreasers

A degreaser is a cleaning product designed to remove tough grease, dirt, and fat from various surfaces. It is commonly used in industrial, automotive, and household settings to clean machinery, engines, kitchen appliances, and more.

How Does a Degreaser Work?

Degreasers work by breaking down the chemical bonds of grease and oil, making them easier to remove from surfaces. They contain surfactants, solvents, and other active ingredients that dissolve and emulsify fatty substances.

Types of Degreasers

There are various types of degreasers available, including:

  • Solvent-based degreasers: These are made from petroleum-based solvents and are effective at removing heavy grease and oil.
  • Water-based degreasers: These are made from water and biodegradable surfactants and are safer for the environment.
  • Alkaline degreasers: These are highly effective at removing grease and oil from metal surfaces but can be harsh on some materials.
  • Acidic degreasers: These are effective at removing mineral deposits and rust but can be corrosive and damaging to some surfaces.

Safety Precautions

Degreasers can be harmful if ingested or inhaled, so it’s important to take the necessary safety precautions when using them. Some tips include:

  • Wearing protective gloves and eyewear
  • Using the product in a well-ventilated area
  • Following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully
  • Disposing of the product properly after use

How a Degreaser Gets the Job Done

Degreasers are powerful cleaning agents that work by breaking down and removing contamination from surfaces. They can effectively remove oils, greases, corrosion inhibitors, cutting fluids, and other built-up dirt from equipment and machinery. The process of degreasing involves the use of solvents and cleaners that are specifically designed to break down and remove these contaminants.

The Degreasing Process

The degreasing process can be done in a variety of ways, including:

  • Wiping or scrubbing: This is the most common method of degreasing and involves manually wiping or scrubbing the surface with a degreaser.
  • Aerosol spray: This method involves using a forceful spray to apply the degreaser to the surface.
  • Immersion: This method involves soaking the equipment or machinery in a degreaser solution.
  • Batch: This method involves placing the equipment or machinery in a drum or container and filling it with a degreaser solution.

The Role of Agitation and Trigger Sprays

Agitation is an important part of the degreasing process, as it helps to break down the contamination and remove it from the surface. Trigger sprays are often used to apply the degreaser and provide a forceful spray that helps to agitate the surface.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Degreaser

Choosing the right degreaser is important to ensure that the cleaning process is effective and safe. Some factors to consider when selecting a degreaser include:

  • The type of contamination that needs to be removed.
  • The type of equipment or machinery being cleaned.
  • The safety and handling requirements of the degreaser.
  • The environmental impact of the degreaser.

Why You Can’t Do Without a Degreaser

Degreasers are designed to remove tough dirt and grime from surfaces, making them an ideal choice for industrial and commercial cleaning. They are formulated to break down and dissolve grease, oil, and other contaminants, leaving surfaces clean and spotless. The primary function of a degreaser is to remove oil and grease stains from surfaces, tools, and equipment, making them safer to handle and use.

Safer and Better Than Harsh Chemicals

Degreasers are typically safer to use than harsh chemicals, which can be damaging to surfaces and harmful to animal and human health. They are available in a variety of formulations, depending on the type of surface or equipment being cleaned. Some degreasers are even safe for use in cooking areas, as they are made from natural ingredients.

Removes Corrosion and Prevents Damage

Degreasers are crucial for removing corrosion inhibitors and other handling soils that can harm metal surfaces. They are also effective in preventing further damage by removing oily residues that can attract dirt and grime, making surfaces easier to clean in the future. Using a degreaser regularly can help extend the life of your tools and equipment, saving you money in the long run.

Types of Degreasers: Which One to Use for Effective Cleaning?

Enzymatic degreasers are safe and effective for cleaning oil and grease on surfaces. They work by breaking down the oil and grease into smaller particles using enzymes. These types of degreasers are particularly advantageous in areas where toxic chemicals pose a health risk. Enzymatic degreasers are commonly used in household cleaning, food service, restaurants, hospitals, and schools.

Alkaline Degreasers

Alkaline degreasers are composed of caustic soda or sodium hydroxide and are highly effective in breaking down grease and oil. However, they can be corrosive and damaging to surfaces and should be used with caution. Alkaline degreasers are commonly used in automotive, construction, and manufacturing industries.

Solvent-based Degreasers

Solvent-based degreasers are broadly divided into two categories: organic and butyl. Organic solvent-based degreasers are effective in cleaning oil and grease, but they pose a health risk and are toxic. Butyl solvent-based degreasers are safe to use and are commonly used in the automotive, oil and gas, rail, aviation, marine, mechanical, and power industries.

Choosing the Right Degreaser for Your Cleaning Needs

When selecting a degreaser, it’s important to consider the specific application for which it will be used. Different types of degreasers are designed for different types of equipment and contamination levels. For example, if you need to clean motors or heavy machinery, you’ll want to choose a degreaser that is strong enough to remove grease and oil but won’t damage the equipment.

Check the Flashpoint and Vapors

The flashpoint of a degreaser refers to the temperature at which its vapors can ignite. If you’re working in an area with high temperatures or open flames, you’ll want to choose a degreaser with a high flashpoint to reduce the risk of fire. Additionally, some degreasers can produce harmful vapors that can be dangerous to inhale, so it’s important to choose a product with low vapor emissions.

Assess the Cleaners and Compounds

Degreasers are made up of different cleaners and compounds that work together to break down and remove grease and oil. When selecting a degreaser, it’s important to assess the cleaners and compounds to ensure they are suitable for your cleaning needs. For example, some degreasers contain harsh chemicals that can damage certain types of equipment or surfaces, while others are designed to be gentle and safe for use on a variety of materials.

Determine the Suitability for Your Gear and Equipment

When selecting a degreaser, it’s important to determine its suitability for your gear and equipment. Some degreasers are designed for use on specific types of equipment, while others are more versatile and can be used on a variety of surfaces. Additionally, some degreasers can cause damage to certain types of materials, so it’s important to choose a product that is safe for use on your gear and equipment.

Is Nonflammable Degreaser Necessary?

There are several reasons why you might need a nonflammable degreaser, including:

  • Safety: If you are working in an environment where there is a risk of fire or explosion, using a nonflammable degreaser can help reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Compliance: Some industries, such as the aerospace industry, require the use of nonflammable degreasers to comply with safety regulations.
  • Convenience: Nonflammable degreasers can be easier to store and transport than flammable degreasers, as they do not require special handling or storage.

Are there any downsides to using a nonflammable degreaser?

While nonflammable degreasers are generally safer to use than flammable degreasers, there are some downsides to consider:

  • Cost: Nonflammable degreasers can be more expensive than their flammable counterparts.
  • Effectiveness: Some nonflammable degreasers may not be as effective at removing tough grease and grime as flammable degreasers.
  • Environmental concerns: While nonflammable degreasers may be safer for humans, they can still have negative impacts on the environment if not disposed of properly.

Degreasers are a necessary evil in the world of auto repair, but their impact on the environment is a growing concern. Here are some of the environmental concerns associated with using degreasers:

  • Toxicity: Many degreasers contain toxic chemicals that can be harmful to both humans and the environment. When these chemicals are released into the air or water, they can cause serious health problems for people and wildlife.
  • Pollution: Degreasers can also contribute to pollution. When they are washed down drains or disposed of improperly, they can enter surface or groundwater and contaminate it. This can have a devastating impact on local ecosystems and wildlife.
  • Flammability: Oil-based degreasers are often flammable, which can be dangerous if they are not handled properly. Even a small spark can ignite these chemicals, leading to fires and explosions.

Choosing the Right Cleaner: Degreasers vs. Contact Cleaners

When it comes to cleaning tough grease and dirt from various components, two common types of cleaners are available: degreasers and contact cleaners. While both are designed to clean, they have different primary functions.

Degreasers: Ideal for Tough Grease and Dirt

Degreasers are commonly referred to as cutting oils and are marketed as a big help in removing grease and grime from metal components. They are typically found in a wide variety of containers, making it easy to choose the right type depending on the gear you need to clean. They are highly effective in dissolving grease and dirt, leaving the components clean and free from harm.

Contact Cleaners: Safer for Sensitive Components

Contact cleaners, on the other hand, are specifically designed to clean sensitive components such as voltage circuits and other critical parts. They offer a range of options, from the lowest voltage circuits to the highest, making it easy to choose the right type for the job. They are crucial in providing repeatable and reliable performance and are required in the process of making sure that the components are clean and free from harm.

Choosing the Right Cleaner

When choosing between degreasers and contact cleaners, it’s important to consider the following:

  • The type of component you need to clean
  • The quality of the ingredients used in the cleaner
  • The convenience and ease of use of the cleaner
  • The type of dirt or grease you need to remove
  • The sensitivity of the components you are cleaning

Ultimately, the goal is to choose the right cleaner that will increase the performance of your gear while providing the proper care and maintenance needed for repeatable and reliable results.


So, there you have it- degreasers are cleaning products designed to remove tough grease, dirt, and fat from surfaces. They work by breaking chemical bonds and making the grease easier to remove. You should use them carefully, and you can always rely on P degreaser for all your cleaning needs. So, go ahead and buy the right one for the job!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.