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How does one get brake fluid out of the carpeting? Ugh...

11 July 2014
Chicago, IL
So, I want to clean the carpet. My master was leaking (I didn't know until the hydraulics failed...too late!) And, now I have brake fluid all over the tan carpet.

What do you guys use to clean this up? Shop vac the fluid (if any) and then what? Vinegar and water? Or, carpet shampoo? Is there a need to neutralize the corrosive agent in the brake fluid?

Any comments are welcome. Thanks.

Most non DOT 5 brake fluids are a Glycol Ether mixed with other stuff. All the non DOT 5 fluids are hygroscopic and abosrb water and in general most Glycol Ether compounds are water soluble so warm water and a detergent of some kind is probably the hot ticket.

I suspect that Glycol Esters are tough on paint because they are sometimes used as a solvent / carrier for the paint; however, they are not corrosive. I don't think there is a need to neutralize with vinegar or baking soda (acid / base).

I would try to soak up as much as possible by pressing rags into the carpet repeatedly before proceeding with the water and detergent process. The carpet shampooer is a good bet.

I had a similar event on another car (not the NSX). The hose on the heater developed a slow leak allowing engine coolant to ooze into the driver side footwell during winter storage - probably about 0.75 l worth. A fine mess. Repeated carpet shampoo cycles did a nice job of cleaning up the mess. I did remove the carpet from the car for cleaning because the backing was thoroughly soaked so the carpet was quite damp after the cleaning. Removal allowed for complete drying and wiping down the floor pan if you have any soak through. Drying is important. You don't want to replace the brake fluid smell with mildew and mold.

The wrinkle in this could be whether your brake fluid is one of those with a colorant in it. I don't think the blue tint stuff is available anymore; but, I don't know whether its gold replacement is natural or has a tint in it. If the fluid has a tint in it that might permanently transfer to the carpet. Only cleaning will tell.
Thank you Old Guy

I do want to tear out the carpet and get at it. I need to think through when to do that. I did already lay a stack of paper towels on the floor and put a weight on it; there was negligible transference. That leads me to believe it is largely just stained now.

I will use some carpet shampoo and see what that does.

Thanks again and be well during these trying times.