6 Different Types of Degreasers

A bunch of cleaning supplies, including a sponge, scrub brush, wash cloths, gloves, baking soda, and a lime wedge.

For every surface in your home and outdoors, degreasers exist to solve your cleaning dilemmas. Learn more below about six different types that are available and the best uses for each kind.

1. Environmentally Compatible Degreasers

Many of the most effective degreasers are also the safest for the environment. These include vinegar, lemon juice, cornstarch, borax, baking soda, and castile soap. Several makers of dishwashing liquids also add natural grease-cutters, such as lemon and other citrus oils, to their formulas. These are safe to use on tile surfaces, glass, stainless steel, copper, and brass.

To remove grease stains from wooden surfaces, apply a paste of table salt mixed with just a few drops of water. Let the salt mixture stand for a few hours, then brush or vacuum it off the wood.

When cleaning the metal parts of your car, whether under the hood or your wheel rims, choose a cleaner that has low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These reduce air pollution and prevent breathing problems as you use them and are equally effective at removing grease and sludge when compared with degreasers high in volatile compounds.

2. Ammonia-based Degreasers

These degreasers have been used for decades to clean glass, stainless steel, chrome, and tile. In the low concentrations made for home use, they work quickly and effectively without harm to the environment.

3. Liquid Degreasers

When used full-strength, liquid degreasers clean quickly and thoroughly. They can also be diluted with water or solvents for lighter-duty cleaning. Other types of liquid degreasers, such as trisodium phosphate (TSP), are powder concentrates that are mixed with water to form effective degreasers. TSP is recommended for removing built-up grease and wallpaper glue residue from interior walls before painting or repapering.

4. Foam Degreasers

Foam degreasers are popular for such applications as cleaning electrical appliances and car engines, as they wipe off completely without the need to rinse with water.

5. Powder Degreasers

Powders like talc and cornstarch can be sprinkled onto large areas, such as carpeting, tile, and wood flooring. After allowing them to work for a few hours, the powders can be swept up or vacuumed. On garage floors and paved driveways, use powdered lime directly on oil and grease spills. Leave the powder on overnight, then sweep or vacuum the next day.

6. Petroleum-based Degreasers

These degreasers, which contain petroleum distillates and ethanol, are best for vehicle and engine parts, as they can readily dissolve the grease and sludge left behind by gasoline, oil, and other lubricants in engines and vehicle parts.

Safety Precautions When Using Degreasers

It is safe to use vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice to clean items in the home without wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands; however, wear gloves when using any concentrated, petroleum-based or foam degreaser. Keep all degreasing agents away from your face and eyes, and flush out the eyes thoroughly with cool water if any chemical gets into them. Use all sprays in a well-ventilated area, following the manufacturer's directions. Wash any petroleum-based degreasers from skin immediately. Petroleum-based products will disintegrate rubber and plastic as well, so also use them with caution on your vehicle.