How to Clean Exhaust Tips – A Complete Guide for Chrome/ Stainless/Black Exhaust Tips

Ollie Barker

How to Clean Exhaust Tips

How to Clean Exhaust Tips

Car exhaust tips get dirty very quickly as they are exposed to heat, dirt, and dust. If you own a sports car, you know this very well. In this blog, I’ll share with you my experience on how to clean exhaust tips without hassle.

Why Clean Exhaust Tips

It is always advised to keep the exhaust tips clean because it will not only improve the appearance of your vehicle but it will also prevent carbon deposits from building up and clogging the exhaust outlet. Some people think that burning a candle inside the exhaust outlet works best but this will put you at risk of fire, explosion, or worse, personal injury.

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Clogged exhaust tips will lead to poor gas mileage, incomplete combustion, and insufficient cooling of the exhaust gas. This will result in injuries to your engine and vehicle components. Your vehicle is also prone to frequent breakdowns because of poorly maintained engine components.

If you have a car with exposed exhaust tips that are regularly exposed to dirt and dust, it is best that you clean these tips as soon as you can. Exhaust tips are easy to clean compared to other parts of your car so there is no reason for not taking care of them right away.

Types of Dirt Found in or on Exhaust Tips

The following are some of the types of dirt that you can find in or on your vehicle’s exhaust tips:

Big chunks of dirt

This is caused by large debris (e.g. leaves, grass, gravel) that is pushed into the exhaust gas and it can be easily removed with a simple vacuum cleaner.


Grit is caused by the incomplete burning of carbon deposits from the exhaust gas. It can sometimes look like a black powdery substance and it can also be removed using a brush or a vacuum cleaner.


This kind of dirt is found on the tip and most often, it can be cleaned with soap and water or maybe even your car’s interior shampoo because it may have the tendency to stain over time.

Carbon deposition

Carbon deposition is caused by the incomplete combustion of fuel inside your engine.


Occasionally, the paint on your exhaust tips may flake off and create a mess around the exhaust tip.

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You can choose to clean your exhaust tips with or without the use of any cleaning chemical. Cleaning the dirt from your vehicle’s exhaust tips is easy and you don’t need any professional or special tools for this task.

How to Clean Exhaust Tips: Tools & Materials Needed

I’ve shortened the list of cleaning products for this task. What you need are:

  • Gloves
  • Wheel cleaning brush
  • Microfiber towels (3-4 pieces)
  • Wire wool (0000 grade) (for heavily-build-up carbon exhaust tips)
  • Car soap
  • Metal polish
  • Wheel cleaner
  • WD-40
  • Wheel sealant/ car wax

How to Clean Exhaust Tips Step-by-Step

Let put on your gloves and get started with these easy steps:

Step 1: Clean Exhaust Tips with Car Soap

Spray a generous amount of car soap onto your exhaust tips and brush it using your wheel brush or even a toothbrush. Pour warm water into the bottle and shake it vigorously. You might want to use microfiber towels on this step as well. This will get rid of all the soap residue and it will also remove those ugly streaks from your rims.

Step 2: Clean Exhaust Tips with Wheel Cleaner

Spray a generous amount of wheel cleaner on your exhaust tips and gently scrub it using your wheel brush. Remember that you have to be very careful when scrubbing the exhaust tips because their surface is very delicate and any scratches in it will result in unsightly rust.
If you haven’t looked after your exhaust tips for years, it’s best to use wire wool to remove dust, soot, and grease.

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Step 3: Apply Wheel Sealant

Spray a generous amount of wheel sealant onto the exhaust tips and spread its contents using a microfiber towel. This will give maximum protection from rust and corrosion while also boosting its shine.

Step 4: Apply WD-40

Spray WD-40 onto your exhaust tips and use a microfiber towel to wipe off the excess. This is to prevent any corrosion on the metal.

Step 5: Dry Exhaust Tips

Rinse your exhaust tips using water and dry them thoroughly using microfiber towels. You might want to start this step with an air blower (make sure that you don’t spray air directly at the tips). This will remove any excess moisture and it will also get rid of any residue which might have been left behind by the soap.

The above instruction is a general guide and I know you may have questions in mind:

#1 How to Clean Exhaust Tips BMW

Well, this can come to the question of how to clean chrome exhaust tips as BMW plated their exhaust tips with chrome. The answer is pretty simple. You can follow the guide above, as I figured out that wire wool is a magic tool. It can clean off everything even hard-baked carbon without damaging the exhaust tips.

Moreover, WD-40 is a strong cleaning agent that doesn’t hurt the chrome.
Therefore, if you own a BMW car, you are safe with this how to clean exhaust tips guide.
However, if your exhaust pipe is rusted or has spots of corrosion, then cleaning them doesn’t help. This helps me move to the second question for stainless exhaust tips.

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#2 How to Clean Stainless Exhaust Tips

Stainless exhaust tips are not chrome-plated in most cases. They are usually polished rather than coated. Therefore, you can follow the same procedure I listed above to clean stainless exhaust tips. This is the easiest part of the cleaning process.

#3 How to Clean Burnt Exhaust Tips

Exhaust tips get burnt when it is used in extreme weathers or when it is exposed to high temperatures.
One of the causes of this is not using the right engine oil mixture when your car is running. This can also be caused by running the car on a dirty surface.

If you have used your exhaust tips at high temperature, apply a good quality car wax after cleaning them to protect them from rusting and corrosion and give them that shiny restoration looks again.

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#4 How to Clean Black Exhaust Tips

Some car models come with black exhaust tips and if you own one of them, be careful with the guide above.
Your black exhaust tips will be scratched if you use wire wool to clean them. Please just use the substances I mentioned above like wheel cleaner, polish, and car soap to clean black exhaust tips.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1 How to Get Rust off Exhaust Tips

If you have a rusty exhaust tip, use your wire wool to remove the rust and then clean it with car soap.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, make sure that you don’t use too much water on these tips because water can turn stainless steel into iron.

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After you have cleaned your exhaust tips, re-apply your sealant to give them a new shine.

#2 Does WD40 Clean Exhaust Tips?

Yes, WD40 is the safest solution to clean exhaust tips. However, don’t apply WD40 when the exhaust tips are hot because it’s flammable.

#3 How Can I Make My Exhaust Tips Shiny?

Slowly polish your exhaust tips using a fine polish. If you want to make them shiny and more appealing, apply a coat of car wax after the polishing.

#4 What Will Dissolve Carbon Build-up?

If your exhaust tips have built up with carbon, you can apply a spray of WD40 then rub it using a cloth.

#5 What Is the Best Way to Polish My Exhaust Tips?

Use a polishing compound like Brasso in combination with a metal polish like Simichrome for best results. You can also use Meguiars Metal Polish and glaze in combination for amazing results.

Final Words

Regularly cleaning exhaust tips should be your habit but many car owners neglect this task. If you are one of them, then I hope the guide above is useful. Learning how to clean exhaust tips is not hard, what is difficult is that you should do it on a regular basis.