how to clean a chrome exhaust tip

3 Ways to Keep Your Chrome Exhaust Tips Looking New

How often, if ever, do you remember to clean the chrome exhaust tips on your car? The exhaust tips on your vehicle are regularly exposed to heat, as well as all sorts of pollutants and grime. The most prominent of these are road residue (a combination of oils, pollutants, and general dirt), and carbon buildup from your own exhaust.

Exhaust tips are easy to overlook when cleaning your car and often get quite built-up with road residue and carbon before they eventually get cleaned. By waiting until they are very dirty, you turn a simple job into a complicated one, and one that you are not likely to enjoy doing. Luckily, we have 3 very simple methods that you can use to get your chrome exhaust tips looking shiny and new again.

Choose your method below, and let’s get cleaning!

What You Will Need

No matter which method you choose to use, you will likely need most of the following supplies:

  • Protective gloves
  • A bucket with water
  • A round, stiff-bristled brush.
  • Car soap, or WD-40, or vinegar, or a dedicated exhaust tip cleaner
  • A few microfiber cloths
  • Degreaser
  • Optional: Metal polish
  • Optional: Some 0000 or 000-grade automotive steel wool

Before beginning the cleaning process, you should park your car in a well-ventilated area and ensure that your exhaust tips are not hot. If your car has recently been driven, allow the exhaust to cool completely before attempting to clean the tips.

Please note that the carbon buildup and road residue you will be cleaning off your exhaust tips is very dirty, and when combined with the degreaser, it will stain the tools you are using. However, once you’re done, a degreaser will also help you clean your tools. You can use old microfiber cloths, as long as they have been cleaned properly since their last use.

Method 1: Soap and Water

1. Start by donning your protective gloves to ensure your hands are safe.

2. Put a little carwash soap in a bucket, fill it up with water, and give it a good stir to create a foamy mixture.

bucket of water with foam

3. Dip a microfiber cloth in the soapy water and use it to wash away as much of the grime on the outside of the exhaust tip as possible.

cleaning the exhaust tip with a cloth

4. Next, dip the round brush (or a flat brush, if the exhaust of your car is flat) in the soapy water, and use it to scrub the inside of the exhaust tip until all of the grime is loose.

brushing the chrome exhaust tip

5. Rinse with clean water to remove all the soap residue, then dry with a clean microfiber towel.

drying the chrome exhaust tip

If the exhaust tips are extra dirty, follow these three extra steps.

6. Using a fresh cloth, apply some degreaser to the inside and outside of the tip. Check the package instructions and leave the degreaser to work for the suggested amount of time.

degreasing a chrome exhaust tip

7. Use a bundle of steel wool (0000 or 000-grade automotive steel wool) to scrub the exhaust tip until all the carbon has been removed. If your exhaust tips are very dirty, you may need to repeat steps 5 and 6 until you get the desired results.

8. Rinse with clean water to remove all the residue.

Method 2: Household Items

There are two common substances that you are likely to have to lie around your home which can be used to clean your exhaust tips: WD-40 and vinegar. Although this is not the easiest method, it may work better than the soap and water method and will still give you good results with a little bit of effort. It is also an excellent method for maintaining exhaust tips that have already been deep cleaned and just need a regular wipe down.

WD-40

using wd40 to clean a chrome exhaust tip

1. Using soap, water, and a microfiber cloth, clean the exhaust tip.
2. Brush the exhaust tip with a stiff-bristled brush to remove any loose dirt and grime.
3. Rinse the exhaust tip with clean water and dry it with a microfiber cloth.
4. Spray some WD-40 onto a clean microfiber cloth, and rub it onto the entire surface of the exhaust tip, including the inside.
5. Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the area clean, then remove the WD-40 and dirt residue with a clean cloth.
6. Repeat if necessary, until you are happy with the results.

Do this extra step if the exhaust tip is extra dirty.

7. Finish off with metal polish and a bundle of steel wool, buffing your chrome exhaust tips to a bright shine.

Vinegar

using vinegar to clean chrome exhaust tip

1. Soak a clean cloth in vinegar and rub it over the exhaust tip until all road residue and carbon buildup has been removed.
2. Wipe away any vinegar and dirt residue with a clean cloth.
3. Apply some metal polish or WD-40 to protect the tips until their next cleaning.

Method 3: Dedicated Cleaner

This is the quickest and easiest method to use, but also the most astringent. Be sure to wear your gloves and work in a well-ventilated area to protect your lungs. Most dedicated exhaust tip cleaners are not very friendly to the environment, but some brands pride themselves on their eco-friendly approach, so it would be best to try and find one of these brands if possible.

  1. Using soap, water, and a microfiber cloth, clean the exhaust tip.
  2. Pour some cleaning solution onto a clean microfiber cloth.
  3. Wipe the whole exhaust tip with it, inside and out, and allow it to soak in for a minute or two, following the package instructions.
  4. With a clean microfiber cloth, remove the cleaning solution, along with the dissolved road dirt and carbon buildup.
  5. Should the inside of the tip need a bit more cleaning, use the round, stiff-bristled brush to scrub the area well.
  6. Use a clean cloth to remove all residue, and make sure you are happy that the tip is completely clean. If not, give it another scrub.
  7. Apply some metal polish for a brand-new shine.