How To Clean Exhaust Tips (5 Steps)

How To Clean Exhaust Tips (5 Steps)


Chrome exhaust pipes and tips are a subtle way to take your car to the next level. They look cool and are fun to have, but they also tend to get dirtier than other exhaust tips options that your car could have. 

This DIY car detailing job on how to clean an exhaust tip is quite simple, should take very little time, and requires a little bit of elbow grease. Regardless, this is an essential DIY for those who like their car to be well kept up and clean. 

Tools and products you'll need:


These products are mandatory and used for how to clean exhaust tips.

  • Microfiber Cloth – Microfiber cloth such as the ones by The Rag Company should be used in order to dry off your exhaust tip after the initial clean and the inside of your exhaust pipe after the scrubbing process to ensure that rust doesn’t form. A good microfiber towel will prevent any unnecessary scratches to the exterior of the exhaust, thus affecting the look of the overall finished product. 
  • Wheel Brush – You will need a wheel brush to clean the inside of the exhaust pipe. The Chemical Guys Wheel Woolies allow you to get into hard to reach places and can flex with the exact shape of your exhaust. These brushes are also safe for all finishes including chrome. 
  • Degreaser – The use of a degreaser such as Citrol Cleaner and Industrial Degreaser in order to clean up some of the more stubborn carbon deposits within the exhaust.  This recommended degreaser used as an exhaust cleaner can cut through stubborn deposits, is water-soluble, and even biodegradable, which are good qualities for any project, especially exhaust cleaning. Tips can get stubborn areas and this will add an effortless clean to the job
  • Automotive Grade Steel Wool – Automotive Grade Steel Wool allows you to remove scratches from your exhaust tips and hard to remove buildup. You need 0000 grade steel wool which is the finest grade in order to not ruin the delicate finish of the chrome, but still deep clean the surface. If 0000 grade isn’t available, the extra-fine 000 grade will work, just use it with caution. I wouldn’t go any rougher than these.


These products are optional for proper exhaust tips cleaning.

  • Metal Polish – A good metal polish can be used to take a dull exhaust and make it look brand new again. A clean exhaust will not look as impressive as one that has the shine and appearance of a brand new piece. Make sure that you take the time to use it. It will make all the difference.
  • Wheel Sealant – Wheel Sealant is used for putting a protective layer on your exhaust. However, if you know that you are someone who doesn’t plan on cleaning your exhaust often or doesn’t typically detail their car, this would be a smart idea. This quick step could save you a lot of extra time in the future and protect your exhaust from unnecessary stress.

Cleaning exhaust tips and pipes (Chrome or Stainless)

  1. Prepare the area  – Begin by cleaning the exhaust tips with soap and water. Make sure that you use a bucket and microfiber cloth that you don’t plan on using for a normal car wash. This black soot from the exhaust tip can cause damage to your paint and you want to keep it as far away as possible. The microfiber cloths recommended above are quite durable and perfect for projects like this. 
  2. Clean the exhaust pipe -Use a wheel brush and a degreaser to get inside of the exhaust pipe. Use the wheel brush with the degreaser to get as deep into the exhaust pipe as you can. The degreaser will act to break up interior carbon deposits and rust. After the degreaser has been applied, simply rinse with water and dry with a towel to avoid more rust from potentially forming.
  3. Use Automotive Grade Steel Wool – If your black soot is on the heavier side, using an Automotive Grade 0000 steel wool can help remove scratches and help eat away at some of the exhaust tips buildup. Apply with caution as steel wool is quite abrasive. Even though you are using the finest grade, damage can still happen to the tips and it may not be an easy repair.
  4. Apply a Polish – Steel wool is an abrasive material that can cause the overall shine of your chrome tips to diminish. In order to combat this, apply a metal polish that will restore the tips back to their original shine and glory. 
  5. Apply a Sealant  – If you are looking for a protective coating to minimize the chance of your exhaust pipe looking this bad ever again, apply a wheel sealant. Over time, a sealant will work to reduce the frequency of buildup expelled from your car.

What makes my exhaust system black?

The black soot that you find on your chrome tips is composed of hydrocarbons which are a typical byproduct found with engine combustion. As the exhaust releases carbon dioxide, gasses fuse inside of the exhaust pipe coating it black. Although this is a normal find, the tips should still be cleaned off periodically to keep your exhaust looking clean with the aesthetic finish that you know it used to have.  


When detailing your vehicle, cleaning your exhaust is easy to forget. However, by taking a little extra time and a few products, your exhaust tip can look brand new and take your car’s value to the next level for years to come.
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