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How To Clean Exhaust Tips : Easy Shiny Results

For the longest time I never could figure out how to clean exhaust tips. Cleaning your car’s exhaust tips helps maintain its aesthetic value and ensures a polished and well-kept appearance.

Exhaust tips can become dirty and stained due to the accumulation of carbon buildup, road grime, and other road residue (combustion also naturally causes this).

Cleaning off your exhaust tips can be easy and with my help you’ll get the best results, and keep them looking shiny and new. Here’s my step-by-step guide on cleaning exhaust tips at home.

To clean exhaust tips properly, you should rinse with water and scrub with a wheel cleaner first. Afterwards scrub the insides with steel wool then polish the inside and outside of the exhaust tips with a metal polish.

This is the best way to clean exhaust tips as well as restore chrome exhaust tips. Make sure to scrub inside of the exhaust tip right on the lip as well. To clean chrome exhaust tips properly, follow the same steps but you must polish afterwards to remove any leftover scratches.

Exhaust tips are always sure to wear so regular cleaning will keep your exhaust tips look great! Let’s get to cleaning those exhaust tips on your car. 

My recommended DIY products:

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Materials You’ll Need

Before we dive into the cleaning process, let’s gather all the materials you’ll need to get started. It’s important to note that the better the cleaning products used, the better the results as you will be removing carbon and other particulates. All of these materials can be usually purchased in stores or online, I appreciate if you use my referral links above! 

  • Microfiber towels or something light to buff with. (Always use a clean towel)
  • Non-abrasive cleaner or cleaning solution. (preferably formulated for metal surfaces and automotive-grade like this one)
  • Soft-bristled brush or wash mitt (If you use a stiff-bristled brush be careful that it doesn’t leave any deep scratches.)
  • Water source (soap and water)
  • Metal polish to restore finishes, any metal polish like Mothers (used to clean up scratches and keep your tips shiny.)
  • Protective gloves
  • Form of steel wool to remove the dirt and carbon buildup. (0000 grade steel wool works best because its ultra-fine) 

Pro tip: I’ve heard from other’s that S.O.S pads work great too!

Best way to clean chrome exhaust tips

Getting exhaust tips clean

how to clean exhaust tips

To begin, ensure your car’s exhaust system has cooled down completely. Cleaning hot exhaust tips can lead to burns and damage. Once cooled, follow these steps to get exhaust tips:

Pro tip: Never scrub when anything is dry, don’t just start scrubbing as this may leave permanent deep scratches

  1. Put on your protective gloves to shield your hands from chemicals and grime.
  2. Rinse the exhaust tips, and outside of your exhaust down with soapy water as we are going to be using abrasive steel wool to remove black soot. You may also use a degreaser instead. 
  3. Try to remove as much dirt and carbon build up before scrubbing. Exhaust tips will typically turn black after a while so there might be a good amount .
  4. Remove the carbon build up from the inside and outside of the exhaust tips. (You might not get it all at this step)
  5. Wipe them down with a clean cloth and try to get the tips clean in the process.

How To Clean Exhaust Tips With Steel Wool

how to clean exhaust tips chrome

Now that you’re ready to start cleaning, follow these steps to clean your exhaust tips or exhaust pipes. Note: stainless steel is typically much easier to clean with a wish mitt or wire wool than normal steel. You may need to repeat these steps multiple times to remove the black carbon buildup and use metal polish to make make them sine like a new car.

For the best results use an automotive-grade cleaner to get the best cleaning power. Here’s how to clean and polish your exhaust tips:

  1. Use soapy water or a degreaser to scrub the exhaust tips and outer muffler area. I recommend just cleaning the entire muffler as well for the best look. (This goes double for those of you with painted exhaust tips) You can also use a wheel cleaner like Diablo wheel cleaner from Chemical Guys. I use this as my dedicated cleaner for wheels and exhaust tips.
  2. Now you will need to scrub the inside of the muffler tips as well. Use any cleaner or degreaser to clean the exhaust tips on your vehicle. Most of them have a small lip that can be easy to overlook so really clean the tips. 
  3. Once most the light carbon has been removed, use the same process but scrub with steel wool to remove the deep carbon deposits. Note: It may take a little scrubbing to get the desired finish. Also, steel wool may apply small scratches, it does however remove the carbon buildup. Once you are happy with the results, you’re done and can move onto the next step. I’ve seen some really dirty exhaust in my day, so take your time. 

Metal polish to restore exhaust pipes

  1. Grab the metal polish and rub it onto your exhaust tips. Work the product in circular motions with some pressure to make them shine and remove any faint scratches. If being applied by hand put some elbow grease into it as this process requires some moderate pressure. 
  2. Wipe any excess polish off and enjoy freshly cleaned tips/pipes.

Pro tip: I recommend if you can, remove your exhaust tips and let them soak in for a minute with some hot water. This helps give it a good start when removing carbon and dirt. 

Here is a really nice video that goes over everything, thanks to TailHappyTV.

Other than that, you now know how to clean exhaust tips! Leave a comment below and lets us know if you have any cool tips!


Q:What is the best cleaner to remove carbon from exhaust tips?

A: I personally like to use Diablo Wheel cleaner with Steel Wool and Mothers Polish.

Q: How do you keep black exhaust tips clean?

A: Wash them frequently and keep them polished.

Q:Why are my exhaust tips rusting?

A:Most factory exhaust systems don’t have stainless exhaust. Moisture and other elements causes normal steel to rust. Try opting into a stainless exhaust system to prevent any future rust.

Q:How do I make my exhaust tips shiny?

A:Polish them with your preferred polishing product.

4 thoughts on “How To Clean Exhaust Tips : Easy Shiny Results”

  1. It was helpful when you said to use microfiber towels. My husband wants to look into getting a new exhaust system installed for his car sometime within the next couple of weeks, so he wants to make sure he knows how to keep the new system properly cleaned and maintained. I’ll pass these tips along to him once he gets a new exhaust system installed.

    1. Steel wool is going to leave scratches pretty much no matter what. That’s why I recommend buffing them too to remove any scratches afterwards. I personally use Borla’s Exhuast Cleaner And Polish.

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