Best Can Since Canned Beer

Do it for the love of money or the benefit of the environment, or both! What can be economical, good for the environment, and less labor? It’s the refillable can of brake cleaner. Basically, the dealership gets 55 gallons of brake cleaner with refillable cans and the rest is easy. Many dealerships are doing this and find this to be very attractive, especially when taking into account all the costs related to purchase, use, and disposal of aerosol cans. We discuss the pros and cons here:

Dollars & Cents: The dealership buys the drum of brake cleaner with the refillable equipment and aerosol cans. The supplier charges for the drum only. The refillable machine and the refillable cans are free (with the purchase of the drum). A 55-gallon drum retails for about $550. Cost savings:

The refillable can is half the price of retail. Go for it!

Note: If you have to dispose aerosol cans as Universal Waste, add on another $400 for 200 not fully empty aerosol cans. Your savings just tripled. This is a no-brainer

Environmentally Sound Brake Cleaner: Acetone does not have the headaches of chlorinated solvents. Chlorinated solvents, even traces of it, can wreak havoc with used oil disposal. Disposal of used oil laced with halogenated solvents can cost a few dollars per gallon as it heads to an incinerator rather than recycling. Hexane base brake cleaners have been banned, as hexane has been shown to cause peripheral neuropathy in technicians using this solvent over a period of time. Acetone also flies below the radar of many Air Quality Management Districts that have limited the aerosol cleaners with VOC above 25 grams/liter. Acetone based brake cleaner have no AQMD limitations since it is virtually VOC free.

Fire Department Considerations: Fire Department and OSHA regulations limit the storage to 110 gallons of acetone at the facility, See the Newsletter on our Some Fire Departments may require the storage in a NFPA approved cabinet. Do not over stock the drums as you will exceed storage regulations, expand on the fire hazards, and bear the wrath of the Fire Inspector. Limit your purchases to the minimum needed logistically and operationally. All drums must be properly grounded to protect from static electricity hazards. Grounding must be done with a water pipe or a steel rod 8 feet into the ground. Connection to a conduit or air-line is insufficient.

OSHA Considerations: Acetone is flammable and a toxic substance. Train employees to wear Personal Protective Equipment, such as gloves and eye protection. Use acetone in well ventilated areas, and minimize exposures. Employees spraying acetone close to a 750°F catalytic converter, or close to any other fire source, will experience a flash that will burn their eyebrows, eye lashes and other facial hair! Provide SDS to employees and train them on the Hazard Communication Program. Acetone is a serious fire hazard and can ignite, even if there is only a 2.6% concentration in the air. Fire extinguishers to control fires include foam, carbon dioxide, and dry chemical (Type B or C).

Other Winners: There are additional advantages other than cost savings and reduced waste. A few them are listed here:

  • Minimal Foot Print – A 55G drum has storage of about 500 cans. It will definitely use less storage space.
  • Longer Order Points – No need to order brake cleaner weekly. The system has a monitoring device that allows you to determine the volume remaining and order accordingly.
  • Easy Fill – The system has an easy filling mechanism that is automated and takes the guess work out of the air liquid mixture to be loaded. If the can or filling mechanism goes bad, it is replaced for free!
  • Delivery – Vendors deliver drums within 4 business days of order, as manufacturing plants are located all over the US.

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this newsletter are merely for informational purposes only and are not to be considered as professional advice. Employers must consult their lawyer for legal matters and EPA/OSHA consultants for matters related to Environmental, Health & Safety prior to purchase of bulk brake cleaner. Bulk storage of flammable materials have safety ramifications so employers and employees must fully understand the safety considerations involved with bulk storage and usage of flammable brake cleaner. This article was authored by Sam Celly of Celly Services, Inc. who has been helping automobile dealers comply with EPA and OSHA regulations since 1987. Sam received his BE (1984) and MS (1986) in Chemical Engineering, followed by a J.D. from Southwestern University School of Law (1997). Assistance in preparing this article was provided by Tom Baker of Basics. Our newsletters can be accessed at Your comments/questions are always welcome. Please send them to

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