How to Clean Brake Pads

The brakes are what stop bikes by pressing two metal surfaces together hard enough so that the bike slows down or stops. Even if the brake pads are not yet worn out, your brakes may not be working properly if they are dirty. In order to maintain brake pads properly, we need to know how to clean brake pads properly.

Cleaning your bike’s brake pads is one of those things you should never put off. Brake pads are the only thing stopping you and your bike from going at top speeds, so why would you want them to wear out? This blog post will share how to clean and maintain your bike’s brake pads for a safer ride.

Types of Brake Pads

Pad Shape

It is possible to choose from a number of different types of brake pads, depending on the type of  brakes you have. You’ll need brake pads that fit your specific brake, so you might want to buy XT mountain bike brake pads to match your XT brake pads. It is essential to know what type of brakes you have, which should be printed on the brake somewhere.

Pad Compound

In this case, the pad compound is the material that makes up the brake pad surface itself. Usually, resin and metallic are the two main types. Fibers are held together by resin in this form, which is a mixture of fibers. Rubber, kevlar, etc., are often used as fibers. Pads made from metal are called metallic or sintered. High temperatures and pressure are used to assemble the particles. Metal 3D printing uses an identical process called sintering.

Other Considerations

A few different types of brake pads are available these days than in the past.

Finned option – Essentially, this is a heatsink mounted on the pad. On long descents, when air flows over the fins, the brakes stay fresh longer as they are cooled, reducing brake fade. In winter, non-finned brakes work just as well if you’re not the type to cook brakes.

A consideration is also the backing material. Optional backing materials are available for pads to make them lighter. As they cost a bit more, the standard steel back is perfectly fine if you are not concerned with weight!

How brake pads become dirty

In most cases, the cause of brake pad contamination is grease or oil on the ground, or if the transmission has been greased. The porous material of the pads makes this oil impregnate them and create a film, which reduces braking performance greatly.

Noises are often caused by this dirt as well. In such circumstances, be sure that the brake pad has some braking surface remaining and remove it from the brake caliper.

Replacement or Cleaning?

Our options when dealing with brake pads are to replace them directly with new ones or to try to clean the ones already in place.

In case we choose the second option, cleaning, the first action we will take is to make sure our hands are clean after removing the caliper and removing the brake pads. The pads may remain dirty forever if they are replaced with dirty hands.

Gloves should be worn when handling them with clean hands.

Brake Pads Cleaning Instructions

It is important to know how to properly clean your brake pads. It’s not enough that they just be cleaned, but you need to remove the contaminants and keep them from sticking back onto the pad material. Here are three methods for cleaning your brake pads:

  1. Washing

You can start by washing the pad. This is the simplest and most effective method. For fresh contamination or oil that has not been absorbed, washing is fine.

  • You can use absorbent paper to absorb oil from the surface.
  • The pad should then be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol or a degreaser. After cleaning with alcohol, I like to use a degreaser.
  • To remove residue, I use a brush and plenty of water, then scrub carefully.
  • As a follow-up, I use isopropyl alcohol to clean up any detergent residue. The pads are not damaged by degreasing agents, and it works well.
  • Degreasers containing lubricants should be avoided. That could make the situation worse!
  1. Sandpaper

Usually, oil gets absorbed into the brake lining’s surface layers; removing these layers reveals the lining that is not contaminated.

For that purpose, one should also use sandpaper if they intend on burning the material. A thin layer of vitrified skin is removed in this procedure.

  • You should therefore place a sheet of fine grain sandpaper on a smooth, flat surface such as the floor. For the brake lining to rub evenly, it must have a smooth surface.
  • Move the pad round the sandpaper with your fingers in a circular motion without applying any pressure. As long as you are not pressing too hard, the brake lining will be removed quickly, and a blackish residue will appear.
  • It is enough to sand back a vitrified coating a few times over with the sandpaper if we only need to remove a thin layer.
  • The process must continue with additional passes, however, if we must remove a contaminated layer, as happens when we are operating with organic pads and the flame is not allowed.
  1. Burn the pads

Since fire is so hot, it is ideal for cleaning brake pads. Hydroxycarbons are highly flammable compounds found in lubricating oils. The pad is made of refractory material, which is heat-resistant.

Due to the extremely high temperature, this method cannot be used with other pads like fiber-made pads. These brake pads can lose their braking effectiveness as a result of crystallizing resin during high temperatures. As far as I know, this technique can only be applied to metallic brake pads.

  • You should hold the brake pad and place it near the flame. You must hold it by ensuring your hand safety from heat.
  • The flame should be passed over the pad several times. Leaving the pad near a flame for a long period of time could burn it.
  • Couple of passes over the flame will burn the oil completely off.
  • Once you have completed this step, let it cool on a table. You should wait until it is a bit cooler before touching it.

The pad will likely have a thin layer of shiny material on top. In vitrified brake linings, the surface becomes hard. The layer can be removed in this situation.

Reinstallation of the Brake Pads

It’s now time for the truth to be told! The pads must be reinstalled in the calipers, as well as the rotor.

As a next step, let’s go to a quiet place like a courtyard or a street with minimal traffic to verify that the pads work. In some cases, the brakes may need to be “road tested” a couple of times before they begin to work correctly, but if the pads do not improve, they either need to be cleaned again with more care, or they have to be replaced.

Tips to Keep Brake Pads Good

Here are some quick tips that will help you to keep your brake pads clean and perfect.

  • Make sure you don’t spray sprays near your bike or that you remove your wheels when you wash or lube it to avoid contamination in the first place.
  • Use soap and water to clean the brake system.
  • Use isopropyl alcohol, meth’s, or another liquid to clean your rotors rather than white spirits, which leave a residue.
  • Using a bike-specific brake cleaning spray is a good idea, so that you don’t wear out the seals on either the brake lever or pedal.
  • It’s generally best to replace contaminated pads, but you may be able to salvage light surface issues by sandpaper.


How do you decontaminate disc brakes?

You may warp or crack them if you heat them too much. You can do this by soaking them in alcohol and then setting them ablaze with a lighter. Make sure all the residue is gone by roasting them a bit.

Can I spray WD 40 on my brakes?

When using WD40 on your brakes, reduce friction where it’s needed and prevent brake components from breaking down. While WD40 might temporarily stop a squeal, it may malfunction when you really need the brakes to work.

Is it OK to spray brake cleaner on pads?

When used on intact brake pads, brake linings, drums, calipers and other components of the brake system, the cleaner will prevent corrosion. Before applying the brake cleaner, you may want to cover any exposed parts of the bike.

What can I spray on my brakes to make them stop squeaking?

This product dampens vibration at the interface between calipers and brake pads to stop brake squealing. It provides a tighter fit and makes disassembly easier, while also protecting  against corrosion.

Where should you not spray brake cleaner?

Plastics, rubber, and painted surfaces that you would like to keep looking good should not be cleaned with brake cleaner. Make sure to apply a small amount of product at a time and protect these surfaces carefully. Before using any product, read the safety instructions.


In conclusion, we may suggest that you apply oil contained in a bottle to lubricate your chain. If oil is applied using a spray can, the aerosol can readily contact the rotor. Even though we now know how to clean brake pads, we should avoid lubricants near our brakes at all times.

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