Work around cars long enough, and you'll start to notice certain products have a ubiquitous presence in garages; certain products like Heli-coil, Bondo, and Loctite, have earned success to the point that their brand names often replace the respective product type name, e.g. Screw Thread Insert, Body Filler, and Threadlocker.
Launched in 1971, Brākleen worked so well that till this day, even generic Parts/Brake Cleaner is commonly referred to as "Brākleen". Cleaning up oils, fluids, and lubricants like molybdenum-sulfur based grease will give one an instant affinity for the dissolving powers Brākleen wields via it's active ingredient "Perchloroethylene" (PERC), which also gained notoriety in the Dry Cleaning industry starting in the mid-1930s where market dominance earned PERC the informal "dry-cleaning fluid" moniker.
Tetrachloroethylene, also known under the systematic name tetrachloroethene, or perchloroethylene, and many other names (and abbreviations such as "perc" or "PERC", and "PCE"), is a chlorocarbon with the formula Cl2C=CCl2 . It is a colorless liquid widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics, hence it is sometimes called "dry-cleaning fluid". It also has its uses as an effective automotive brake cleaner.Wikipedia | Tetrachloroethylene
That PERC "was once extensively used as an intermediate in the manufacture of HFC-134a and related refrigerants", shows the potential environmental destructive relationship captured momentarily in red labeled spray cans; leading California Air Resources Board (CARB) to require all PERC dry cleaning machines be removed from California dry cleaners by January 1, 2023.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified tetrachloroethylene as a Group 2A carcinogen, which means that it is probably carcinogenic to humans. Like many chlorinated hydrocarbons, tetrachloroethylene is a central nervous system depressant and can enter the body through respiratory or dermal exposure. Tetrachloroethylene dissolves fats from the skin, potentially resulting in skin irritation.CARB – Amended Dry Cleaning ATCM Requirements
Road & Track wrote about PERC / Brākleen, where environmental chemist Chris Reddy was interviewed:
"I'm kind of surprised it's still being sold. It's a pretty potent chemical….It's not worth using because there are other formulations that are less potentially harmful. That's what they did with the non-chlorinated formula."R&T | Aaron Brown – Don't Use Brakleen to Clean Everything in Your Shop
Unfortunately, the non-chlorinated formula, a mixture primarily made of acetone and heptane, isn't nearly as strong as the PERC version. The red can is the common favorite among consumers, except for where it's not allowed to be sold: New Jersey and California.
"My gut feeling is, if you ask the old-timers, they'd probably say 'it ain't like it used to be.' … The one with PERC in it would be superior," Reddy said.
So now that we know what we're dealing with, we can assume full liability for whatever comes next. I've seen guys clean off their hands using Brākleen, and then barehanded eat food using those arid fingertips dried all ghostly from the corrosive petrochemical strength. I've seen Brākleen dissolve weak paint, and chill metal as if a White Walker had entered the scene. Jerry Seinfeld once joked about the human condition and it's penchant for the perception of strength:
And everything is strength, nobody wants strength, they want extra-strength.Jerry Seinfeld – Maximum Strength
Whatever the other people are getting, I would like to get a little bit more.
I want, extra. Just a little bit extra.
Some people are satisfied with extra, they want Maximum.
GIVE ME MAXIMUM STRENGTH. THE MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE HUMAN DOSAGE.
FIGURE OUT WHAT WILL KILL ME, AND THEN BACK IT OFF A LITTLE BIT.
Just like any tool, appropriate safety equipment + deliberate application will directly affect the odds of successfully using Brākleen.