Does Catalytic Converter Cleaner Work?

The catalytic converter is a crucial exhaust system component that helps keep the engine running effectively and prevents environmental impacts by reducing the harmful effects of the exhaust byproduct before releasing it into the atmosphere. However, this crucial component will fail over time. When that happens, you must replace the cat con — which we know is expensive and could run into thousands of dollars.

how to clean catalytic converter

An alternative means of reviving the cat con without replacing it is cleaning it with a catalytic converter cleaner. But in reality, does catalytic converter cleaner work? This article will shed a bright spotlight on these cleaners to see if they work and also outline other feasible approaches to cleaning a catalytic converter. Grab a seat and a cup of coffee while I walk you through all you need to know on this topic.

What is Catalytic Converter Cleaner?

But before we talk about whether the cat con cleaners work, what exactly are they? What are they made of, and where do we pour them?

The catalytic converter cleaner is a blend of additives that dissolve and remove soot, carbon buildup, and other contaminants that could accumulate on the catalytic converter over time. These buildups can clog the cat con, preventing it from working effectively and causing reduced engine power and increased emissions.

While the additives used in producing these cleaners differ from brand to brand, they are made of corrosion inhibitors, solvents, detergents, etc., that do not harm the car or the environment. They are designed to clean and keep the catalytic converter in good condition.

Does Catalytic Converter Cleaner Work?

The effectiveness of the catalytic converter cleaner varies depending on the reason you are using it and the condition of the converter. These cleaners are designed to remove carbon deposits and soot preventing the converter from working effectively. They are not intended to revive a dead catalytic converter.

If the catalytic converters are partially or mildly clogged, the cleaner will dissolve the deposits, allowing them to burn off and exit the vehicle as smoke through the exhaust tailpipe.

But let’s keep it real; the cleaner won’t do much if the converter is totally clogged. It’ll just try its best, which may not be good enough to fix the problem. This is where most people get it wrong — using a converter cleaner to revive a damaged catalytic converter that needs replacement.

It’s like injecting medicine into a dead body and expecting it to wake up. Ahh! It doesn’t work that way. Drugs work on humans, not on dead bodies. That also implies catalytic converters and their cleaners. Cat con cleaners only work on partially or mildly clogged converters, not damaged ones.

So, when using these cleaners, keep your expectations low.

How to Clean a Catalytic Converter?

Enough of the long talk—let’s see how to clean catalytic converters. There are different ways of cleaning catalytic converters.

Using additive

One way of cleaning cat con is by using additive cleaners. This method is the easiest as it requires no skill or technical know-how. All you need to do is remove the gas cap on your tank filler neck and pour the converter cleaner into the tank. Ensure you have at least ¼  gas in the tank before pouring the cleaner. After that, drive the vehicle for 15 miles before refueling the car. This will allow the cleaner to travel through all the fuel system components, such as the fuel injectors, regulators, and others, before getting to the converter.

As the cleaner travels, it’ll dissolve and remove soot and carbon buildup from the system. You don’t have to remove the cat con before cleaning it. So, if you are wondering how to clean a catalytic converter without removing it, now you know.

The amount of cleaner to use depends on your specific cleaner. So, read and follow the instructions on the bottle.

Keep in mind that some cleaners are designed for specific engines. For example, some are designed for gasoline engines, some for diesel engines, some for turbocharged engines, while others are universal. I recommend you research to find the best cleaner for your car before buying any one.

Removing the catalytic converter

Another method of cleaning requires removing the catalytic converter from the exhaust system. This option takes more time and needs mechanical expertise to achieve. It is also more effective than the former methods. There are two sub-methods under this method.


This method involves soaking the catalytic converter in soapy water overnight. I recommend using a dedicated oil or degreaser product for effective results. Though, you can also use dish soap.

To use this approach, get a bowl and submerge your cat con into it with the head facing down. Fill it with hot water and pour ½ of dish soap. Add a splash of ammonia to the soapy water for extra cleaning power. Let it sit overnight for 12-24 hours. The next day, remove the cat con and rinse it.

Rinse it by spraying clean water through it with a pressure hose. Remember to keep the pressure hose at low settings before you start spraying. Keep drenching until clean water comes from the other end of the cat con to ensure you did a thorough rinsing. After that, place the catalytic converter vertically on a towel and let it air-dry before mounting it back to the exhaust.

Chemical Cleaning:

Another way to unclog a catalytic converter is chemical cleaning. This approach involves spraying chemical solvents, such as carb and choke, into the cat con to unclog it. This approach is like the first method, where you pour cat con cleaner into the gas tank to work its way through the catalytic converter. But here, you will run the solvent directly into the cat con interior to unclog the accumulated deposits in the system.

The best way to clean a catalytic converter is by soaking it. It allows the ammonia and soapy hot water to dissolve the buildup contaminants and altogether remove them when rinsing.

Is Catalytic Cleaner Bad for Engine?

People have different opinions on this. Some say using Cataclean, a fuel and exhaust system cleaner, can cause engine parts to wear out faster. These parts include the catalytic converter, turbocharger, and fuel injectors.

Others say catalytic converter cleaners can foul spark plugs, fuel injectors, and O2 sensors. Another group opined that there’s no such thing as a catalytic converter cleaner. They say that you should never add chemicals in an engine, and nothing can be added to a catalytic converter.

These people have negative opinions about cat cleaners because they have high expectations. But in reality, are these cleaners harmful for your engine?

The catalytic converter won’t damage your car engine, but it can reduce the engine power if not used correctly. They are designed to remove mild carbon buildups on converters, and they do that effectively. However, if misused, they will affect the fuel supply system, causing incorrect air-fuel mixture, which could lead to combustion issues.

To avoid these common problems after using Cataclean and other cat con cleaners, always follow the instructions on the label. Each cleaner has specific instructions on how to use catalytic converter cleaner.

 Final Words

To summarize, catalytic converter cleaners clean mild carbon deposits, soots, and other contaminants on the catalytic converter and other essential system components, such as the fuel injectors and the O2 sensors. The cat cleaner also improves engine efficiency and overall performance.

Again, cat cleaner is not a substitute for replacing a dead converter. It’s just a feasible solution for a partially clogged converter. People complain that these cleaners don’t work because of two things—they are not following the instructions, or they are using them on a dead converter that needs replacement.

Solomon Osuagwu

Osuagwu Solomon is a vetted auto mechanic with over ten years of experience in the garage and five years of experience as a service writer. He prides himself in writing accurate information on professional repair guides, DIY repair guides, buyer’s guides, comparisons, and car reviews. If he’s not in his repair garage, he’s writing automotive blogs to help car owners and fellow mechanics to troubleshoot and proffer solutions to several car problems.

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