Bicycle Mechanics - Cleaning the chain
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Without buying one of those cleaning kits, how do i go about cleaning a chain?
While i was repacking my hubs, i noticed my chain, when touched, would slime me with a sticky black paste. I replaced my old chain for this reason, but the paste is back!
What chemicals do I use?
I'm not interested in replacing the chain again, buying a chain cleaner, or taking apart every link and scrubbing it all with a Q-tip. Is there some chemical i can throw it in and just wipe clean without destroying it?
08-02-08, 10:38 AM
Wipe down outside of chain with rag... mission complete? You're not going to get the chain sparkly clean without taking it to a shops parts washer. You might also want to consider running a cleaner chain lube... especially since it's summer season in Ontario right now.
08-02-08, 10:41 AM
There is this thing called "the search function". Works amazingly well. In this case, you don't need it...just scroll down to the 57,000 other threads about chain cleaning/lubing and you will find your answer.;)
In a nut shell, taking off the chain is the best method, second place is using one of those chain cleaning machines. Since you won't have any of that, you are stuck with the third best method which means spraying the chain with some sort of degreaser and washing off the grunge. Simple Green or similar will work in a pinch. Dry well before oiling again.
08-02-08, 10:43 AM
What about a bath in acetone?
I have never tried one of the scubber machines so I can not testify the their effectiveness.
Here is what works for me, your mileage may vary.
For periodic cleaning:
#1 - Spray a little bit of degreaser or WD-40 on the chain. Use the WD-40 as a cleaner only, not at the final lubrication.
#2 - Grab the chain with a rag in hand, apply firm pressure and rotate the pedals backwards a until the majority of the dirt and grime is gone.
#3 - Let the chain dry.
#4 - Relube the chain with a light weight oil (not WD-40), use a second rag to wipe off excess oil using the same method above for cleaning.
Deep Cleaning and when method is insufficient.
#1 - Remove chain from the bike, I recommend using a quick link if you plan to do this often. Once you have one in place, you will be more inclined to do a deep cleaning off the bike because it will be more convenient to do so. After buying one, I find I now take the chain off the bike about every 6 weeks for a good cleaning.
#2 - Place clean in a pan and use favorite cleaner or degreaser, I use either WD-40 for cleaning, or if it is being stubborn, spray it down with a citrus degreaser or some White Lightning cleaner.
#3 - Scrub with a brush.
#4 - Let the chain dry
#5 - Place chain back on bike, relube with a light weight oil (Not WD-40!)
#6 - Using a clean rag, wipe off excess oil using methods describe above.
08-03-08, 08:28 AM
Scrubber machines work fine for periodic light cleaning. I use one about every other week or so. Once a year, I pull off the chain and soak it in degreaser, do some light scrubbing with an old toothbrush, then wash it in detergent to get the degreaser off and dry thoroughly before putting it back on the bike and re-lubing. It sounds like a lot of steps, but it seriously takes maybe 30 minutes of effort. Using the cleaning machine on the bike takes less time, maybe 15 minutes. There's no good excuse for having a dirty chain.
You're willing to repack your own hubs, but you'd rather replace a chain than clean one? I don't get it.
i had read that you should replace chains once in a while 'cause they start to destroy your drive train when they start to wear out. i didn't know how old the chain was (i got this bike used, off the end of someone's drive + refurbished it), and thought "hey, i could spend a while cleaning this and still use it, or i can spend 15$ and have a clean chain + a new chain that won't ruin anything). I don't know how many thousand miles this bike has been ridden, but i know i've tacked on an extra thousand ;).
thanks ebrady, i'll try that out!
08-03-08, 10:07 AM
This is the only thing you need to know about cleaning a chain. http://sheldonbrown.com/chainclean.html
08-03-08, 01:56 PM
To tag onto what ebrady what hinting at when he recommended "using a quick link if you plan to do this often". The usual way, depending on the brand of chain you own, to remove a chain is to "break" the chain using a chain break tool. This removes, not completely, one of the pins from a link in the chain and allows you to seperate and remove it for cleaning or other maintenance.
Others, I'm certain, will correct me if I'm wrong but SRAM was the first to introduce the "quick link" or power link as I believe they refer to it, that allows a person to remove the chain via a separable link in the chain itself. One of the first upgrades I make to any bike is to either switch to a SRAM chain because these come standard, or add a "quick link" to my existing setup.
08-03-08, 04:31 PM
When I was a kid, I never - repeat, NEVER - had a bike (or knew a friends bike) that wore out gears because of a worn chain. Also, I'd never seen a chain break until the 90's. I think that's because bikes were built to LAST back then, and now it's planned obsolesence (i.e. they're made to wear out so you have to buy another one). Plus, the "new" mentality is people upgrading every 2 years or so. So why should the manufacturers make stuff to last longer? I regularly find Maillard and Regina freewheels that are 30 years old or more and the gear teeth are fully functional.
Enough venting. I would not recommend acetone or any other volatile liquid. Besides making you sick from the rampant fumes, it's very flammable. Also, don't use WD-40 without neoprene rubber gloves and a respirator - if at all. It contains DMSO (a skin penetrant), and it is toxic. Remember too that, anything you use to dissolve grease and gunk off of the outside of the chain will breakdown any lubricant that is on the internal components of the chain. And it's almost IMPOSSIBLE to get lube into those crevices.
My quarterly chain maintenance: Remove the chain and wirebrush as much junk off as you can. A 1/4" drive drill with brush attachment works great. Wipe it off with a rag and kerosene. (Don't forget the chain rings and cogs while you're at it). It's strong enough to dissolve grease, but not volatile enough to be an extreme fire hazard.
When the chain has gotten really bad: I use a lubricity enhancer known as Supco 88. It's made by Superior Parts Company for use as a compressor and motor lubrication. It's main ingredients are kerosene and a blend of waxes. It dissolves gunk and oil residue, and it leaves a oily film as a lubricant and moisture barrier - perfect for bike chains. I toothbrush all the crud off with it, then let the chain soak in a little tub of the stuff for a day or so. (That used portion gets saved for the next cleaning job!) An 8 ounce bottle retails for $6 - a good investment.
08-03-08, 04:45 PM
In my teens i ruined a perfectly good pot boiling olive oil to clean a chain. Chain soup! The chain came out great, the pot didn't ...
08-03-08, 05:23 PM
what a waste of olive oil!
+1 Search function is your friend. That way, you will be able to read hundreds of independent comments, rather than a handful.
08-03-08, 05:55 PM
I agree, olive oil was much better on Mimi! Whew!
08-03-08, 10:10 PM
I picked up one of the Park Cyclone cleaners this weekend. Two cycles with citrus cleaner cleaned up my chain very nicely. Not the same as pulling it and soaking it in citrus cleaner overnight but damn near. Worth the $25.
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