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  1. #1
    Older, but wizened CalTex's Avatar
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    Need some tips on relief of "Mechanic's Hands Syndrome"

    I realize this is pretty mundane stuff, but now that I’m back to working on bikes again, I wonder if anyone can give me some tips on products or procedures for getting and/or keeping hands (and fingernails in particular) relatively free of that road grit-impregnated grease and oil. As opposed to my younger days, I have to look presentable to my clients during the week even if over the weekend I was up to my elbows in grime. I’ve had limited success by (1) keeping my nails as short as possible and then (2) clawing across a bar of soap to get the soap up under the nails to keep the gunk out during work and until I wash up. I’ve also had some success with using a non-oily hand lotion, like Lubriderm, as a preventative measure to keep some of the stuff out of the cuticles and creases. Boraxo and Goop hand cleaners with a fingernail brush are okay after the fact, but don’t do the whole job. So...any suggestions?

  2. #2
    Videre non videri
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    Here's something I started doing a few days ago.
    I took some vaseline and rubbed my hands together with it, making sure to get some into all the little "valleys" in my hands, and stuffing some under my nails as well.
    Works great!
    All the dirt and grease washes off completely. Of course, I wash my hands three times (with regular liquid hand soap) afterwards, but it's still a massive improvement, as I used to have dark lines and spots all over my hands for days, no matter how many times I washed them.

    Vaseline is cheap, colourless and harmless. Won't damage your bike either.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Matt Gaunt's Avatar
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    My friend owns a LBS as regulars on the forums well know!

    Anyway, he has taken to using surgical gloves to prevent your so-called ailment! He says it works a treat and because ther're skin tight, the precision he needs is not in any way impaired. Job done.
    Matt
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  4. #4
    Videre non videri
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    But it wouldn't work for me, for example.
    The build-up of moisture inside will make my skin swell and eventually it cracks.
    When I then take them off, the skin dries out again, and looks pretty terrible.

    The attached image shows my thumb on a typical day, after it's been wet for a short time (washing hands or something like that).
    The same would happen if I put tight gloves on.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Matt Gaunt's Avatar
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    Could you not put moisture cream / vaseline in the glove though? Then you could have the best of both worlds.

    My Dad is an accountant and his hands crack nearly every day despite using special cream for them three times every day. I guess some people have naturally very dry skin and there's nothing really you can do other than try to combat it with creams and lotions.
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  6. #6
    Videre non videri
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    Vaseline inside the glove doesn't matter, as the moisture given off by your hands still won't have anywhere to go, unfortunately.

    But hey, I'm happy with my vaseline method, so if gloves work for most people, go for it!

  7. #7
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    Go out to the store and get some Goop hand cleaner/stain lifter. Works like magic and doesn't leave your hands feeling like greasy vasoline. Wal-mart has it. It comes in a small, white container.

    It'll even get the stuff out beneath your fingernails. Just use it like regular soap and it'll work.

    Edit: Found a pic of it.
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  8. #8
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    The best protection is with neoprene gloves. Contrary to latex, neoprene offers a complete barrier to solvents and grease. Best Gloves (amongst a few others) offers 0.004 and 0.006-in gloves. The 0.006-in gloves offer about the best compromise between dexterity, durability and protection.

    Disclaimer : I don't sell them nor make profit with them. However, I work for a safety organisatiion that has recommended these gloves to car mechanics and have been able to monitor their use, so I know they offer good protection and that mechanics are satisfied with them.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  9. #9
    Senior Member alcahueteria's Avatar
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    I use mechanix gloves, but I can understand why some people wouldn't like them. Also, I have a nail brush I got from the cleaning aisle in a grocery store that's pretty vicious that I use on my hands it seems to do the trick. Then there's always Lava, Fast Orange, or GoJo. I haven't used Lava but the other two work pretty decent, especially paired up with that brush.

  10. #10
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    You might try to find a source for the nail brushes that surgeons use when they scrub for surgery. Here is a mail order source.

    http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page...,42551&p=10259

    Or they also have this product, though I have never used it.

    http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page...,42551&p=10256

    CdCf that last one might work for you since they claim it lets the skin breath.

    I have done some farm work and archeology and always had luck using the spray from my shower head as a nail cleaner by holding my hands with fingers pointing into the spray. It is sort of a Water Pik for finger nails. For grease and oil just try working some oil cutting cleanser (Goop, citrus stuff) under the nails before you do it. Sunlite liquid dish soap is a good grease cutter too.
    Paul the Alloy Addict

  11. #11
    Senior Member juicemouse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alcahueteria
    I use mechanix gloves, but I can understand why some people wouldn't like them. Also, I have a nail brush I got from the cleaning aisle in a grocery store that's pretty vicious that I use on my hands it seems to do the trick. Then there's always Lava, Fast Orange, or GoJo. I haven't used Lava but the other two work pretty decent, especially paired up with that brush.
    I use Mechanix gloves too, but those suggestions from Alloy Addict look really interesting.
    It is my belief that every person in this world has something to teach, and everything to learn.

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  12. #12
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    I've had to wear latex gloves for quite some years now, working in various clinical and biomedical research areas, and I too suffered from severely sweaty hands. So sweaty drops of water would seep out at the worst instances when my hands would be level or upright. I've recently noticed I no longer have this problem and I now believe my hands have adjusted over time.

    At first simply change your gloves occassionally. To save on gloves, take them off, leave them inside out, let then dry, then reinvert to reuse. In the meantime you could use another pair and then continue alternating.

    Also, you should wear gloves nonetheless. Even pure lubes and greases contain possible carcinogens, Teflon in particular. And I've noticed the lube I use dissolves particularly well in my skin and is mostly absorbed by the time I go to wash my hands. Not good. Once the lubes and greases combine with only God knows what, when you see that black gunk, there is most likely much worse. Most of the time I don't have access to gloves at home and have to work without them, but I regret every moment for this reason.

  13. #13
    Older, but wizened CalTex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alloy Addict
    This sounds GREAT! There are three reviews of the product on Amazon and all are 5 stars. The first reviewer describes how her dry hands were healed with this product. The second mentions this benefit as well. This would certainly be of interest to CdCf, Matt Gaunt's dad, and me who all have very dry skin. I'm ordering some today! Thanks Alloy Addict.

  14. #14
    Member Randymac's Avatar
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    If you lucky enough to be latex tolerant, just head to the grocers or drug store.
    Otherwise go to the nearest auto parts store. Ask what they have like latex gloves. Most of the mechanics at the last dealership I worked for used nitril (pron, night-ril) gloves. They are more resistant to chemicals and won't cause any allergies like latex. Almost any Napa, Carquest, Pep Boys worth a hoot will have them.
    Just a thought,
    Randy

  15. #15
    Its a Lemming thing... jester69's Avatar
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    I can second the recommendation for Nitrile gloves. Tough stuff and you don't even feel like you are wearing gloves other than the hand sweat.

    MIne fill up with water a lot, but I have the expensive habit of taking the gloves off & disposing of after every task almost. Harbor Freight puts boxes of 100 on sale for $6 or so every now and again. I think as mine are only in the gloves when I am actually working on something it doesn't mess with my skin too bad.

    peas,

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  16. #16
    Videre non videri
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    I might give pure plastic gloves a shot.
    If I only wear them for a short while (couple of minutes at a time) it might work.

  17. #17
    Member Randymac's Avatar
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    Some of the plastic gloves are pretty good, just check your chemicals. I've had'em melt from chemical interaction.
    Just a thought,
    Randy

  18. #18
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    You guys are right, Nitrile gloves are definitely a better choice than latex.

    I would love to hear how the liquid gloves stuff works for people. I've never felt the need to try it, but the next time I use wood stain I may buy some.

    Didn't there used to be (maybe there still is) a product that you could rub over your hands, perform your maintenance, and then peal the stuff off along with the dirt and grease? I think it was blue colored and I remember it being promoted as something to carry in your saddle bag for roadside bike repairs. Anybody else remember this stuff and what it was called?
    Paul the Alloy Addict

  19. #19
    Videre non videri
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    Kerodex?

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    Quote Originally Posted by CdCf
    Kerodex?
    I don't think so. This stuff dried on the hands and looked rubbery. After the repair was done you were supposed to peel and/or rub it off. I remember my LBS at the time tried to give me a sample, but it sounded weird and like it was more trouble than it was worth. This was at least 10 years ago.

    I wish I could think of some good search terms.
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  21. #21
    Its a Lemming thing... jester69's Avatar
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    Since anti perspirant stops sweat in your armpits, and you have the same glands in your hands, I wonder if getting a stick of gel anti perspirant and rubbing some all over your hands before putting gloves on would do anything?

    Jester
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  22. #22
    Senior Member nick burns's Avatar
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    I haven't found anything better for cleanup than Dr. Bronner's castile soap.

  23. #23
    Cycle Dallas MMACH 5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CdCf
    But it wouldn't work for me, for example.
    The build-up of moisture inside will make my skin swell and eventually it cracks.
    When I then take them off, the skin dries out again, and looks pretty terrible.

    The attached image shows my thumb on a typical day, after it's been wet for a short time (washing hands or something like that).
    The same would happen if I put tight gloves on.
    That looks like the tell-tale signs of a latex allergy/intollerance. You might try the latex-free gloves.
    That's gonna leave a mark.

  24. #24
    My bike's better than me! neil0502's Avatar
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    I've been using plain, butt-ugly rubber gloves from the grocery store, but have thought about the nitrile route for a while.

    Cheap.

    Here: http://froogle.google.com/froogle?q=nitrile+gloves

  25. #25
    Videre non videri
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMACH 5
    That looks like the tell-tale signs of a latex allergy/intollerance. You might try the latex-free gloves.
    Nice theory, but wrong.
    It has nothing to do with what the material is.
    In fact, I don't think I've ever used latex gloves, just plastic (PE) ones.

    The real reason is the moisture build up. The same thing happens if I get sweaty hands for some reason (holding something smooth, being nervous, et c), or if I soak my hands in water.

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