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Old 05-17-06, 11:56 AM   #1
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The Better Solvent;Mineral Spirits or Kerosene?

Hello All, I am curious as to which is the better solvent for cleaning my bicycle chain. I have been using mineral spirits, but I wonder if kerosene, or any other solvent for that matter, would not be better.

Also, I wonder if kerosene can be used as a cutter/transporting agent for motor oil in using as homemade lube brew for riding in wet conditions. I have used three parts mineral spirits to one part mobil synthetic 10W-30 motor oil as a wet lube before. I did not like all the gunk it attracted under dry riding conditions, but the chain was super-quiet.

So, kerosene or mineral spirits; as solvent. Which do you prefer, and why? Please feel free to mention other solvents that you think are good. I would not consider gasoline, but I have heard about Coleman heater fuel. Any others?

Thanks.

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Old 05-17-06, 12:06 PM   #2
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I use rubbing alcohol most of the time, it's maybe not quite as good as petroleum-based solvents, but much easier to clean up and dispose of.
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Old 05-17-06, 12:23 PM   #3
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Mineral spirits is somewhat more volatile than kerosine and evaporates faster since it doesn't cover as wide a boiling range. However, they have similar flash points so the fire hazards are similar. They are chemically very similar petroleum based solvents and can be used pretty much interchangably. OMS (odorless mineral spirits) is not really odor free but is better than plain mineral spirits or kerosene.
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Old 05-17-06, 01:17 PM   #4
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I have a dip tank full of MEK that I use to clean my bike.
Drop it in and wait twenty minutes.
No more worries about scratches in the paint and it makes the tires so much easier to remove.

Enjoy
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Old 05-17-06, 01:20 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by HillRider
Mineral spirits is somewhat more volatile than kerosine and evaporates faster since it doesn't cover as wide a boiling range. However, they have similar flash points so the fire hazards are similar. They are chemically very similar petroleum based solvents and can be used pretty much interchangably. OMS (odorless mineral spirits) is not really odor free but is better than plain mineral spirits or kerosene.
I have actually been using OMS(odorless mineral spirits), and it does a decent enough job. I am just wondering if there is anything cheaper and/or better out there, that I do not know about.

I wonder if, as the #2 poster mentioned, rubbing alcohol can do a really good and/or better job than mineral spirits.

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Old 05-17-06, 01:29 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by LUCAS
I have actually been using OMS(odorless mineral spirits), and it does a decent enough job. I am just wondering if there is anything cheaper and/or better out there, that I do not know about.

I wonder if, as the #2 poster mentioned, rubbing alcohol can do a really good and/or better job than mineral spirits.

Regards,

Lucas
Doubtful. In chemistry, one of the first rules you are taught is that 'like dissolves like'. Isopropyl alcohol is a polar compound that mixes well with water. Most lubricants are not too polar and don't mix that well with water (think oil and water). The less polar the solvent, the better it will work on lubricants. That's why mineral spirits, kerosene, diesel fuel and gasoline work so well.
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Old 05-17-06, 01:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
Doubtful. In chemistry, one of the first rules you are taught is that 'like dissolves like'. Isopropyl alcohol is a polar compound that mixes well with water. Most lubricants are not too polar and don't mix that well with water (think oil and water). The less polar the solvent, the better it will work on lubricants. That's why mineral spirits, kerosene, diesel fuel and gasoline work so well.
This is mostly true, but you have to remember that alcohols are actually somewhere in between; this is why ethanol will also mix with gasoline. Like I said, rubbing alcohol isn't the best, but it does work, and as far as I know it's a lot more environmentally friendly.
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Old 05-17-06, 02:03 PM   #8
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Simple Green.

Kerosene has too much risk and fumes invlovled.
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Old 05-17-06, 02:04 PM   #9
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This guy is looking for a solvent, not a detergent. This doesn't need to become a generic "how to clean the chain" thread
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Old 05-17-06, 02:04 PM   #10
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For bicycle cleaning purposes, I like to use a solvent with some lubricant. Mineral spirits is more of a pure solvent, that why I prefer kerosene or diesel.
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Old 05-17-06, 02:12 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
Doubtful. In chemistry, one of the first rules you are taught is that 'like dissolves like'. Isopropyl alcohol is a polar compound that mixes well with water. Most lubricants are not too polar and don't mix that well with water (think oil and water). The less polar the solvent, the better it will work on lubricants. That's why mineral spirits, kerosene, diesel fuel and gasoline work so well.
cyccommute, will diesel fuel actually work better than mineral spirits as a chain-gunk solvent/cleaner? If it does, then a gallon of diesel fuel being much more cheaper than a gallon of mineral spirits, is the way to go.

Please confirm also, that diesel fuel, being less volatile than gasoline would not burn the house down, if stored in a metal can in the garage.

You sound like a chemist. If so, what do you use as solvent/cleaner, and why?

Thanks.

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Old 05-17-06, 02:23 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Landgolier
This guy is looking for a solvent, not a detergent. This doesn't need to become a generic "how to clean the chain" thread
+1.

Btw, I use mineral spirits, and it works well, but I have no knowledge on the comparison between mineral spirits and kerosene. Mineral spirits does work without the downsides of gasoline, which I used sometimes working on bikes when I was a teenager. Hopefully with no longer-term effects.
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Old 05-17-06, 02:34 PM   #13
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Diesel is a pretty good solvent, and it's much less volatile. Heck, it's safe to refuel a diesel vehicle with the motor running.

If you want to use it as a solvent, I would reccomend finding a local biodiesel supplier. It's also sometimes sold as "soy esters," 'cause that's what it is. This isn't because I'm a hippie, the stuff is actually much less smelly and not as bad for you. It might cost you a whopping $3.50 rather than $2.79 for the regular stuff. Biodiesel also has a lot less crap in it and is a much better solvent for said crap; when people switch over to bio in an older diesel vehicle, they usually have to change the fuel filter in 500-1000 miles from all the gunk the bio has loosened up in their fuel system.

Also, keep in mind that not all gas cans are diesel-compatible, bio- or otherwise.
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Old 05-17-06, 02:46 PM   #14
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Reclaiming mineral spirits

You can reuse mineral spirits if you will let the used solvent sit in a glass bottle for a few days and then pour off the clear portion into a second container, leaving behind the grit. Glass will let you see when you have poured off all of the reusable solvent leaving behind the gunk. The reclaimed solvent will still contain any dissolved oil or lubricant that you used on the part being cleaned but who cares since it is now clean lubricant, free of grit. It works fine for several cleanings before you need to discard it. I don't recommend storing the cleaned solvent in glass permanently because it can get broken

Kerosene and diesel fuel are essentially the same hydrocarbons. I wouldn't use them because they take a long time to evaporate and both you and the part will stink until it does go away. The lighter (more volatile) the solvent, the more effective it is and the quicker it works. You ought to wear rubber gloves when you use any solvent so you don't absorb anything through your skin. It makes cleanup easier too.

As far as flammability goes you should be using all of these solvents outside, away from a source of heat or flame for safety. You should NEVER use them inside a house. It is the use, not storage that causes most fires. If you store them inside, you are better off storing them in the garage rather than in a basement. They should be stored either in the original container they came in or in a tightly sealed plastic or metal container intended for storing flammable solvents. Again, store them away from heat or other ignition sources.

And yes, I am a chemist with HAZMAT training.
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Old 05-17-06, 03:01 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Landgolier
Diesel is a pretty good solvent, and it's much less volatile. Heck, it's safe to refuel a diesel vehicle with the motor running.

If you want to use it as a solvent, I would reccomend finding a local biodiesel supplier. It's also sometimes sold as "soy esters," 'cause that's what it is. This isn't because I'm a hippie, the stuff is actually much less smelly and not as bad for you. It might cost you a whopping $3.50 rather than $2.79 for the regular stuff. Biodiesel also has a lot less crap in it and is a much better solvent for said crap; when people switch over to bio in an older diesel vehicle, they usually have to change the fuel filter in 500-1000 miles from all the gunk the bio has loosened up in their fuel system.

Also, keep in mind that not all gas cans are diesel-compatible, bio- or otherwise.

What do you mean by "not all gas cans are diesel-compatible"?

Are you implying that I can not buy a simple gas can or plastic gas container, take it to the gas station, fill it with diesel, and be done with things?

Also, what kind of place sells bio-diesel? I live in SoCal, and I was thinking I'll just go to the nearest gas station that sells diesel fuel and fill up my can. Not so?

If I can't use regular gas can/red plastic container for bio-diesel, what kind of container do I need?

I am pretty satisfied with mineral spirits right now, but I pay almost $7.00/gallon. If I can be convinced that diesel fuel works better than mineral spirits, then being much more cheaper than $7.00/gallon, it is imperative that I switch to diesel fuel.

Finally, mineral spirits can always be reused after filtering with paper coffee-filters. Can you do the same with diesel fuel?

Thanks.

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Old 05-17-06, 03:12 PM   #16
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Yup, diesel will slowly eat most regular gas cans. Not in the course of an hour, or anything, but you do need a different can. Diesel cans don't cost that much more, though.

How much (reusable) mineral spirits are you cranking through that $7 a gallon is a problem? If you're that worried about price, I'd stay with the spirits anyway -- comes with its own can.

Vegastriker is right about the evaporation, as well. Stuff soaked in diesel, particularly a chain, will take a while to dry.
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Old 05-17-06, 03:55 PM   #17
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I use kerosene, but if I'm dissolving really nasty thick dirty cruddy built up grease/oil goo, I mix it 50/50 with gasolene. It's not nearly as flamable as straight gas, but I only do so in a metal container, in small ammounts, outdoors. Straight gas is bad. You can blow your ass off. If I need it to be completely free of oil, like with disk brake parts, I follow with acetone.
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Old 05-17-06, 05:32 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Landgolier
This is mostly true, but you have to remember that alcohols are actually somewhere in between; this is why ethanol will also mix with gasoline. Like I said, rubbing alcohol isn't the best, but it does work, and as far as I know it's a lot more environmentally friendly.
While it is true that alcohol will mix with gasoline, that is a special case. Gasoline contains lots of branched hydrocarbons and cyclic aromatics. These decrease the polarity of the material somewhat. Greases and lubricants are made of longer chain, much less polar compounds that alcohols don't usually like to mix with...at least not very quickly. Alcohols and ketones usually aren't good grease cutters because of this. As for being environmentally friendly, alcohols are toxic waste products during digestion of carbohydrates (in the case of yeasts and ethanol) so they aren't really that good for living things and, in the end, it's not the alcohol that is the problem but the grease you are trying to remove that is the bigger threat. Any cleaning solvent should be disposed of properly to avoid problems.
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Old 05-17-06, 05:41 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Landgolier
Yup, diesel will slowly eat most regular gas cans. Not in the course of an hour, or anything, but you do need a different can. Diesel cans don't cost that much more, though.
Actually gasoline, being a lower boiling and more volatile fraction of the same petroleum base, has better "solvent power" than mineral spirits, kerosene or diesel so it's more likely to degrade a plastic container. My own experience is that I've stored kerosene in a plastic "gas can" for years with no damage at all.

Quote:
How much (reusable) mineral spirits are you cranking through that $7 a gallon is a problem? If you're that worried about price, I'd stay with the spirits anyway -- comes with its own can.

Vegastriker is right about the evaporation, as well. Stuff soaked in diesel, particularly a chain, will take a while to dry.
That occured to me too. How much OMS can you possibly use that cost is a big issue? And yes, as noted above, diesel is a higher boiling distillation cut than OMS or kerosene and takes a much longer time to evaporate.
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Old 05-17-06, 05:45 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LUCAS
cyccommute, will diesel fuel actually work better than mineral spirits as a chain-gunk solvent/cleaner? If it does, then a gallon of diesel fuel being much more cheaper than a gallon of mineral spirits, is the way to go.

Please confirm also, that diesel fuel, being less volatile than gasoline would not burn the house down, if stored in a metal can in the garage.

You sound like a chemist. If so, what do you use as solvent/cleaner, and why?

Thanks.

Regards,
Diesel cuts grease well but it's not very volatile. It leaves residue on the chain (kerosene does the same). A good hot day will remove most kerosene but not diesel. I use either mineral spirits or white gas (I mistakenly bought white gas for a camp stove long ago and I have too much of it around ). Both evaporate quickly and work well. They can also dissolve a lot of grease before they have to be disposed of. In a pinch, I've been known to use gasoline but not too often. It's just not worth the potential problems. With all of this I do it outside and I use a closed container to clean the chain (I use gatorade bottles). Someone suggested using an orbital sander to vibrate the container which I thought was a clever idea.

I will say that, for the most part, I only ever do this once to clean a new chain prior to use. After the chain is clean, I use dry lube like White Lightning. I live were it is dry and the trails and roads are dusty and sandy. Wet lubes tend to get a lot of grit stuck to them which then acts like a lapping compound on the chain. I only put lubrication on the chain when it starts to make noise and then only enough to make that noise go away. I can generally go more than a month (if the weather is dry) between lubrication without problems. My chains last as long - or longer - then when I used something like Triflow or Phil's Tenacious Oil plus I don't have chain tattoos all the time
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Old 05-17-06, 05:54 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VegasTriker
You can reuse mineral spirits if you will let the used solvent sit in a glass bottle for a few days and then pour off the clear portion into a second container, leaving behind the grit. Glass will let you see when you have poured off all of the reusable solvent leaving behind the gunk. The reclaimed solvent will still contain any dissolved oil or lubricant that you used on the part being cleaned but who cares since it is now clean lubricant, free of grit. It works fine for several cleanings before you need to discard it. I don't recommend storing the cleaned solvent in glass permanently because it can get broken

Kerosene and diesel fuel are essentially the same hydrocarbons. I wouldn't use them because they take a long time to evaporate and both you and the part will stink until it does go away. The lighter (more volatile) the solvent, the more effective it is and the quicker it works. You ought to wear rubber gloves when you use any solvent so you don't absorb anything through your skin. It makes cleanup easier too.

As far as flammability goes you should be using all of these solvents outside, away from a source of heat or flame for safety. You should NEVER use them inside a house. It is the use, not storage that causes most fires. If you store them inside, you are better off storing them in the garage rather than in a basement. They should be stored either in the original container they came in or in a tightly sealed plastic or metal container intended for storing flammable solvents. Again, store them away from heat or other ignition sources.

And yes, I am a chemist with HAZMAT training.
Yep. What he said. By the way, Ode de Diesel isn't alluring unless you happen to be a trucker

Oh, and kerosene is a lighter oil than diesel (sometimes called #1 Diesel) so it a little different but not too much. It's often blended with #2 diesel for winter use.
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Old 05-17-06, 06:01 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Landgolier
Yup, diesel will slowly eat most regular gas cans. Not in the course of an hour, or anything, but you do need a different can. Diesel cans don't cost that much more, though.

How much (reusable) mineral spirits are you cranking through that $7 a gallon is a problem? If you're that worried about price, I'd stay with the spirits anyway -- comes with its own can.

Vegastriker is right about the evaporation, as well. Stuff soaked in diesel, particularly a chain, will take a while to dry.
Diesel is stored in different cans because it is diesel not because it will eat through the can. Most plastic fuel cans are polyethylene (gas or diesel) but they are different colors so that you don't inadvertently mix the two. It ain't good for either engine to run the wrong fuel in it It's probably worse to run gasoline in a diesel because of the form of fuel introduction, although you can direct inject ethanol into a diesel to get a similar effect to nitrous oxide in a gasoline engine. Makes 'em run like crazy until it burns up the engine.
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Old 05-17-06, 06:25 PM   #23
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I use trichloroethylene in a re-circulating closed system ultrasonic tank. Chains and all threaded parts, pre lube, get this treatment. And my workshop has a vent hood over the solvents table.

I Do Not recommend you use it, but since you asked what was the best.

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Old 05-17-06, 06:27 PM   #24
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Yup, diesel will slowly eat most regular gas cans. Not in the course of an hour, or anything, but you do need a different can. Diesel cans don't cost that much more, though.

How much (reusable) mineral spirits are you cranking through that $7 a gallon is a problem? If you're that worried about price, I'd stay with the spirits anyway -- comes with its own can.

Vegastriker is right about the evaporation, as well. Stuff soaked in diesel, particularly a chain, will take a while to dry.
Actually, like I said, I am pretty happy with odorless mineral spirits (ODM). I am however very "anal-retentive" about some things. Better effectiveness and efficiency is what I was searching for. If there was something out there that could give me an even better "clean" than ODM, then I am interested in knowing what that is. It is "gravy", if this new and better solvent/cleaner could be even cheaper than ODM.

Thus, my primary goal was in knowing if there was some "wunderbar" solvent/cleaner out there that would perform much better than ODM, come cheaper than ODM, is not gasoline, and finally, won't burn down the "neighborhood"

I am definitely not interested in something that would have a lower evaporation point than ODM. I guess that rules out diesel and kerosene.

Thank you all for the wonderful chemistry tutorial/lesson. I am for now sticking with ODM.

Regards,
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Jed
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Old 05-17-06, 07:12 PM   #25
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Thanks cyccommute and VegasTriker for the excellent info, and thanks LUCAS for posting the question. It confirms some of the things I learned on the job as a painter years back. We considered both kerosene and paint thinner (mineral spirits) to be good cleaning solvents when we worked with alkyds, and we knew that kerosene evaporated slower, leaving an oily film moreso than mineral spirits. We'd always make sure to clean our good brushes with kerosene, because the mineral spirits, combined with even a little of the paint residue left behind, would dry in a day or two and leave the brushes stiff, while the ones cleaned with kerosene would be clean, but soft, for much longer. But for something like a bicycle chain, I much prefer mineral spirits for the very same reason: once it's cleaned the chain, I want it to evaporate so I can apply the lube and not have the cleaning solvent thin my chain lube.
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