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  1. #1
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    What do you use to clean off hard water, calcium deposits?

    I have been using a product called CLR and dipping the parts in overnight than brushing off. I am not sure what the active ingredient is. Just wondering what other people are using. CLR is pretty pricey.

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    surly old man jgedwa's Avatar
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    Is CLR a weak acid solution product? Not sure, I but I think I remember it is.

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    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Don't know if this would work for your purpose, but calcium can de dissolved in dilute acetic acid - which is vinegar. I'd dilute the vinegar 50/50 with water, and try a small application. See what happens.

    I am also a chemist.
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    The vinegar sounds worth a try. It is a lot less expensive than CLR. I think there is some in the kitchen. I found on another thread that Limeaway is a hydrochloric acid based cleaner. It is advertised for purposes similar to CLR. Maybe someone here knows.

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    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trhouse View Post
    The vinegar sounds worth a try. It is a lot less expensive than CLR. I think there is some in the kitchen. I found on another thread that Limeaway is a hydrochloric acid based cleaner. It is advertised for purposes similar to CLR. Maybe someone here knows.
    Basically, you need an acid, which one, and how strong, depends on how bad the deposits are, and what it's on. For light deposits, get some pickling vinegar, it tends to be stronger than regular, and it comes in cheaper big jugs. Of course, this assumes your item will take vinegar without harm. Don't try random acidic cleaners without reading the label, there are some that will dissolve your flesh and anesthetize at the same time, so you won't know anything's wrong till you look at it or smell it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coldfeet View Post
    Don't try random acidic cleaners without reading the label, there are some that will dissolve your flesh and anesthetize at the same time, so you won't know anything's wrong till you look at it or smell it.
    The only acid I know that does that is hydrofluoric (HF) and NOBODY sells it over the counter as a household cleaner. It's specifically used to etch glass and is a very specialized product. If by some chance you come across a bottle of it DO NOT use it for anything unless you know EXACTLY what you are dealing with and how to handle it.

    Hard water deposits can be dissolved with several acids as noted. Acetic is the most benign and HCl (aka muriatic acid) is one of the more aggressive.

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    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    The only acid I know that does that is hydrofluoric (HF) and NOBODY sells it over the counter as a household cleaner. It's specifically used to etch glass and is a very specialized product. If by some chance you come across a bottle of it DO NOT use it for anything unless you know EXACTLY what you are dealing with and how to handle it.
    Ummm, the company that I work for sells it, over the counter. It's in Canada not the US, It's not exactly a retail business, it's sold for certain stain removal tasks, and we very specifically won't sell it to anyone we have doubts about. It comes with some very specific advice, including the importance of full protective gear, and a neutralizer.

    "If by some chance you come across a bottle of it DO NOT use it for anything unless you know EXACTLY what you are dealing with and how to handle it."

    I fully endorse this comment. I have never used it, and don't intend to, ever.

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    I assume the HF is sold for removing silica deposits as HF specifically will dissolve silica (and glass). As noted, it's not EVER to be used for general cleaning purposes.

    HF burns are very serious and normally have to be surgically cleaned and nutralized or healing will never occur. This is nasty stuff folks.

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    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    For HF - hydrofluoric acid - you also need a specific neutralizer in case of skin contact. Formulated with calcium oxide and glycerol (glycerin). For all practical purposes to you - it doesn't exist. Never go near it. Pretend you never heard of it. It's one of those chemicals that I am scared to use. And I'm a professional. Yikes!

    Let us know how the vinegar works, please.
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    HF is an extremely dangerous and agressive chemical! It can get you in intensive care real fast. One tiny drop on your skin will penetrate. Then it starts dissolving your skeleton (yes, your bones). I should only be used by professionals.

    HF is used to chemically clean buildings (to restore bricks that have been stained by air pollution over the years).

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    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    I've used it to frost glass. You dip the glass in molten paraffin (wax), take a sharp tool(s), and cut out the pattern you wish to frost through the paraffin - and expose it to the fumes. I had my bottle of glycerol/CaO paste on me. Respirator, full neoprene cover-alls, safety shoes, gloves...CREEPY! This stuff eats glass and turns glass into a gas - silicon tetrafluoride.

    Yep - one little drop will go unnoticed on the skin and start heading for your bones. Which it dissolves. Rub in the paste real good! And get to a hospital to let them take over. But as a chemist who studied this stuff - I'm the person they'd be asking "What do we do??" I abandoned my project. Gave to a school I hated a gift of a one-pound polyethylene bottle of 48% H2F2 - ACS Reagent grade.
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    Quote Originally Posted by trhouse View Post
    The vinegar sounds worth a try. It is a lot less expensive than CLR. I think there is some in the kitchen. I found on another thread that Limeaway is a hydrochloric acid based cleaner. It is advertised for purposes similar to CLR. Maybe someone here knows.
    Limeaway will do wonders for hard water deposits. I used it in college when I worked in the cafeteria to de-calcify the dishwasher. That was in Kentucky where there's lots of limestone in and around the water so you can imagine that there's a lot of hard water deposits.

    Don't get this stuff in your eyes. Don't ask me how I know.

  13. #13
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    The only acid I know that does that is hydrofluoric (HF) and NOBODY sells it over the counter as a household cleaner. It's specifically used to etch glass and is a very specialized product. If by some chance you come across a bottle of it DO NOT use it for anything unless you know EXACTLY what you are dealing with and how to handle it.

    Hard water deposits can be dissolved with several acids as noted. Acetic is the most benign and HCl (aka muriatic acid) is one of the more aggressive.
    HF is a weak acid and doesn't really damage the flesh. Other acids...sulfuric, nitric, phosphoric, perchloric, etc... will damage the skin and tissue. Often, however, the damage is associated with a lot of pain. Sulfuric, in particular, will cause intense pain. A tiny drop will start in itch instantly and burn within a few seconds. One of the annoyances of working with sulfuric is the phantom drops...those ones on the back of your neck that itch but there's no way you could have splashed some there

    HF's real danger is to the calcium in your system. It binds with the calcium in your bones and causes intense bone pain. In high enough concentrations, it can scavenge the calcium in your blood and interfere with heart function. It's extremely painful, nearly irreversible and a particularly nasty way to die.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    HF's real danger is to the calcium in your system. It binds with the calcium in your bones and causes intense bone pain. In high enough concentrations, it can scavenge the calcium in your blood and interfere with heart function. It's extremely painful, nearly irreversible and a particularly nasty way to die.
    This can't be overstated. HF exposure can *kill* you. In grad school (chemistry), we naturally messed with lots of chemicals, and of all the awful chemicals we had opportunity to handle - caustics, carcinogens, mutagens, explosives etc. - HF is the one where they threatened to kick us out of lab if we mishandled it.

    To anyone casually reading this thread, never ever mess with HF unless you have been professionally trained on how to handle it. It is not for cleaning bike parts, nor would it be good at it.

  15. #15
    Fred-ish rogerstg's Avatar
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    I've got to wonder where the OP is riding to get calcium deposits on his equipment??

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    I am restoring some old 60's through 80's Peugeots. Some have a fair amount of rust from being left outside. I noticed that oxalic acid removed the rust but some parts have a grayish, rough coating on them some of which will flake off with the fingernail after oxalic treatment. I tried CLR and the stuff came off leaving an almost new shine.

    I tried white, distilled vinegar on calcium deposits left by hard water on a sprinkler timer. The chalky, white calcium disappeared in a few minutes in a non-diluted solution.

    I have mixed results with the coating on the bike parts which probably means it is only part calcium mixed with whatever happens to be in the air or rainwater which CLR must release.

  17. #17
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Possibly nitrates and sulfates, which are acidic while calcium deposits are basic. CLR must be a buffered solution to take out both. I would suggest a vinegar bath first. Then try sodium carbonate for the other residue. Sodium carbonate is the principle ingredient in Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent or washing-soda. Another one to try that is usually found around the house is sodium bicarbonate - baking soda. Both of these are mild bases.

    Let us know if this works. Do not leave it on aluminum (alloy) parts for long though.
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  18. #18
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    I would not even dilute the vinegar. I'm also a (lapsed) chemist

  19. #19
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Bikes use brakes to stop.

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    CLR/lime-away is roughly 75% water and 25% lactic acid.The same stuff that builds up in your muscles when you over exersize.You can drink it if you want,just add Vodka....
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  21. #21
    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    The only acid I know that does that is hydrofluoric (HF)
    There's a little HF in Naval Jelly (or at least there used to be) - probably for dissolving barnacles. Also hydro-phosphoric acid.
    Last edited by DMF; 11-22-08 at 12:07 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by trhouse View Post
    I am restoring some old 60's through 80's Peugeots. Some have a fair amount of rust from being left outside. I noticed that oxalic acid removed the rust but some parts have a grayish, rough coating on them some of which will flake off with the fingernail after oxalic treatment. I tried CLR and the stuff came off leaving an almost new shine.
    NEVER use oxalic acid to remove rust, it dissolves steel just as well as rust and won't know when to stop. That's why you get that rough and flaky finish. Naval jelly will work much better and only remove the rust leaving bare metal afterwards.

  23. #23
    Senior Member KLW2's Avatar
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    CLR isn't lactic acid..here is the MSDS LimeAway is phosphoric acid, here is it's MSDS. Both can harm aluminum if used full strength and left in contact too long. I use Limeaway all the time to remove oxide on aluminum, just wipe on or dip and then dip in baking soda solution to neutralize.

    HF will penetrate skin very quickly and dissolve the calcium in your system. A friend was etching glass and got some on his fingers and within a minute rinsed his hand. The acid destroyed the bones and he wound up losing the last joint of all fingers that touched the acid.

    Working in R&D for a chemical company, we learn to be very careful with HF.....

  24. #24
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Being an organic chemist with a background in toxicology and chemical-warfare applications, I fully agree with KLW's last statement. Stay far away from HF or anything that contains it. Figure your skeleton is made of glass. This stuff EATS glass. And the vapors cause a condition known as skeletal-fluorosis, slowly rendering a person truly spineless. For keeps.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member KLW2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panthers007 View Post
    Being an organic chemist with a background in toxicology and chemical-warfare applications, I fully agree with KLW's last statement. Stay far away from HF or anything that contains it. Figure your skeleton is made of glass. This stuff EATS glass. And the vapors cause a condition known as skeletal-fluorosis, slowly rendering a person truly spineless. For keeps.
    Know how they keep the shiny semi trailers so shiny? Low level HF rinse..same for some pre-soaks in car washes....nothing works like HF to remove road soils, but I wouldn't want to work there...

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