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Old 09-13-10, 10:34 AM   #1
dougmc
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Cheaper cleaner?

So, I tried some of the White Lightning Easy Clean yesterday to clean my chain and drive train -- and I really liked it, it cleaned really well and didn't seem to discolor plastic or anything else it got on.

However, it's really expensive, and I used about $3 of it just for one cleaning and I was pretty frugal with the stuff. Is there a cheaper alternative?

I have used automotive brake cleaner in the past and it works really well, but it seems to be a lot "nastier" if you get any of it on yourself and it would sometimes change the feel of plastic that it got on (which didn't seem like a good thing.)
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Old 09-13-10, 10:40 AM   #2
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Simple Green. >$12/gallon, environmentally friendly. Works well.
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Old 09-13-10, 10:43 AM   #3
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Dish soap and hot water works for me.
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Old 09-13-10, 10:46 AM   #4
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Simple Green. >$12/gallon, environmentally friendly. Works well.
ditto... buy the bulk gallon, cut 50/50 with water in a used spray bottle and go nuts.

Last edited by duckforcover; 09-13-10 at 10:47 AM. Reason: splelling
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Old 09-13-10, 10:49 AM   #5
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If the plastics changed to sort of slimey and then sticky that's never a good thing. But if that was the only issue then it's fine. But brake cleaner isn't cheap either.

Some here, like myself, use mineral spirits (AKA "Low Odour Paint Thinner") or Varsol cleaning solvent in conjunction with one of the three brush chain cleaning gizmos. If you save the solvent and let it settle in an old pickle jar it can be re-used at least a dozen times for the rough cleaning followed by a shot of the new solvent for the final cleaning. It'll go "tea" coloured but that's just the old chain oil. The dirt and grunge settles to a black goop at the bottom of the jar. Now and then when the goop gets too thick I'll decant the clear top solvent into another jar and clean out the grunge so I can keep on using the first jar. Doing it this way my gallon of solvent lasts for around a year of chain cleaning. And I also use it for other uses around the shop so if you're only cleaning one or two bikes a gallon should be easily good for a couple of years. At around $5 to $7 a gallon that's cheap cleaning.

Some use Simple Green or a strong citrus degreaser. I never found that Simple Green did much of anything but make a mess. But I recently tried some citrus degreaser at full strength and was amazed at how well it worked. Squeaky (literally ) clean with just two washes in the cleaning gizmo. The bad thing about this stuff is you need to rinse the chain with water to fully remove either the SG or the citrus stuff. Both are mildly acidic and will cause rust and pitting if not rinsed off even if you dry and oil right away. For me the one time only use and this need to rinse and dry before oiling keeps me going with the solvent stuff. The chain that I actually used it on wasn't even a bicycle. I used it on one of my motorcycles that uses a regular, instead of Oring chain. I was in a hurry so I scrubbed it with the degreaser, flushed with the garden hose, washed one more time with degreaser and flushed with a hard spray from the hose, wiped it down with some paper towel and then zipped some oil on it. I have to admit that this was a LOT faster than my usual solvent and toothbrush job and for that use I may well stick with it. Or if I'm washing the bike anyway I may opt for this method on occasion since I can blast it clean with the hose. The gallon of generic house brand citrus degreaser was something like $13 from my local big chain hardware store.
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Old 09-13-10, 10:49 AM   #6
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Thanks, never used simple green for cleaning a bike chain.
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Old 09-13-10, 11:22 AM   #7
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But brake cleaner isn't cheap either.
Well, it's $1.50 for a container that's 3x as large as the $5 "Easy Clean" container.

Both work great -- just spraying on the grime gets it off even without scrubbing, and neither contains water that could get into things and cause rust later. I may have to try simple green ... it doesn't sound like it would be better, but I'll give it a try.
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Old 09-13-10, 11:35 AM   #8
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Kerosene, is my chain cleaner , citrus cleaners change the steel if left on for long..
made brittle .. it's the acidity.

have anodized the dirt on aluminum by leaving a headset in the tub of citrus cleaner before ..
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Old 09-13-10, 12:42 PM   #9
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Yeah, kerosene is not friendly, environmentally or otherwise, but it works great.

After I recycle this batch of kerosene, I'll try Simple Green. I don't really like working with kerosene.
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Old 09-13-10, 01:19 PM   #10
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Kerosene, is my chain cleaner , citrus cleaners change the steel if left on for long..
made brittle .. it's the acidity.

have anodized the dirt on aluminum by leaving a headset in the tub of citrus cleaner before ..
I'm not sure about making it brittle but it sure does dull up the surface finish if left soaking for a few hours or overnight. Same with Simple Green. And this etching or surface pitting is even worse with aluminium parts.
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Old 09-13-10, 03:56 PM   #11
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Thanks, never used simple green for cleaning a bike chain.
Never lubricate a dirty chain on the bike. I remove my chains, clean them in Simple green and water with an ultrasonic cleaner. Rinse, dry remount and lube the chain with 4 parts mineral spirits to one part chain saw bar oil. I repeat every 750 miles.
I wash the bike with Dawn dishsoap. I don't like Simplegreen on the tires. If you use Pledge on the bike after you clean it it will look good and cleanup easier the next time.
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Old 09-13-10, 04:07 PM   #12
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we have not been environmentally friendly as a species ,

since the dawn of the Bronze Age.
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Old 09-13-10, 04:31 PM   #13
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Simple green, ($9/gal a year or so back at Sam's) is an excellent degreasing water soluble
cleaner. Like any cleaner, it requires rinsing. With a chain cleaner such as Park's, I use
a 50/50 mix for the first go through and depending on how the chain looks maybe a second
go through. Then I rinse with water in the chain cleaner til it comes out nearly clear, perhaps
4-5 rinses. Water is cheap. A bounce
of the bike on the ground gets rid of the loose water and an few hours in the sun the rest.
In winter the residual water can be removed with an isopropyl alcohol rinse which will evaporate
rapidly or WD40 which will not dry so rapidly, then lube with preferred goop. It takes less than
2 ounces of SG to make a 50-50 mix in the Park chain cleaner so a gallon will last years.

I discovered about 10yrs ago when a Simple Green bottle cracked than it is also a good,
though slow acting paint remover as the stuff ran over the shelf onto metal tool boxes
below and lifted off the paint in the spill areas. The construction plastic shelving was not
damaged.

Finally, just checked, a 50-50 water solution of SG has a pH about 8, so it is NOT acidic.

Last edited by sch; 09-13-10 at 04:40 PM. Reason: edit
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Old 09-13-10, 05:12 PM   #14
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I'm a Brake Klean guy myself. If you spray a small spot (2.5") on a towel, then wipe the chain, you don't really use that much. A can does about a dozen chain & cassette cleanings.

I've always wondered how often the Simple Green and water with soap guys clean their drivetrains. How about it, guys? bk
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Old 09-13-10, 06:51 PM   #15
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I'm a Brake Klean guy myself. If you spray a small spot (2.5") on a towel, then wipe the chain, you don't really use that much. A can does about a dozen chain & cassette cleanings.

I've always wondered how often the Simple Green and water with soap guys clean their drivetrains. How about it, guys? bk
Doing what you describe will only clean the outside of the chain. You're not using enough to actually flush out the inside of the rollers, plates and pins. And the actual flushing out of those parts to remove the grit that produces the wear that we measure as "stretch" is what is important. Sorry but your method is all but a waste of time since it accomplishes nothing other than making the chain look pretty.
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Old 09-13-10, 10:01 PM   #16
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The brake cleaner is nasty stuff. I love using it when I work on a car. I used a whole can to clean out a fender well that was full of axle grease from a broken boot. It burns like gasoline on your skin, only it starts burning about 10 times faster. This can't be a good indication. I won't get this stuff near my bike.

Aren't some chains lined with plastic or teflon? If so I wouldn't use much chemically stuff on them either. I would put my chain in my parts cleaner but I don't feel like taking it off. It's full of automotive grade solvents. The can said not to leave aluminum and plasitc in there for too long. "Where did my cassette go?" It will dissolve rubber.

I would do the simple green thing or the citrus thing if I did this kind of maintenance. My riding has been ramping up more and more so I need to get one of those chain/geary washy thingys.
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Old 09-13-10, 11:22 PM   #17
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SOME rubber. Not the synthetic stuff used in brake calipers or what would be the point in using it? But brake cleaner sure does a number on tire rubber.

None of our chains would be lined with any sort of plastic or teflon since that would allow some amount of compression which under high load would make the chain stretch a little and the links would no longer fit the sprocket pitch. THAT would wear out the chain and sprockets double quick. Some may have some sort of "coating" but it will be micro thin as opposed to any sort of bushing such as you're thinking about.
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Old 09-14-10, 06:09 PM   #18
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as someone on the C&V forum suggested, i've been using "Awesome" brand degreaser from Dollar Tree. it can be scary because it's light yellow and if you dilute it it's almost entirely clear. that aside, it's $1 for 32oz and it works as good or maybe even better than simple green IME. there's all sorts of "Awesome" branded stuff in the cleaner section but the yellow lookin' stuff in the 20oz spray or 32oz bulk bottle is the best.
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Old 09-14-10, 06:52 PM   #19
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U even can use regular fuel if you have some moving around for your lawn mower machine. As for the grease, dust and stains in the bike (frame, wheels, carbon parst and handlebar ribbon) nothing better than baby wipes. Cheap, they work, your hands wont be filthy after wards and the bike will get nice.
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Old 09-14-10, 08:39 PM   #20
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I get plenty of grit out from the rollers with a 2.5" spot of Brake Klean. Repeat a few times and the grit is all over the towel. Then spin it fairly quickly, gripping with dry portions of the towel. Works lie a charm. Takes 5 or 6 minutes and the chain stays on the bike. Floss the cassette with the towel wetted along the edge and you're done. It's beyond me why people make such a big deal out of drivetrain maintenance. It's a 10 minute job. 12 if you do the chainrings too. bk
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Old 09-14-10, 08:58 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Kerosene, is my chain cleaner , citrus cleaners change the steel if left on for long..
made brittle .. it's the acidity.

have anodized the dirt on aluminum by leaving a headset in the tub of citrus cleaner before ..

Actually, most citrus degreasers, despite the citrus acid connotation, is basic instead of acidity.

I've found Simple Green to be totally useless for cleaning chains, especially if one uses something like motor oil or other "Wet"-type lubricants. Even after going through several cycles, I can still extract contaminants by using a good citrus degreaser, such as Finish Line's, in the following cycle.

What I found works fairly well are the degreasers from auto stores. These are cheaper than Simple Green and two cycles will get rid of most contaminants, as verified by the third cycle with the aforementioned Finish Line citrus degreaser. However, these are also often basic so contact time with parts should be limited as much as possible.
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Old 09-14-10, 11:12 PM   #22
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I pour gasoline on mine then light the chain on fire, cleans and kills everything.

Actually I just use good old auto parts store solvent for my severe cleaning, but most of the time I use the Finish Line degreaser and their Chain Cleaning Machine. Then apply my new favorite lube Chain L (#5), that lube is hands down the best lube I've ever tried and it leaves the chain clean, but you do need to follow the directions to the letter.
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Old 09-15-10, 02:28 AM   #23
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I get plenty of grit out from the rollers with a 2.5" spot of Brake Klean. Repeat a few times and the grit is all over the towel. Then spin it fairly quickly, gripping with dry portions of the towel. Works lie a charm. Takes 5 or 6 minutes and the chain stays on the bike. Floss the cassette with the towel wetted along the edge and you're done. It's beyond me why people make such a big deal out of drivetrain maintenance. It's a 10 minute job. 12 if you do the chainrings too. bk

You'll never realize how much dirt and grunge you're missing by only doing this surface cleaning until you clean it your way and then remove the chain and give it a thorough flushing in a cleaner. Then you'll realize how much of the internal stuff you're missing.
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Old 09-15-10, 02:31 AM   #24
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Gasoline is the cheapest. I suggest cloth filtering your solvents or gas so you can reuse it, since they are not bio degradable. I have a cocktail of just anything - 2-stroke oil, gasolene, naphta, acetone and nitro. I always use that if I clean chain off the bike. Otherwise I just go with fresh mild cleaning gasolene that can be bought in just any hardware/construction store.
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Old 09-15-10, 09:36 AM   #25
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U even can use regular fuel if you have some moving around for your lawn mower machine. As for the grease, dust and stains in the bike (frame, wheels, carbon parst and handlebar ribbon) nothing better than baby wipes. Cheap, they work, your hands wont be filthy after wards and the bike will get nice.
DON"T use gasoline! Gasoline contains benzene, which is a carcinogen!!!!!!!!!!! It is also extremely flammable (duh). Our fathers or grandfathers might have used it for cleaning, but we're supposed to know better now.
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