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Old 12-27-10, 05:01 PM   #1
3alarmer
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Use of Gasoline as a Cleaning Agent

This is a cross posting from this revived thread

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...s#post11988745

in the C+V forum. I did this because it seems
important enough a topic to consider carefully,
and because over in the oldguy forum, there
appear to be a number of people who still use
the stuff:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Wanderer
No offense taken! But, by definition, mineral spirits, kerosene, diesel fuel, and any other solvents, are just as dangerous if used improperly. If it burns, it's dangerous; and, anyone using ANY solvent , should not be lulled into complacency, thinking they are safe.
Sometimes, it just pays, to pay attention, to what you are doing.
By virtue of my employment history (city fire department),
I have possibly more experience than average with the
many instances where gasoline (petrol across the pond)
used as a cleaning agent has brought someone to grief.

I suspect I will not be able to change your mind with
regard to this practice. However:

Quote:
by definition, mineral spirits, kerosene, diesel fuel, and any other solvents,
are just as dangerous if used improperly. If it burns, it's dangerous
is not quite accurate in terms of hazard evaluation for
the various flammables you have listed. What makes
gasoline particularly dangerous is its flash point as
compared to kerosene and diesel fuel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_point

When you add to this the fact that the vapors that
are gassing (unless you are outdoors in Antarctica)
are heavier than air and tend to pool and run down
hill, you begin to see the problems associated with
using it -- even outdoors.

Quote:
If you had looked
here: http://www.msdsonline.com for gasoline, you would see that the
relative vapor density is in the 3-4 range. That means that
gasoline vapors are 3-4 times as heavy as air and sink like a rock.
You'd also know that if you had ever taken quick look at the vapor
plume emanating from an open gas can. --John De Armond
My own guess as to why those of you who use it
are still here to tell us about it is that you are
respectful enough of it to use it in very small
amounts -- outdoors. I can tell you from personal
experience that a rupture in a car fuel tank spills
enough gas outdoors to provide a moderate
pucker factor when you run into it on a call.

Anyway, I can certainly regale you for hours with
various cleaning solvent disaster stories (they are
only fun to tell because they happened to others).


I am, myself, partial to deodorized kerosene as a
cleaner for certain difficult jobs on the bike, but
find myself using more and more the available
citrus based degreasers.

Just something more to think about.

Most respectfully,
Mike Larmer
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Old 12-27-10, 05:12 PM   #2
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Thank you for posting this information. It's good to hear from a professional on the subject. I know several of us feel the same way as you. We're with you 100%.
I've been lucky but I've seen what can happen when handling gasoline.
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Old 12-27-10, 05:25 PM   #3
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I have a retired fire chief buddy who still uses Gasoline as a solvent. When I chastized him he just shrugged it off since he is a fire expert.
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Old 12-27-10, 05:43 PM   #4
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This is something I've been saying for a very long time. I would add, however, that mineral spirits has a flash point of about the same as kerosene, i.e. 105F, which is far above the flashpoint of gasoline. From a health standpoint, gasoline is also highly toxic. It contains a significant amount of benzene and other aromatics (that's what gives it the low flash point and improve the octane rating). Mineral spirits and kerosene contain much smaller amounts of aromatics. Deodorized mineral spirits contain even less, which also increases its flashpoint to more like diesel.
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Old 12-27-10, 07:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
Anyway, I can certainly regale you for hours with
various cleaning solvent disaster stories (they are
only fun to tell because they happened to others).


I am, myself, partial to deodorized kerosene as a
cleaner for certain difficult jobs on the bike, but
find myself using more and more the available
citrus based degreasers.

Just something more to think about.

Most respectfully,
Mike Larmer
Thanks for the commentary, Mike. I, too, use kerosene for a solvent, but in limited amounts and with ventilation.

In "real life" I don't see what happens on site, I get to see the results- my day job is working at a hospital in Portland. Sometimes I walk through the Oregon Burn Center, where the worst cases go. They would give anybody pause.
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Old 12-27-10, 07:54 PM   #6
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I've also posted in other threads that it's not only the risk of fire. Petrochemical and other solvents can cause skin irritation up to and including badly cracked and bleeding skin due to solvent induced eczema. It does this by stripping away the oils in our skin. And once those are gone the eczema isn't the only risk. The solvents can now soak in through the layers of skin and enter the bloodstream where they cause other issues to various internal organs. And BEST of all (I'm being sarcastic here in case anyone can't tell) some of the effects are accumulative due to our system not being able to purge some of these things. So you think you're OK until one day and BAM! you develop some sort of condition that prevents you from going near any more solvents and leaves you chronically ill in some manner.

The best defense to this is good ventilation to avoid absorbtion through the lungs and good solvent resistant gloves to avoid skin contact.

Oh, and in case any of you think this is an excellent reason for using Simple Green or one of the citrus based degreasers then think again. Those things will strip the oils from your skin just as readily as they clean your parts. And none of them belong in our blood stream. Also note that pretty much all of them have corrosive warnings on the containers as well as warnings to avoid skin contact. About the only good aspect is that you don't need to worry about fume inhalation with most of them.
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Old 12-27-10, 08:01 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
Oh, and in case any of you think this is an excellent reason for using Simple Green or one of the citrus based degreasers then think again. Those things will strip the oils from your skin just as readily as they clean your parts.
Only if one is dumb enough to not wear gloves.
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Old 12-27-10, 08:24 PM   #8
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When I was working as a motorcycle mechanic, a customer insisted I make a chopper out of an old Indian for him. I tried to make him understand that he was destroying a valuable classic, but to no avail.
So I chopped it, he took it home to clean and paint it, put it in the laundry room and went for it with a rag and a bucket of gasoline. The water heater pilot light ignited the fumes and burned down the house and the bike, the owner got 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body. Probably a blessing that the bike was put out of its misery, anyway.
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Old 12-27-10, 08:28 PM   #9
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Gasoline is flammable.
Diesel is combustible.

Any questions?
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Old 12-27-10, 09:14 PM   #10
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Thank You, 3alarmer, for writing this post. When I was practicing law, the P.I. guys in the firm always had horror stories about injury cases. The things that struck me in almost every incident were how utterly simple the mechanism causing the accident was and how often it happened to someone who "knew" what they were doing. bk

Last edited by bkaapcke; 12-28-10 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 12-27-10, 10:22 PM   #11
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The story told to me long ago about using gasoline as a cleaner (mainly for chains and transmission areas) was that it did too good of a job. I tried gasoline once or twice just to see what it was all about. My conclusion was that it smelled too bad , made everything smell like gasoline but did clean very quickly. At my store I use Finish Line Ecotech2 for all my cleaning duties and am very happy with the results. I have tried quite a few other brands and none others (IMO) stand up to the fast results I get from Finish Line Ecotech2.
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Old 12-27-10, 10:36 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DieselDan View Post
Gasoline is flammable.
Diesel is combustible.

Any questions?
Gasoline vapors also go BOOM! Is it ironic when people using gasoline as a cleaner claim to know what they're doing? The subtler points of irony tend to escape me.

Oh, and part of my time in the USN was spent as Damage Control Division Officer on an aircraft carrier.
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Old 12-27-10, 10:39 PM   #13
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Amusingly, my Zyliss kitchen grater's official owner's manual suggests occasionally washing it with gasoline to strip oils and fats. Guess the Swiss have different consumer product safety standards. They didn't even caution to do this outdoors or away from open flame.

I very rarely use gasoline for cleaning -- if I need something that clean, I usually don't want the other contaminants in gasoline, either. Safer to use benzene and give it the respect it deserves.
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Old 12-27-10, 11:07 PM   #14
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My dad used to use gasoline for cleaning car parts, he owned an aircooled VW shop in the late 70's/early 80's. He had a big stainless steel tank that he dropped all the parts in. This was before/around the time I was born, I'm amazed I'm not sterile.
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Old 12-27-10, 11:07 PM   #15
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It's all about managing risks-to-rewards ratio. There are numerous solvents that provide sufficient solvent ability without all the dangers of gasoline. Same benefits, but a lot less risk.
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Old 12-27-10, 11:21 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jputnam View Post
Amusingly, my Zyliss kitchen grater's official owner's manual suggests occasionally washing it with gasoline to strip oils and fats. Guess the Swiss have different consumer product safety standards. They didn't even caution to do this outdoors or away from open flame.
Yea! Gasoline flavoured everything!
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Old 12-27-10, 11:51 PM   #17
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My favorite solvent is paint thinner. Does not evaporate fast, hard to light off, and it can be re-used. Gasoline is just too scary. Designed fire alarms for a living. Visited a surprising number of businesses that were being rebuilt due to someone who knew what they were doing doing something stupid.
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Old 12-28-10, 12:55 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al1943 View Post
Thank you for posting this information. It's good to hear from a professional on the subject.
Thanks, but in all honesty I was possibly the world's
worst fireman. I was always asking questions in the
post large event critiques about why we had acted
aggressively in a situation where only property was
at stake. Generally, this is not a great plan for
career advancement. Retirement is a blessing.

The guys who make promotion in the average big city
department are much more gung ho. Unfortunately,
like:

Quote:
I have a retired fire chief buddy who still uses Gasoline
as a solvent. When I chastized him he just shrugged it
off since he is a fire expert.
many of them suffer from "masters of disaster"
syndrome, which can really bite you in the ass.
Interestingly, it is usually someone else in the
immediate vicinity who gets hurt. Who knows
why?
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Old 12-28-10, 09:46 AM   #19
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With all the relatively safe cleaning/degreasing products out there, I can find no compelling reason to use gasoline for anything other than as a fuel source for internal combustion engines.

It's nasty. The fumes are toxic and it's loaded with carcinogens.
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Old 12-28-10, 10:15 AM   #20
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I use kerosene to clean my chain. However I only use it outside on the patio. I admit years ago on the farm I used gas to clean things, but even then it was always used outside.

A true life adventure. While on the farm dad had me pull a bunch of vines down off the windmill. Some time later he told me to burn them. It was a hot July afternoon. I poured gas in the middle of the pile and went back to a shed to get a match. Not being the dumbest person, I stood back and threw the match several feet to the pile. In that short time some gas had turned to vapor. There was a huge swooch and the pile lifted about 2 feet off the ground!!! I was not hurt, but I was intensely aware. DONT MESS WITH GAS!!!!!
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Old 12-28-10, 10:52 AM   #21
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Even if we understand the risks but go ahead and use gasoline while taking "the necessary precautions" we are human and will make mistakes that can cause great harm.
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Old 12-28-10, 11:59 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
............A true life adventure. While on the farm dad had me pull a bunch of vines down off the windmill. Some time later he told me to burn them. It was a hot July afternoon. I poured gas in the middle of the pile and went back to a shed to get a match. Not being the dumbest person, I stood back and threw the match several feet to the pile. In that short time some gas had turned to vapor. There was a huge swooch and the pile lifted about 2 feet off the ground!!! I was not hurt, but I was intensely aware. DONT MESS WITH GAS!!!!!
If you cut the gasoline with motor oil, it doesn't light off so spectacularly and seems to do a better job of getting the fire going. Opens up a whole new chapter of stupid, but there you go.
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Old 12-28-10, 12:12 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying Merkel View Post
If you cut the gasoline with motor oil, it doesn't light off so spectacularly and seems to do a better job of getting the fire going. Opens up a whole new chapter of stupid, but there you go.


Muchas gracias amigo,
Mike
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Old 12-28-10, 12:14 PM   #24
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this story was better with the French-Canadian accent, but a Canadian cyclist told me about his older brother deciding to clean his bike for a birthday present because he had no money. So he cleans it with gasoline, and it catches on fire. He runs and gets a bucket of water, spreads the gasoline everywhere and the bike is totally destroyed. The parents decided to get the older brother a new bike, and the younger brother got the brother's old bike.

I don't think any auto repair places used gasoline to clean parts on a regular basis. Kerosene was pretty common though, it's considerably safer.
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Old 12-28-10, 01:40 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
...many of them suffer from "masters of disaster"
syndrome, which can really bite you in the ass.
Interestingly, it is usually someone else in the
immediate vicinity who gets hurt. Who knows
why?
Puts me in mind of Jim Carry's character "Fire Marshal Bill" from the old comedy series "In Living Color". The funny thing is that I know a retired fire department Captain named Bill. He did investigations for the last few years of his working time. He's never seen the FMB character. I really must play some clips off Youtube for him...
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