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  1. #1
    Can'tre Member 3alarmer's Avatar
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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:


    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:

    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.

    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
    Quote Originally Posted by Al Dvorin
    Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and goodnight

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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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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    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.

  4. #4
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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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.
    Stuart Black
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  5. #5
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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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.
    Jeff Wills

    All my bikes.

  6. #6
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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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.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  7. #7
    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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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.

  8. #8
    Old Fogy
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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.

  9. #9
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Gasoline is flammable.
    Diesel is combustible.

    Any questions?
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

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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 03:09 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member TLCFORBIKES's Avatar
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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.

  12. #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.

  13. #13
    Senior Member jputnam's Avatar
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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.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jputnam/collections/72157604835074312/

  14. #14
    Eternal n00b
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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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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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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.

  16. #16
    Senior Member clasher's Avatar
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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!

  17. #17
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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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.

  18. #18
    Can'tre Member 3alarmer's Avatar
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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:

    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?
    Quote Originally Posted by Al Dvorin
    Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and goodnight

  19. #19
    30 YR Wrench BikeWise1's Avatar
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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.

  20. #20
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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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!!!!!

  21. #21
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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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.
    RANS V3 (steel), RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

  22. #22
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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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.

  23. #23
    Can'tre Member 3alarmer's Avatar
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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
    Quote Originally Posted by Al Dvorin
    Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and goodnight

  24. #24
    Randomhead
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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.

  25. #25
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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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...
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

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