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Thread: Mineral Spirits

  1. #1
    Senior Member Bobsled's Avatar
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    Mineral Spirits

    Questions for those of you who use mineral spirits to clean your chains, how long do you soak your chain in it? I just bought some at Home Depot and poured it into a wide mouth container and it turns out I bought the environmentally friendly version (milky white). Is this stuff any good?
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    I suspect you didn't purchase mineral spirits, but rather an environmentally friendly substitute for them (it).

    Mineral spirits, is (are?) water white, meaning clear and transparent like water and are a petroleum distillate used as an alternative to turpentine as paint thinner or brush cleaner.

    Since all I know about what you bought it what it isn't, I can't give you any opinion as to how it'll work, or how to best use it.

    BTW- hopefully a real expert will post and tell me if mineral spirits takes singular or plural pronouns and verbs.
    Last edited by FBinNY; 03-23-11 at 09:49 AM.
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    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    With the right water clear spirits a quick swirl around is generally all it takes. No idea how long it would take for this "environmentally friendly" version you have. But if it turns black'ish pretty quick then it's working.

    Cleaning out the joints in the chain is more important than the outside. In the joints of the pins and bushings is where the grit stays buried and works like a grinding paste. For that reason I prefer the three brush cleaning gizmo that goes on the chain while it's on the bike. Passing the chain around the "corners" in the gizmo encourages a better flow of the solvent through the joints. And it eliminates the need to remove the chain and handling it. All in all a win every which way you look at it. Dunking and swishing in a jar can't ensure the same sort of flushing of the joints because there's no way to guarantee that all the links are receiving the same cleaning.
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    Another vote for chain scrubbers

    I`ve used both the Park Tool and Finish Line and both use less solvent than a bottle and both use magnets to extract ferrous particals from the solvent during the scrubbing process.

    Regardless of chain scrubber or bottle approach - a final cleaning with clean solution should be part of the process. The contaminated solution can be filtered and used for part cleaning etc

    Minutes is enough - if the solvent is actually effective it doesn`t need hours to do the job. Agitation is definately required.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bobsled's Avatar
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    Thanks. I'll give what I have a try. If it doesn't cut the mustard, then I'll pick up the real stuff.

    My plan anyway was to soak the chain for 1/2 or so while I clean the rest of the bike then pull out the chain and scrub it good with a tooth brush give it a quick dip again to wash off loose crap then allow to air dry. Re-install and relube.

    FYI, I got a plastic coffee can and put a plastic lid with a bunch of holes in it, suspended the lid about an inch off the bottom to allow the slit and crap to settle on the bottom the whole while keeping the chain safe and sound away from all that.

    Anyway, that's the plan.
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    Another vote for the machines (used with the chain on the bike). The only time I remove a chain is to replace it.

    I use mineral spirits or kerosene, not a "green" substitute.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Mineral spirits, is (are?) water white, meaning clear and transparent like water and are a petroleum distillate used as an alternative to turpentine as paint thinner or brush cleaner.
    Fingernails on the chalk board*

    Chemicals are colorless or the have color. There is no 'clear' color. Chemicals can also be cloudy. They can be cloudy and colorless -think milk- or they can have a color and be cloudy -think milk in tea.

    Sorry but Dr. Salzman hammered that lesson home with incredible force. Along with the difference between a balance- used to determine mass- and scales - things on fishes

    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    BTW- hopefully a real expert will post and tell me if mineral spirits takes singular or plural pronouns and verbs.
    Mineral spirits are plural like drinking alcohol is referred to as 'spirits' (plural).

    I would suspect that the green spirits Bobsled has picked up is an emulsion of some part of the mineral spirits (likely the larger carbon chains), water and an emulsifier. The emulsifier may be a detergent of some kind. I did find this on the Rockler website:

    2) Submitted by Cathy, from Irmo, SC on 10/21/2010
    Customer Rating: Customer Review Rating: 1.0
    I used this product the store was out of the regular stuff to clean the parts of a spray gun. It was not nearly as effective as regular mineral spirits. It also claims to be less irritating to the skin. I have never had mineral spirits bother my skin at all and for the last couple of weeks I have used it daily, most of the time without gloves. Well, a bit of this leaked down into my gloves and the backs of my hands are fried. Two hours later and they are still burning like fire. I washed my hands as directed, but it does no good. It is very painful and it looks as if it is going to require medical attention. If you choose to use this product please do not let it contact your skin.
    I've found other reviews that say the stuff doesn't work as well as regular but no one complaining about chemical burns. The real mineral spirits does a great job of removing lubrication from the chain. I shake mine in a bottle for about 30 seconds which is usually more then enough.

    *To be honest, fingernails on a chalk board don't bother me...nor can I be tickled. I'm even able to drive everyone else up the wall by scraping my fingernails over chalk boards. Put evil laughter here
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post

    Mineral spirits are plural like drinking alcohol is referred to as 'spirits' (plural).

    real mineral spirits does a great job of removing lubrication from the chain.
    If plural as you say, then they "do" a great job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943 View Post
    If plural as you say, then they "do" a great job.
    I'm sure glad I started this grammar lesson.
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    Get an old Ragu jar or something like it. Put the chain and mineral spirits in it and shake for about 2 or three minutes. Drain it. You can filter it for reuse. Put a little Dawn and water in and shake. Rinse it until it's clean. Measure it and if it has not worn to 1/16" in 12" of chain reinstall and lube it.
    After 700 miles, repeat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidad View Post
    Get an old Ragu jar or something like it..
    Warning, be careful which jars you choose. I used pickle jars of almost 40 years, but had to quit. They Don't make jars as strong anymore, Now I'm using some thick-walled Jelly jars. It hasn't gotten to the point that I make my food purchases based on the jars, but it's getting close.
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    the reason mineral spirits is used is that it evaporates quickly. not sure if the environmental green stuff will do that.

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    Senior Member vredstein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobsled View Post
    Questions for those of you who use mineral spirits to clean your chains, how long do you soak your chain in it? I just bought some at Home Depot and poured it into a wide mouth container and it turns out I bought the environmentally friendly version (milky white). Is this stuff any good?
    I use a metal dog bowl and nylon bristled grout brush. Never use a wire brush. It scratches the hell out of the chain, creating a rough surface perfect for dirt and crud to rest in, making the next cleaning a pain.

    1. fill bowl 1 cm deep with mineral spirits, lay the chain out in the bowl, soak for 10 minutes
    2. scrub the rollers and side plates one section at a time, while the rest of the chain is still soaking
    3. hang the chain
    4. pour the used mineral spirits into a jar, using cheese cloth to strain out the major gunk
    5. wipe down the bowl with a paper towel and refill 1cm deep with clean mineral spirits
    6. gently swirl the chain around for the final rinse
    7. repeat 3 and 4.
    Next time I clean the chain, I use the jar of used mineral spirits for the initial cleaning.
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    Here is my process. I'm not sure if it is good or bad, but this is what I have been doing:

    I have two metal coffee cans. One is mostly full with mineral spirits (or kerosene, if that is what I have at the time). The other is empty. I put the dirty chain in the empty can. Then I pour half the mineral spirits into the can with the chain. I swish the can around for 30 seconds or so, then I pour the spirits back into the first can. The liquid that pours out of the can with the chain is very dirty. I cover the cans and allow them to sit for a day or two so that the dirt falls to the bottom and clear liquid is on top. I then pour half the spirits into the can with the chain again, swish it around, and pour back into the dirty can.

    I repeat this process 4 or 6 times. Each time the spirits that leaves the chain can is cleaner. Then I take the chain out, dry and lube it, and put it back on the bike. I rotate between two chains.

    I decant the mineral spirits and save it for the next chain cleaning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JPMacG View Post
    Here is my process. I'm not sure if it is good or bad, but this is what I have been doing: .
    Not a bad system, though my reading says this will take you about a week. Why not a third can, 1- source solvent, 2- wash, 3- output. That will let you do the multiple baths without waiting for the solvent to settle between each bath.

    Also be aware, that while mineral spirits evaporate dry, kerosene doesn't and will remain within the spaces of your chain compromising your first lube application.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943 View Post
    If plural as you say, then they "do" a great job.
    You missed 'The'. Real mineral spirits do a great job. The real mineral spirits - as opposed to the green kind - does a great job. 'The' implies singular like a brand.
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    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Warning, be careful which jars you choose. I used pickle jars of almost 40 years, but had to quit. They Don't make jars as strong anymore, Now I'm using some thick-walled Jelly jars. It hasn't gotten to the point that I make my food purchases based on the jars, but it's getting close.
    I don't use glass. I use Gatorade screw top bottles...after washing, of course. The PET stands up to mineral spirits well, they are unbreakable and, if you want, when you are done you can cut to top off to remove the chain. I find the 20 oz ones to be just about right. The cap seals quite well and you can agitate the bejebbers out of them. No need to scrub.
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  18. #18
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post

    Also be aware, that while mineral spirits evaporate dry, kerosene doesn't and will remain within the spaces of your chain compromising your first lube application.
    Maybe down where you actually have to chew the air before you breathe it. Up here, where the oxygen wisps out of the air like fine wine (15% reduction in air pressure), just about anything will evaporate

    I do agree that kerosene is a poor choice. But for people who use it, I'd let a little solar radiation aid in the evaporation process. Hang the chain in a sunny spot and the temperature will rise because of the darkness of the steel. I do that with mineral spirits too. It just speeds things up.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    I think that your altitude counts for easily as much as you just jokingly suggested. The low odor paint thinner I use down here only a couple of hundred feet above sea level can take a good ten to 20 minutes to evaporate if it's just a thin coating and if the object is sitting in the sun. If in a cool non sunny place I'd be looking at more like an hour for a thin film of it to evaporate. A small container or can left with an open top can take a few days before it reduces by even a quarter inch.

    I know we've had this discussion in threads before and for a while I was sure that we were calling two different products by the same name since your experience at your altitude is so different from what I see down here where we chew our air....

    Similarly down this way kerosene WILL evaporate but even a thin film of it would take at least a day. And since a lot of kerosene seems to have other distillates in with it I find it tends to leave an oily film that may or may not evaporate given enough weeks or months.
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    I got good results using a cleaner called 'Roll-Off' and boiling water for a chain that was off the bike. I use a Tupperware pitcher with a lid, put the chain in, add about a tablespoon of cleaner, add about a cup or so of boiling water and shake (if you do this you have to vent the top or it will blow off). I did this three or four times and the chain got pretty clean. After air-drying, I put the chain in a 16 oz. measuring cup with a wad of paper towel under it and sprayed it down with Boeshield T9, which displaces water, cleans and leaves a waxy lubricant. The paper was to absorb any displaced moisture to keep it away from the chain. After this I used a double-bent pipe cleaner to get any remaining dirt between the rollers, re-sprayed with T9, worked the chain over with a toothbrush, sprayed again with T9 and finally wiped it down. At this point its ready to install.
    I cleaned another chain on the bike with an old Allsop spray can with clamp-on triple brush cleaner head that had been stored for 15 years. This actually worked great, and the clamp-on head will fit other spray cans. This chain wasn't very dirty to start with. This system is messy and I had to use rags and paper towels to wipe the fluid off the garage floor and bike. This is most likely why this type of chain cleaner system became obsolete.
    Cleaning the chain and driveline of a derailleur bike is my least-favorite bike job, but it is the one service that makes the most difference in appearance and smooth operation.
    Inquiring minds want to know.

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    Never argue with mathmaticians, engineers or idiots, you will always loose. Wearing vynle gloves, I carefully spray WD-40 on my chains with a rag underneath. Wipe dry. Apply 3 in 1 oil with a chip brush, then wipe dry again, but not too dry, works great. I have a chain cleaning tool for my mtn bike, and use simple green in it, but it makes a mess on my floor, so I spread newspaper out. I do not use a cleaning agent on my road bikes that has no lubricating qualities. I have tried all the expensive bike shop lubricants, even tried the omnipotent hot melted wax. You have to be insane, stupid, or wealthy to use an expensive or time consuming method to clean your chain, they stay clean for a matter of hours, and I like a clean drivetrain, they shift so much better.

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    Senior Member Chombi's Avatar
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    Mineral spirits is definitely not as harsh as laquer thinner or brake cleaner, but none-the-less a chemical solvent that you should take care using around your environment. Otherwise, you can elave a chain in mineral spirits for days, months, years in a sealed jar if you want and it will not harm the chain....you'll just have a very clean chain in the end.

    Chombi

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    I leave my chain in mineral spirits to clean it about a month, usually about 600-800 miles. I rotate through two chains. The one in the jar gets a good shaking every few days.

    And yeah, jars aren't as strong as they used to be. Shake too vigorously and you'll get a few pieces of broken glass and a nasty mess of black mineral spirits on your garage floor....

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    I use that enviro friendly Home Depot Mineral Spirits with the same great results as the smelly original stuff. Soak it for a few minutes, then use the brush to clean out the insides of the chain. Or, put the cloudy mineral spirits in a Park (or similar) chain cleaner. Wipe the chain dry, then lube it. Done!
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    Go to your FLAPS, and get a can of parts cleaner. It includes a basket to dunk/remove whatever you're cleaning. Reusable many, many times.

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