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  1. #1
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    List of safe chemicals for bicycle components and paint

    I dunno how many of you worry about the effects of the various cleaner, polishing, degreasing, stripping, converting, etc on your bicycles and their various components and finishes.

    So I thought it would be helpful to start a list of chemicals that are known to be generally quite safe (with caveats if needed) to use on your bike and near your body and not worry about corroding bearing seals, ruining the paint, stripping the chrome or killing brain and skin cells.

    It would be helpful to list the chemical, what its good for, how to use it, and where to not use it.

    For example:
    -Chemical X. Good for cleaning y. Don't use it for to long or it will hurt z. Avoid inhaling fumes as it is bad for u (you).


    I'm not very knowledgeable in this area myself, but I'll start by listing a few that I use and am curious as to how safe they are to use on my bike and near myself:

    -Mineral Spirits (cleaning greasy parts)
    -Denatured Alcohol (haven't used it yet)
    -Marine Wheel Bearing Grease (repacking bearings and greasing threads)
    -Boeshield T9 (lubing nearly everything on my bike. also protecting paint chips from moisture)
    -Bar and Chain oil (lubing freewheels)

    **Barkeeper's Friend. Good for cleaning up rust as it contains oxalic acid. Be careful with rubbing it as it has some abrasives in it. Additionally, I used it last night to clean some stained pots and after a few minutes, my fingers got all gooey. Turns out, BKF was stripping away my top layer of skin and it was scary and gross to say the least. Use it with gloves and do not inhale or ingest the powder as it is very easy to do so.

    Chemicals I'm curious about:

    -Naval Jelly
    -Evapo-Rust
    -Rust converter
    -Etching primer
    Last edited by toosahn; 08-20-11 at 11:00 PM.

  2. #2
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Go online and look up the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each product in question. Almost every product you can imagine has an MSDS. Print them off and keep them in a binder in your shop in case you have an accident or need medical attention.

  3. #3
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    I'm a chemical engineer by education and profession.

    Here's a list of totally safe chemicals.




    OK, now that we have the list, there is a separate list of chemicals that are safe when used properly. Just about everything out there.



    And just because it has a common name, it does not mean it is not a chemical. Vinegar is acetic acid, baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, etc. And if you read the MSDS, just be sure to consider that they are written for the chemical in concentrated form. Most chemicals are much more hazardous in concentrated form.

    Here's some excerpts on vinegar (acetic acid):

    Acute hazards (immediate): Very hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. Hazardous in case of skin contact (corrosive, permeator), of eye contact (corrosive). Liquid or spray mist may produce tissue damage particularly on mucous membranes of eyes, mouth and respiratory tract. Skin contact may produce burns. Inhalation of the spray mist may produce severe irritation of respiratory tract, characterized by coughing, choking, or shortness of breath. Inflammation of the
    eye is characterized by redness, watering, and itching. Skin inflammation is characterized by itching, scaling, reddening, or, occasionally, blistering.

    Chronic hazards (long term): Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. CARCINOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. Mutagenic for bacteria and/or yeast. TERATOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Not available. The substance may be toxic to kidneys, mucous membranes, skin, teeth. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. Repeated or prolonged contact with spray mist may produce chronic eye irritation and severe skin irritation. Repeated or prolonged exposure to spray mist may produce respiratory tract irritation leading to frequent attacks of bronchial infection.

  4. #4
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Bar Keepers Friend = oxalic acid.

    Naval Jelly = phosphoric acid.

    Rust converter = phosphoric acid.

    Evaporust gets around disclosure by using chemicals in a really diluted form. It is VERY expensive when compared to the alternatives above.


    I wear nitrile gloves when I handle any cleaning chemical on bikes: simple green, WD40, grease, whatever.

    Read the MSDS, and you decide. What I may consider safe, may scare the heck out of you.

    Since you are already using mineral spirits, here's a couple of items from a mineral spirits MSDS:

    Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (permeator). The substance is toxic to lungs, the nervous system. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.
    Last edited by wrk101; 08-21-11 at 06:19 AM.

  5. #5
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    For those refinishing or stripping aluminum frames or parts, you must avoid strong caustics like sodium hydroxide (lye) which is a component in many paint strippers and some degreasers. Ammonia too is damaging to aluminum.

  6. #6
    Knotty Guy Anthropy's Avatar
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    MSDS forms

    If you have a quesiton on a chemical, concult the MSDS form. Material Safety Data Sheet, which is provided by the maker on any chemical. Ask for a copy from the store or go find it on line.




    Tom

  7. #7
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    I hate the concept of trying to classify stuff into "safe" and unsafe". Almost everything is better classified as relatively safe, if used properly or safer alternatives are available.

    Also you have to divide the issue of safe for the user, and OK for the bike.

    Among the short list of chemicals the OP listed, I'd take alcohol off the list as not really useful for bikes, except maybe as a water purge for chains.

    For chains, avoid anything containing chlorine in any form, and any acids. Either can attack the thin plates and embrittle them. To make sure to not affect the steel, I only wash chains (when I do) in mineral solvents that don't affect steel, like naphtha, and mineral spirits.

    Also be wary of salts which aren't a problem for humans but can be death on aluminum. Some of this exposure in unintentional, such as riding through salty puddles in the winter, or near the shore. The salt water wicks into the spoke holes, and leads to stress cracking of the rims.
    FB
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    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  8. #8
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    Well I wasn't just referring to human health safety. I also am curious about stuff that will ruin paint, chrome, or other little bits on a bike like rubber seals and plastic/delrin washers.

  9. #9
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Dawn Dish soap and water, perhaps?

  10. #10
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Low risk cleaners and degreasers include Simple Green, some citrus based cleaners, and Dawn dish soap. Be aware that some companies have caught on and begun marketing "green" and "citrus" cleaners that are just their regular products with coloring and scent added. Read the entire label, not just the hype in big print on the front.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    Low risk cleaners and degreasers include Simple Green, some citrus based cleaners, and Dawn dish soap. Be aware that some companies have caught on and begun marketing "green" and "citrus" cleaners that are just their regular products with coloring and scent added. Read the entire label, not just the hype in big print on the front.
    What's the deal with Dawn dish soap, anyway? I always see people recommending Dawn specifically but never "or any other kind of liquid dish soap". Is there something specific to Dawn's formula?

  12. #12
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    It's lemon fresh. I guess it has a decent market share in the dish soap category. Used to be Ivory, but they've lost ground in recent years.
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    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  13. #13
    Fred-ish rogerstg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ikarios View Post
    What's the deal with Dawn dish soap, anyway? I always see people recommending Dawn specifically but never "or any other kind of liquid dish soap". Is there something specific to Dawn's formula?
    It's well regarded as a degreaser for everything from dishes to animal skins based on the experience of many across numerous hobbies. There may be others that work well too, but it's cheap enough that no further experimenting is needed.

  14. #14
    jlg
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    This is a great idea!

    Hi toosahn,

    I think this is an excellent idea for compiling info on what to use and what not to use on your bicycle.

    A few of the other posters seem only to have focused on the general safety aspects of chemicals, but as a new rider, I would greatly appreciate a more extensive discussion of whether certain products (like Dawn soap or BKF) or chemicals compounds are good/safe to use on various frame metals and components for cleaning and maintenance.

    Perhaps this thread could be built up and maybe even made a sticky (under "Bike Mechanics"?).

    Thanks for thinking about this.

    Cheers,
    jlg
    Last edited by jlg; 09-04-11 at 05:34 PM. Reason: edits

  15. #15
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    When I use Simple Green, it leaves a dull finish on the bike. I'm thinking of ceasing my use of it. I use about one part SG and three parts water. What am I doing wrong?

    I recently started working at a bike shop, and there are three products we use there to make bikes shine. One is called Bike Lustre, the second is Pledge (yes, really), and the third one's name has escaped me. Of the two that are not Pledge, one is pink liquid in a spray bottle, and the other is yellow. Pedro's makes one of them. These three products work very well, but for home use, I hope I can find more economical stuff.
    Please email me rather than sending me a private message. My address is noglider@pobox.com

    Tom Reingold
    New York City and High Falls, NY
    noglider's ride blog

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