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  1. #1
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    Steam Cleaning Stuff

    I just saw a sale on a small, hand held steam cleaner for $50. Has anyone tried steam cleaning their chain? cassette? Do you think it would work well?
    Giant FCR1 2008

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    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Occasionally- I take the dirty- oily Grubby bits into work to clean in our Hot bath. No problem on them but I would be loath to use a steam cleaner anywhere near a bearing or Paint.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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    Steam cleaners are actually producing small droplets of hot water under pressure. Those droplets will go into very small places and penetrate past seals if there is any, even very small, defect in the seal. The steam will go past seals that are not designed to stop the high pressure fluid. Because the liquid under pressure can get into very small places sometimes it is very difficult to get it out again.


    I should add that an auto detailer bought me new ignition coils and cables plus had to do some other repair work because his steam cleaner did a way too good job on my motor vehicle engine. On another case steam (water droplets) got into some tight fitings that look a lot like the chain links and caused corrosion.
    Last edited by HawkOwl; 11-25-09 at 09:52 PM. Reason: Add pertinent info.
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    Mystery Meat gitarzan's Avatar
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    WD40 and a steel brush gets 99%.

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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Steam is super heated water. Not good on bike parts/bearings!

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    Timely post. I just bought a steam wallpaper remover device. Got a big job and it was cheaper to buy than rent.

    Have already used it to steam clean a section of tile floor in the kitchen. Worked well but took a lot of time. Also used it to clean the metal filter in the stove vent. Worked ok. I am planning to try it on an old chain or cassette to see if it works. Will update when this experiment is done.

    Keep in mind the type of home devices out there are very low pressure steam. I doubt the thing I have would penetrate past the seals mentioned above. The thing I bought is more like a big hot pot with a hose on the end of it. Certain it would not remove paint.

  7. #7
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    If I were to try this on the cassett I would be very careful not to get the steam close to the bearings and seals - even if it is low pressure. Not only must you worry about pressure forcing water past the seals, you also need to be concerned about the heat damaging the seals - they may not be rated for it. I would be less concerned about the chain, they are made to take water and work oil in to displace it. However - in general I would question the need for any of this, I use mild soap and a moderately stiff floor brush from the HW store and my cassett and chain come out looking brand new and I spend less than 10 minutes on them.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
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    If it's steam, it may be hot enough to be outside the temperature range of the seals and plastics used on a bike. I avoid water on bikes much less steam. Even my mountain bike rarely sees water as I brush the (dried) mud off and if necessary, use a damp rag to make it look presentable.

    I stopped "deep-cleaning" chains years ago. I use self cleaning chain lubes. After each ride, I run the chain through a terry cloth rag (cheap at Sams) to get the accumulation off. Every 4 or 5 rides, less or more depending on conditions (and every time after rain) I lube the chain. After applying the lube to a chain section, I immediately wipe it off.

    The intent is not to lube the outside of the chain, but just the inside of the rollers and the inside of side plates. Lube left on the outside of the chain does not reduce chain or gear wear, it just picks up dirt which does cause gear wear whether there's lube there or not.

    My chain/gear life life seems about the same as the "deep-cleaning" approach, but the work and mess is a heck of a lot less. I do check chain stretch, the killer of rings/cogs often.

    Al

  9. #9
    Schwinnasaur Schwinnsta's Avatar
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    I wonder if a steam iron would work for this? Not a lot of pressure. It might take out any wrinkles.

  10. #10
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alcanoe View Post
    If it's steam, it may be hot enough to be outside the temperature range of the seals and plastics used on a bike. I avoid water on bikes much less steam. Even my mountain bike rarely sees water as I brush the (dried) mud off and if necessary, use a damp rag to make it look presentable.

    I stopped "deep-cleaning" chains years ago. I use self cleaning chain lubes. After each ride, I run the chain through a terry cloth rag (cheap at Sams) to get the accumulation off. Every 4 or 5 rides, less or more depending on conditions (and every time after rain) I lube the chain. After applying the lube to a chain section, I immediately wipe it off.

    The intent is not to lube the outside of the chain, but just the inside of the rollers and the inside of side plates. Lube left on the outside of the chain does not reduce chain or gear wear, it just picks up dirt which does cause gear wear whether there's lube there or not.

    My chain/gear life life seems about the same as the "deep-cleaning" approach, but the work and mess is a heck of a lot less. I do check chain stretch, the killer of rings/cogs often.

    Al
    Same here, except I like to lube the chain and let it sit overnight before wiping it off (if I have the luxury of time).
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
    Same here, except I like to lube the chain and let it sit overnight before wiping it off (if I have the luxury of time).
    Now that you mention it, I do the same as the directions on the lubes I use requires it. I guess that's to let it dry so it will collect less dirt.

    Al

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    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alcanoe View Post
    Now that you mention it, I do the same as the directions on the lubes I use requires it. I guess that's to let it dry so it will collect less dirt.

    Al
    I figured it was to allow the lube more time to work into the chain parts before wiping it off.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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    Too much fastidiousness here, seems to me. Chains are so easy to clean with any of a dozen different chain cleaners designed for the job that it's hardly worth experimenting. I have an old Pedro's and another one I can't recall, and once you learn to use them, you can go a good-enough job in a couple of minutes. Modern chain lubes don't collect dirt the way the old ones did anyway--I use ProLink, and I probably only clean my chain every 2000 miles or so these days.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexdrozd View Post
    I just saw a sale on a small, hand held steam cleaner for $50. Has anyone tried steam cleaning their chain? cassette? Do you think it would work well?
    Don't do it big risk of damaging you parts
    Pat5319


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    A LBS is famous for offering steam cleaning service for bikes, he often has a backlog and people wait a week to get their bike clean, he has been doing it for 5+ years. A bunch of the people I ride with have their bikes steam-cleaned more than once a year and nobody has ever ever a problem in the years they've been doing it. Since I've never seen it done I don't want to mislead people, I'm not sure how he does it, maybe he only uses the steam on some parts? But I have to say the result is showroom clean, pretty amazing. I've never done it becuase like others on this forum, I don't need my bike to look like it is from the showroom, especially for $100/cleaning.

    Which brings to me to how I found this forum. Harbor freight has a sweet steam cleaner for $99. I thought I could do my own cleaning forever for a one-time $99 cost. And I could use it for other things as well, but the biek jumped out at me right away based on the great results of steam cleaning I've seen on other's bikes. So I set out to search about other people's success. I was surprised to frind this thread and to see the consensus seems to be negative for steam cleaning.

    It seems to me using steam would be far less dangerous than any type of solvent. I'd pause much longer before using any type of solvent or cleaner than I would before using steam. Solvents with the force of a human arm and brush get past seals as well, however once solvents get into those places that actually prevent future lubrant from working properly ever again unless you can get the solvent out of those places.

    The steam simply reduces the viscosity of the grease/gunk on your drive train so it actually drips off and takes with it all the grit and grime. However since it isn't a solvent it doesn't destroy oil like cleaners do, and if it gets past a seal, a good lube job would push the water back out (oil and water don't mix).

    In fact cleaning with team would leave a very thin film of good oil on all surfaces that originally had lubricant on them. I can't picture any seals or areas on my bike that would be extra sensitive to hot water. I didn't notice anyone actually mentioning a specific seal they were concerned about, which ones are those against steam thinking of?

    I just wanted to share my different viewpoint and experience with this local shop for others who might come upon this subject.
    Last edited by Big6ft6; 08-13-10 at 08:42 AM.

  16. #16
    17yrold in 64yrold body
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big6ft6 View Post
    A LBS is famous for offering steam cleaning service for bikes, he often has a backlog and people wait a week to get their bike clean, he has been doing it for 5+ years. A bunch of the people I ride with have their bikes steam-cleaned more than once a year and nobody has ever ever a problem in the years they've been doing it. Since I've never seen it done I don't want to mislead people, I'm not sure how he does it, maybe he only uses the steam on some parts? But I have to say the result is showroom clean, pretty amazing. I've never done it becuase like others on this forum, I don't need my bike to look like it is from the showroom, in fact I'm pretty bad at keeping my driveline clean.

    Which brings to me to how I found this forum. Harbor freight has a sweet steam cleaner for $99. I thought I could do my own cleaning and wanted to search about other people's success. I was surprised to see the consensus seems to be negative for steam cleaning.

    It seems to me using steam would be far less dangerous than any type of solvent. I'd pause much longer before using any type of solvent or cleaner than I would before using steam. Solvents with the force of a human arm and brush get past seals as well, however once solvents get into those places that actually prevent future lubrant from working properly ever again unless you can get the solvent out of those places.

    The steam simply reduces the viscosity of the grease/gunk on your drive train so it actually drips off and takes with it all the grit and grime. However since it isn't a solvent it doesn't destroy oil like cleaners do, and if it gets past a seal, a good lube job would push the water back out (oil and water don't mix).

    In fact cleaning with team would leave a very thin film of good oil on all surfaces that originally had lubricant on them. I can't picture any seals or areas on my bike that would be extra sensitive to hot water. I didn't notice anyone actually mentioning a specific seal they were concerned about, which ones are those against steam thinking of?

    I just wanted to share my different viewpoint and experience with this local shop for others who might come upon this subject.
    This all sounds good in theory. In practice, water causes rust, and many bearings are steel, with steel races as well. I would just as soon not take the chance that steam would NOT cause rust or corosion in any of the moving parts of my bike.
    Last edited by badamsjr; 08-12-10 at 05:33 PM.

  17. #17
    Crispy Member ahsposo's Avatar
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    So lets Go Way Off Topic!

    Is this Harbor Freight Cleaner good for automobile carpets or small home textiles? I want something to clean teenager grunge off fabric and textiles and have it portable and cheap.
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  18. #18
    17yrold in 64yrold body
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
    So lets Go Way Off Topic!

    Is this Harbor Freight Cleaner good for automobile carpets or small home textiles? I want something to clean teenager grunge off fabric and textiles and have it portable and cheap.
    Wouldn't it be easier to just steam clean the teenagers?

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    To Badams Jr's point - If you've ever ridden in the rain or if your bike has been out in hot humid day, and then parked in a cool garage over night, it is too late to protect your bike from water. The steam cleaners are not like a pressure washers, they don't jet out steam at high pressure so they're not going to force water anywhere that water hasn't already gotten before. When the steam vapor condenses it results in very small amounts of liquid water much less than if you rode your bike in the rain. In fact I would argue that even if you don't ride in the rain, there is a chance your bike sees this amount of water already just from condensation of water vapor in the air during temperature changes in the environment.

    I think all the fear on this thread regarding steam is from people's incorrect assumptions rather than fact. So far the only actual experience I've seen referenced on this thread is mine, which is people have been steam cleaning for a long time without problems. Obviously to each his own, but I'd hate for people to find this thread and be put off from a potentially great, efficienct and effective cleaning process based on incorrect assumptions.

    Ahsposo - I think it will do those things!! (and maybe clearn your bike!!) You should read the lady's review on the HF website. She uses it for everything. Just go to www.harborfreight.com and search for "steam".

    Peace out gents...it's bed time!
    Last edited by Big6ft6; 08-13-10 at 08:46 AM.

  20. #20
    Crispy Member ahsposo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badamsjr View Post
    Wouldn't it be easier to just steam clean the teenagers?
    I'd like to find someplace to send him for 20 to 30 years and let him mature into a human being. His mother wants to keep him close, however.
    Quote Originally Posted by toddles View Post
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  21. #21
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
    I'd like to find someplace to send him for 20 to 30 years and let him mature into a human being. His mother wants to keep him close, however.
    I know what you mean.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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    I just found this....I don't know what the LBS that offers "steam" cleaning does (maybe only frames?)...but this info is tempering my enthusiasm, be careful if you try this.

    from a motorcycle website "The high pressures and temperatures created by power washers and steam cleaners will wash the grease right out of a standard chain, which is bad enough, but at least you've got a fighting chance of getting it back in there. However, when those types of washers are used on an O-ring chain, the heat and pressure not only remove the lubricant but can also deform or damage the O-rings. Unfortunately even the best aerosol chain sprays won't be able to force the fresh lubricant past the O-rings (damaged or not), so what you'll be left with is a clean, albeit dry chain that's going to have a very short and unhappy life"
    Last edited by Big6ft6; 08-13-10 at 09:41 AM.

  23. #23
    17yrold in 64yrold body
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    I did not say it as well as that article, but that was what I was referring to: rain washes some of your lube off, but since oil and water don't mix, there is still a thin layer of lube on things. Steam washes things clean so no lube remains. That causes rust to start.

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