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  1. #1
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    Can "regular" alcohol be used to clean disc brakes?

    I'm not sure what rubbing/isopropyl alcohol is but from the looks of it it is not like regular alcohol (you know the one you put up to clean and desinfectate wounds and such) sorry if this sound stupid but english is not my main language so I'm not familiar with the terms used.

    Well, can anyone enlight me on the subject?

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    later free_pizza's Avatar
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    i believe both alcohols you speak of are the same...

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    Are you trying to say that rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) is not like drinking alcohol (ethanol)? They are definitely not the same for drinking, but both act the same way in terms of being a solvent.

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    so i can use vodka to clean my brakes?
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  5. #5
    later free_pizza's Avatar
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    where does drinking alcohol come up in his question?

    all he is wondering is if "regular alcohol (you know the one you put up to clean and desinfectate wounds and such)" can be used to clean disc brakes.

    But isnt that stuff that cleans and disinfects wounds actually rubbing/isopropyl alcohol?

    Unless he uses beer/vodka to clean his wounds........... but i doubt it..

  6. #6
    DEADBEEF khuon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by free_pizza
    all he is wondering is if "regular alcohol (you know the one you put up to clean and desinfectate wounds and such)" can be used to clean disc brakes.

    But isnt that stuff that cleans and disinfects wounds actually rubbing/isopropyl alcohol?
    Yes. It is.


    Quote Originally Posted by free_pizza
    Unless he uses beer/vodka to clean his wounds........... but i doubt it..
    Beer and vodka cleans some "wounds" quite nicely.
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  7. #7
    later free_pizza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by khuon
    Beer and vodka cleans some "wounds" quite nicely.
    it sure does (beer, not vodka... blechh)

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    Quote Originally Posted by free_pizza
    where does drinking alcohol come up in his question?
    I wasn't sure if he meant drinking alcohol when he said "regular alcohol" since his english isn't that great. I didn't want him to go drink isopropyl..

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    Senior Member euroford's Avatar
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    just don't use Denatured alchohal. it will leave a petrolum residue.

  10. #10
    one less horse cryptid01's Avatar
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    Why does this question come up so often? I have never cleaned my brakes with anything but soap and water incidental to washing my bike, and they have always worked just fine.

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    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by euroford
    just don't use Denatured alchohal. it will leave a petrolum residue.
    Probably not. The substances used to denature alcohol will evaporate also. Any residue left behind will be vanishingly small and shouldn't be a problem.
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    Caustic Soccer Mom apclassic9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gastro
    Why does this question come up so often? I have never cleaned my brakes with anything but soap and water incidental to washing my bike, and they have always worked just fine.
    yeah, but once you get hydraulic fluid on those brake pads, you need to clean the stuff off with alchohal
    As with mud, life, too, slides by.

  13. #13
    sarcasm meter: jerk mode santiago's Avatar
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    Is automotive brake cleaner too harsh for these discs?
    First Class Jerk

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    one less horse cryptid01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apclassic9
    yeah, but once you get hydraulic fluid on those brake pads, you need to clean the stuff off with alchohal
    It would appear that the OP (as well as the majority of riders on this forum) use mechanical discs. Why would they get hydraulic fluid on their brake pads?

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    Caustic Soccer Mom apclassic9's Avatar
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    Gasto - Maybe they dribble chain lube all over thier brakes? Gee, I don't know! Maybe they're just grease monkeys?
    As with mud, life, too, slides by.

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    Senior Member euroford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    Probably not. The substances used to denature alcohol will evaporate also. Any residue left behind will be vanishingly small and shouldn't be a problem.
    it definitly does leave a petroluem residue, how much this will effect disk brakes i'm unsure, but would not chance it. besides, isopropyl is more readily available anyways.

  17. #17
    Mean ppl SUK Fivecoolcats's Avatar
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    just put new rotors on everytime they get dirty

  18. #18
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by euroford
    it definitly does leave a petroluem residue, how much this will effect disk brakes i'm unsure, but would not chance it. besides, isopropyl is more readily available anyways.
    Denaturants are selected to give the ethanol a disagreeable taste or odor and in some cases a distinctive color. In some cases the substances added are toxic and produce gastric disturbances upon ingestion and/or other unpleasant symptoms. A large number of different "denaturants" are utilized dependent upon the use for which the ethanol is intended. These denaturants include methyl isobutyl ketone, pyronate, kerosene, acetone, turpentine, amyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, and various butyl alcohols. In some cases more than one denaturant is utilized. From http://chemcases.com/alcohol/alc-03.htm.

    The most common denaturants (in the US) are methanol, isopropyl alcohol and butyl alcohols. Those would evaporate readily and leave no residue. Of the list above only kerosene would leave a residue (not sure what pyronate is and I'm having search engine problems). Also, the denaturant isn't added in sufficient quantities to make you dead - just really sick - so the concentration is low. As I said before, any residual material would be vanishingly small.
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    Senior Member euroford's Avatar
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    okay, to state my case fwiw:

    i work as a consultant specializing in exterior wall systems, mostly high rises and other large commercial buildings. allot of this work involves sealants, and especially silicone sealants. in particular, i'm a fan of Dow Cornings products. laboratory testing by Dow Corning, and field testing by myself and others within the industry have found that denatured alcohals when used to clean susbstrates prior to sealant application leave a residue that impeads silicone sealant adhesion. thus isopropyl has become the industries product of choice for cleaning (concrete, aluminum, glass, stainless steel, ect ect ect) susbstrates in most conditions. MEK is used sometimes, it is a more aggresive solvent, but is really nasty stuff so is generally avoided for health reasons and considered overkill anyways.

    so go ahead and clean your rotors with coka cola for all i care, but to summerize: experts in my industry agree that denatured alchohal leaves residue.

  20. #20
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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  21. #21
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by euroford
    okay, to state my case fwiw:

    i work as a consultant specializing in exterior wall systems, mostly high rises and other large commercial buildings. allot of this work involves sealants, and especially silicone sealants. in particular, i'm a fan of Dow Cornings products. laboratory testing by Dow Corning, and field testing by myself and others within the industry have found that denatured alcohals when used to clean susbstrates prior to sealant application leave a residue that impeads silicone sealant adhesion. thus isopropyl has become the industries product of choice for cleaning (concrete, aluminum, glass, stainless steel, ect ect ect) susbstrates in most conditions. MEK is used sometimes, it is a more aggresive solvent, but is really nasty stuff so is generally avoided for health reasons and considered overkill anyways.

    so go ahead and clean your rotors with coka cola for all i care, but to summerize: experts in my industry agree that denatured alchohal leaves residue.
    Denatured alcohols may leave a residue that will interfer with adhesion of silicone sealants but we aren't talking about adhering silicone sealants to anything here. On a brake rotor, that very small amount of (possible) residue, would be taken off very quickly by mechanical means. Brake pads don't have to run in an absolutely clean room environment, so a few tenths of a milligram of residue isn't going to have much effect. If it did, then using disc brakes would be almost impossible.
    Stuart Black
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    Whiskey or Beer???

    Quote Originally Posted by Chone
    I'm not sure what rubbing/isopropyl alcohol is but from the looks of it it is not like regular alcohol (you know the one you put up to clean and desinfectate wounds and such) sorry if this sound stupid but english is not my main language so I'm not familiar with the terms used.

    Well, can anyone enlight me on the subject?
    You may use whatever alcohol you like. You can use Everclear if you please. None of it will harm your braking system. But none of it (not even denatured (campstove oil)) will do a very good job at getting any oils off the pads.

    If your system is contaminated, you have two choices. The easiest choice is EBC non-chlorinated brake cleaner. Just make sure you treat the pads and rotors without hitting any rubber seals. The other choice is the bake the breaking surfaces. Oh yeah ... choice three is to get new brake pads. But you still have to de-contaminate the rotors otherwise you'll just oil up your new pads.

  23. #23
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    Lubing ...

    Quote Originally Posted by gastro
    It would appear that the OP (as well as the majority of riders on this forum) use mechanical discs. Why would they get hydraulic fluid on their brake pads?
    The contamination often comes for chain lubing. In my classic example, the kid at the bike shop lubes my chain by spraying Finish Line onto the cassette while pedalling backwards. The overspray hits the rotor and contaminates the system the first time the brakes are applied.

    The second example is using any "dry" lube which ironically goes on EXTRA wet. The liquid lube splatters as you pedal backwards and gets on the rotor.

    Actually, I think I need to cut a "rotor shield" out of cardboard for lubing. I had previously bought a Pedro's Chain Keeper, then I switched to a Karate Monkey which requires you to break the chain in order to remove the rear wheel at all. It kinda defeats the whole point of the tool ;-)

  24. #24
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by willtsmith_nwi
    EBC non-chlorinated brake cleaner.
    or other commercially available non-chlor

  25. #25
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by willtsmith_nwi
    The contamination often comes for chain lubing. In my classic example, the kid at the bike shop lubes my chain by spraying Finish Line onto the cassette while pedalling backwards. The overspray hits the rotor and contaminates the system the first time the brakes are applied.

    The second example is using any "dry" lube which ironically goes on EXTRA wet. The liquid lube splatters as you pedal backwards and gets on the rotor.

    Actually, I think I need to cut a "rotor shield" out of cardboard for lubing. I had previously bought a Pedro's Chain Keeper, then I switched to a Karate Monkey which requires you to break the chain in order to remove the rear wheel at all. It kinda defeats the whole point of the tool ;-)
    you must run into some extremely messy hubs

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