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What can I use to clean my chain rings and cassette?

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What can I use to clean my chain rings and cassette?

Old 11-24-15, 04:36 PM
  #1  
bikerbobbbb
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What can I use to clean my chain rings and cassette?

Without taking them all apart.

I noticed some gunk on them. Velvety, grey/brown stuff. I could use elbow grease and wipe/press the stuff off, but there's probably something better. I think it's probably caked up chain wax with dirt on/in it.

I used water and paper towels on my bike the other day. What's safe to use to help clean? Lysol? Soap, like dish soap maybe? A toothbrush to scrap it a little more? Actually steel wool crossed my mind. I thought that might work, but it could scratch everything up nicely too.
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Old 11-24-15, 04:56 PM
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Simple green with a plastic scrub brush on the rear cogs. A sponge and dish soap everywhere else. (No, I'm not going to buy the ridiculously expensive "bike wash" soaps offered by bike companies.)
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Old 11-24-15, 05:21 PM
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& lots of rags..

more volatile solvents may clean better, but you have to be outside then ..
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Old 11-24-15, 05:27 PM
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1. Liberal amounts of WD-40
2. Liberal amounts of your favorite degreaser.
3. Soap and water. Scrub it really good.
4. Let dry
5. Lube with your favorite lube.
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Old 11-24-15, 05:34 PM
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Wd40, a large nylon brush, a toothbrush.
Spray a lot, brush a lot, wipe a lot, then spray a little, brush a little, and wipe a lot.
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Old 11-24-15, 06:03 PM
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x3 - WD40 is an excellent solvent for cleaning chains/cogs, just rinse it off well, and make sure you regrease the chain after it thoroughly dries.
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Old 11-24-15, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
& lots of rags..

more volatile solvents may clean better, but you have to be outside then ..
Please do not use gasoline as a solvent, as some do.
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Old 11-24-15, 06:17 PM
  #8  
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Another vote for WD-40. It's petroleum based, so it doesn't promote rust. Water and water-based cleaners do NOT belong on machinery. They are a serious mistake on chains because they penetrate the links and remain there, causing rust.

WD-40 and a toothbrush on cogs and chainrings.

Wipe the chain with a rag, oil it with 3-in-One or similar, and wipe off excess oil. That's it! Keep it simple and do it often. No chain-cleaning gadgets or removal of chain needed.

Last edited by habilis; 11-24-15 at 06:50 PM.
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Old 11-24-15, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Jamminatrix View Post
x3 - WD40 is an excellent solvent for cleaning chains/cogs, just rinse it off well, and make sure you regrease the chain after it thoroughly dries.
Hmmm... WD-40 is available by the gallon: WD-40 128 oz. 1-Gal. Penetrating Lubricant-10010 - The Home Depot

Has anyone tried removing and soaking their chain in WD-40? I've done this with kerosene as a solvent, but I wonder if I'm washing too much of the original lube away. (I reclaim the kerosene afterwards by settling and filtering out the gunk.) I speculate that WD-40 would leave a bit more lubrication in the links afterwards.

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Old 11-24-15, 09:27 PM
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One I like to use is a mix of motor oil, whatever's handy, and mineral spirits. A lot cheaper than WD and does the job every bit as well. The lubricant in WD40 is no great shakes and will need to be cleaned off, itself.
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Old 11-24-15, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Ronsonic View Post
One I like to use is a mix of motor oil, whatever's handy, and mineral spirits. A lot cheaper than WD and does the job every bit as well. The lubricant in WD40 is no great shakes and will need to be cleaned off, itself.
What weight motor oil? I presume you're using something cheap (although they're all cheap), without detergent additives.
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Old 11-24-15, 10:24 PM
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For cassette cogs I remove the rear wheel and set it on my work bench cog side up. Then I dip a shop rag in mineral spirits (or whatever solvent I have handy) fold it over once and floss it between the cogs. Since the cogs will only spin one way, it's a quick way to do a real good job of cleaning them all the way around. You might want to wear an apron while you do that.

Chain rings it depends. If they're real grotty I disassemble and clean them separately.
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Old 11-25-15, 06:33 AM
  #13  
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For $2+ tax at the dollar store:






Easy to scrub the cassette with the angled head brush and Totally Awesome degreaser is the best stuff I ever used besides kerosene.
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Old 11-25-15, 07:16 AM
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If the abrasive road grit is removed from the drive train, our job is done. The goal is to CLEAN, not to DEGREASE. People don't like the feel of grease on their hands and bodies, so they use grease-emulsifying soaps and shampoos. Machinery is a whole different story.

Petro-based solvents (mineral spirits, WD-40, kerosene, etc.), together with rags and brushes, are best suited for cleaning cogs and chainrings. Squirting water or water-based cleaners on a freewheel or freehub is likely to force water into the internal parts, where it will degrease and rust the bearings and ratcheting mechanism - the last thing we want.

Chains definitely should not be degreased. In the factory, they are dipped in extremely heavy-weight oil that has been heated until it becomes quite thin and can penetrate every link and roller. This oil then cools and becomes the sticky coating evident on new chains. Unless it is stripped out by solvents, some of this heavy, tenacious lube may remain in the links for the life of the chain. Dissolving it away is a totally wrong approach.

Brush or wipe away surface grit from the chain with a brush or rag. Oil with a light, non-detergent machine oil (20 or 30 weight). Spin the chain to distribute the oil through the chain, and wipe off.

Getting every bit of dirt off by soaking the chain in kerosene or mineral oil is a nice idea, but may actually be counter-productive for two reasons:

1. It's time consuming, so you won't do it as often as the brush-off and re-oil method. That's just human nature. Your chain will remain dirty for longer periods of time, thus more wear will occur.

2. Any solvent - especially a super-thin penetrant like WD-40 - will strip the factory lube out of the links and pins. No after-market oil is as good as the factory lube; it should be left alone.
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Old 11-25-15, 10:11 AM
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WD-40 (water displacement formula 40) was developed to prevent rust on missiles. When it dries fully it leaves a sticky film behind. It’s not a good lubricant for anything you don’t want to re-lube often. It’s a good solvent, just realize you need to clean it off and replace it with something that does not dry into a sticky mess.
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Old 11-25-15, 11:02 AM
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The stickyness on a new chain I thought was a coating to prevent corrosion. I personally use simple green, hose it off once done. I may even soak the chain in it. Once clean, I will give it a shot of wd-40 let it dry then relube. The cogs, I pull mine off the wheel then hit them with brake cleaner and a scrub brush. Mine look like new now and believe me, they were nasty!
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Old 11-25-15, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by habilis View Post
If the abrasive road grit is removed from the drive train, our job is done. The goal is to CLEAN, not to DEGREASE. People don't like the feel of grease on their hands and bodies, so they use grease-emulsifying soaps and shampoos. Machinery is a whole different story.

Petro-based solvents (mineral spirits, WD-40, kerosene, etc.), together with rags and brushes, are best suited for cleaning cogs and chainrings. Squirting water or water-based cleaners on a freewheel or freehub is likely to force water into the internal parts, where it will degrease and rust the bearings and ratcheting mechanism - the last thing we want.

Chains definitely should not be degreased. In the factory, they are dipped in extremely heavy-weight oil that has been heated until it becomes quite thin and can penetrate every link and roller. This oil then cools and becomes the sticky coating evident on new chains. Unless it is stripped out by solvents, some of this heavy, tenacious lube may remain in the links for the life of the chain. Dissolving it away is a totally wrong approach.

Brush or wipe away surface grit from the chain with a brush or rag. Oil with a light, non-detergent machine oil (20 or 30 weight). Spin the chain to distribute the oil through the chain, and wipe off.

Getting every bit of dirt off by soaking the chain in kerosene or mineral oil is a nice idea, but may actually be counter-productive for two reasons:

1. It's time consuming, so you won't do it as often as the brush-off and re-oil method. That's just human nature. Your chain will remain dirty for longer periods of time, thus more wear will occur.

2. Any solvent - especially a super-thin penetrant like WD-40 - will strip the factory lube out of the links and pins. No after-market oil is as good as the factory lube; it should be left alone.
+1. This is very good advice.
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Old 11-25-15, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
What weight motor oil? I presume you're using something cheap (although they're all cheap), without detergent additives.
Whatever's handy. This is just a splash so that the newly cleaned parts aren't completely stripped. For lubrication and long term corrosion prevention I actually spend money.
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Old 11-25-15, 12:05 PM
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I use strands from mop head refills to "floss" the cassette.
They are the proper thickness to get in between the individual cogs and because they are cotton they are really absorbent and soak up all the gunk.
$7 from Home Depot for a whole season's (or more!) worth of cleaning.

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Old 11-25-15, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Wrenchspinnerjr View Post
The stickyness on a new chain I thought was a coating to prevent corrosion. I personally use simple green, hose it off once done. I may even soak the chain in it. Once clean, I will give it a shot of wd-40 let it dry then relube. The cogs, I pull mine off the wheel then hit them with brake cleaner and a scrub brush. Mine look like new now and believe me, they were nasty!
This video shows the chain manufacturing process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZTz6nx39GU
They dip the chain in hot oil at about 4:10 minutes into the video. It's not just an anti-corrosion film, it's the best, longest-lasting lube for a chain.

Heating a heavy-weight oil is the best way to get a tenacious lubricant onto every internal surface. Doing it at home, however, is not advisable. You could burn the house down or scald yourself. At a minimum, you'd stink the place up.

I believe the factory lube will remain in the tight-fitting parts of the chain, provided it isn't chemically stripped off with a solvent. I also think dirt contaminants can't get into the tight spots easily; they remain on the outside surfaces UNLESS a solvent carries them deeper into the chain. So, in my opinion, solvents do more harm than good.

Just brush off dirt with a rag or toothbrush. Re-oil and wipe off the excess. You're done in less than 5 minutes.

Last edited by habilis; 11-25-15 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 11-25-15, 12:35 PM
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Good info. I just learned something new
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Old 11-25-15, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
& lots of rags..

more volatile solvents may clean better, but you have to be outside then ..
u also have to make sure that the solvent itself stays outside all your bearings! i accidentally got a tiny bit of degreaser in my freewheel and now it sounds like a train car.
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Old 11-25-15, 03:20 PM
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If it is a cassette - pull it off the wheel, and run it through the dish washer on the top shelf. Chain rings can go on the bottom. Take it easy on the dishwasher soap.

If it is a freewheel - clean in place, or remove and clean carefully, rebuilding it is not for the faint of heart.
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Old 11-25-15, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by gaytrash View Post
u also have to make sure that the solvent itself stays outside all your bearings! i accidentally got a tiny bit of degreaser in my freewheel and now it sounds like a train car.
If you have a freewheel, you may be able to fix it. Flush it with WD-40 by squirting into the gap between the spinning part and the central, stationary part. Swirl it around and let it drain thoroughly. Follow up with a light machine oil. Spin the FW to distribute the oil.
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Old 11-26-15, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by KLiNCK View Post
I use strands from mop head refills to "floss" the cassette.
They are the proper thickness to get in between the individual cogs and because they are cotton they are really absorbent and soak up all the gunk.
$7 from Home Depot for a whole season's (or more!) worth of cleaning.

Brilliant !!
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