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cleaning a chain

Old 04-12-16, 07:24 AM
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cleaning a chain

I admit to being a bad person by not cleaning my chains enough.
So what process do you use for chain cleaning?
Sounds like most folks use the pint jar soak & shake method. I'll probably add a step of nailing it down to a 2x4 and taking a scrub brush to it.
What sort of solvent? Citrus degreaser? or Petrol based?
Thanks!
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Old 04-12-16, 07:30 AM
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I prefer to fill a mason jar with mineral spirits and soak it overnight. If it is very nasty then I may have to soak, scrub and soak again. The scrubbing is just to loosen up the garbage. The second soak only lasts 15 minutes. Comes out bright and shiny.
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Old 04-12-16, 07:30 AM
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Ask 10 experienced bike riders that question and you are likely to get 12, quite different, opinions.

I subscribe to the "benign neglect" school. When my chain starts to make noise I wipe off the exterior (I use a little WD-40 on the rag if it's really yucky). Then I drip the tiniest amount of chain lube that I can manage onto each link. I let it set for awhile (overnight is preferable) wipe any excess off the exterior and go riding.
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Old 04-12-16, 07:43 AM
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Two cycle engine oil and gasoline mixture works great. Provides a lube film and clean your chain at the same time. I have tried Dave Moulton's novel technique and it works very well.

Dave Moulton's Blog - Dave Moulton's Bike Blog - A different way to lube a*chain
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Old 04-12-16, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Squeezebox View Post
What sort of solvent? Citrus degreaser? or Petrol based?
Many of us here use the Oderless Mineral Spirits in a jar method as mentioned in post #2 . There are any number of products that will clean your chain but the OMS is relatively inexpensive and after letting the dirty solvent sit for a couple of days all the gunk settles to the bottom of the jar and the rest is clean, almost like new and can be re-used over and over. It's probably more environmentally safe than most other products as well since you're not pouring the dirty cleaner down the drain or on the ground, landfills, etc.
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Old 04-13-16, 04:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Crankycrank View Post
Many of us here use the Oderless Mineral Spirits in a jar method as mentioned in post #2 . There are any number of products that will clean your chain but the OMS is relatively inexpensive and after letting the dirty solvent sit for a couple of days all the gunk settles to the bottom of the jar and the rest is clean, almost like new and can be re-used over and over.
How do you separate the clean Mineral spirits from the gunk that settles at the bottom of the jar, so that you can re-use it?
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Old 04-13-16, 05:52 AM
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Let me be the one to post the usual "chain cleaning" thread pic.


"The proper way to clean a bicycle chain."

Dan
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Old 04-13-16, 06:11 AM
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All that's needed is a rag and wd-40, which is a water displacer. You don't really want to soap/water it because you don't want to get the lube out of the tighter places inside where it is supposed to be. If you are going to use soap/water, just make sure it's FULLY dry before re-lubing. I'd venture to say that most people that use soap/water are probably doing more harm than good.

WD-40, and a rag, pedal it and wipe everything off as the chain spins. Use the dry part of the towel to get it nice and dry. Then relube.
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Old 04-13-16, 06:34 AM
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I use Hoppe's Famous #9 solvent. It's designed for guns, but is great for cleaning any metal components. It's very similar in composition to WD-40, but comes in a bottle instead of pressurized so it's easier to pour into a mason jar.
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Old 04-13-16, 06:52 AM
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I just tried the OMS in a plastic Gatorade bottle trick last weekend, after having only done the wipe and lube routine, and I was blown away by how easy and effective it was!

I ride in areas that are pretty sandy, and there's always gritty crap in my chains that doesn't come out with a wipe down. I took off the chain (I had installed a wippermann) dropped it into the bottle, and shook the crap out of it for a minute. I let it sit for about ten minutes, then shook it again. When I fished the chain out, I could not believe how clean and shiny it was! And grit free!

I wiped it off and let it dry for a bit, then put it back on and lubed it. My drivetrain is incredibly quiet and smooth now!

Highly recommended!
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Old 04-13-16, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Squeezebox View Post
I admit to being a bad person by not cleaning my chains enough.
If your bad about it and it is a road bike not ridden in high silt/sand areas Retro Grouch's approach is the way to go. If a MTB or in a road bike in rough chain service (like along a coast) OMS is to me the easiest. Citrus feels "Green" but you are throwing away the cleaner when you can recycle the OMS and you have to deal with a water wet chain, drying it some way.
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Old 04-13-16, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by robert schlatte View Post
Two cycle engine oil and gasoline mixture works great. Provides a lube film and clean your chain at the same time. I have tried Dave Moulton's novel technique and it works very well.

Dave Moulton's Blog - Dave Moulton's Bike Blog - A different way to lube a*chain
DO NOT USE GASOLINE FOR PARTS CLEANING!

Gasoline has a flash point of -45F which means that it can be ignited at just about any temperature that would normally be encountered while doing bicycle maintenance. Few people are working on their bikes when it is 32F much less -45F. Gasoline also forms explosive mixtures with air at as little as 1.4% by weight of gasoline in air. Further gasoline contains a number of compounds that you don't want to be exposed to regularly.

Mineral spirits does everything that gasoline does without forming air/fuel mixtures that can burn your house down and turn you into a crispy critter.
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Old 04-13-16, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by ColonelSanders View Post
How do you separate the clean Mineral spirits from the gunk that settles at the bottom of the jar, so that you can re-use it?
You can filter it with a coffee filter or decant it from any sludge after it settles. Or, in one of those 12 opinions from 10 bicycle riders, you can avoid the issue of "gunk" by cleaning the chain once and using a dry lubricant that doesn't attract dirt. As an added benefit, you don't have to spend all that time obsessing over how to clean your chain once a week as many people do.
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Old 04-13-16, 08:12 AM
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The sludge in the mineral spirits bottle settles to the bottom by the time you are ready to clean the chain again. It will stay there when you pour off the clear liquid. I've used 1/2 gallon plastic milk jugs with a cup of mineral spirits, drop in the chain, cap and shake the bottle. Pour off and save the liquid, and fill & shake one more time. Finally, I usually rinsed out the clean chain with rubbing alcohol (which evaporates easily) and let it sit overnight or dried it with a hair dryer. Then reinstall and lube.

I used to do this at least 3 or 4 times a year, and my chains lasted a long time.

Just wipe and relube

But now, I rarely remove the chain, and they still last a long time. I dampen a paper towel with rubbing alcohol and repeatedly wipe the chain until it's clean. Then lube each pivot, crank the chain around a few times, and wipe off all the remaining lube with paper towels.

I do mostly road riding, with occasional wet roads.

This year, I've been using Chain-L, and it's been working great, and lasts a long time. I use just a little on each roller, let it wick in for at least a half hour, then wipe off completely.

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Old 04-13-16, 08:51 AM
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This year instead of using kerosene, I used the solvent Super Clean that you can get from an Auto store. This cleaner is super aggressive on grease and oil. I put the chain in a flat pan and scrubbed all four sides with a tooth brush. I rinsed it twice in boiling water, and hung it out to dry hot. After I cleaned the rest of the drive train I put the chain back on and re lubed it with Mobil 1. This seems to have worked so well it is what I will be doing in the future. It eliminates the problem of having to dispose of some sort of mineral spirits that you should not pour down the drain.
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Old 04-13-16, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
DO NOT USE GASOLINE FOR PARTS CLEANING!

Gasoline has a flash point of -45F which means that it can be ignited at just about any temperature that would normally be encountered while doing bicycle maintenance. Few people are working on their bikes when it is 32F much less -45F. Gasoline also forms explosive mixtures with air at as little as 1.4% by weight of gasoline in air. Further gasoline contains a number of compounds that you don't want to be exposed to regularly.

Mineral spirits does everything that gasoline does without forming air/fuel mixtures that can burn your house down and turn you into a crispy critter.

As Dave Moulton says in his blog, mixing gasoline/oil to clean and lube a chain will not pose any special danger to anyone who is experienced with adding gasoline to lawn mowers and automobiles or mixing fuel and oil for yard equipment. Obviously, this should not be done indoors and ordinary caution should be used but it's not like we're talking about nitroglycerin here.
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Old 04-13-16, 09:48 AM
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I clean my chains using nitroglycerin. A little goes a looooong way.
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Old 04-13-16, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by robert schlatte View Post
As Dave Moulton says in his blog, mixing gasoline/oil to clean and lube a chain will not pose any special danger to anyone who is experienced with adding gasoline to lawn mowers and automobiles or mixing fuel and oil for yard equipment. Obviously, this should not be done indoors and ordinary caution should be used but it's not like we're talking about nitroglycerin here.
Oil mixed in gasoline for 2 stroke engines is still flammable enough to ignite readily. While I may mix oil with my gas for my leaf blower, I'm not mixing it in an open vessel nor am I sloshing around parts in it. I pour the gasoline/oil mixture from one container with a small opening to another container with a small opening. Washing parts utilizes containers with much larger openings and taking the parts out of the bath to let them dry.

No, we aren't talking nitroglycerin but it's pretty close and has the potential to cause a lot of harm.
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Old 04-13-16, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Oil mixed in gasoline for 2 stroke engines is still flammable enough to ignite readily. While I may mix oil with my gas for my leaf blower, I'm not mixing it in an open vessel nor am I sloshing around parts in it. I pour the gasoline/oil mixture from one container with a small opening to another container with a small opening. Washing parts utilizes containers with much larger openings and taking the parts out of the bath to let them dry.

No, we aren't talking nitroglycerin but it's pretty close and has the potential to cause a lot of harm.
Okay. I respect that. Be safe whatever you do.
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Old 04-13-16, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Oil mixed in gasoline for 2 stroke engines is still flammable enough to ignite readily. While I may mix oil with my gas for my leaf blower, I'm not mixing it in an open vessel nor am I sloshing around parts in it. I pour the gasoline/oil mixture from one container with a small opening to another container with a small opening. Washing parts utilizes containers with much larger openings and taking the parts out of the bath to let them dry.

No, we aren't talking nitroglycerin but it's pretty close and has the potential to cause a lot of harm.
It's not like it's going to spontaneously combust. It needs an ignition source. Sloshing a chain around in it isn't going to cause an explosion. You do need to respect it and follow safe handling practices.

On a side note, most cars today have electric fuel pumps in the gas tank and use the fuel to cool the pump.
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Old 04-13-16, 07:09 PM
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I've cleaned various car and bike parts in gasoline for decades. meh, it isn't like handling live rattlesnakes...

are there better products...absolutely, but keep the hysteria in check, mmmkay.

and fwiw, I never clean a bike chain with solvents of any kind.
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Old 04-14-16, 03:33 AM
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There's always "The ShelBroCo Bicycle Chain Cleaning System".

The ShelBroCo Bicycle Chain Cleaning System

Cheers
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Old 04-14-16, 04:06 AM
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They left out that this is most effective when done every 100-150 miles of riding.
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Old 04-14-16, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by KJK View Post
It's not like it's going to spontaneously combust. It needs an ignition source. Sloshing a chain around in it isn't going to cause an explosion. You do need to respect it and follow safe handling practices.
No, it's not going to spontaneously combust but it the flash point is low enough that it doesn't need much of an ignition source to start burning. And, yes, I agree that you should respect it and follow safe handling practices...like not using gasoline for cleaning parts! There are other alternatives that do as good a job without the risks. Mineral spirits happens to be one of those alternatives.

Originally Posted by KJK View Post
On a side note, most cars today have electric fuel pumps in the gas tank and use the fuel to cool the pump.
So? It's not like the electrical contacts in the pump are sparking away in the fuel tank. The unit is sealed so that vapors aren't exposed to any spark source that could ignite the fuel. Even in the event of a failure of the seals, the contacts would be flooded and wouldn't conduct electricty...gasoline is nonpolar and nonionic. Even if you could get electricity conducted, the fuel/air mixture in a gasoline tank is too rich for combustion to occur. But once the gasoline is out of a tank...say when someone is sloshing around a chain in the stuff...the conditions for having the proper fuel/air mixture for combustion are much easier to reach.
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Old 04-14-16, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by FullGas View Post
I've cleaned various car and bike parts in gasoline for decades. meh, it isn't like handling live rattlesnakes...
It is like handling live rattlesnakes. You may get away with it for a while but the more live rattlesnakes you handle, the greater the chance you are going to get bitten. According to the American Burn Association, "gasoline-related burns account for 13,000 – 15,000 ED visits per year" as well as

• Over 140,000 fires, including 120,000 in vehicles (most of them unoccupied, fortunately).
• Over 6,000 residential fires.
• About 500 deaths.
• Nearly $500 million in direct property damage costs from gasoline-related fires.
You are probably safer handling live rattlesnakes.
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