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Chain cleaning

Old 06-29-16, 05:37 AM
  #1  
DrRobert
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Chain cleaning

I've been using one of those cleaning tools you attach to the chain and spin.

I am all over the place with solutions. I have used orange citrus degreaser, Simple Green, Dawn detergent and mineral spirits. I think I get best results with the degreaser and Dawn.

I like mineral spirits the least because it seems to leave a grimy coating which just keeps reappearing.

A solvent has advantage that you don't rinse with water, which means you don't have to blow it out or wait till dry before oiling.

I recently came across someone who uses a combo of diesel and gas looked like it worked really well, but I don't want the disposal issues.

My nephew advocates removing chain and shaking in a 1 liter bottle of very hot, soapy water. He's a mountain biker.

Opinions on the above comments + What do you use and how do you do it?

Thanks!
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Old 06-29-16, 06:14 AM
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I do not think that blowing the chain out will remove all of the water from the tiny crevices. Waiting for it to dry has even poorer results; think of water trapped between two panes of glass, it takes pretty much forever for it to totally disappear. I put the chain on a pan into a 250F oven for a half hour which vaporizes the water and ensures that it is all removed. I use quick links and remove the chain for cleaning.
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Old 06-29-16, 06:34 AM
  #3  
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The chain on my road bike never gets dirty enough to need anything more than wiping and re-lubing.
The chain lube itself does clean. So I'll saturate a cloth with it and turn the pedals while wiping top, outsides, bottom thoroughly. I'll then use another spot to clean the derailleur pulley and any gunk built up on any cogs.
Then I apply lube to the chain, shift through all the gears a few times while spinning the cranks.
Wipe off excess.

--

On my mountain bike, I just use WD-40 to clean the chain. Apply liberally and wipe clean. Instead of forcing water into crevices, you're putting a water displacer in the crevices. Dry thoroughly, lube with chain lube, run through gears, wipe excess.

--

Even if I were to remove the chain completely, I'd still clean with WD-40 and a brush over a drain pan. I just don't see a need for water ever touching your drivetrain.

Do what this guy does:


But I skip the soap and water...I'd rather clean my frame with a soft cloth and a non-harsh glass cleaner personally (one that says safe on tinted windows, ie ammonia-free).

And like I said above, if it's really dirty, remove the chain entirely and clean with WD40 that way.

To each their own.
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Old 06-29-16, 07:04 AM
  #4  
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I would never, ever use a water-based solvent on a chain. It's just not worth the hassle of trying to dry it out afterwards. As others have pointed out, the benefits of zealous chain cleaning are already debatable. Choosing a method that causes even more extra work and can actually be harmful if done improperly defeats the purpose entirely, IMHO. If you don't like mineral spirits and like the chain to look clean, try a self-cleaning dry lube like White Lightning Clean Ride.

Oh, and if I would never, ever use water on a chain, I would never, ever, EVER use gasoline. Not really interested in paying for some facial reconstruction surgeon's new Ferrari.

Last edited by Metaluna; 06-29-16 at 07:07 AM.
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Old 06-29-16, 07:20 PM
  #5  
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I remove my chains and clean them in a ultrasonic cleaner with Simple Green and water. I rinse the chain in that evil water and either sun dry or oven dry it. Put it back on the bike and lube it with 1pt chain saw bar oil to 4 pts. mineral spirits. Repeat every 800 miles.
I have gotten over 19,000 miles on my tourer with fenders and over 16,000 miles on my other road bike without fenders.
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Old 06-30-16, 03:31 PM
  #6  
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IMO, life is too short to have a chain cleaning fetish. I'd rather be riding my bike than cleaning it, but I often ride out in fairly remote areas, and I need reliable well performing equipment that won't leave me stranded.

I ride about 8000 miles per year on the road. I lube and clean my chains every 100 miles or so with Rock-n-roll Gold per manufacturers instructions. More often in wet weather. I wash my bike and my chains with warm water and Dawn dish washing soap and rinse with a low pressure spray from the hose as needed. If there is some greasy build-up on the drivetrain I scrub with mineral spirits and a brush and rinse with the above mentioned soap and water. After rinsing with water I spin the drivetrain to remove water then wipe the chain down thoroughly with a dry rag and re-lube as usual. I've done this for several years now, and it simply works while taking minimal time, effort and attention. I don't give a lot of thought to keeping the chain clean, but I've been complimented many times as having the cleanest drivetrain in our riding club.

Last edited by Clipped_in; 06-30-16 at 03:36 PM.
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Old 06-30-16, 05:27 PM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by DrRobert View Post
I've been using one of those cleaning tools you attach to the chain and spin.

I am all over the place with solutions. I have used orange citrus degreaser, Simple Green, Dawn detergent and mineral spirits. I think I get best results with the degreaser and Dawn.

I like mineral spirits the least because it seems to leave a grimy coating which just keeps reappearing.

A solvent has advantage that you don't rinse with water, which means you don't have to blow it out or wait till dry before oiling.

I recently came across someone who uses a combo of diesel and gas looked like it worked really well, but I don't want the disposal issues.

My nephew advocates removing chain and shaking in a 1 liter bottle of very hot, soapy water. He's a mountain biker.

Opinions on the above comments + What do you use and how do you do it?

Thanks!
I have the device that clips on the chain with a wet tank. It came with citrus degreaser which smelled nice and cleaned good. When it ran out I replaced it with liquid WD-40, the pourable stuff, large can. It's better than the citrus stuff no water base. Doesn't smell as nice though.

Last edited by Dsprok; 06-30-16 at 05:28 PM. Reason: spellin
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Old 06-30-16, 06:49 PM
  #8  
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I try to keep it simple . I just spray on WD40 , wipe the chain clean, then use my favorite chain oil .
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Old 07-01-16, 04:39 PM
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Simple Green. With a Park Tool chain cleaner for regular/as/if needed cleaning and remove chain and clean in a jar during annual maintenance.
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Old 07-02-16, 09:58 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by DrRobert View Post
I've been using one of those cleaning tools you attach to the chain and spin.

I am all over the place with solutions. I have used orange citrus degreaser, Simple Green, Dawn detergent and mineral spirits. I think I get best results with the degreaser and Dawn.

I like mineral spirits the least because it seems to leave a grimy coating which just keeps reappearing.

A solvent has advantage that you don't rinse with water, which means you don't have to blow it out or wait till dry before oiling.

I recently came across someone who uses a combo of diesel and gas looked like it worked really well, but I don't want the disposal issues.

My nephew advocates removing chain and shaking in a 1 liter bottle of very hot, soapy water. He's a mountain biker.

Opinions on the above comments + What do you use and how do you do it?

Thanks!
First: Do not use gasoline! Gasoline has a flash point of -40F. That means that it will ignite at temperatures above -40C which is just about temperature range where "normal" humans live. It also means that it can be more easily ignited at warmer temperatures. It also contains a whole lot of chronically toxic compounds which aren't good for your health over the long term.

A much better alternative is mineral spirits. "High flashpoint" mineral spirits has a flashpoint of 20C which, for the metrically challenged, is about 70F. Yes, it will burn but it takes a whole lot more to get it ignited. It works as well as gasoline with much less possibility of burning down your house or turning you into a human candle.

It also evaporates quickly enough that you don't have to rinse the solvent off nor bake out water.

People obsess way too much about cleaning chains. There's something about a chain that just makes people wig out and want to clean it for hours on end. The ShelBroCo Bicycle Chain Cleaning System isn't too far off the mark when it comes to chain cleaning.

Your nephew is on the right track with the wrong solvent when it comes to cleaning a chain and, perhaps, using too large a container. A 500 ml bottle...Gatorade wide mouth bottles are best...and about a cup of mineral spirits are all you really need. Feed the chain in, shake vigorously for 30 seconds or less, fish out the chain, and let it dry. That's all that is needed. The chain is clean and ready for lubrication in about 15 minutes. And the best part is that a cup mineral spirits is enough for 20 or 30 cleanings.

I go this one better. I clean my chain once using the above method and never have to take it off the bike again. These are typical of what my drivetrain looks like and both were taken in the middle of winter.




I don't put oil on my chain so I don't have to deal with the constant need to remove it. I use White Lightning...and have for nearly 20 years. I use it in all kinds of weather and all around the US. I get about the same life out of my chains as do people who obsessively clean theirs. And I get about the same mileage between lubrication as people who use oil do.

Yes, White Lightning says that you should apply it every 50 to 100 miles but I've found that is excessive in the extreme. I get about 600 miles per application which is on the same par as oil based lubricants. Even if I had to apply it every 100 miles, the cleanliness of my drivetrain would be worth the trouble.
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Old 07-02-16, 12:03 PM
  #11  
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I get 4,000 miles out of a 10sp chain, give or take. The chain lube du jour is Muc Off Hydrophobic Team Sky Edition, because it routinely lasts 2 weeks between applications (about 500 miles.) Every two months (give or take) I remove the chain and clean it with a scrub brush in the sink with citrus-based cleaner (ProGold or Muc Off) until the water runs (mostly) clear. I then spray the links with brake cleaner until the last of the muck from between the links is gone, and the solvent runs clear.

The chain then goes in the toaster oven for 20 minutes @ 250F to remove any residual moisture. Chain lube is usually applied while the chain is still warm, unless I forget the chain in the oven and it cools off. The chain cleaning process generally takes ~30 minutes. When a new chain goes on, the chainrings and cassette are cleaned in the same manner, just no oven to dry. New cassette every two chains.
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Old 07-02-16, 12:34 PM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
A 500 ml bottle...Gatorade wide mouth bottles are best...and about a cup of mineral spirits are all you really need. Feed the chain in, shake vigorously for 30 seconds or less, fish out the chain, and let it dry. That's all that is needed. The chain is clean and ready for lubrication in about 15 minutes. And the best part is that a cup mineral spirits is enough for 20 or 30 cleanings.
Those of us in the "over 50" group should have no problem finding a suitable container:

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Old 07-02-16, 12:45 PM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by dsbrantjr View Post
I put the chain on a pan into a 250F oven for a half hour which vaporizes the water and ensures that it is all removed. I use quick links and remove the chain for cleaning.
I coil up the chain into a tight roll, put it on a wooden bench, then hit it with a heat gun, (flipping it over occasionally), until it stops making noises like frying bacon.
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Old 07-02-16, 04:05 PM
  #14  
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I like using gasoline in a glass jar, it's such a powerful solvent it seems to really get the chain clean. I usually change the gasoline 3 times during a cleaning session. You have to be careful not to shake too hard (sparks!) or drop the jar...and of course it should be done outdoors. Probably not the best first choice if your new at cleaning chains.
Second choice is mineral spirits which can be had for $2.50 a quart at Walmart or the dollar stores.
I like to scrub the freewheel, chainrings and derailleur while I'm at it.
I usually use a wax based lube afterwards.
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Old 07-02-16, 04:24 PM
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after trying numerous concoctions and devices to clean chains, I've decided that it's all just a big waste of time and effort...

chains are a cheap wear item, don't really care if I get 5K or 10K miles from one. just measure wear with a steel ruler and throw a new one on when it's time.

maintenance consists of simply wiping with an old t-shirt and lube as needed. if I'm really feeling anal, I might take an old toothbrush to one if I see some accumulated gunk.

if you ride in sand and salt, there may be a point to more fastidious procedures...but, I don't encounter those, so I go with the lazy approach.
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Old 07-03-16, 06:19 PM
  #16  
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For me, cleaning the chain off the bike with OMS was a revelation. I couldn't believe the amount of crud that came off after a year of using one of those chain cleaners, or how much more effective it was at getting grit out of the chain. (I then gave my chain cleaner away to a friend.) The drivetrain ran so much quieter and more smoothly it was amazing. The OMS lasts forever in a sealed container, and with a Wippermann connex, getting the chain on and off was a snap. The whole procedure took maybe 5 active minutes. So much easier and less messy!
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Old 07-04-16, 07:10 AM
  #17  
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Essentially what Deapee wrote. Water is the enemy. The manufacture's pre-lubed chain is super quite and silky smooth. I try to keep the chain adjusted tight enough so it won't oscillate and sling the grease out. "Usually", when I come back from a ride, I clean and lube the chain. That is when the chain is warmest and more apt to be cleaned with just oil. I put a few drop of (non drying) turbine oil on a mechanic's rag and rub the chain and replenish the rag with more oil as I clean the chain. (I use a bath towel for a more aggressive cleaning) Then I turn to a clean side of the rag and do the same but I add some Teflon powder 5 micron and Boron Nitride (Hexagonal) 5 micron to the rag. Replenishing as I go, the chain will be super slick.
Crossing my fingers and hoping I don't get drenched in the rain. I'll be going a different route to attack water. Instead of repelling the water I'll use 99 percent Isopropyl Alcohol to absorb the water and then spin it out and re-oil my chain.
Probably hazardous to my smoking though.

Last edited by ArmChairRider; 07-04-16 at 11:07 PM. Reason: changed 'vibrate' to 'oscillate' and other things
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Old 07-05-16, 06:30 PM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by Northwestrider View Post
I try to keep it simple . I just spray on WD40 , wipe the chain clean, then use my favorite chain oil .
^^^Works for me too.
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Old 07-05-16, 08:21 PM
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When the whole bike is muddy -- like right now, after some recent rains and riding on muddy gravel -- I use hot water and Dawn on the whole bike, including the drive train.

Squirt WD-40 onto the chain to displace water. It works just as described, never had any problem with residual water causing rust.

Finish up with whatever chain lube I have available -- Park CL-1 at the moment. Might try Chain-L later.

I'm about to try either a Nashbar chain cleaner or the White Lightning chain cleaner doodad for more routine quick cleaning. I tend to put off chain cleaning until it's really grungy. Bad habit.

I probably oughta use a quick link too. Easier to clean both the chain and front and rear sprockets with the chain off the bike. I did that years ago with my road bike, never had any problems. I should do it with my hybrid as well since I'm riding gravel more often now.
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Old 07-05-16, 08:31 PM
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I use the Park chain cleaning tool with Park citrus cleaner, blast it off with garden hose using a small orifice spray nozzle, blast the water out with compressed air from my Craftsman compressor (at 40 psig or above), then re-lube with whatever (currently DuMonde light or regular). The magnet in the chain cleaning tool picks up metal and a lot of grit gets removed in this process. My chain consumption has fallen off markedly since starting this. I do this when the chain starts to make some noise, per the DuMonde recommendations. This summer that amounts to every couple of months or less
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Old 07-21-16, 10:16 AM
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i see opinions on chains are about as numerous and mind changing as saddles
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Old 07-21-16, 10:28 AM
  #22  
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Since my July 5 post I've added a White Lightning chain cleaning tool. Kicking myself for not getting something like it sooner. Much more efficient than all the makeshift stuff I've tried before. Pretty much any of the $10-$20 chain cleaning tools will probably be more efficient than two toothbrushes taped together or all the other tricks I've tried.

The only improvement might be a chain cleaning tool with side brushes. The White Lightning tool has long, stiff bristles that dig down between the links and rollers. But the outside of the chain doesn't quite get as cosmetically clean looking without a little extra work. No big deal. I'm less likely to neglect the chain after gravel rides because this doodad makes it so easy.

So, yeah, occasionally some folks are persuaded by these endless debates. I was.
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