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Degreasers

Old 11-09-16, 07:54 AM
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Degreasers

Hello, I am starting to use degreasers. There are spray and liquid degreasers, then there is bike cleaning soap style products that act as degreasers, whats the difference among these 3 types?
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Old 11-09-16, 08:14 AM
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Water soluble degreasers are emulsifiers that, like soap and detergents allow the dirt/grease mix common on bikes to be
washed off. Organic degreasers (mineral spirits/gasoline/WD40/organic alcohols/diesel fuel/acetone etc) dissolve the
grease to varying degrees and rinse off dirt/grease in that fashion. Alcohols/acetone are to some degree soluble in water
and dissolve grease also to some degree though short chain alcohols are less effective at this than long chain alcohols but
they evaporate faster. WD40 is basically mineral spirits.

Differences in the products mentioned are related to ease and method of application. Liquid/soap types are typically diluted
in water and applied with a brush. Spray on are already diluted and applied with the sprayer which allows use on parts of
the bike like chainwheels where brushes are less useful.

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...lean+your+bike
Would be nice if they started with a dirty bike.

Last edited by sch; 11-09-16 at 08:29 AM.
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Old 11-09-16, 02:57 PM
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Simply Green works for me.
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Old 11-09-16, 04:19 PM
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For me there are a few factors at play.


First is your brain cells and how aggressive the solvent is in killing them off. Some solvents really want good ventilation.


Next up is that the more flushing/flow of the solvent that happens the more the grit/grime/old lube will be carried out of your part. (This is why I never thought that wiping off a chain does anything more then make the non functional outsides clean.) Solvent on a rag is fine for non moving parts like the frame or crank arm, but for parts with moving pieces getting the solvent in between the part's pieces in vital for real cleaning of the working surfaces. Mineral sprits in a Tupperware container that can be closed up after and the grime can settle out allowing the clean MS to be poured off for reuse. Of course old toothbrushes make for great brushes.


For spot cleaning of lube grime I like Clean Streak. It's the bench top solvent at my work. It's very effective on grease, waxes and oils. It can be directly sprayed on the parts or on a rag. It's easy on the brain cells. It evaporates quickly and leaves no residue.


I have never liked the water based solvents. The versions I've used never cut through the old grease quickly, really wanted to be heated and when used in a bucket, basin or tank setting the removed lubed would float on the top of the solvent. This meant that when the parts were removed the slime coating the part still needed wiping off. I'm sure others have their experiences and might disagree with this one.


The last thing I'll say for now is that the stuff you remove, the grit/grime/old lubes are nice to the sewer system. So using a "bio degradable" solvent is fine is no crap is in it. I don't ever hear the bio solvent companies ever mention this issue. So I prefer to minimize the crap and be able to isolate/trap it. Hence the use of mineral spirits which can be largely reused after the crap has settled out. Andy.
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Old 11-09-16, 04:43 PM
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Andy makes some great points above and his post is excellent.

I'll echo...
  • Health and safety is the primary concern.
  • Clean streak is an excellent product.
  • Let mineral spirits sit for a while and the junk will settle to the bottom. The clean mineral spirits can then be poured off and reused while the grease/dirt/grit can be disposed of properly. It is also dirt cheap.
Congratulations Andy on one of the best posts I have seen in a while.

The only thing I'll add is that oily rags can spontaneously ignite. Please don't leave oily or greasy rags lying around. Many fires start this way. Hang them over a fence or the edge of the garbage can until garbage day.


-Tim-

Last edited by TimothyH; 11-09-16 at 04:47 PM.
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Old 11-10-16, 07:38 AM
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Using the organic solvents either requires disassembly of the greasy bits (chain/CW) so they can be sloshed around
in a pool of solvent (usually mineral spirits), or working outdoors in the case of topically applied such as Clean Streak
which is a mixture of ethanol/pentanol and mineral spirits with propane as a propellant. Clean Streak is a bit hazardous for indoor use if any appliance with open flame or sparking is near by because of the organic vapors.
I used to use the closed jar/solvent shake method of chain cleaning but the advent of water based solvents (I prefer
simple green, which is basically a long chain alcohol) and chain cleaners like Park have made in situ cleaning much
easier with most of the debris being caught in newspapers under the bike. A thorough cleaning of the triple CW, RD jockey wheels and cassette does mandate disassembly but mostly I do this by scraping off the larger clumps of grease/dirt with a thin piece of metal in situ and not going further.

Clean Streak could be approximated with 90% ethanol and mineral spirits in equal parts with perhaps 10% gasoline
added. The Clean Streak spray with applicator is an added benefit over DIY version, for a considerable increase in
cost.
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Old 11-10-16, 08:19 AM
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In another topic I mentioned that if you are cleaning parts that are 100% metal, then the best stuff to use is some kind of petrochemical organic solvent, such as acetone, mineral spirits, isopropyl alcohol, or even gasoline.
...However...
You should never use any of that stuff on plastic or composite parts, at all. Some of it will dissolve plastics.
For plastic or composite parts, just use hot tap water and one of the "soap" cleaners.

When using the flammable stuff: do it outside, don't get it on your skin, it may eat through latex/polyethylene gloves, it's usually flammable, ect.
The health risks are minuscule if you only mess with it a few times a year. Ask your own doctor about that matter.
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Old 11-10-16, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by sch View Post
Water soluble degreasers are emulsifiers that, like soap and detergents allow the dirt/grease mix common on bikes to be washed off.
Not quite. What you find in water soluble degreasers are surfactants, not emulsifiers. A surfactant is a compound that acts to modify the polarity of a polar solvent (water) so that a nonpolar compound (grease and oil) can dissolve in a portion of it. It works by forming micelles which have a nonpolar core with a polar shell. Take a look at the link to see what it looks like.

An emulsifier is a compound that stabilizes an emulsion so that it doesn't break apart into two layers. Think mayonnaise or "green" mineral spirits.

Originally Posted by sch View Post
Organic degreasers (mineral spirits/gasoline/WD40/organic alcohols/diesel fuel/acetone etc) dissolve the grease to varying degrees and rinse off dirt/grease in that fashion. Alcohols/acetone are to some degree soluble in water and dissolve grease also to some degree though short chain alcohols are less effective at this than long chain alcohols but they evaporate faster. WD40 is basically mineral spirits.
I applaud your correct usage of "organic" as it applies to organic chemicals. Unfortunately most people won't understand. "Organic" has come to mean "natural". Most people would call the "green" cleaners "organic"...they would be wrong but they've kind of won that battle.

A couple of other corrections: First most alcohols that people are going to be able to readily obtain...methanol, ethanol and isopropy alcohol (2-propanol)...are not just soluble in water to "some degree". They, as well as acetone, are infinitely soluble in water. They are polar enough that there is no mixture of those compounds that will phase separate with water. But that polarity is what makes them poor choices for grease cleaners since grease is only slightly or totally insoluble in alcohols and acetone.

WD40 is much more than "basically mineral spirits". WD40 is about 25% mineral oil which is added for lubrication purposes. Adding oil to a "degreaser" defeats the "degreaser" part. WD40 has its uses but using it as a cleaner isn't necessarily one of them.

Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
The only thing I'll add is that oily rags can spontaneously ignite. Please don't leave oily or greasy rags lying around. Many fires start this way. Hang them over a fence or the edge of the garbage can until garbage day.


-Tim-
Sorry but this is a common mistake. Rags that are soaked in bicycle lubricants don't spontaneously ignite. Oils that spontaneously ignite are curing oils like linseed oil or tung oil. Those oils have a chemical functionality in them that undergoes chemical reactions to harden or, more correctly, polymerize. The chemical reaction produces heat which, when confined in a wadded rag can reach a high enough temperature to ignite the rage.

The oils and lubricants used for bicycles aren't that kind of oil. They lack the chemical functionality to undergo hardening. That's probably a good thing since you don't usually want a hard protective layer on parts that need to move.

Originally Posted by maltess2 View Post
Hello, I am starting to use degreasers. There are spray and liquid degreasers, then there is bike cleaning soap style products that act as degreasers, whats the difference among these 3 types?
Most all of the spray degreasers that you are going to use on a bicycle are going to be of the same general type. They are surfactants in a water base. Think "Formula 409" but with a bit more punch. They work well enough for surface cleaning like gunk on the frame or even on the larger parts like chainwheels and derailers.

But if you need to do deeper cleaning or need to clean inside a chain, something like mineral spirits does a better job. It's more effect because you can use less of it and still clean more with it. I wouldn't put it in a spray bottle and spray it...making air/fuel mixtures isn't a good idea...but you can soak a chain in a (very) small bottle of mineral spirits and get more oil and dirt out of the chain than gallons of water based degreasers.

And cleanup is much easier. With a water based degreaser, you need to remove the degreaser with water, then you should remove the water with something so that it doesn't sit there and rust the chain. There are several steps to properly cleaning a chain with water based cleaners. And, generally, you can't reuse the water based degreaser after a cleaning.

A chain can be agitated in about a half cup of mineral spirits, fished out and allowed to evaporate. That half cup of mineral spirits can even be reused for several chains before it's got too much oil and not enough mineral spirits to clean adequately.
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Old 11-10-16, 08:48 AM
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Old 11-10-16, 09:24 AM
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Just use OMS.
Swish your chain in a bottle, dump some on a rag and wipe to clean other stuff. Use in a well ventilated area(if your married this will mean outside in the garage). Using spray stuff, and/or a chain cleaner just makes a bigger mess.
A gallon will last a long time.
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Old 11-10-16, 09:41 AM
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+1 for Simple Green
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Old 11-10-16, 11:13 AM
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Citrus based cleaner can cause Embrittlement .. of the steel . your 11 speed chains are already Super thin.
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Old 11-10-16, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
...Rags that are soaked in bicycle lubricants don't spontaneously ignite. Oils that spontaneously ignite are curing oils like linseed oil or tung oil. Those oils have a chemical functionality in them that undergoes chemical reactions to harden or, more correctly, polymerize. The chemical reaction produces heat which, when confined in a wadded rag can reach a high enough temperature to ignite the rage.

The oils and lubricants used for bicycles aren't that kind of oil. They lack the chemical functionality to undergo hardening. That's probably a good thing since you don't usually want a hard protective layer on parts that need to move.
The above is really interesting. Thank you! Brings me a some peace of mind, too.

FWIW, I tend to focus on the results I'm after versus cost and effort. Clean Streak and similar sprays are like magic, but they cost a lot and I don't like to use them indoors. So I save those mainly for intricate gunky parts, or when other solutions don't work.

My go to for general cleaning is Pedro's Green Fizz. It's just a spray on cleaner like many other brands also have. Almost all my cleaning, even of derailleurs and rings, is done with Green Fizz or similar, and a good rag.

I keep some 90% rubbing alcohol handy for suspension parts and other bits that I want to be sure are squeaky clean with no contamination. The alcohol is also good for installing new grips.

And I soak chains when needed in a degreaser along the lines of Rock-n-Roll's 3-n-1 product. Is that citrus-based? Not sure, tbh. I mix with water as the directions indicate. Works fine for soaking chains, which I don't do much of, but sometimes it's needed. I reuse in the manner others have described.

I go through a LOT of Green Fizz in a season, and a LOT of shop rags. Everything else gets used in pretty small amounts.
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Old 11-10-16, 11:54 AM
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DO NOT USE GASOLINE, COLEMAN FUEL, WHITE GAS, etc. EVER. Extreme fire & explosion hazard. Find something else.
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Old 11-10-16, 02:30 PM
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+3 for Simple Green. It works.
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Old 11-10-16, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by grizzly59 View Post
DO NOT USE GASOLINE, COLEMAN FUEL, WHITE GAS, etc. EVER. Extreme fire & explosion hazard. Find something else.
I agree on gasoline. However naphtha, aka Coleman fuel or white gas, have a much higher flash point (45C, 113F) than gasoline (-45C, -50F). That's lower than the flash point for mineral spirits (100F, 220F) but it's still a relatively safe product.

But, yes, gasoline is a dumb product to use as a solvent.
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