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Chain Cleaning - Denatured Alcohol (Methylated spirits) in Canada

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Chain Cleaning - Denatured Alcohol (Methylated spirits) in Canada

Old 05-05-20, 08:57 PM
  #1  
sc007
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Chain Cleaning - Denatured Alcohol (Methylated spirits) in Canada

I came across Oz Cycles on Youtube who has a tutorial on a very thorough chain cleanbefore waxing your chain. He recommends a 3 stage cleaning process consisting of petrol + degreaser + Methylated spirits (aka denatured alcohol).

I am in Canada (Toronto) and have a hard time finding denatured alcohol/ methylated spirits. I've tried Canadian Tire and Home Depot but no luck. I have access to methanol hydrate but i don't think this is the same because denatured alcohol is essentially ethanol (according to the internet). Would anyone by chance know where I could get some?

Thanks

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Old 05-05-20, 10:42 PM
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I buy Methylhydrate (or is it Methylacohol?) in paint shop, not quite sure that's what he uses in the video. Monarch Paints @ Wilson & Dufferin should have it. I'll check the label tomorrow to see exactly what it reads, I believe I have it where I keep paints.
BTW what would you use for the first step, gasoline you put in your car's tank? Not sure if that's what petrol is.

Last edited by vane171; 05-05-20 at 10:54 PM.
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Old 05-05-20, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by vane171 View Post
I buy Methylhydrate (or is it Methylacohol?) in paint shop, not quite sure that's what he uses in the video. Monarch Paints @ Wilson & Dufferin should have it. I'll check the label tomorrow to see exactly what it reads, I believe I have it where I keep paints.
BTW what would you use for the first step, gasoline you put in your car's tank? Not sure if that's what petrol is.
yes - petrol = gasoline.
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Old 05-05-20, 11:31 PM
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I just rinse the chain in mineral spirits let it dry, or not, and drop in the wax. The hot wax will get rid of any remaining oil residue on the chain. It always comes out of the hot wax shiny clean.
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Old 05-05-20, 11:35 PM
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Not sure what the alcohol does. Barely remembering my high school chemistry days: Like dissolves like
Meaning if you have a petroleum based lube on your chain, then you need a petroleum based solvent to get a good cleaning.
I use mineral spirits (oil-based paint thinner). Actually, I've switched all my bikes to wax based, so, I don't need to use the messy stuff any more.
They also recommend an ultra sonic cleanse. Seeing as I am a cheap SOB, I created my own. I taped a rectangular cake pan to the pad of an orbital pad sander and mounted it upside down in a vise. Put in solvent, chain and cover. Turn on the trigger lock on the sander and let it run for about 20 minutes.
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Old 05-06-20, 02:29 AM
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I've used gasoline before, but it's generally a bad idea. It's way too volatile, and an accident could get really ugly, really fast.

I just use mineral spirits. It gets the job done too, is far, far less volatile, and so is much safer to use.

I watched that guy's video before. I think that's way overkill. A good shake and soak in mineral spirits, pull the chain, if I'm being anal about it I'll drop it into a second jar with cleaner mineral spirits in it for a rinse, then pull it out and hang it up to dry. There's nothing left on or in that chain that's worth giving a second thought about.

Btw, I've posted pics of this before, but if you would like to be horrified, just tape a decent rare-earth magnet to the underside of the jar containing the mineral spirits when you do this. The steel wear particles will be attracted and stick there, and if you let the mineral spirits settle a bit so all the metal wear particles end up in that one spot, then pull the chain out. You can put a magnet down in the mineral spirits to pick it all up, let it dry out, and the magnet will be covered in a thick layer of microscopic (and sometimes not so microscopic) steel debris. That's all coming from inside your chain links and pins.

ps: I'm a little biased against the Ozzie Youtube guy in that video. I've watched a few of them, and I just end up thinking "meh." One of the things that annoyed me was his video on his cheap Chinese carbon wheels. What you saw in the video was a set of carbon wheels with giant Easton stickers on them. Eventually he says in his videos that he just put those stickers on his cheap Chinese wheels for looks. That was off-putting to me. Advocating using petrol while he's filming inside his garage also seems irresponsible to me, and his whole routine for this is just way overkill, and 99% of these results could be had far more safely and quickly. What the alcohol is for I can't recall, but unless he's rinsing the chain with water and using the alcohol to drive out the remaining water, I can't imagine what he thinks it's doing after he's already soaked the chain in gasoline.

Last edited by SethAZ; 05-06-20 at 02:34 AM.
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Old 05-06-20, 03:40 AM
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Not a fan of the Oz Cyclist's casual handling of gasoline. His workbench has visible electrical outlets and it's a good bet there are other ignition sources nearby. That vapor can spread quickly and linger (it's affected by humidity, barometric pressure, etc.). One errant spark and you're surrounded by flame. Even if it goes out quickly there's a risk of igniting another open container, or panicking and knocking over another container.

As a safety inspector I've seen the demonstrations of how quickly this stuff can get bad, both in classroom demos and in real life fatality investigations. And a family friend burned himself to death using gasoline to either start a BBQ or ignite a burn pile, I forget which -- witnesses said he tried to splash more gas on a lighted fire and even from a distance of several feet it followed him back and ignited the open container I've investigated similar incidents in workplace injuries and fatalities. So while gasoline/petrol can be an effective solvent/degreaser, it must be handled with extreme caution and great respect for the risks.

If you want the slickness of wax without the hassles of stripping the original chain lube/grease, and don't need chains so clean you can eat off them, try Rock 'n' Roll Absolute Dry or Gold.

I'm a fan of wax, used it for two bikes for a couple of years. It's slick and clean. My bikes live indoors and I have three cats, so I wanted to reduce my shin tattoos and furball cattoos. Wax is great for that. And re-waxing isn't a big chore after stripping the original lube. There's no need to use solvent again. I think the Oz Cyclist has modified his methods and just uses boiling water or something like that to clean the chain between re-waxing. I don't even do that -- I just dunk the chain in the melted wax and occasionally skim the residue off the top.

But earlier this year I had to clear out my apartment so the old carpet could be replaced with laminate flooring. I put away the solvents, bars of Gulf wax, crock pot, etc., and couldn't remember which carton I put 'em in. I wanted to get back to riding ASAP, so I grabbed a bottle of Rock 'n' Roll Absolute Dry, based on tests by Friction Facts/Ceramic Speed which reported both RnR Absolute Dry and Gold were as slick as wax.

After a couple of months I can confirm -- RnR is very slick. It's easy to apply -- just drizzle it on generously. Lasts a few rides per application -- I ride 20-50 miles per ride, so I usually re-apply every 2 or 3 rides. The chain gets a little noisier after 50-100 miles but so far I've never run it completely dry and squeaky, even after being caught in the rain.

Drawbacks? It's only a little cleaner than typical oily wet lubes. Rock 'n' Roll appears to use mostly naphtha as a solvent/carrier for PTFE ("Teflon"). Gold supposedly adds some oil. The black gunk that dribbles out is typical road grime. It does seem to clean and lube in one step. And it seems to work better over time, presumably as the RnR gradually displaces the original lube, without needing a specific cleaning step.

No matter how much I wipe the chain there's still a slight black grime on my fingers even when the chain looks clean. But not as bad as oily wet lubes. And it seems to resist picking up road grit -- that's always a problem with oil lubes.

Anyway, I found my chain waxing stuff so I'll probably use it again. Already have the solvent cleaners (no gasoline, but I do have mineral spirits, acetone, methyl alcohol). I use them only outdoors away from any ignition sources.

But I'm gonna stick with Rock 'n' Roll awhile longer. I'm about to switch one bike from RnR Absolute Dry to Gold, just to see how it compares. Both are pricey for what's in 'em -- apparently just naphtha and PTFE powder, so I could make my own since I already have that stuff.
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Old 05-06-20, 04:43 AM
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Please do not ever use gasoline (petrol) as a cleaning solvent. It is extremely flammable, its vapors are explosive and will travel a surprising distance to an ignition source. It is toxic by inhalation and by skin absorption and may be carcinogenic. Its only suitable use is as a motor fuel.
As to ethanol, you can obtain 90% ethanol at the liquor store under trade names such as Everclear but IMO is a poor solvent for petroleum-based oils and greases..
Probably the best solvent for degreasing chains is mineral spirits, the petroleum distillate kind, NOT the milky water-based junk sold as a substitute.
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Old 05-06-20, 05:36 AM
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Old 05-06-20, 06:30 AM
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STRONGLY suggest that you DO NOT use "petrol". Or gasoline. Or whatever you call it.

Petrol/Gas does contain some superior solvents, but it also contains benzene and polycyclic aromatics, all of which are really bad for you.
--> Upshot: you can get just as good a "solvent power" (to coin a phrase) for most bike smork using odorless mineral spirits, and it has none of the really bad guys in it
--> Upshot 2: Using a soak and odorless mineral spirits and a brush will get the stuff out that you want out.
--> Upshot 3: If you have smork that OMS doesn't remove, you could use acetone, nail polish remover, or Brakleen. With gloves, and care.
--> Upshot 4: There are residual compounds in gas/petrol that stay on the chain, which is why the crazy Aussie wants you to clean the chain with a degreaser! This process MAKES work for you.

Petrol/Gas contains some lighter hydrocarbons, which make it much more flammable/explosive that OMS.
--> Upshot 5: A really clean chain is of no use to someone in the burn ward.
--> Upshot 6: These volatiles end up going into the air.

So here's another observation. As someone who grew up working in a machine shop, and for seven years in a bike shop, and who has two degrees (BS, PhD) in Chemical Engineering, my take on the "three step process" is that its idiotic. Cleaning the chain with something that ADDS grease, then having to use degreaser, and then having to use alcohol to remove the degreaser ... Why?

Clean your chain by a soak in OMS, followed by (if needed) a scrub with a toothbrush (preferably an old one!) and a rinse in OMS. Drip dry overnight, then dry in the sun. Then put into a paraffin bath. Keep in mind that in chemistry "like dissolves like". Paraffin is very chemically similar to greases and waxes (and even to some extent OMS). So if there's any grease left on the chain, paraffin dissolves it. Your wax job will be every bit as good as the rather insane three step process.

Or, if you feel the need to do useless stuff and insist upon a three-step process, use OMS and then acetone (or Brakleen). But honest, in general, that 2nd solvent isn't needed.

But for your health and safety, don't use petrol (gasoline) to clean anything.

On edit: You could also use a soak in hot aqueous degreaser, perhaps using an ultrasonic cleaner. Hot aqueous degreasing is now done extensively in industry to avoid putting hydrocarbons in the air.

Also, an anecdote. In the old days, you'd take a bunch of machined parts which had oil, grease, and dirt on them and you'd put them into a vapor degreaser. A steel bin about 4 foot square and 3 foot deep. At the bottom was a heater, and a reservoir of carbon tetrachloride. Around the top rim of the bin were a series of parallel pipes through which you passed cold water. Anyway, the bin was filled with grease parts, the heater was turned on, along with the water flow. This eerie fog appeared at the bottom of the bin and rose to the level of the condensing tubes. The tubes, and air, remeoved heat so that you'd get a constant rain of carbon tet over the parts. After about an hour so so, the oil and grease, and most of the dirt, was removed and was in the sump with the carbon tet. Because it wasn't volatile, the oil/grease stayed in the sump. You'd turn the heater off, the vapor would go down, and you'd take the parts out. After this constant "rain" of CCl4, the parts were completely grease free. Pretty sure running that thing wasn't great for my health, though.

Done more safely and more effectively today, though: https://precisioncleaners.microcare....greasing-work/

Last edited by WizardOfBoz; 05-06-20 at 06:45 AM.
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Old 05-06-20, 07:06 AM
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I know it's basic to say but the secret to cleaning a chain is to start with a chain that's not dirty. If the chain is cleaned frequently with degreaser, doing much more isn't necessary. In my case, I clean the chains on my bikes every 100 miles or so (approx. weekly) without removing and they looks great. When I go MTB and the chain gets dirty, I'll clean it sooner.

Just don't wait for the chain to be dirty

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Old 05-06-20, 08:02 AM
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That sequence looks like garbage. Gasoline/petrol will cut the grease (and, as noted, it's dangerous). Degreaser cuts the grease, too, but usually needs water to get the degreaser off. Ethanol to clean off degreaser that would better be cleaned with water, and then presumably the ethanol evaporates.

Mineral spirits does what you need to do, evaporates quickly, and you're done.
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Old 05-06-20, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by WizardOfBoz View Post
scrub with a toothbrush (preferably an old one!)


Point taken, thanks for bringing some sense to it all.
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Old 05-06-20, 08:26 AM
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just go to any general store and get rubbing alcohol if you want a source.
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Old 05-06-20, 08:51 AM
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Rubbing alcohol has been widely unavailable for weeks during the pandemic. Other solvents are still readily available in some areas: mineral spirits, acetone, methanol, etc.
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Old 05-06-20, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by sc007 View Post
I came across Oz Cycles on Youtube who has a tutorial on a very thorough chain cleanbefore waxing your chain. He recommends a 3 stage cleaning process consisting of petrol + degreaser + Methylated spirits (aka denatured alcohol).

I am in Canada (Toronto) and have a hard time finding denatured alcohol/ methylated spirits. I've tried Canadian Tire and Home Depot but no luck. I have access to methanol hydrate but i don't think this is the same because denatured alcohol is essentially ethanol (according to the internet). Would anyone by chance know where I could get some?

Thanks
First: DO NOT USE PETROL!!! EVER!

Gasoline will ignite at any temperature above -45°F (or C because they are close to the same). That means that at any temperature above dangerously cold, the stuff will catch fire. And the warmer the temperature, the more likely there is a cloud of vapors that you can’t see. That’s a cloud of vapors that can find an ignition source and follow the trail back to where you are. It also contains highly toxic chemicals that have both long term and short term impacts. Just don’t use it!

I didn’t want to watch the video based on the petrol suggestion but I did anyway. I’m amazed at how much “wrong” can be packed into one video that isn’t based on flat earth theories! Where to begin? First, lubricants on chains don’t have to be the same all the time. Lubricants are mixtures of many different components but mixing in another component isn’t going to cause the lubricant to fail. An oil based lubricant isn’t incompatible with a wax based lubricant nor a vegetable oil (????) based lubricant. They will mix and work just fine.

But on to his procedures. Why? Why do people feel that they need to come up with these multi-step cleaning procedures? This one is even dumber than many that I’ve seen since there is not reason for the order of the steps. Hydrocarbon followed by water based degreaser followed by water followed by alcohol is just not an order of operations that makes sense. A hydrocarbon...not gasoline!!!!....will remove as much of the previous lubricant as necessary. The water based degreaser only had color in it because he went straight from the petrol to the water based degreaser. The hydrocarbon wash was simply carried with the chain. His times are completely unnecessary as well. If you had an old, really crusty, partly polymerized grease on the chain, leaving it over night might have benefit. Shaking it for a minute or 2 is going to be more than enough to dissolve off any lubricant.

I noted that he left the container of gasoline open as he was reaching around it and shaking the other container. Even if you are smart enough not to use gasoline, don’t leave containers of flammable liquids open while you work on something else. Remove the chain and close the container.

Finally, there is his water rinse prior to rewaxing. That does absolutely nothing. It is a useless step. It’s even dumber considering that he went on and on about incompatibilities earlier in the video. Water on the chain doesn’t do anything but put water into the wax. Get the wax hot enough and the water expands to steam and blows hot wax out of the container.

Honestly, most of the steps of his “cleaning” could be cut out. Use mineral spirits (far less flammable) to clean the chain. Put it in a plastic container (I use old Gatorade bottles), put in the chain, shake it vigorously for a couple of minutes, remove it, and let it dry. It will be more than clean enough. And his video would be 15 minutes shorter.
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Old 05-06-20, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Litespud View Post
yes - petrol = gasoline.
Correct. And I’ll add that “methylated spirits” is either methanol or denatured ethanol that uses methanol for the denaturing. The nomenclature is a bit dodgy. If the methylated spirits is all methanol, it carries it’s own dangers that are almost equal to that of gasoline. It is flammable and it is very toxic. It can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled.

It’s also totally unnecessary and does little. Grease and oil really aren’t all that soluble in alcohols.
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Old 05-06-20, 10:30 AM
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I cleaned things with gasoline for twenty some years of my life. I haven't for over 35 years.

Thirty-five years ago, I had a pan of gasoline near the front of the garage with parts in it. I was a few feet away when I saw the vapors ignite from a gas water heater that was at the other end of the garage in a closet a foot higher than the garage floor.

Miracle that it was only a vapor flash and nothing worse. Never again will I use gasoline for such.
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Old 05-06-20, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
I cleaned things with gasoline for twenty some years of my life. I haven't for over 35 years.

Thirty-five years ago, I had a pan of gasoline near the front of the garage with parts in it. I was a few feet away when I saw the vapors ignite from a gas water heater that was at the other end of the garage in a closet a foot higher than the garage floor.

Miracle that it was only a vapor flash and nothing worse. Never again will I use gasoline for such.
I posted here several years ago showing me using some gasoline in a jar to clean my chains. I was nervous doing it to begin with (with good reason), but had done it anyway, and received the same type of commentary as this thread, also with good reason. I switched to the odorless mineral spirits based on this prodding, and have never looked back. I also don't feel like my chain cleaning suffered any because of the switch. Sure, the OMS isn't quite as quick as gasoline, but it still gets the job done, and much more safely.

To my fellow BFers: sometimes the advice really does get through. Never think it always just goes in one eye and out the other.
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Old 05-06-20, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Rubbing alcohol has been widely unavailable for weeks during the pandemic. Other solvents are still readily available in some areas: mineral spirits, acetone, methanol, etc.
Same for Everclear or other hi-proof booze.

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Old 05-06-20, 05:54 PM
  #21  
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There is no alcohol product that should be used for chain cleaning. No acetone either, unless you're also trying to remove water. Oz doesn't know much about solvents. Mineral spirits is good. White gas/camp stove fuel evaporates faster. Diesel fuel is safe but leaves an oily residue.
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Old 05-06-20, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
First: DO NOT USE PETROL!!! EVER!
Can I get an Amen? Amen!

Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Honestly, most of the steps of his “cleaning” could be cut out. Use mineral spirits (far less flammable) to clean the chain. Put it in a plastic container (I use old Gatorade bottles), put in the chain, shake it vigorously for a couple of minutes, remove it, and let it dry. It will be more than clean enough. And his video would be 15 minutes shorter.
This. Highly effective, single step, much safer. 'Nother Amen for cyccommute.
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Old 05-06-20, 09:02 PM
  #23  
vane171
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Nobody comments on the 'knife waxing' difference, the wax adherence to a knife that was degreased vs the other oily. That is the key point of the video and why he makes such a point of de-greasing.

I am not 100% sold on that (since I expect some argument to the contrary which may change my mind) but it seems to make sense. I'd say, degrease safely as suggested here, forget the gasoline, but do degrease. Its not something you need to do repeatedly, just when you want to start with wax.

This reminds me seeing a document about retro american TV commercials from 1950s, where in one of them, a pretty housewife, smartly dressed, shows in her nice modern kitchen how she has a problem with grease on pots and pans and then she has a solution - she pulls out a can of gasoline from kitchen cupboard, pours it into sink and with her bare hands, sponges the dishes in it and voila, no grease, nice shiny pots

I mean, if that doesn't make you cringe, what will, and you don't even have to be some freak regarding these things.

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Old 05-07-20, 09:21 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by vane171 View Post

Nobody comments on the 'knife waxing' difference, the wax adherence to a knife that was degreased vs the other oily. That is the key point of the video and why he makes such a point of de-greasing.

I am not 100% sold on that (since I expect some argument to the contrary which may change my mind) but it seems to make sense. I'd say, degrease safely as suggested here, forget the gasoline, but do degrease. Its not something you need to do repeatedly, just when you want to start with wax.
The knife demonstration is flawed for a number of reasons. First, he’s just demonstrating what happens if you put wax over another lubricant. No one has said you should degrease, we are just saying that degreasing isn’t necessary. We are saying that the level of degreasing he uses is unnecessary.

Second, many liquid lubricants contain significant amounts of solvent. That’s why you can mix liquid lubricants. WD-40, for example, contains about 75% mineral spirits and 25% lubricant. The mineral spirits remain behind while the old lubricant...a most of the dirt...is flushed out.

The flushing out of the old lubricant brings up a point about the wax. He dipped the cold knife into the wax and pulled it straight out. Most people don’t do chain waxing that way. They put in the chain and at least let it come up to the temperature of the wax. If he’d done that with the knife, the mineral oil on the knife would have dissolved off in the wax. Wax can be thought of as mineral spirits that is just solid. The molecular chains of chemicals used to make wax are just longer than the liquid mineral spirits.

No one is saying that degreasing isn’t needed. It just doesn’t need to be done as elaborately as he does in the video. I would also add that he states in the video that the lubricant on chains from the factory is a “mineral oil”. It’s a “wax” but just a soft wax. That does bring up a point. The “wax” we (may) use for chain lubrication is part of what is called a homologous series. Each aliphatic hydrocarbon in the series that makes up mineral spirits to waxes differs from the others only in the number of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Methane is the simplest in the series with only one carbon and 4 hydrogen atoms. Mineral spirits has molecules of from 6 to 12 carbons (and the necessary hydrogens). “Mineral oil” has 16 carbons and more. Wax has 12 to 32 perhaps with more branching that makes it solid. My point is that mineral spirits will dissolve wax and mineral oils while wax, in the right conditions, will dissolve mineral spirits and mineral oils.

This also brings me to a point about waxing. Many people use canning wax as a chain lube. I’ve done the same when I was experimenting with it. The problem is that canning wax is rather stiff and brittle. It sloughs off easily. It would work much better if it were a bit softer and more flexible. Addition of a soft wax...Vaseline, for example...would make the wax more flexible and longer lasting. If the chain isn’t cleaned first, the soft wax on the chain would add to the hard wax and result in a better lubricant.

Originally Posted by vane171 View Post
This reminds me seeing a document about retro american TV commercials from 1950s, where in one of them, a pretty housewife, smartly dressed, shows in her nice modern kitchen how she has a problem with grease on pots and pans and then she has a solution - she pulls out a can of gasoline from kitchen cupboard, pours it into sink and with her bare hands, sponges the dishes in it and voila, no grease, nice shiny pots

I mean, if that doesn't make you cringe, what will, and you don't even have to be some freak regarding these things.
I’m not sure I would believe that someone in the 1950s would use gasoline on dishes. The flammable properties of gasoline was well known by the 1950...being burned alive due to crashes of all kinds was a trope in movies even in the 30s. People did silly things in the 50s but I really doubt they were that stupid.
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Old 05-07-20, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Rubbing alcohol has been widely unavailable for weeks during the pandemic. Other solvents are still readily available in some areas: mineral spirits, acetone, methanol, etc.
Rubbing alcohol (70% or 91% isopropanol) isn't great for cleaning chains. I use it all the time for cleaning and degreasing surfaces, but for some reason, when I drop a chain into a jar of rubbing alcohol and shake it up, very little happens (unlike, say, acetone, which turns black in seconds and delivers a significantly cleaner chain). Going with the "like dissolves like" theme, I think rubbing alcohol is just too polar to effectively dissolve chain grease
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