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Is it possible to clean bike chain rags back to completely white?

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Is it possible to clean bike chain rags back to completely white?

Old 05-14-21, 02:35 PM
  #1  
ship69
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Is it possible to clean bike chain rags back to being completely white?

Hello

Is it actually possible to get rags that have been used to clean a bike chain to be completely white again?
If so how?

So far I have tried:
- Soaking in washing up liquid,
- boiling in Aerial "All in 1 pods"
- soaking in distilled malt vinegar.
- household bleach
- soaking in "Muck Off"
Nothing really works at scale... It's like the microscopic metal fillings in the oil have gone right into the fibres.

Confession:
The problem is that I have used some household microfibre clothes. I have order some more but my housemate isn't happy(!)

Either way, it would be nice to have an efficient solution to the problem.

J
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Old 05-14-21, 03:08 PM
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Nope. Just buy dark colored rags.
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Old 05-14-21, 03:42 PM
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ship69
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Wait, I've had another go with Muck Off - using quite a lot of the stuff. It's working better than anything else so far!

Watch this space... I'll leave it to soak and revert.
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Old 05-14-21, 03:48 PM
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get new rags
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Old 05-14-21, 04:01 PM
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I doubt it. Get new rags for the house mates, keep the old ones for your chain. The black stuff, which I believe is actually very finely divided metal particles, seems to incorporate itself into the fabric and is very hard to get back out. For one thing it's not soluble in anything that you'd want to put fabric into. I've gotten it onto clothing and it has stayed there through multiple washings.

Pro tip: Don't buy white cleaning rags.
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Old 05-14-21, 04:05 PM
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Next post - How do I get grease stains out of my washing machine?

I have a hierarchy of towels in my house:
Bath
Beach
Dog
Car wash
Cyclocross
Bike cleaning
Oil and Grease

Towels are washed between every cycle except the last. Once they have oil and grease on them, they go into the trash. Old cotton t-shirts get cut up and go straight to bike cleaning or oil and grease.
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Old 05-14-21, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by epnnf View Post
get new rags
'Muck Off' has made more impact than anything else, but yes I am going to have to replace the rags and I have some on order.
But not very eco-friendly.
...And not a happy housemate! (oops)

EDIT: My final throw of the dice is that I've showed the rags plus the quite a lot of Muck Off straight into the washing machine (+ a washing detergent capsule). I get that it's a losing battle but maybe the agitation will help a little.

Passing thought: I wonder what the metal particles actually are? Nano-particles of iron? Iron Oxide? Iron Hydroxide. If so you'd have thought you could dissolve them chemically. From memory I think Oxalic Acid dissolves Iron Oxide although which oxides I don't know (Fe2 or Fe3... I dunno)... but the stuff looks black not brown. ==> Magnetite?
How about nitric acid ==> Iron Nitrate which is soluble in water, no?
OK I confess, I'm well out of my depth.

Time for sleep.

Last edited by ship69; 05-14-21 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 05-14-21, 04:58 PM
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Bill Kapaun
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Cleaning a bike chain is part of the funeral service my rags get before buried in the trash.
How environmentally friendly are your multiple attempts at reviving a dead horse?
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Old 05-14-21, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by ship69 View Post
'Muck Off' has made more impact than anything else, but yes I am going to have to replace the rags and I have some on order.
But not very eco-friendly.
...And not a happy housemate! (oops)

EDIT: My final throw of the dice is that I've showed the rags plus the quite a lot of Muck Off straight into the washing machine (+ a washing detergent capsule). I get that it's a losing battle but maybe the agitation will help a little.

Passing thought: I wonder what the metal particles actually are? Nano-particles of iron? Iron Oxide? Iron Hydroxide. If so you'd have thought you could dissolve them chemically. From memory I think Oxalic Acid dissolves Iron Oxide although which oxides I don't know (Fe2 or Fe3... I dunno)... but the stuff looks black not brown. ==> Magnetite?
How about nitric acid ==> Iron Nitrate which is soluble in water, no?
OK I confess, I'm well out of my depth.

Time for sleep.
just apologize and buy new rags.

unless you like the idea of your labor being worth .05c per hour.
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Old 05-14-21, 05:48 PM
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With all of those washing cycles and detergent use you have wasted more money and done more environmental damage than just throwing those rags away and buying new ones would have.
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Old 05-14-21, 06:12 PM
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Apply white gas.

Soak for 1 hour.

Ignite

Acquire new rags
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Old 05-14-21, 06:17 PM
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ship69
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What do you folks do if you get a little chain oil on your finest clothes?

Burn them?
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Old 05-14-21, 06:29 PM
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If there was a reasonable way to do so, think of all the tidy whities you'd save for the elder with BM containment issues. They'd no longer need to always depend on incontinence products & prevents skidding off to the store too!
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Old 05-14-21, 07:10 PM
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Maybe you should get a new housemate?
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Old 05-14-21, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by James1964 View Post
Maybe you should get a new housemate?
That's not very environmentally friendly. I'd suggest soaking in muck off first to see if that fixes the problem.
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Old 05-14-21, 10:19 PM
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I got some chain muck on my new down jacket and it came off with odorless mineral spirits, but the nylon has some sort of magic water repelling coating.

On a microfiber cloth the other day I got it off by soaking is a strong solutiosolutionn, but it didn't start out horrible.
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Old 05-14-21, 10:30 PM
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If I get grease on my finest clothes then I am an idiot who left my brain somewhere. I don't wear my finest clothes to work on a bike, If I do get grease on something light colored I will try to get it out with Rock N' Roll Miracle Red but I wouldn't spend money to soak rags in it. Rags are rags and they are used as much as possible and tossed. Maybe not the most eco-friendly but I can probably venture you are doing way less eco-friendly stuff than tossing a rag every so often.

I wouldn't want to muc up the clothes washing machine to save a greasy nasty rag and destroy my clothing potentially and all the chemicals you might use to try and clean up the clean up are probably also not very eco-friendly and certainly could be a fire hazard. Buy your roommate some new stuff and use old shirts and towels and such as rags and use them as much as possible before you toss. Take those brown stained "tidy whiteys" and turn them black and then toss them instead of tossing them beforehand.
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Old 05-14-21, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
Pro tip: Don't buy white cleaning rags.
Yeah nah.

Pro tip: You want white (or at least pastel) rags, which tell you at a glance how dirty they are.

Only cotton is worth a damn, and the best forms of it are towel and dish towel, depending on the application.

As a hydraulic service tech, we get the best rags going - white towels. All the other blokes we work with who use rags get dead jealous

Last edited by Kimmo; 05-14-21 at 11:35 PM.
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Old 05-14-21, 11:33 PM
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Originally Posted by ship69 View Post
What do you folks do if you get a little chain oil on your finest clothes?

Burn them?
They're no longer my finest clothes.
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Old 05-15-21, 05:27 AM
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Originally Posted by ship69 View Post
What do you folks do if you get a little chain oil on your finest clothes?

Burn them?
Wear them with pride.

Don't throw away rags, repurpose them as shop rags. I have a huge bin of old towels, shirts, bedsheets and microfiber clothes I use in the shop.

Also hit a Walmart or Costco and get some Scott shop paper towels. Walmart, Dollar Store and Harbor Freight also sell bundles of microfiber towels for cheap.

Another trick is nothing I've found removes chain grease from your hands better than makeup removal disposable wipes. Walmart equate brand works great, I carry a travel pack in my tool kit. The packs reseal and last for years.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Equate-Be...-pack/38294506
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Old 05-15-21, 07:24 AM
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I always smile when I see a cyclist wearing clean white clothing. Cycling can be a dirty sport, especially when things go wrong. I recently heard the reason cycling pants are black is so the leather treatment on vintage saddles won't show.

If I ever feel the need to get a tattoo, it'll be a partial chain ring imprint on the inside of my right calf. I have that design on a few pairs of work trousers too. Also on the sleeves of a few jackets I've draped over the saddle. One of my wife's homemade quilts has a chain ring imprint. Oops.

We all make mistakes with housemates' and loved ones' belongings. Apologize and atone and try not to do it again.
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Old 05-15-21, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
Yeah nah.

Pro tip: You want white (or at least pastel) rags, which tell you at a glance how dirty they are.

Only cotton is worth a damn, and the best forms of it are towel and dish towel, depending on the application.

As a hydraulic service tech, we get the best rags going - white towels. All the other blokes we work with who use rags get dead jealous
That's true. The OP certainly knows that the rags are dirty.
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Old 05-15-21, 08:15 AM
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Oh-oh. Did someone use the good place mats to clean their chain?
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Old 05-15-21, 12:02 PM
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It must be possible, because the rag supplier at the shop will supply white rags.
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Old 05-15-21, 03:06 PM
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Wax your chain and never worry about mucking up the fine clothing
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