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Good methods for cleaning bicycle parts

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Good methods for cleaning bicycle parts

Old 12-30-09, 05:39 PM
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DArthurBrown
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Good methods for cleaning bicycle parts

I found an abandoned hybrid in a dumpster about a week ago. Broke my heart that someone would throw it away when most of the bike was still in fair shape. The wheels in particular were perfectly true (though had no tires or tubes).

The cassette and rims are caked with grease and grit. I've been blasting them with orange citrus degreaser, but am having limited success. Any suggestions?

I'm also wondering if people have clever ways of making old cranks and derailleurs look new.
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Old 12-31-09, 07:14 AM
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I've always found kerosene or mineral spirits to be the most effective bike grease/grime cleaner. Soak the cassette, freehub body, chain and RD, FD in some. Follow up with a nylon brush if needed. Making parts look new depends on the surface finish of said parts. Metal polishes yield good results if parts aren't anodized or painted.
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Old 12-31-09, 08:10 AM
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Where does one get Kerosene or mineral spirits?

Adam
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Old 12-31-09, 08:33 AM
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Local hardware store in the paint thinner area for mineral spirits.
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Old 12-31-09, 08:58 AM
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I just polished up some old cranks with sandpaper, first some 160 grit (what I had handy), then some 600 grit, then some metal polish.
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Old 12-31-09, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Steev View Post
Local hardware store in the paint thinner area for mineral spirits.
Thanks! A.
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Old 12-31-09, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by AdamDZ View Post
Where does one get Kerosene or mineral spirits?

Adam
Kerosene can be obtained as diesel fuel at many gas stations, though it stinks compared to mineral spirits. Heating oil is the same thing too. Maybe your oil man would decant some into a container for you.
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Old 12-31-09, 05:04 PM
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Taking it apart and working piece by piece always works.

Also, if there are womenfolk in your household, wait for them to leave the house and use the dishwasher. Really. It works really well. And the dishwasher will not be dirty afterwards. No harm, no foul.

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Old 12-31-09, 10:35 PM
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CRC Brake Cleen or Gum-Out carburetor cleaner will cut the grease and dirt real fast, and all the way down to the metal pores. Don't use inside as they stink awfully.
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Old 12-31-09, 11:56 PM
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Sonic cleaner works great on smaller bits that are easy to get off..
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Old 01-02-10, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by rogerstg View Post
Kerosene can be obtained as diesel fuel at many gas stations, though it stinks compared to mineral spirits. Heating oil is the same thing too. Maybe your oil man would decant some into a container for you.
#2 Diesel fuel is a different distillation cut than kerosene. It's less volatile. Mineral spirits...aka naphtha or paint thinner...is even more volatile, i.e. easier to evaporate but more flammable... than kerosene. White gas is about the same as mineral spirits.
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Old 01-02-10, 10:48 AM
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Disassembly, mineral spirits and a toothbrush. Good idea to wear gloves, cause your skin soaks that crap up like a sponge.

Various types of kitchen scourers can be employed to remove rust or corrosion; some can be used to create a brushed finish on tired aluminium.
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Old 01-02-10, 12:27 PM
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I know that polishing shiny metals with tooth paste makes them um... more shiny but I'm not sure how that works for bike parts and if that has any negative sides.

Adam
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Old 01-02-10, 02:23 PM
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For small things and localized cleaning, I use lighter fluid. The old fashioned kind. Works great. It has a spout that is really handy. Says right on the can, too, that it's for cleaning. I figure if you can inhale the stuff lighting cigarettes all day...
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Old 01-02-10, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
Disassembly, mineral spirits and a toothbrush. Good idea to wear gloves, cause your skin soaks that crap up like a sponge.
Put the part in a large enough jar about half full with mineral spirits or paint thinner and just shake. Repeat every few hours or days until the part is clean.

Nowhere near as fast, but a lot easier and a lot less messy.

FWIW, at my local hardware stores, "paint thinner" seems to be cheaper than "mineral spirits".
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Old 01-02-10, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by achoo View Post
Put the part in a large enough jar about half full with mineral spirits or paint thinner and just shake. Repeat every few hours or days until the part is clean.

Nowhere near as fast, but a lot easier and a lot less messy.

FWIW, at my local hardware stores, "paint thinner" seems to be cheaper than "mineral spirits".
dont do this with any part that has grease that is a pain to get to like casettes or freewheels as this wicks the grease out and its a pain to put back in.learned this the hard way.

+1 on the lighter fluid or Naptha. stuff works wonders!
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Old 01-02-10, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by letsgetsandy View Post
dont do this with any part that has grease that is a pain to get to like casettes or freewheels as this wicks the grease out and its a pain to put back in.learned this the hard way.

+1 on the lighter fluid or Naptha. stuff works wonders!
Cassettes that mount on freehubs have grease? The freehubs themselves or freewheel cassettes, yes...
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Old 01-02-10, 05:49 PM
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Cassettes, derailleurs, and chains can be removed and soaked in cleaner/degreaser of choice. Hubs, cartridge bottom brackets, freehubs, and freewheels shouldn't be soaked. Caged and loose bearings can be cleaned and reused after repacking, but generally replaced instead of reused.

Of course, proper lubing is required after cleaning.
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Old 01-02-10, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by letsgetsandy View Post
dont do this with any part that has grease that is a pain to get to like casettes or freewheels as this wicks the grease out and its a pain to put back in.learned this the hard way.

+1 on the lighter fluid or Naptha. stuff works wonders!
In the case of the OP in this thread, though, he pulled that bike out of a dumpster.

I wouldn't trust the lubrication status of any part on that bike, even "sealed" parts.
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Old 01-02-10, 07:37 PM
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I use mostly rags, old t-shirts, WD-40, and sometimes just soap/water.
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Old 01-02-10, 09:50 PM
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There are a heap of different solvents available. Some work on one thing and not another while another will be the wrong thing for the first and the right for the second. Generally the solvents that orginate from crude oil through distillation will do nicely for de-grunging parts that have caked up grit and grease on them. This includes kerosene (get the low odor lamp oil type, it's a LOT less smelly than the diesel fuel which is more crude and mixed with other ingriedients), Varsol cleaning solvent (a VERY close cousin to mineral spirits), mineral spirits AKA "low odor paint thinner" from the paint supply shelf. Once you get more aggresive and volitile than the low odor paint thinner the solvents get more flammable and smelly.

The carb cleaner and brake cleaner DO work great on these things. But they are pricey and highly volitile and flammable. Use with care and only if your bank account can afford it in more than just special small jobs. Oh, and both of these super powerful degreasers will strip the oils from your skin lickety split and enter your blood stream via the now oilless skin. USE GLOVES!

=cyccommute;10216116.....White gas is about the same as mineral spirits.
I always understood that white gas is what is used for Coleman stove fuel for the old liquid fuel types. If this is correct then white gas is WAY more volitile and flammable than mineral spirits. Not even in the same leage at all. The Coleman fuel is more volitile than even car gasoline. I used some to try starting a campfire one time. I was glad that I was upwind, using a long lit stick and had my head well down by the ground. The WOOMP! ! ! ! as it went off with about a 4 foot fireball was very impressive. Do NOT clean with Coleman or similar stove fuel indoors.... or anywhere for that matter. The smallest spark or flame source and you can kiss your eyebrows and hair goodbye and likely the first couple of layers of skin.


Originally Posted by sciencemonster View Post
For small things and localized cleaning, I use lighter fluid. ....... I figure if you can inhale the stuff lighting cigarettes all day...
Inhaling the burn byproducts for a few seconds a few times a day is a far cry from inhaling the fumes from the solvent itself. Also the fact that again it's more flammable than mineral spirits and you may as well just get a bigger container of the better option and keep the lighter fluid for re-fueling the lighter.



Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
Disassembly, mineral spirits and a toothbrush. Good idea to wear gloves, cause your skin soaks that crap up like a sponge.
Gloves or a good barrier cream that is meant for working with petrochemical solvents is a must if you value your internal organs. Solvents not only cut right through grease on the bike parts but they do a great job of leaching away the skin oils of our hands. Once that's gone the solvents are free to enter our blood stream thorugh the skin. The internal organs are the parts that end up removing the solvents from our blood. But because many of these solvents or chemicals such as citrus degreaser are not options they are intended for various issues can occur over time and later in your life. So learn now and use good gloves to avoid skin contact. And avoid using the stuff in enclosed areas. Keeping the fumes confined not only increases the risk of setting off the fumes and burning your place down but it makes it easier for the solvent to enter your blood through the lungs.

Solvents are a superb tool but we all need to learn that there's a lot of variations that come from different sources and what they can do. And we need to learn how to protect our bodies from excess exposure to them.
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Old 01-03-10, 01:38 AM
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Dyna Foam. Used to clean grease traps when I cooked in a busy sports bar. Available at restaurant supply. Wear gloves and gogs, the stuff burns, but is more effective than anything I've ever used for grease removal.
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Old 01-03-10, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
The carb cleaner and brake cleaner DO work great on these things. But they are pricey and highly volitile and flammable. Use with care and only if your bank account can afford it in more than just special small jobs. Oh, and both of these super powerful degreasers will strip the oils from your skin lickety split and enter your blood stream via the now oilless skin. USE GLOVES!
While gloves should be used with any degreaser, the body oils have little to do with slowing down absorption of solvents. Carburetor and brake cleaner contain high concentrations of ketones and alcohols. These will absorb into the blood stream more easily because they are more water soluble. Because they are more water soluble they can carry the other components of the mixture...largely toluene...with them.

Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
I always understood that white gas is what is used for Coleman stove fuel for the old liquid fuel types. If this is correct then white gas is WAY more volitile and flammable than mineral spirits. Not even in the same leage at all. The Coleman fuel is more volitile than even car gasoline. I used some to try starting a campfire one time. I was glad that I was upwind, using a long lit stick and had my head well down by the ground. The WOOMP! ! ! ! as it went off with about a 4 foot fireball was very impressive. Do NOT clean with Coleman or similar stove fuel indoors.... or anywhere for that matter. The smallest spark or flame source and you can kiss your eyebrows and hair goodbye and likely the first couple of layers of skin.
White gas is more flammable than mineral spirits (38C flashpoint) but its flash point (0 C) is no where near that of gasoline (<-40C). Brake cleaner has a flashpoint of -25C.

Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
Inhaling the burn byproducts for a few seconds a few times a day is a far cry from inhaling the fumes from the solvent itself. Also the fact that again it's more flammable than mineral spirits and you may as well just get a bigger container of the better option and keep the lighter fluid for re-fueling the lighter.
The burn products of any hydrocarbon are carbon dioxide and water. A smoker may inhale a bit of the solvent that is volatilized but that isn't a burn product. The thing that the smoker is lighting is far worse for them then drinking the lighter fluid straight.

Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
Gloves or a good barrier cream that is meant for working with petrochemical solvents is a must if you value your internal organs. Solvents not only cut right through grease on the bike parts but they do a great job of leaching away the skin oils of our hands. Once that's gone the solvents are free to enter our blood stream thorugh the skin. The internal organs are the parts that end up removing the solvents from our blood. But because many of these solvents or chemicals such as citrus degreaser are not options they are intended for various issues can occur over time and later in your life. So learn now and use good gloves to avoid skin contact. And avoid using the stuff in enclosed areas. Keeping the fumes confined not only increases the risk of setting off the fumes and burning your place down but it makes it easier for the solvent to enter your blood through the lungs.
Mineral spirits, especially low odor mineral spirits, aren't particularly toxic being composed mostly of long chain aliphatic hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons, by their very nature, are not water soluble. If you were to swallow them...not recommended...they would pass through the digestive system unaffected. Exposure should be limited but mineral spirits are much safer than many other options. Brake cleaner, carb cleaner, gasoline, etc. are all much more toxic and dangerous to use.

Gloves should be used with any solvent...water or hydrocarbon based. Ventilation should also be used...don't use the damned things in your house! Barrier creams, however, aren't that effective since they are going to be dissolved like skin oils are. I'd suggest not using latex gloves, however. Nitrile works better, is tougher and resists more chemicals as well as air oxidation. A box of nitrile gloves (the blue ones) are $10 to $15 at a big box store.
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Old 01-03-10, 12:31 PM
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Many of the petroleum-based solvents discussed above are explosively combustable except for kerosene.

They're also carcinogens. They love to insert themselves into your DNA chains and make cancers.

Here's the old timer style:

After physically removing the most obvious caked-on solidified grease, with a knife, screwdriver or whatever is needed to get into the nooks and crannies, good old fashioned Lestoil has always worked well for me. Let it soak for a few hours in an empty jar, agitating it once in a while and then use a toothbrush on it.

A final rinse in hot water.

This is great for chains and freewheels.

Chuck a freewheel remover into an eggbeater drill, and spin the freewheel when it's submerged in the Lestoil.

Nothing explosive. I don't think Lestoil is as much of a carcinogen as the other stuff.

I don't own stock in Lestoil.
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Old 01-03-10, 05:44 PM
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I picked up a can of mineral spirits solvent from Home Depot today. It indeed cleans well and doesn't stink like the regular degreaser I was using.

Adam
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