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Chain Cleaner-What solvent?

Old 11-04-12, 01:56 PM
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Chain Cleaner-What solvent?

I am just getting ready to start riding my "new" bike that has a Campy 11 speed drive train. On other bikes I would remove the chain to give it a good cleaning but the Campy needs a 'special" chain tool that I do not wish to buy at this time. I have one of those chain cleaners but would like a suggestion as to what solvent to use. In the past I have used mineral spirits but not sure if there is something better.
Thanks!
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Old 11-04-12, 02:08 PM
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Park chain Cleaner, Park Cleaner fluid , by the Quart.
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Old 11-04-12, 02:44 PM
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You have "new" in quotation marks. If you are trying to clean a dirty chain, I think your options are to use dishwashing liquid or one of the proprietary chain cleaners, and Park Tools is fine, and then relube; or just lube liberally with one of the many chain lubes and wipe it dry. If you are trying to remove the original grease from a new chain, or completely degrease an old chain (if, for example, you want to use a wax lubricant) then my experience (admittedly limited) is that odorless mineral spirits work as well as anything, are less messy than kerosene or diesel fuel, and much safer than gasoline.
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Old 11-04-12, 03:10 PM
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OMS cleans a chain well but I've never tried it in a clamp-on chain cleaner - does it etch or attack the plastic chain cleaner itself?

My experiece with biodegradable cleaners has been poor. Depends on your chain lube of course, but for me, they didn't do the job.
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Old 11-04-12, 03:16 PM
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Most detergents don' do that good a job breaking down the quality oils and greases used in factory lubes. You might get the outside clean, but within the chain, you'll end up with an emulsion of partly broken down oil, and water/detergent mix. This not only is a lousy lube, but it can inhibit the performance of any lube added after. Also, water is very slow to dry from within the chain, so unless you leave the bike in a warm place for a long time, or use a hair drier or heat gun to dry the chain, you're newly applied oil won't wick into the chain.

I strongly recommend that you skip the water/soap, simple green, or whatever solutions, and use mineral spirits (petroleum distillate, not the new so-called green mineral spirits) or naphtha, or a similar class of petroleum distillate which will dissolve oil or grease, then dry 100% dry fairly quickly.
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Old 11-04-12, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
Most detergents don' do that good a job breaking down the quality oils and greases used in factory lubes. You might get the outside clean, but within the chain, you'll end up with an emulsion of partly broken down oil, and water/detergent mix. This not only is a lousy lube, but it can inhibit the performance of any lube added after. Also, water is very slow to dry from within the chain, so unless you leave the bike in a warm place for a long time, or use a hair drier or heat gun to dry the chain, you're newly applied oil won't wick into the chain.

I strongly recommend that you skip the water/soap, simple green, or whatever solutions, and use mineral spirits (petroleum distillate, not the new so-called green mineral spirits) or naphtha, or a similar class of petroleum distillate which will dissolve oil or grease, then dry 100% dry fairly quickly.
+ a zillion. I have never understood why people introduce water into the scheme of things re their drivetrain. I just don't understand, nor will I ever understand it. I have always used Odorless Mineral Spirits, as it works very well, evaporates well and it's recylable.
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Old 11-04-12, 04:24 PM
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There is one simple reason why many of us have tried water-based cleaning solvents: we cycle in the winter and need to clean our chains indoors.

I wanted to believe in the green cleaners. I'd use one if it worked. Like FBinNY said, they just create a mess by mingling with the lube in some crazy way, but never really breaking it up and removing it. If you doubt this, use your favorite orange or green cleaner and get the chain looking clean - then dip in OMS and watch the black stuff flowing out like a river.

At this point I do not have a good answer for indoor cleaning.
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Old 11-04-12, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by jim hughes
OMS cleans a chain well but I've never tried it in a clamp-on chain cleaner - does it etch or attack the plastic chain cleaner itself?
No. I've used OMS in a Park Chain Cleaner without a problem.
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Old 11-04-12, 05:28 PM
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Minerals spirits, kerosene or diesel fuel can all be used indoors, at least in the garage. The "odorless" variety of mineral spirits has the least odor, but it's not really odorless. I always remove the chain and place it in an old water bottle, partially filled with solvent. Shake the bottle for a minute, drain the used solvent into another container for reuse, then repeat with a second batch of clean solvent. The solvent can be used many times, since the dirt will settle to the bottom of the storage container. Just pour clean solvent off the top.

As for the special chain tool for the Campy 11 chain, that's not needed. Any decent chain tool will break a Campy chain, but once that's done you need to use a master link to rejoin it. IRD and KMC both make links that will work. I always resommend removing the original joining pin and the pin adjacent to it, to be replaced by the master link.
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Old 11-04-12, 05:37 PM
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I put the chain in a small container and fill it with enough gasoline to cover the chain. A stiff brush will get out the stubborn dirt. It dries quickly..and then proceed to lube it with a teflon lube.
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Old 11-04-12, 05:47 PM
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I knew someone would mention gasoline - the worst possible choice. Far more likely to blow up in your face and smells awful. Don't use it for chain cleaning.
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Old 11-04-12, 05:59 PM
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I never do more than spray some citrus solvent in a rag and back pedal while wiping down the chain to get any dirt off of the outside before re-applying more chainlube. I get good life from my chains and if you lube your chain properly (meaning wipe the excess off after application) your drivetrain stays very clean looking. Not to mention the time saved.
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Old 11-04-12, 06:39 PM
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Please never use gasoline for anything except fueling engines. It is toxic to breathe and for skin contact. It is highly flammable and generates explosive fumes. There are plenty of safe solvents available, there is no reason to take the risk.
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Old 11-04-12, 06:49 PM
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There's simple solution to the problems of using OMS or naphtha indoors. Se up a work area near an open window. Set up a fan inside the room to blow past you and carry any fumes out the window. If you can remove the chain, clean it in closed jars to minimize evaporation (I've found Bonne Maman preserves jars to be the right size and strong enough to allow pretty aggressive agitation. Otherwise coffee cans with plastic lids work equally well, as do large mouth ketchup bottles. The used solvent can be stored in pickle jars, where the dirt will settle so you can reuse it next time around.
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Old 11-04-12, 07:35 PM
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+1 on Mason jars. Apart from drying the chain, you shouldn't have long periods of time where vapors are escaping.
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Old 11-04-12, 08:09 PM
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Thanks for all the replies. I think I will continue to use MS.
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Old 11-04-12, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
There's simple solution to the problems of using OMS or naphtha indoors. Se up a work area near an open window. Set up a fan inside the room to blow past you and carry any fumes out the window.
LOL I live in Minnesota, I cycle in the winter. I need an indoor chain cleaning process that doesn't require an open window and a fan :-)
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Old 11-04-12, 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by jim hughes
LOL I live in Minnesota, I cycle in the winter. I need an indoor chain cleaning process that doesn't require an open window and a fan :-)
I hope you're kidding. I'm sure you have more creativity and flexibility than you seem to.

You could skip washing and dry wipe the chain, work by a window and lose a bit of heat, brave the elements and work outside for a few minutes (if you can ride in it, you can work in it a while), you could remove the chain and wash in closed vessels, or you could use multiple chains for the bike switching out at intervals, and cleaning when it's convenient, join a bike co-op and work there, and so on.......
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Old 11-05-12, 07:59 AM
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OMS won't freeze, so what's the problem with cleaning the chain outdoors in the winter? I do.

HTFU?
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Old 11-05-12, 04:07 PM
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Looigi, next time you're in Minneapolis, feel free to work on your bike in my driveway. If I'm out cycling, you might have to shovel it first. Enjoy!


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Old 11-05-12, 04:39 PM
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I spy a garage aka "bike maintenance cave".
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Old 11-05-12, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
Most detergents don' do that good a job breaking down the quality oils and greases used in factory lubes. You might get the outside clean, but within the chain, you'll end up with an emulsion of partly broken down oil, and water/detergent mix. This not only is a lousy lube, but it can inhibit the performance of any lube added after. Also, water is very slow to dry from within the chain, so unless you leave the bike in a warm place for a long time, or use a hair drier or heat gun to dry the chain, you're newly applied oil won't wick into the chain.

I strongly recommend that you skip the water/soap, simple green, or whatever solutions, and use mineral spirits (petroleum distillate, not the new so-called green mineral spirits) or naphtha, or a similar class of petroleum distillate which will dissolve oil or grease, then dry 100% dry fairly quickly.
This.
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Old 11-05-12, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by jim hughes
Looigi, next time you're in Minneapolis, feel free to work on your bike in my driveway.
I really don't see your problem. You have a detached garage, and can certainly use mineral spirits or naphtha in there without concern about stinking up the house. If you're concerned about fire risk, lift the overhead door 2" (above the snow line) so the heavier than air fumes (what there are of them) vent out the door.
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Old 11-05-12, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
I really don't see your problem.
There is no "problem". I've been cleaning chains in the back yard, and/or in the garage, right through the winter, for about 30 years. I used to use real mineral spirits, then switched to 'greener' OMS. In the winter, I sometimes clean the bike in the basement, over the laundry tub, and it would be nice to clean the chain there too. Maybe when I said I "need" to clean it indoors I should have said that I "really wish" I could do so. Now that the Iron Man competition is over, back to the topic of solvents?

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Old 11-05-12, 07:48 PM
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I've used naphtha to degrease parts for years. The odor isn't all that unpleasant. I don't think the vapors are that volatile, either. Just keep it away from any open flame. A gallon is pretty cheap at any paint/hardware store. That'll last you a good many years. Or buy it by the quart.
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