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First do no harm-cleaning a vintage frame without damaging decals

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First do no harm-cleaning a vintage frame without damaging decals

Old 06-17-17, 03:58 PM
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First do no harm-cleaning a vintage frame without damaging decals

I am about to clean a vintage frame with some nice intact decals and some damaged decals and I would not want to damage either in the process of cleaning the frame, what do you suggest?

Generally I use Mr. Bubble toilet cleaning foam and am pleased with the results on my modern bike whose decals are under clear coat, but what will clean and not risk damage to the frame decals on this early 80s era vintage frame?

Thanks for you thoughts and advice as to what has worked for you in cleaning a vintage frame without damage to vintage decals.
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Old 06-17-17, 04:40 PM
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No expert but very slippery slope here, most decals will not tolerate much cleaning, stickers usually fare better but are also fragile when it comes to this. I would encourage you to take plenty of good pics for reproduction later if necessary as a backstop, then proceed with extreme caution.


Originally Posted by since6 View Post
I am about to clean a vintage frame with some nice intact decals and some damaged decals and I would not want to damage either in the process of cleaning the frame, what do you suggest?

Generally I use Mr. Bubble toilet cleaning foam and am pleased with the results on my modern bike whose decals are under clear coat, but what will clean and not risk damage to the frame decals on this early 80s era vintage frame?

Thanks for you thoughts and advice as to what has worked for you in cleaning a vintage frame without damage to vintage decals.
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Old 06-17-17, 04:59 PM
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Mild dish soap.

I spray a fine mist of plain water on the bike and wait 5 minutes. the water lifts a significant amount of grime. I then take a soft terry cloth and a few drops of dish soap and wipe down the top-tube and seatstays, these are normally much cleaner than the rest of the bike. With a new, clean cloth, I then clean the head-tube, fork and seat-tube. finally I clean the Bottom Bracket Shell and the chainstays, first with one of the dirtied cloth to remove grease and then with a clean cloth. I then repeat the above process, without soap, just plain water.

Do this multiple times during the first season of riding and most of the superficial grime will be gone without any risk of damaging the decals (unless it's a Pinarello).
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Old 06-17-17, 05:05 PM
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Thanks you echo my fears, and perhaps the only safe way is just to not clean where the decals are and keep a safe margin around them as I clean off the grime/dust on the frame/fork.

It's going to be a very fun restoration so I just don't want to start off ruining the decals.
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Old 06-17-17, 06:10 PM
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+1, I always consider dish soap as the go to first line cleaner and work up in harshness as the situation warrants/requires especially when trying to preserve whats still there if it is cracked, peeling, lifting or fading.
Simple green, Windex and cleaner wax like Meguiars #2 can be used with care and good results where the finish is in good shape.


Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
Mild dish soap.

I spray a fine mist of plain water on the bike and wait 5 minutes. the water lifts a significant amount of grime. I then take a soft terry cloth and a few drops of dish soap and wipe down the top-tube and seatstays, these are normally much cleaner than the rest of the bike. With a new, clean cloth, I then clean the head-tube, fork and seat-tube. finally I clean the Bottom Bracket Shell and the chainstays, first with one of the dirtied cloth to remove grease and then with a clean cloth. I then repeat the above process, without soap, just plain water.

Do this multiple times during the first season of riding and most of the superficial grime will be gone without any risk of damaging the decals (unless it's a Pinarello).
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Old 06-17-17, 07:07 PM
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What kind of vintage, and what kind of decals? Bike mfgs have used all kinds of decals over the years, some are more fragile than others.
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Old 06-17-17, 07:35 PM
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I use Honest Multi-surface with a cloth...anything else that wont come off I use cotton balls with a sprinkle of acetone careful not to go over the decals. Works for me and haven't seen any signs of paint fading.
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Old 06-17-17, 07:36 PM
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rhm, the bike and decals? It's a Nishiki Cresta and I have just posted pictures of it and most of its decals, the other down tube decal is all there but gouged, in my post for background information, which I have just posted in C&V forum.
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Old 06-17-17, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by since6 View Post
I am about to clean a vintage frame with some nice intact decals and some damaged decals and I would not want to damage either in the process of cleaning the frame, what do you suggest?

Generally I use Mr. Bubble toilet cleaning foam and am pleased with the results on my modern bike whose decals are under clear coat, but what will clean and not risk damage to the frame decals on this early 80s era vintage frame?

Thanks for you thoughts and advice as to what has worked for you in cleaning a vintage frame without damage to vintage decals.
Please do tell more about Mr Bubble - how did you come to use it and what's so special about it in regards to cleaning bike frame? Never heard about using toilet cleaner on the bike
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Old 06-17-17, 09:09 PM
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Old 06-17-17, 09:13 PM
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My local bike builder who built my Stevenson Custom and Tandem uses it all the time to clean frames. It is pretty mild and does a nice job of removing the dirt, needles road grunge from the bike. Pitch from needles still needs a fingernail to scrape free. But remember these are clear coated and in the case of the Tandem powder coated frames, so I hesitate on older frames, try it first in a neglected section of the frame (bottom of the bottom bracket).
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Old 06-17-17, 09:15 PM
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Grandkids think Mr. Bubble, or any bubble bath, is the best thing since ice cream. Not much changes.
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Old 06-17-17, 09:24 PM
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As others mentioned dishwashing liquid ( I use Dawn) in lukewarm water staying away from decals as much as possible.
Near BB where there is a lot of grease I find an infant toothbrush works great at helping to dislodge grime without scratching the paint finish
Remember water slides are very delicate.
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Old 06-17-17, 09:50 PM
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Thanks all for advice. I'll start cleaning this coming week, a full plate so have to fit in the time. Bottom bracket feels like the bearings are caked in grease, we hope, not rust. Will proceed slowly and with care, dish soap, baby tooth brush and time.
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Old 06-18-17, 02:35 PM
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P1060157.JPG

P1060163.JPG

The warm soap and water with dish soap did a fine job of getting all the lose dirt, dust, grime off.

Found out I was out of chain cleaning fluid so I will get some today and then in a mild mixture with a soft tooth brush work off the dried grease on the head tube and bottom bracket.

Tried the bottom bracket with tools, but no budge so I stopped without stripping anything and will soak threads in penetrating oil and then take them over to my frame builder friend who has the gotter dammerung bottom bracket vice which will remove the bottom bracket for inspection without trauma.
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Old 06-18-17, 02:38 PM
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P1060161.JPG

P1060160.JPG

Since this frame fork is going to sit a spell before I begin the rebuild I thought it a good practice to fill all the brazeon/water bottle attachment with freshly greased bolts.

It you look closely at the end of the one long bolt through the rack brazeon you can see at its tip that it chased out some rust that was on the threads which are now coated with grease.
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Old 06-18-17, 02:44 PM
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P1060165.JPG

Once I get the bottom bracket out I will clean off all the old grease with chain cleaner and then spray frame saver inside all frame tubes and fork, a messy job as you always end up with some spraying on you.

I'll also go visit the local auto body supply store which has provided very good matched paint for other vintage bikes and then get out my sets of fine touch up brushes to touch up the many many scratches and gouges, laying down a rust inhibitor before painting. Yes a bit of a spotted dog when done, but that's Ok scruffy old guys enjoy scruffy old bikes, and "ride" is the key word, no hanger queen this.

Then a couple months wait, while other projects get done.

Good time to research how I will rebuild this bike
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Old 06-18-17, 09:09 PM
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Don't take the fixed cup out (on the drive side) unless you are replacing it. We normally leave that in. We stick a rag on our finger and reach in to clean the cup.
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Old 06-18-17, 10:35 PM
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Mr. Bubble toilet cleaner contains some seriously toxic stuff. I don't believe they can even sell it in Europe. Anything that irritates your eyes and lungs the way it does is not something I want around me, or my bikes.

A solution of mild dish soap and water, misted onto the frame and decals, then gently rinsed off and patted dry, would be the most gentle cleaning I can think of. And probably less harm than leaving whatever crud your bike has picked up from riding. From conversations with a friend who did auto detailing on really high-end cars, one should never just use water and a rag, or just put the soap on the rag and apply it that way. Soap has the amazing property of isolating bits of dirt and such, which are abrasive. Each soap molecule has a hydrophobic head, and hydrophilic tail. The head of the molecule wedges itself into the crevices between the paint and the dirt. As it does that, it wedges them apart, microscopically, and as water molecules get into that newly-created gap, the hydrophobic head of the soap wedges itself further in. Eventually the crud is totally separated from the paint, and surrounded by all these soap molecules (heads on the inside, tails out), which prevent it from reattaching. If you just use water and a wet rag, you're effectively doing a wet sanding to your bike, and just moving the dirt around. Most dirt/crud has an electrostatic charge which will make it want to cling to the bike. Soap breaks that bond.

Cleaners like Mr. Bubbles toilet cleaner create really strong chemical reactions. It's meant for porcelain, which is incredibly hard and resistant to chemicals. It's also designed to continue working for days after it's applied -- kind of the opposite of what I want on my bike. Are you sure you're not thinking of Mr. Bubbles bubble bath soap? Now that might work fine on a bike.
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Old 09-10-20, 01:46 PM
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Helpful suggestions for cleaning around original decals, and for cleaning the decals themselves!

But what about the opposite problem...any thoughts about removing extremely old (probably 40+ years old) reflective tape that a previous owner stuck on the frame and fed era of a 1950s era Raleigh, without damaging the paint? The tape is dry and very well bonded to the paint after so many years, and you can’t just pry up a corner and start peeling. And scraping with any sort of sharp tool likely will damage the paint. Suggestions will be gratefully accepted!
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Old 09-10-20, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Rherdegen View Post
Helpful suggestions for cleaning around original decals, and for cleaning the decals themselves!

But what about the opposite problem...any thoughts about removing extremely old (probably 40+ years old) reflective tape that a previous owner stuck on the frame and fed era of a 1950s era Raleigh, without damaging the paint? The tape is dry and very well bonded to the paint after so many years, and you can’t just pry up a corner and start peeling. And scraping with any sort of sharp tool likely will damage the paint. Suggestions will be gratefully accepted!
Maybe try a little WD 40. That seems to do a good job helping to remove bumper stickers.
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Old 09-10-20, 02:03 PM
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Worth a try! Thanks! I’ll report back on how well,it works. 😉
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Old 09-10-20, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Rherdegen View Post
Helpful suggestions for cleaning around original decals, and for cleaning the decals themselves!

But what about the opposite problem...any thoughts about removing extremely old (probably 40+ years old) reflective tape that a previous owner stuck on the frame and fed era of a 1950s era Raleigh, without damaging the paint? The tape is dry and very well bonded to the paint after so many years, and you can’t just pry up a corner and start peeling. And scraping with any sort of sharp tool likely will damage the paint. Suggestions will be gratefully accepted!
have you tried soaking that part of the frame with the stuck on tape in some warm soapy water?
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Old 09-10-20, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by tpadul View Post
have you tried soaking that part of the frame with the stuck on tape in some warm soapy water?
I will try that as well. Frankly, I’m up for trying anything! The problem is that this tape seems to be plastic or plasticized, and I’m just not sure that anything—soapy water, WD-40, alcohol??—is likely to soak through the tape to get to the adhesive backing. But I’m trying all of these suggestions, with eagerness.
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Old 09-10-20, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Rherdegen View Post
I will try that as well. Frankly, I’m up for trying anything! The problem is that this tape seems to be plastic or plasticized, and I’m just not sure that anything—soapy water, WD-40, alcohol??—is likely to soak through the tape to get to the adhesive backing. But I’m trying all of these suggestions, with eagerness.
Definitely try the warm soapy water..I just tried to remove very old and hardened sticky adhesive from a bike I just picked up and someone suggested heavy duty Goof Off and I would not recommend that as it literally stripped the paint off and now I’m gonna have to do more touch up painting on the frame that I wanted to. I had actually tried Goo Gone and that did not work but it also did not strip the paint off like the Goof off did.

This photo is before I tried to remove the adhesive, you can see how much was there.
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