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how best to clean old frame with original paint/decals?

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how best to clean old frame with original paint/decals?

Old 07-30-20, 11:13 PM
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rch427
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how best to clean old frame with original paint/decals?

So, my "grail bike" frame arrived from Milan a couple of days ago, and I've been looking it over. It is -- as all my bikes are -- in its original paint and decals (which, as of 2020, are 43 years old), and both are in decent shape.

The frame is a bit sticky, and it feels to me like items I've handled in my antiques dealing profession that have been in a enclosed area with cigarette smoke (which it faintly smells of). I've not had a frame with this particular issue before, and it's left me wondering how those of you with old bikes in original finishes, have addressed cleaning the frames. Naturally my biggest concern is not doing anything to harm the decals or soften the paint. I've used polishing compound on frames that were merely dull from oxidization, and although it's a PitA to do, it does seem to restore some luster and color. But it may not be the best method, especially since one has to be so careful around decals. So what is the best way to carefully remove the surface stickiness, grime, oxidization, etc.? Extra points for telling me what type of paint it's likely to be (e.g., nitrocellulose lacquer, enamel, etc.) And what would you recommend for a protective finish? -some kind of wax?

TIA for any advice!

-- Robert
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Old 07-31-20, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by rch427 View Post
So, my "grail bike" frame arrived from Milan a couple of days ago, and I've been looking it over. It is -- as all my bikes are -- in its original paint and decals (which, as of 2020, are 43 years old), and both are in decent shape.

The frame is a bit sticky, and it feels to me like items I've handled in my antiques dealing profession that have been in a enclosed area with cigarette smoke (which it faintly smells of). I've not had a frame with this particular issue before, and it's left me wondering how those of you with old bikes in original finishes, have addressed cleaning the frames. Naturally my biggest concern is not doing anything to harm the decals or soften the paint. I've used polishing compound on frames that were merely dull from oxidization, and although it's a PitA to do, it does seem to restore some luster and color. But it may not be the best method, especially since one has to be so careful around decals. So what is the best way to carefully remove the surface stickiness, grime, oxidization, etc.? Extra points for telling me what type of paint it's likely to be (e.g., nitrocellulose lacquer, enamel, etc.) And what would you recommend for a protective finish? -some kind of wax?

TIA for any advice!

-- Robert
I used to just use WD-40 on a cloth, just like I did when they were new, until one day I smeared some decals, on a Medici. Now no big surprises... Dish soap and water mix on a cloth, and careful progression to stronger things. Can be Alcohol, Bug and tar remover, Acetone, WD-40, all tested gently first. Finally if an oxidized paint, careful use of auto "cutting" polish. I am not handling museum pieces. Except for one, which someone else already partly wiped the decals a away... I should have learned from their mistake, before mucking up the Medici. I have a 1980 Holdsworth, with a yellowed clear-coat, that seems permanent. It may be.
Paint types, I'm sure there will be much more expert knowledge to follow, but 43 years ago, Many, many paints were in use. USA, Dupont Imron enamel was big. (Tougher than the later versions, but reformulated due to environmental concerns.) My Ron Cooper had the toughest finish I've ever seen. In subsequent articles, it has been described as a British stove enamel. Some Italians were still using laquers, I guess. Gios used a cobalt based blue enamel,(until banned as harmful,) I believe, and put their decals straight over it, no clear-coat over them. Colnago early eighties did a tough paint with uncovered decals too on some Mexicos. Good luck. You probably have more experience with the concept of "do no harm" than most of us.

Last edited by Last ride 76; 07-31-20 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 07-31-20, 07:44 AM
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I'll do something like windex, I also like to wipe new buy down with chainsaw oil. The oil is great on oxidized paint and does great on the dirt and grime.
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Old 07-31-20, 08:14 AM
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For cleaning up dried grease, gum and stickiness, WD40 is generally a safe bet for a cleaner. That's what was used bike shops. As I'm sure you know, test on a small area first. Naphtha *should* be safe on any sort of cured enamel or lacquer. Follow with a very fine polishing compound like Meguiars #17 . Then use a wax of your choice. I suggest a clear wax, because the milky looking automotive waxes are a PITA to get out of all the crevices around bicycle lugs etc.


All sorts of paints and finishes have been used on bikes. Stoved enamels were commonly used early on, and are still used in some places. Later finishes often tracked what was being used on cars at the time. It is not unknown for Italian bikes to have a nitrocellulose lacquer clear coat. Is there any crackling on the bike?
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Old 07-31-20, 10:25 AM
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If there is a sticky residue, I might try some light oil (like 3-in-1 mineral oil) on a paper towel or soft rag first, in the same way I use a little olive oil to get tree sap off my hands.
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Old 07-31-20, 10:29 AM
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Simple Green.
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Old 07-31-20, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by bargo68 View Post
Simple Green.
Simple green left the paint splotchy on my 58 Paramount, fortunately careful cleaner waxing cleared it up, mostly.

Proceed with extreme caution.
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Old 07-31-20, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
Simple green left the paint splotchy on my 58 Paramount, fortunately careful cleaner waxing cleared it up, mostly.

Proceed with extreme caution.
Indeed-I should have added that Simple Green is sold as a concentrate and needs to be watered down substantially. Different ratios for different applications.
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Old 07-31-20, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by bargo68 View Post
Indeed-I should have added that Simple Green is sold as a concentrate and needs to be watered down substantially. Different ratios for different applications.
Mine was the pre mixed ready to use retail spray bottle, would not have thought to dilute it.

I have used it a lot in many applications, detailing of many cars, bikes, etc, drag racing motorcycles and much more, still probably should have known better.

The Paramount had a serious amount petrified grease that had to be almost chiseled off, used pop sicle sticks even with the Simple green was quite a slog.


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Old 07-31-20, 03:06 PM
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I wipe with a damp cloth to get the majority of the solids off then rub frame with whatever polish I have on hand. Judicious use on sensitive surfaces (decals, etc.). Then wax, wait for it to dry, wipe off and buff lightly and done.
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Old 07-31-20, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
..I suggest a clear wax, because the milky looking automotive waxes are a PITA to get out of all the crevices around bicycle lugs etc.
I thought that was what Q-tips were invented for?
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Old 07-31-20, 04:10 PM
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Just cleaning/wiping paint, I use an automotive Quick Detailer sprayed on a microfiber towel. If I need to remove grease/grime/rust then WD-40 and a soft toothbrush if needed. If I need to shine the paint I use a compound, either a pre-wax glaze/polish or a cutter then polish depending on the paint issues (I have a lot of automotive stuff). I only use those on the paint or clear. If the decals are on the surface I just work around them or test them. Then a coat of wax or even a sealant.
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Old 07-31-20, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
Mine was the pre mixed ready to use retail spray bottle, would not have thought to dilute it.

I have used it a lot in many applications, detailing of many cars, bikes, etc, drag racing motorcycles and much more, still probably should have known better.

The Paramount had a serious amount petrified grease that had to be almost chiseled off, used pop sicle sticks even with the Simple green was quite a slog.


Well it came out looking very nice!
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Old 07-31-20, 07:04 PM
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Originally Posted by bargo68 View Post
Well it came out looking very nice!
Tx, the 60 yr old paint is in pretty good shape and luckily stayed that way despite my efforts to the contrary.
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Old 07-31-20, 07:24 PM
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I also always forget an oldschool detailer trick is to use liquid cleaner wax with soap and water to wash grungy paint, still need to be careful and use no stronger than a midrange cleaner wax, not too aggressive.
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Old 07-31-20, 08:12 PM
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I always start with a soft sponge and dawn dish washing soap. Soap it up real good and rinse out the sponge and rub it again. Then dry it off with a soft towel. Then, put on some latex gloves. Open a container of automobile paste wax. Grab the wax with gloved hands and massage it into the frame. Rub it around and use fingers to remove stains and residue. Let it sit a day and dry. Use clean white towel to rub off & remove wax. Use soft buffing cloth tp bring out luster. That's it. That's all. Done deal.
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Old 07-31-20, 08:42 PM
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Just don’t use the pressure washer


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Old 08-01-20, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
Mine was the pre mixed ready to use retail spray bottle, would not have thought to dilute it.

I have used it a lot in many applications, detailing of many cars, bikes, etc, drag racing motorcycles and much more, still probably should have known better.

The Paramount had a serious amount petrified grease that had to be almost chiseled off, used pop sicle sticks even with the Simple green was quite a slog.


An exceptional looking bike!
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Old 08-01-20, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
As I'm sure you know, test on a small area first. Naphtha *should* be safe on any sort of cured enamel or lacquer.
That's where I'd start.
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