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Parts cleaners and cleaning formulas?

Old 12-04-21, 01:20 PM
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Parts cleaners and cleaning formulas?

I bought a small parts cleaning ultrasonic cleaner, and I now have a load of dirty parts to process. What cleaning fluids or solvents are safe and effective and can be poured down the drain? Lots of 50 year old, caked grease on these ol’ bits!
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Old 12-04-21, 01:26 PM
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Old 12-04-21, 01:51 PM
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I use a brush, mostly brass, but also steel and nylon bristles, along with Simple Green to remove the bulk of filth. Then just Dawn and water in the ultrasonic cleaner to finish the job.
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Old 12-04-21, 02:57 PM
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I put the parts in a ziploc bag with whatever solvent I'm using, then hang the bag in the cleaner filled with water; saves on solvent and mess. My cleaner is years old and has only ever had water (directly) in it.
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Old 12-04-21, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by oneclick View Post
I put the parts in a ziploc bag with whatever solvent I'm using, then hang the bag in the cleaner filled with water; saves on solvent and mess. My cleaner is years old and has only ever had water (directly) in it.
This is a Pro tip/commercial trick, many use to keep the tank from getting nasty and it controls the cost factor greatly.
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Old 12-04-21, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by oneclick View Post
I put the parts in a ziploc bag with whatever solvent I'm using, then hang the bag in the cleaner filled with water; saves on solvent and mess. My cleaner is years old and has only ever had water (directly) in it.
That works as long as your part doesn't poke a hole in the bag. I now use a Ball jar.

I must say that mineral spirits have done the best job of cleaning grease off of parts for me. With it, you can minimize what you pour down the drain by just saving the "dirty" mineral spirits in a jar and letting the crud settle out. Then, you can reuse it many times by just decanting the clean-ish mineral spirits off the top. Come to think of it, I've never actually poured dirty mineral spirits down the drain!
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Old 12-05-21, 05:40 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
That works as long as your part doesn't poke a hole in the bag. I now use a Ball jar.
That's a good idea; I'm going to start looking for a plastic jar that'll not dissolve. One thing I also do sometimes is hang the parts in a smaller mesh bag I made from window screening, the dirt collects in the bottom of the larger bag and the clean parts are held above it. A jar will work better, a round screen that sits in the bottom will do the same.
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Old 12-05-21, 08:22 AM
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I am a glutton for punishment with grimy old projects--this is what I can recommend:

+1 to mineral spirits, great for bearing cages and other small parts with greasy little nooks and crannies. And +1 to small brushes, obviously. A must. Cotton swabs are great too.

--Hot water and Dawn dish soap usually gets me at least 70% of the way there on a project. Gotta be careful with stickers/decals though.

--I only recently discovered the joys of Evaporust. A truly "works as advertised" product. Although similar to the issues with ultrasonic cleaners, sometimes it helps to make sure there aren't any layers of grime on the part.

--Even though I'm sold on Evaporust, I still frequently use the old water/Barkeeper's Friend paste standby. It's a great rust remover and cleaner in general.

--And finally, I kinda feel that with all the products and methods out there, WD-40 has become overlooked in the cleaning game. It works great.
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Old 12-05-21, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by PugRider View Post
I am a glutton for punishment with grimy old projects--this is what I can recommend:

+1 to mineral spirits, great for bearing cages and other small parts with greasy little nooks and crannies. And +1 to small brushes, obviously. A must. Cotton swabs are great too.

--Hot water and Dawn dish soap usually gets me at least 70% of the way there on a project. Gotta be careful with stickers/decals though.

--I only recently discovered the joys of Evaporust. A truly "works as advertised" product. Although similar to the issues with ultrasonic cleaners, sometimes it helps to make sure there aren't any layers of grime on the part.

--Even though I'm sold on Evaporust, I still frequently use the old water/Barkeeper's Friend paste standby. It's a great rust remover and cleaner in general.

--And finally, I kinda feel that with all the products and methods out there, WD-40 has become overlooked in the cleaning game. It works great.
You and I are kindred spirits (not punning on the mineral spirits) in our processes since I would have made exactly the same recommendations. I too am a huge fan of WD-40 as a cleaner.

The only other chemical I would add is acetone to clean the braking surface on a rim.
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Old 12-05-21, 09:35 AM
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Two of my fails with my industrial cleaner:
From the Simple Green web site on Aluminum and they are correct: Therefore, contact times for unprotected or unpainted aluminum surfaces should be kept as brief as the job will allow - never for more than 10 minutes. So I now use Dawn. I use large glass beakers as they are super easy to clean the goop out but pad the bottom or keep anodized surfaces off the bottom (RD with wheels down) as anodized surface will get rubbed out in the vibration with the glass.
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Old 12-05-21, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by easyupbug View Post
Two of my fails with my industrial cleaner:
From the Simple Green web site on Aluminum and they are correct: Therefore, contact times for unprotected or unpainted aluminum surfaces should be kept as brief as the job will allow - never for more than 10 minutes. So I now use Dawn. I use large glass beakers as they are super easy to clean the goop out but pad the bottom or keep anodized surfaces off the bottom (RD with wheels down) as anodized surface will get rubbed out in the vibration with the glass.
This is true for standard Simple Green. However Simple Green Pro HD and Extreme Simple Green Aircraft are both formulated for use in cleaning aluminum. I would still not let things soak for a long time but I use Simple Green Pro HD (diluted with water) in my heated aqueous parts cleaner.and regularly do overnight soaks with no bad effects.
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Old 12-05-21, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by RustyJames View Post
You and I are kindred spirits (not punning on the mineral spirits) in our processes since I would have made exactly the same recommendations. I too am a huge fan of WD-40 as a cleaner.

The only other chemical I would add is acetone to clean the braking surface on a rim.
The problem with WD-40 as a “cleaner” is the 25% mineral oil that is added as a lubricant. The 75% mineral spirits in the mixture works well but only if you want to deal with the oily residue. It’s better to just use mineral spirits. Cheaper too.

If you need aerosol (which you really don’t), Finish Line Speed Degreaser contains all the good stuff without the added oil.
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Old 12-05-21, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
The problem with WD-40 as a “cleaner” is the 25% mineral oil that is added as a lubricant. The 75% mineral spirits in the mixture works well but only if you want to deal with the oily residue. It’s better to just use mineral spirits. Cheaper too.

If you need aerosol (which you really don’t), Finish Line Speed Degreaser contains all the good stuff without the added oil.
I like the residue since I don’t always put the part back into use immediately but to each their own.
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Old 12-05-21, 06:32 PM
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Drivetrains need to be cleaned not degreased.
Dish soap + water for frame and wheels only.

I clean my main bike and commuter weekly and at most, regular WD40 + a cloth is enough for drivetrain.

Why people insist on using water and degreasers to strip grease/lube from bare metal is beyind me. You're not painting the bits, just re-lubing / re-greasing them. Unless of course you're a waxxer, in which case a kettle is what you need.

Ultrasonic cleaner + petrol or kerosene for chainset if cleaning industrial quantities, or for a bike shop.
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Old 12-05-21, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Schlafen View Post
Drivetrains need to be cleaned not degreased.
It’s less about removing “grease” than removing oil which is basically thin “grease”. Of course if you don’t use oil, you don’t have to remove it. As an added bonus, you don’t have have to clean the drivetrain all that much. My drivetrains never need degreasing or even cleaning. I’m not a hot waxer but I do use solvent wax lubricant and never need to “remove” it.



Dish soap + water for frame and wheels only.
Or car wash.

I clean my main bike and commuter weekly and at most, regular WD40 + a cloth is enough for drivetrain.
Again, if you don’t use something that traps dirt, you won’t need to clean. Frankly, you clean about 52 times per year more than I do. This is my drivetrain about 800 miles into a 1500 mile tour. This is typical of my drivetrains even without being on tour.


My chain, cassette, and chainrings last as long as others report with a minimum of cleaning.
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Old 12-08-21, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Schlafen View Post
Drivetrains need to be cleaned not degreased.
Ultrasonic cleaner + petrol or kerosene for chainset if cleaning industrial quantities, or for a bike shop.
I would be afraid of using petrol (gasoline) -- do you really do that? Kerosene has a lower flash point, I think but is smelly. I used to use that many years ago but switched to paint thinner (mineral spirits). Probably even that caused me brain damage back in the day. None that I can see now, though.
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Old 12-09-21, 02:40 AM
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Originally Posted by wheelywheel View Post
I would be afraid of using petrol (gasoline) -- do you really do that? Kerosene has a lower flash point, I think but is smelly. I used to use that many years ago but switched to paint thinner (mineral spirits). Probably even that caused me brain damage back in the day. None that I can see now, though.
Petrol only ignites from open flame.
Only petrol, no need for a flame thrower on this job, lol.

Fumes from like 500ml of petrol in an open space igniting? Not even Bear Grylls can make that fire.

What will set the petrol on fire, will set acetone, mineral spirits or alcohol on fire too. If that's a concern for people (clumsy or whatever) stick to water based degreasers, don't risk it, bike maintenance is not that important, lol.

I clean my bikes outside and don't have any sniffing habits heh.
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Old 12-09-21, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Schlafen View Post
Petrol only ignites from open flame.
While you are correct a caution to readers, the ignition temperature of gasoline is super high, something like 500ºF, what often gets people in trouble is not only an open flame but even a small spark which will ignite gasoline vapors at any temperature.
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Old 12-09-21, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by easyupbug View Post
While you are correct a caution to readers, the ignition temperature of gasoline is super high, something like 500ºF, what often gets people in trouble is not only an open flame but even a small spark which will ignite gasoline vapors at any temperature.
,,,,,,with the right air/fuel ratio.
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Old 12-09-21, 11:23 AM
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Oh good, these threads are never complete without someone saying "I just use gasoline, haven't blown up yet."
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Old 12-09-21, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Schlafen View Post
Petrol only ignites from open flame.
Only petrol, no need for a flame thrower on this job, lol.
Petrol (or gasoline for this side of the pond) doesn’t need an open flame to ignite. It just needs a spark. It’s very easy to ignite.

Fumes from like 500ml of petrol in an open space igniting? Not even Bear Grylls can make that fire.
No. Pour out 500 ml of gasoline and throw a match at it. It will ignite before the match hits the pool of fuel and will likely ignite much closer to you than you think.

What will set the petrol on fire, will set acetone, mineral spirits or alcohol on fire too. If that's a concern for people (clumsy or whatever) stick to water based degreasers, don't risk it, bike maintenance is not that important, lol.
While what can set gasoline on fire can start those other solvents on fire, it is far easier to ignite gasoline than it is to ignite any of those other materials. Acetone has a flash point of 0°F (-18°C). Ethanol has a flash point of 55°F (12°C). White spirits (also known as mineral spirits) have a flash point that depends on the grade of the mineral spirits but varies from 70°F (20°C) to 130°F (55°C). The higher the flash point, the harder it is to get a fire started. These materials can’t be used around open flame but they won’t easily make a vapor cloud that will find an ignition source, either.

Gasoline has a flash point of -50°F (-45°C). That means it is easy to ignite and requires very little energy to do so.


Originally Posted by easyupbug View Post
While you are correct a caution to readers, the ignition temperature of gasoline is super high, something like 500ºF, what often gets people in trouble is not only an open flame but even a small spark which will ignite gasoline vapors at any temperature.
That’s the auto ignition temperature. Heat an air/fuel mixture of gasoline to that temperature and it will combust spontaneously. That’s not the problem. Gasoline has a “piloted ignition temperature” of -45°F (-43°C). A piloted ignition temperature is

Theaccidentalinitiationofcombustionbymeansofcontactofgaseousmaterialwithanexternalhigh-energysource,suchasaflame,spark,electricalarc,orglowingwire.
In other words, at any temperature that you may use gasoline at, it can ignite if it finds an energy source…and energy sources are everywhere.
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Old 12-09-21, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by thermionicscott View Post
oh good, these threads are never complete without someone saying "i just use gasoline, haven't blown up yet." :d
🤣🤣
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Old 12-09-21, 03:56 PM
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I'm a kerosene user and never thought of using mineral spirits. These days in CA, mineral spirits are precious but I might try some of my stash on a special rebuild. For those that no longer have access to "Mineral Spirits", does the imposter and readily available "Paint Thinner" work as well.
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Old 12-09-21, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Classtime View Post
... For those that no longer have access to "Mineral Spirits", does the imposter and readily available "Paint Thinner" work as well.
I think I see better performance for basic parts cleaning by OMS than any thinner I have tried. Thinners I understand are less refined so have other solvents which while stinky and likely more volatile don't help with what I am looking for in OMS.
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Old 12-10-21, 12:21 PM
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Citrikleen. An industrial-strength citrus-based water-soluble degreaser. Highly concentrated, you mix a few ounces of it in bucket of water. Very safe to use, but very aggressive...it'll leech the oils out of your skin. I've never used it on bike parts, but I've used it on really grungy old car parts...just throw the parts in the bucket and let it soak overnight. You have to be sure and spray the parts with WD40 after removing them from the solution and rinsing, because they'll otherwise start to rust almost immediately...that's how aggressive the stuff is.

https://www.penetone.com/citrikleen-product-line
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