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Cleaning chains

Old 09-14-22, 08:39 PM
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Cleaning chains

Not another chain/wax thread (but i'm sure it will turn into that)...

In another thread it was mentioned about having to dispose of nasty chemicals used for chain cleaning. i've been hot waxing for about three years now. here are my nasty chemicals, two peanut butter jars each with mineral spirits. i have never needed to dispose yet. chain first goes into the nasty one, then into the clear one. these have been settling for about a week now since the last waxing. the right jar never really clears up anymore but still chains are pulled out quite clean.

maybe i have not been doing this for very long but so far i don't see the problem with nasty chemicals...yet.


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Old 09-15-22, 04:53 AM
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Paper coffee filters are your friend. Dirty ones gone in the fire pit.

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Old 09-15-22, 05:08 AM
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What’s with the measuring tape?
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Old 09-15-22, 05:56 AM
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You probably have recycling stations for toxic materials in your area, or amnesty days .... and some gas stations will take used motor oil, so dump that stuff in.
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Old 09-15-22, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs
You probably have recycling stations for toxic materials in your area, or amnesty days .... and some gas stations will take used motor oil, so dump that stuff in.
DO NOT mix mineral spirits or other waste solvents, cleaners, paint products with your used motor oil. It'll contaminate the oil and render it useless for recycling purposes, plus drastically increase the cost of disposal of the contaminated oil. Keep them separate and find a proper household hazwaste disposal location near you.
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Old 09-15-22, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by skidder
DO NOT mix mineral spirits or other waste solvents, cleaners, paint products with your used motor oil. It'll contaminate the oil and render it useless for recycling purposes, plus drastically increase the cost of disposal of the contaminated oil. Keep them separate and find a proper household hazwaste disposal location near you.
Or if you do mix them, donate the stuff to your local oil-fired steam tourist railroad. They'll burn that stuff no problem.
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Old 09-15-22, 08:57 AM
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No nasty chemicals for me and I'm too lazy to remove the chain from the bike to clean it.

I just clean the chain on the bike with shop towels and a tooth brush and a spray bottle of Extreme Green parts cleaner. Over spray gets caught by the towel and I use the towel and toothbrush to clean the chain. In case there is any dripping I place a piece of cardboard under the bike that eventually will make it's way to the fire pit.

Non toxic...

https://www.fleetfarm.com/detail/ext...xtreme%20green

https://www.fleetfarm.com/detail/ext.../0000000218146

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Old 09-15-22, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by spelger
Not another chain/wax thread (but i'm sure it will turn into that)...

In another thread it was mentioned about having to dispose of nasty chemicals used for chain cleaning. i've been hot waxing for about three years now. here are my nasty chemicals, two peanut butter jars each with mineral spirits. i have never needed to dispose yet. chain first goes into the nasty one, then into the clear one. these have been settling for about a week now since the last waxing. the right jar never really clears up anymore but still chains are pulled out quite clean.

maybe i have not been doing this for very long but so far i don't see the problem with nasty chemicals...yet.

Mineral spirits are fairly harmless, but there is really no need to use it. Just start with a new chain, wipe off the grease it is packed in, and then the melted wax will displace whatever residue remains. The great thing about wax in the liquid form is it becomes a (safe) non-polar organic solvent, and unless you are starting with a previously filthy chain, it is all that is needed. Disposal is trivial, since it is harmless (apart from whatever the chain residue is) and it is a solid block that you can just put into household waste.
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Old 09-15-22, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs
You probably have recycling stations for toxic materials in your area, or amnesty days .... and some gas stations will take used motor oil, so dump that stuff in.
Not if they use it for heating, they donít appreciate having anything but motor oil. Some donít even want oil from lawn equipment small generators or snow throwers. I guess the rich start up puts fuel in the oil.
What are amnesty days?
Our area has toxic waste days about 4 times a year. They handle paint thinner and mineral spirits with no problem.
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Old 09-15-22, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Ghazmh
Whatís with the measuring tape?
Probably to illustrate the vast amount of extremely hazardous chemicals.

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Old 09-15-22, 09:52 AM
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disposal is the point of this post. sure the right hand jar (first bath) is dirty but after about 3 years it is still doing its job. when it stops doing that i'll dispose of properly. i'm doing only one chain about once every 4 weeks - roughly every 600 miles.
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Old 09-15-22, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Shadco
Probably to illustrate the vast amount of extremely hazardous chemicals.
mineral spirits is not what i'd call "extremely hazardous." but i'll let cyccommute chime in, i think he is the forum's chemical expert on this.
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Old 09-15-22, 10:20 AM
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Maybe your chains get gunkier than mine. I find that just wiping the chains off with a shop rag keeps them clean enough for me. My issue with soaking them in mineral spirits is that you are cleaning out all the lube from places that likely is not very contaminated and possibly moving grit into their place. As well when you do let the chain dry out you will have to hope that the lube gets down into all those places that it was removed from before any damage to the wear surfaces can be done after you use the chain again. Or if you lube the chain while the wear surfaces are still wet with mineral spirits then perhaps the mineral spirits will not be displaced by the lube.

You can leave the container of used mineral spirits open so it can evaporate and leave you with just the solids and other stuff that won't evaporate. However I don't know if that is completely hunky dory by the EPA. And of course whatever is left is probably more a hazardous waste issue but maybe below the amounts that EPA and others are concerned with for disposal.

So if concerns for the environment are primary for you then just wiping off the chain would seem more reasonable. Is the mineral spirits really about extending the life of your chain, which I doubt it does. Or is it more about easily making it cosmetically pretty?
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Old 09-15-22, 10:25 AM
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Ever since I started using this I no longer have gunky or gritty chains, cassettes, chain rings or pulley wheels. Chain cleaning takes me about 10 minutes tops nowadays.

https://www.amazon.com/DuPont-Teflon.../dp/B00KMMFE8Y
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Old 09-15-22, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01
Maybe your chains get gunkier than mine. I find that just wiping the chains off with a shop rag keeps them clean enough for me. My issue with soaking them in mineral spirits is that you are cleaning out all the lube from places that likely is not very contaminated and possibly moving grit into their place. As well when you do let the chain dry out you will have to hope that the lube gets down into all those places that it was removed from before any damage to the wear surfaces can be done after you use the chain again. Or if you lube the chain while the wear surfaces are still wet with mineral spirits then perhaps the mineral spirits will not be displaced by the lube.

You can leave the container of used mineral spirits open so it can evaporate and leave you with just the solids and other stuff that won't evaporate. However I don't know if that is completely hunky dory by the EPA. And of course whatever is left is probably more a hazardous waste issue but maybe below the amounts that EPA and others are concerned with for disposal.

So if concerns for the environment are primary for you then just wiping off the chain would seem more reasonable. Is the mineral spirits really about extending the life of your chain, which I doubt it does. Or is it more about easily making it cosmetically pretty?
to keep the thread on topic...why let the solvent evaporate into the atmosphere? after all its usage (quite a lot from the looks of it) is it still doing the job i intend it to do.
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Old 09-15-22, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by spelger
to keep the thread on topic...why let the solvent evaporate into the atmosphere? after all its usage (quite a lot from the looks of it) is it still doing the job i intend it to do.
For some materials it is a perfectly acceptable method and EPA approved. I don't know specifically for mineral spirits and likely it may involve what the total quantity of mineral spirits is that is being allowed to evaporate. A question better left to those that deal with EPA policy and hazardous material disposal.

Not sure what the thread topic is that you wish to keep the thread on. However for me, when I was using mineral spirits to clean parts regularly, not bicycle parts, the mineral spirits would get pretty clean and all the solids fall to the bottom. There might be a discoloration of the mineral spirits, but as long as it is cleaning off what needs to be cleaned, I never felt a need to replace it.

But still the most environmentally friendly thing would be not to clean your chain at all. Second to that, just wipe it off.
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Old 09-15-22, 01:42 PM
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Mineral spirits are simple hydrocarbons with a chain length of C7 to C12 .


Chemistry 101: Methane, a gas, is one carbon atom surrounded by 4 hydrogen atoms. When you connect 4 carbon atoms in a chain, they become butane, a liquid. At chain lengths above about 12, you get a solid, or basically paraffin. So mineral spirits are a liquid hydrocarbon mix somewhere in the middle.


Mineral spirits evaporate (slowly), where they are exposed to UV light, cosmic rays and the 21% oxygen content of our atmosphere. Like all organic molecules, they do break down (oxidize) into water and carbon dioxide.


This is why mineral spirits are about the most enviro option for degreasing and cleaning. The solvent can be used multiple times, and the bad stuff filtered out and discarded. Ultimately, the solvent evaporates and is broken down in the air.


Contrast this to water-based cleaning products, including anything: 'green'. Being water-based, they are ineffective at actually degreasing. Chemistry 201: polar molecules (water) only minimally mix with non-polar (grease and oil) molecules. So with the water-based products, you have to use far greater volumes, and far more mechanical scrubbing to get the same effect as with a hydrocarbon-based degreaser. And where does the mix of oil/grease and water go? Down the drain of course, where it causes far more enviro harm than with mineral spirits.
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Old 09-15-22, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Mayer
Contrast this to water-based cleaning products, including anything: 'green'. Being water-based, they are ineffective at actually degreasing. Chemistry 201: polar molecules (water) only minimally mix with non-polar (grease and oil) molecules.
Where does a soap molecule fall in this oil mixing capability? As far as I understand it, one end of a soap molecule is polar, the other end is non-polar.
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Old 09-15-22, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by spelger
mineral spirits is not what i'd call "extremely hazardous." but i'll let cyccommute chime in, i think he is the forum's chemical expert on this.
I forgot to use the tongue in cheek font.

Sorry.

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Old 09-15-22, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Where does a soap molecule fall in this oil mixing capability? As far as I understand it, one end of a soap molecule is polar, the other end is non-polar.
Very good... soaps are molecules in which one end is polar, and the other non-polar. The non-polar end attaches to the oil or grease, and aggregates into little bubbles of hydrocarbons dispersed in the water. I haven't checked the solubility charts of oils mixed in water with detergents/soaps, but I can tell you from hands-on experience that mineral spirits is far more quick at degreasing than any any water/soap/detergent mix I've ever used.

However,, when degreasing with soap/water, you are left with a mix of water and hydrocarbons which goes where? Water evaporates at a far slower rate than mineral spirits, so you are left with a large volume of liquid mess that just begs you to be flushed into the sewer system.

Second, the 'green' degreasers are not as much soap based, but depend on strong acids for degreasing. You do not leave metal parts in these for any length of time. In contrast, you can leave metal bike bits in a hydrocarbon-based bath such as mineral spirits. I have: chains a derailleur bits left forgotten for months with no apparent effect.
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Old 09-15-22, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01
For some materials it is a perfectly acceptable method and EPA approved. I don't know specifically for mineral spirits and likely it may involve what the total quantity of mineral spirits is that is being allowed to evaporate. A question better left to those that deal with EPA policy and hazardous material disposal.

Not sure what the thread topic is that you wish to keep the thread on. However for me, when I was using mineral spirits to clean parts regularly, not bicycle parts, the mineral spirits would get pretty clean and all the solids fall to the bottom. There might be a discoloration of the mineral spirits, but as long as it is cleaning off what needs to be cleaned, I never felt a need to replace it.

But still the most environmentally friendly thing would be not to clean your chain at all. Second to that, just wipe it off.
solvents used for chain cleaning, not the cleaning process itself, there are plenty of threads on that topic. just read the second sentence in OP, pretty much make the main topic clear.
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Old 09-15-22, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Mayer
Mineral spirits are simple hydrocarbons with a chain length of C7 to C12 .


Chemistry 101: Methane, a gas, is one carbon atom surrounded by 4 hydrogen atoms. When you connect 4 carbon atoms in a chain, they become butane, a liquid. At chain lengths above about 12, you get a solid, or basically paraffin. So mineral spirits are a liquid hydrocarbon mix somewhere in the middle.


Mineral spirits evaporate (slowly), where they are exposed to UV light, cosmic rays and the 21% oxygen content of our atmosphere. Like all organic molecules, they do break down (oxidize) into water and carbon dioxide.


This is why mineral spirits are about the most enviro option for degreasing and cleaning. The solvent can be used multiple times, and the bad stuff filtered out and discarded. Ultimately, the solvent evaporates and is broken down in the air.


Contrast this to water-based cleaning products, including anything: 'green'. Being water-based, they are ineffective at actually degreasing. Chemistry 201: polar molecules (water) only minimally mix with non-polar (grease and oil) molecules. So with the water-based products, you have to use far greater volumes, and far more mechanical scrubbing to get the same effect as with a hydrocarbon-based degreaser. And where does the mix of oil/grease and water go? Down the drain of course, where it causes far more enviro harm than with mineral spirits.
The use of mineral spirits as a general cleaning agent has been banned in Southern California since 1998, and a little later they were banned in all of California due to the evaporated vapor's contribution to the formation of air pollution. Plenty of other areas in the USA have restricted or banned it for general purpose cleaning, too. There are some very. very limited circumstances where its still used for cleaning here in California. There have been plenty of surfactants and other aqueous-based cleaners developed in the last twenty years to take the place of mineral spirits and other petroleum-based solvents. If you still have access to it do like speiger does and use it in a closed container, filter the gunky stuff out with a coffee filter so you can reuse it, and if its too worn out drop it off at a recycling location.
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Old 09-15-22, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Mayer
Very good... soaps are molecules in which one end is polar, and the other non-polar. The non-polar end attaches to the oil or grease, and aggregates into little bubbles of hydrocarbons dispersed in the water. I haven't checked the solubility charts of oils mixed in water with detergents/soaps, but I can tell you from hands-on experience that mineral spirits is far more quick at degreasing than any any water/soap/detergent mix I've ever used.

However,, when degreasing with soap/water, you are left with a mix of water and hydrocarbons which goes where? Water evaporates at a far slower rate than mineral spirits, so you are left with a large volume of liquid mess that just begs you to be flushed into the sewer system.

Second, the 'green' degreasers are not as much soap based, but depend on strong acids for degreasing. You do not leave metal parts in these for any length of time. In contrast, you can leave metal bike bits in a hydrocarbon-based bath such as mineral spirits. I have: chains a derailleur bits left forgotten for months with no apparent effect.
Plenty of companies out there that can recycle/properly dispose of dirty mineral spirits or dirty aqueous-based cleaners for you if you're a commercial business, and local household hazardous waste drop off facilities can take them from a homeowner (at least in my area). Most of the general purpose cleaners I've dealt with are not acids, but either alkaline or some other type of material (I can't remember the general group name) that'll easily remove most any oil or grease (sometimes it takes a little scrubbing).
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Old 09-15-22, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by spelger
solvents used for chain cleaning, not the cleaning process itself, there are plenty of threads on that topic. just read the second sentence in OP, pretty much make the main topic clear.
What does that even mean? Why do you feel it important for me to know that?

I know that solvents are used for cleaning chains. I know that you are using mineral spirits, a well known solvent frequently used to clean bicycle chains. Just because it is, doesn't mean you have to use it. I use nothing at all, except maybe the excess lube that I'm wiping off of my chains after applying it.

In another thread it was mentioned about having to dispose of nasty chemicals used for chain cleaning
This makes things clear for what you are asking or stating? And with this closing sentence it sort of confuses all the stuff in the middle. I can infer and misconstrue a lot about both statements since they don't directly state your purpose.
maybe i have not been doing this for very long but so far i don't see the problem with nasty chemicals...yet.
If I seem ignorant of what you are wanting to know then just don't engage me in conversation. Just ignore me and I'll go away or maybe continue to read other replies until I get the correct idea of what you intend this to be.

That way your thread won't be filled with posts and arguments that have nothing to do with what ever it is you wish to know or state!

Last edited by Iride01; 09-15-22 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 09-15-22, 03:16 PM
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The so-called "odorless" or CA-compliant mineral spirits have mostly non-volotile components, so they don't evaporate readily. They are basically small-chained hydrocarbons -- essentially low melting-point wax.


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