OK, every time I mess with this jug of castrol super clean I have, I vow “never again”. Apparently they took that stuff off the market, it is nasty on your hands. But i haven’t bought a substitute yet and so i go back for more abuse.
So, what does everyone else use? I mean for really grimy stuff – chains, cassettes, cleaning out hubs, etc. The bike specific stuff I’ve seen seems way overpriced.
I also have to vow to clean up my winter bike in the spring this year… there was some surface corrosion on a bunch of stuff, although it has mostly cleaned up OK. The rear skewer and axle were pretty nasty though.
Simple Green & an old toothbrush.
 & rags for between gears
^^^^ +1 also good for household use with a bit of dilution.
I took an auto shop class when I was in high school. I rebuilt a complete lawn mower engine. Dirty, greasy, grimey, nasty parts.. go in the parts cleaner, come out looking like new. Parts washer was a giant tank filled with something on the order of kerosene. Same principal applied to my work in a chemistry lab, only it was hexanes.
For my bike, I got a small jug of paint thinner, put about 10 ounces in a plastic “smart water” bottle (be sure to remove the label and clearly mark what you put in your own wide-mouthed bottle). It was the perfect size for an entire chain. Remove the chain with whatever flavor of quick link you have, and drop it in. Put the lid on and shake it up. I usually waited about a half hour for the grime to settle to the bottom. Fish it out with a wire or the end of an old spoke. Dry it off with a rag and let it air dry for a few minutes. Then stick it back on and add your lube.
It is practically free, contact with the cleaning solution was extremely minimal, no brushing required, submersion in hexanes will displace all water, residual paint thinner will evaporate from your chain so you aren’t mixing it (or water) with the lube, and I reused the same 10 oz all summer long.
The cassette I just wipe off with a dry rag.
I’m not knocking simple green. I haven’t ever tried it.
When I was in the Navy, I used Simple Green 90% of the time. In fact, the only other cleaner that I used regularly was a super concentrated bucket of very thick lemon kool-aid that we soaked parts in.
Now, I primarily use dish-soap with a tooth-brush or wd-40 with a rag.
i do the same thing for my downhill bikes and my road bikes:
simple green follow by a clean rag and isopropyl alcohol. you don’t want to leave bits of simple green on your nice parts or your frame long term. for really nasty stuff like chains and cassettes a mineral oil or kerosene bath followed by a rag and the alcohol.
Dan – I remembered your tip about using a bottle (I used a mason jar actually), but i couldn’t find the thread where you said what you used. That doesn’t sound much less caustic than what I’m using and I’m sloppy so it always ends up on my hands despite my best intentions. Sometimes I wear rubber gloves but they inevitably get a hole.
I have come to like the dunking method better than the on-bike (park tool clamp on thing) method though, I think it gets a lot more of the dirt out of the crevices between the plates. And with the power link the chain comes off easy enough.
Well, I’ll give simple green another try. I do use it but I always feel like it’s not going to work as well as the nastier stuff.
Off bike cleaning for me is faster. I use a can of mineral spirits for that (which I forgot to mention above).
I’ve tried lots of chain cleaning techniques. These days, I rarely bother with anything other than wiping it off with a rag after riding, then lubing, then wiping once more. Takes less than a minute, and I don’t get my hands dirty. It doesn’t get super clean but doesn’t get gunked up and keeps the rust off.
If I’m taking off the cassette or chainrings, I’ll spray with a little WD-40 and wipe clean with a rag.
If you haven’t seen it, this article is full of good advice: http://www.belgiumkneewarmers.com/2008/10/the-art-of-the-bike-wash.html
Paint thinner is essentially hexanes. It’ll wash oils off your skin, and is considered a skin “irritant”. The biggest danger is probably the stuff bursting into flames, and if you’re huffing it, then I guess it’ll kill a few brain cells. I’m guessing it isn’t very friendly with synthetic fabrics either, but I haven’t really had much experience slopping it on my clothing
When removing the chain from the solvent, I usually use a pair of disposable nitrile gloves to keep anything off my skin. That is something I would do even working with simple green. If its going to remove oils from my chain, it’ll remove oils from my skin as well.
About a year ago I started to use ProLink Chain Lube and it keeps the chain cleaner and makes the process of cleaning a lot easier. This stuff does everything the manufacture says. Some light oils and lubricants absorb dirt and this causes most of the issues with the driveline. This lube does not absorb or attract as much of the muck and grime.
Maybe every 6 months I still give the driveline a good cleaning. I’ll hold the chain with a paper towel or napkin and slowly turn the crank backwards and if you are using ProLink this will remove most of the dirt. Then I spray the chain, cassette, front & rear derailleurs with a can of automotive brake part cleaner. It strips off all the oil and grease and will make the cassette look like a shiny new nickel. Then I re-apply the ProLink. You need to be careful with the auto part brake cleaner because it will fade certain types of paint and also cause stickers to peal off.
For the rest of the bike I use a spray bottle of Mr Clean citrus multi surface cleaner.
I got one of those chain cleaner gizmos and some PB house brand cleaning fluid from Performance Bike, the gizmo is neat, the fluid does absolutely nothing. I basically gave up, and started relubing my chain with some Finish Line dry teflon lube. Turns out, the lube is a great cleaner too. So I lubed the chain, wiped down the excess, and it cleaned itself in the process.
nitrile gloves are a must almost always. they are just so cheap and there are no chances of coming in contact with who knows what.
Rock N’ Roll lube (available at thick) is an incredible cleaner too. Took loads of gunk off of my chain.
whatever cburch uses on my bikes. i have never cleaned a bike. i actually think my single speed is disgusting right now. i have to start cleaning my own bikes.
Maybe the real lesson is I need to be more diligent about wearing gloves. I have a box, it’s usually just laziness… or if I put them on and I get a hole in them I don’t bother to change them. in this case, it was just “well, let me put the bike in the shop, i’ll deal with it later”, then “i’ll just put it on the stand”, then “might as well take the wheels off at least”, then “might as well get that chain soaking”, then 2 hours later i’m still screwing with the bike instead of sleeping
anyways – 3 days later and my hands are still completely jacked up, that super clean stuff is nasty.
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