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What Do You Use to Clean your Chain, Crankset, Cog? Water? WD-40? Brake Cleaner? Soap

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What Do You Use to Clean your Chain, Crankset, Cog? Water? WD-40? Brake Cleaner? Soap

Old 02-20-21, 05:06 PM
  #1  
Cheez
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What Do You Use to Clean your Chain, Crankset, Cog? Water? WD-40? Brake Cleaner? Soap

My Raleigh M80 mountain bike got some gunk all over my Crankset, chain, and the rear cogs.. also gone through deep snow and now my both front and rear derailleur stops moving so it's difficult to change gears.. Like the title said what cleaning solution do you use to nicely clean off junk off your Crankset/bottom bracket, chain, cogs, and the derailleurs? Is WD-40 a good candidate? Does it do good removing dirt/gunk/rust? Is it safe to use on high quality expensive bike parts? What about the brake cleaner spray for cars? I have used it once on the bottom bracket on my road bike and it loosened my pedals and came apart 🙁
I'm trying to find cheap and effective way to clean as I don't generate an income. Any experiences to share?
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Old 02-20-21, 05:29 PM
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You can use WD-40 for that task as it can help degrease and displace water (it's in the name) but it is not a lubricant. I prefer citrus degreaser because it smells less nasty and potentially is slightly eco-friendly.

For the chain I recommend a old cycling bottle (or really any bottle with a wider mouth and good sealing and add some degreaser of choice and "shake shake shake Señora shake your body line".

However all of this is a good reason to work at a shop especially when they have working parts washer (ours is dead) it can help generate some income and also give you access to stands and parts washers and other expert advice.
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Old 02-20-21, 06:04 PM
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I have found nothing that will beat The Super Heavy Duty Degreaser (yellow) sold in gallons at Harbor Freight. It's their best product $8 per gallon with coupon. It will straight up take bicycle grease right out of a shop rag with a little brushing and water. Water must remove the grease quickly as dilution can result in grease re-sticking to the rag. I have worked around machinery for years and this is what we always use. Careful, it can remove cheap paint. Use nitrile gloves cuz it will remove all oils from your skin. At full strength it is powerful
I do use it on chains, followed by a water rinse and compressed air to dry. Then I heat the chain above 212 deg F or 100C to remove any water and proceed to lube well. Cleans better than lacquer thinner. Will dissolve wax
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Old 02-20-21, 06:36 PM
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I use MEC - Bio Cycle Chain Cleaner. Drips don't even harm the grass
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Old 02-20-21, 06:53 PM
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couple cap fulls of ALL liquid detergent in hot water with an old tooth brush. After its determined done, dry it off with a rag while wiping it with wd40. Lube as needed before storing or prior to installing.
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Old 02-20-21, 07:24 PM
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You can use WD-40, it will unstick the chain and get things moving. However, the rust and debris will remain, and cause wear to the chain.

To keep your bike working efficiently, and to increase the life of your drivetrain, you need to do regular maintenance to the chain. When I was riding a lot (500km per week), I would clean the chain on my off day (I always took one day off the bike each week). I used a Park Chain Gang cleaner, and filled with water and automotive Simple Green (which is stronger than the standard stuff).

The Chain Gang cleaner has brushes, a sponge, and a magnet at the bottom to catch metal particles. I would run the chain through the cleaner, changing the water and Simple Green a couple of times, then I would rinse the chain by filling the cleaner with ordinary water and running the chain through it until there were no more bubbles. Then I would wipe the chain dry with a cotton towel. A couple hours later I would lubricate the chain using a good quality oil, but one which could be dissolved by Simple Green.

Chain lube and other lubes are like a double-edge sword. The lubricate the chain and prevent rust, but they attract dust and road grime, and they hold onto the metal particles which wear off as you ride your bike. Using an oil which I could completely remove made a big difference in how clean I could keep my chain and driveline.

For some people it might sound like too much work, but spending an hour each week on cleaning and adjusting my bike was relaxing to me. Besides cleaning the chain, I would clean the rims and sand the brake pads to keep the brakes working smoothly and quietly. I would also do a little wheel truing, and cleaning up the out-of-sight areas on my bike. This prevented rust and corrosion, and kept the bike looking good. It still looks good now after 23 years of being properly maintained.
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Old 02-20-21, 07:43 PM
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My clip on fenders keep me clean, but with messy trails this time of year my bike is always a muddy mess around the bottom bracket after every ride.

I spray off that area with water from my water bottle. I usually clear dirt and crud off the chain with a chain cleaning brush. After a few rides, if it seems to need it, I will put a bit of Boeshield on the chain. My bikes are SS so no derailleurs to worry about.

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Old 02-20-21, 08:59 PM
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This goes back to when I was still a team mechanic and washed bikes every damn day. I used Pedro's degreaser the last few years. It's awesome...more expensive than what you can find at your local big time Home Depot or equivalent but it's really good. I used a cut down water bottle and a 1" paint brush to apply it to the chain, cogs, chainrings, and both derailleurs. Let it sit for a minute while you wash tires and the rest of the bike. I used Dawn for the bike, a bucket of suds (actually 2 buckets most of the time...1 for the drivetrain and 1 for the rest of the bike) and a cheap car wash sponge. I have a nice little toilet brush for the drivetrain, find one that blows your skirt up and use it. I used a second sponge w/ suds to finish off the chain. I like washing the bike w/ the wheels off, I prefer a beam stand that holds the fork or rear end and rests on the bottom bracket. I use a custom Abbey Bike Tools chain rest. Rinse, dry, lube...done.
Soap...no matter what kind...does not adequately clean drivetrain parts. It does NOT break down chain lube. You need BOTH degreaser and soap. Water alone does nothing AFAIC.
For personal road bikes if I'm riding a bunch I'll clean it once a week in dry weather. I clean my mountain bike every ride. It takes 5 mins at most and it always looks new. If you stay on top of it it never takes much work.
I can not stand those silly chain cleaning things w/ the rotating brushes. They're just a mess. I'm not a fan of aerosol degreasers, they dry to quickly. I don't like most of the brushes that come in 'bike cleaning' kits, I tend to find stuff randomly and keep what works. Some of the team guys had these collections of crazy expensive brushes but I always found the cheap ones worked for me.
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Old 02-20-21, 09:03 PM
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Mostly I use a dry rag to clean the drivetrain; I do it often enough that I don't get a lot of built-up grime and gunk on it. When I do a more thorough cleaning, any degreaser, Goo-Gone, or WD40 does the trick. As stated above, if you maintain it regularly the whole bike is done in five or ten minutes. Let it go for a thousand miles and it's a messy afternoon project.
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Old 02-20-21, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by KPREN View Post
I have found nothing that will beat The Super Heavy Duty Degreaser (yellow) sold in gallons at Harbor Freight. It's their best product $8 per gallon with coupon. It will straight up take bicycle grease right out of a shop rag with a little brushing and water. Water must remove the grease quickly as dilution can result in grease re-sticking to the rag. I have worked around machinery for years and this is what we always use. Careful, it can remove cheap paint. Use nitrile gloves cuz it will remove all oils from your skin. At full strength it is powerful
I do use it on chains, followed by a water rinse and compressed air to dry. Then I heat the chain above 212 deg F or 100C to remove any water and proceed to lube well. Cleans better than lacquer thinner. Will dissolve wax
definitely yes on WD40. it will help clean and degrease
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Old 02-20-21, 09:54 PM
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I usually just run my chain through a chain cleaner with some diluted Simple Green. If it's got stubborn grit on it, I'll scrub it through a Scotch-Brite sponge.

If I want to really strip it, I'll use odorless mineral spirits in an old bike bottle, shake it up, let it dry. I filter the spirits through a funnel and coffee filter back into a bottle afterwards. I avoid degreasing my chain on the bike as it's too easy to have degreaser go where you don't want it. If you want to get your chain really clean and dry, rinse it in isopropyl alcohol after degreasing. That also is a good way to get it clean enough for waxing or wax-based lubes, if that's your thing.

Last edited by Hiro11; 02-20-21 at 09:58 PM.
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Old 02-20-21, 10:27 PM
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the Purple Simple Green and a ultrasonic cleaner make quick work of cleaning my chain.
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Old 02-20-21, 10:55 PM
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I simply use water sprayed on the drivetrain with garden hose. Backpedal to fling water off the chain and then leave to dry a few hours before applying lube.
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Old 02-21-21, 11:41 AM
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First of all I only ride on hard surface trails and MUPS. Before each ride I wipe down the chain. Then once a year during my spring cleaning, I soak the chain in kerosene, and brush it completely. I hang it out to dry out, and then reoil.
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Old 02-21-21, 12:26 PM
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I always use Muc-Off chain cleaner. It's biodegradable.

Spray on, agitate with a brush, rinse off with water. Sparkly clean chain and drivetrain.
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Old 02-21-21, 01:38 PM
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After every ride I will:
1) wipe the chain down with a dry rag
2) spray some rubbing alcohol on a different rag and run that over the chain.
Seems to keep the chain semi-clean.

Then once a week I'll pour some MEC degreaser on a rag and run the chain over it. After a couple rounds of that I'll use a sponge and some warm wet soapy water with Dawn. A few rounds of that, followed by clean water. Let it dry and re-lube.
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Old 02-21-21, 04:16 PM
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I just wipe mine off well after being liberal with the lube. But I'm on a road bike on clean paved roads.

Back when I used anything that was handy to lube my chains, gunk was a problem. Still just a rag wet with the same clean lube or any light oil will clean it. And I have used WD40, mineral spirits or even gasoline (long ago when I was even more stupid) But sometime since I decided that any solvent is just potentially washing lube from places I don't want to remove lube.

Since I started using lighter bike chain lubes that claim to be dry or self cleaning, gunk is not a big problem. Though now I feel I have to lube them more often.

Last edited by Iride01; 02-21-21 at 04:19 PM.
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Old 02-21-21, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Cheez View Post
It's no use me applying for a job at a bike shop...I will get attacked by your employees or / and customers, or by you or the manager.

Thanks for the info on the WD-40.
And thanks to all others that commented. I think I'm gonna look for a various sized sized brush to clean my chain and the drivetrain..with either WD-40 or degreaser liquid soap and a bucket of water.

No worries. I would try and see but it sounds like you need some other help before that and it also sounds like that is going to be tough because you don't want the help. I personally wouldn't attack you but I probably also wouldn't put you in front of customers I would have you quietly building bikes and working. I have had plenty of folks that I wouldn't put in front of customers but they do good work.

We do make fun of each other and make jokes but we always have each others backs and get the job done. We might get mad as hell at one another sometimes but at the end of the day we move forward and keep rockin' and rollin'.

Last edited by Hermes; 02-22-21 at 07:31 PM. Reason: Removed religious content
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Old 02-21-21, 06:46 PM
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Wax - I ain't got time to clean.
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Old 02-21-21, 09:30 PM
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diesel fuel. cheap & good. make sure to use primary & secondary containment. wear nitrile gloves. eye protection. etc. etc. etc. ....................
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Old 02-22-21, 12:28 PM
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I heard a guy on a podcast say he uses Castile soap. I bough a bar and tried it. It works better than any harsh degreaser or solvent. It has no waxes or harsh chemicals. I fill a bucket with hot water and swish the bar around to get it nice andsudsy. It wipes grease away without much effort, it’s even safe for rim brake tracks and disc rotors. I use it in my ultrasonic cleaner, I haven’t touched my bottle of Park chain degreaser or chain scrubber for over a year now.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:08 PM
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I thought wd 40 should never be used on a chain? De greaser, using a chain cleaning machine or toothbrush, works great. Dry w/rag, then ride it to dry further. Only us wd 40 as last resort, and even then only on screws or derailleurs.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
Wax - I ain't got time to clean.
But you have time to wax?
Originally Posted by ramzilla View Post
diesel fuel. cheap & good. make sure to use primary & secondary containment. wear nitrile gloves. eye protection. etc. etc. etc. ....................
The teams all used to use diesel til about '05. I remember getting to the Tour of Georgia and it was specifically noted in the race bible 'NO MORE DIESEL' for cleaning bikes. The end of an era.
Originally Posted by epnnf View Post
I thought wd 40 should never be used on a chain? De greaser, using a chain cleaning machine or toothbrush, works great. Dry w/rag, then ride it to dry further. Only us wd 40 as last resort, and even then only on screws or derailleurs.
Biggest myth ever. WD40 is...oil and solvents. Chain lubes are mostly...wait for it...oil and solvents. It works great for cleaning and if I found myself w/o chain lube I'd use it in a hearbeat. Anyone that rants about never putting WD40 on bike is taking themselves wayyyyy too seriously.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Cheez View Post
My Raleigh M80 mountain bike got some gunk all over my Crankset, chain, and the rear cogs.. also gone through deep snow and now my both front and rear derailleur stops moving so it's difficult to change gears.. Like the title said what cleaning solution do you use to nicely clean off junk off your Crankset/bottom bracket, chain, cogs, and the derailleurs? Is WD-40 a good candidate? Does it do good removing dirt/gunk/rust? Is it safe to use on high quality expensive bike parts? What about the brake cleaner spray for cars? I have used it once on the bottom bracket on my road bike and it loosened my pedals and came apart 🙁
I'm trying to find cheap and effective way to clean as I don't generate an income. Any experiences to share?
The best and least toxic cleaner: Zep citrus degreaser. I use it for chains and you name it.
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Old 02-22-21, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by cxwrench View Post
But you have time to wax?
There's an upfront time cost of stripping the factory lube off of the chains. After that, there's very little hands-on time for the rest of the year - pop the chain in the crock pot of cold wax, turn it on, come back an ~hour later, swish the chain and then hang it up to cool. Loosen the links before re-installing. I do two chains at a time so that I can rotate them. Hands-on time is probably less than 10 minutes every 600-800 miles. No additional lube application necessary and never a need to clean the drivetrain of the nasty sludge that would accumulate otherwise.
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