View Full Version : Cleaning the chain

11-06-2002, 06:13 AM
As the weather gets so much colder, it seems like conditions make it even messier for my chain, what with all the mud, rain and slush. In the summer, I usually just spray off my chain with the hose (is this a bad idea?), dry as best I can and then lube it. But, frankly the idea of getting all wet while not pedaling doesn't appeal to me. Do the little chain cleaners that hook on to your chain work well or is it just one more little cheap gadget to add to the junk heap? If they are a good idea, any brand suggestions?
Any other ideas or suggestions on effective ways to clean the chain would be extremely appreciated. Thanks-

11-07-2002, 08:01 AM
I've got a Park chain cleaner and it's the next best thing to a solvent tank. I spray the chain real well with Simple Green to soak it. Then I used straight SG in the cleaner. Then I do I ddilute solution, then water, air dry. Park has directions on their web site. I don't bother with their brand solvent, I use SG for cleaning just about everything on the bike.

Or, just spray it down well with SG and go after it with a grout brush or a tooth brush.


11-09-2002, 07:24 PM
Thanks for the primer. Time to head to the LBS and fid a chain cleaner!

11-11-2002, 09:15 AM
In my experience, Simple Green doesn't work well if your chain is very dirty. I use the stuff by the gallon, but I've found that even after I clean the chain with the Simple Green and it LOOKS clean, if I then do an additional cleaning with a citrus based solvent such as Pedros, a lot more grime comes out in the Pedros, i.e. the Pedros turns black. My solution has been to use several cleanings with Simple Green as a preliminary solution to get the visible mud and gunk off and then do a final clean with citrus solvent. I've also found that the bike-specific citrus chain cleaners work way better than what you can buy in bulk at the hardware store. I don't know why; the bike-specific cleaners just work better. No matter what water soluble solvent you use, it is very important to rinse well with water when you are done to get all the solvent out. Then when the chain is dry, be sure to carefully re-lubricate each and every chain link.

11-18-2002, 11:11 PM
I just avoid the whole pain in the neck by using White Lightning; I didn't know anybody still used greasy stuff. It's parrafin in petroleum solvent to make it liquid, comes in a dropper bottle, and sheds the mud and water as you ride. I haven't cleaned a chain in years. Make the shop show you how to put it on.
The wax doesn't grab grit either, so the wear on the drivetrain is pretty miniscule. You'll feel it in the legs. And no nasty chainring tattoos!
Parrafin on the chain is an old trick and used to be pretty advanced stuff- you had to break the chain and dip it in the melted wax in a double boiler. A wild Saturday night for the scrawny and single :D . The liquid stuff in the bottle is great, but don't leave it in the car in the summer. BOOM! Big white lightning bolts across the upolstery. If you use too much the extra just falls off as you ride.
Oh Nancy- don't hose off the chain. Water will get between the links and rust it up, you'll get nasty stiff links, icky crud, and need new chains a lot. If you want to stay with the greasy lube, you can get a rag and hold it around the chain and turn the cranks to run the chain through and wipe it off after every ride. The park gizmo is really cool but it's a bit much for every ride maintenence. Gets old quick.


11-19-2002, 06:34 AM
To clean it:

Take the chain off, drop it in an empty wide-mouth soda bottle, add cleaner, and cap the bottle and shake!!!

11-20-2002, 04:10 PM
Thanks for the additional suggestions. I still don't know how to remove my chain, hence, I've been looking for cleaning methods while still on the bike. Re: White Lightning, haven't tried it but sounds good. I'll have to check it out and see what my LBS says.
I'm a little confused on not hosing the chain. It makes sense that you don't want it rusting, but aren't you also just putting water on it when you run water through the chain cleaner to get to the solvent off?
BTW, I did run the chain through the newly purchased chain cleaner and I'm sure it's the cleanest it's ever been (and sure pedals tons easier!) However, even after that and multiple rinses, I can still come up with a greasy rag when I run my chain through it. Does it ever really come clean? Or is mine just disgustingly dirty after four years of lube buildup and improper cleaning technique? Nancy

11-20-2002, 06:11 PM
Ummm, there shouldn't be any water involved in chain cleaning. Petroleum based solvent just evaporates off. If you're using that Simple Green stuff on the chain, well, ooh, rust. It's an excellent product for cleaning things like greasy dirt on the frame or the stove in your kitchen, but not for mechanical parts. It's water based, therefore rust. One of the great beautys of parrafin lubes, though, is that you don't do all that cleaning stuff. Most dirt doesn't stick, and you clean the rest by just adding more lube and the lumps of dirt fall off.
Of course the rag is greasy, you want that. Oil on metal protects it from rust. The chain shouldn't be squeaky clean- naked metal is vulnerable. And yes, four years will build up a lot of goo if you haven't cleaned the crud off. There's a lot of dirt up in the spacers between the links that will never come out. Grease attracts dirt and grit, so you get goo and excessive wear.
After four years, it's probably time to just put on a new chain anyway. They're supposed to be replaced periodicly as they wear and stretch. They aren't expensive and if you want to go to a parrafin lube that's the time to do it, on a fresh clean chain. Find a good mechanic and let him or her put it on- chains come in a standard length and will need to be shortened to fit your bike depending on gearing, frame size, ect. And don't sweat removing your own chain- get the LBS to tell you how it's done, but it's a big pain depending on the equipment you have. You used to just need a simple $5 gizmo to push out a pin but now you need to put in a new pin on Shimano chains, at $2 or so a pop, or if you lucked out and have Sach's stuff there's a master link that's a snap to pop but again, somebody needs to show you. Taking the chain off shouldn't happen that often anyway. You should know how it works but there is no shame in finding a great mechanic and letting them do the big stuff every year or so.
I think if you get a new chain and some White Lightning you'll be happy- your legs will love it. You need to put it on pretty often, maybe once or twice a week depending on your mileage but I assure you it's incredibly easier than the options. High maintenence is fun for about two weeks, then you look for simpler ways to do it. I ride deep muck and swampy places on the farm ( my MT bike works for a living) and when the Beast is filthy enough to need the hose I can blow the mud off the chain (breifly!) and not get red tears later. The wax seems to fill up the gaps inside the spacers eventually and water can't collect in there. It also works great for a lot of other things, like cleats and brake cables.


11-20-2002, 09:48 PM
There are so many ways to clean/ grease the chain! I don't really know which one is "right" or "best". I've actually been trying to do an experiment. One bike I do the Simple Green/citrus/water rinse thing. Another I only use petroleum-based cleaners and lubricants, and another I use only White Lightning. Unfortunately, since I haven't been able to ride much lately due to illness, I can't tell you any definitive results, but I haven't seen a significant difference so far in terms of chain longevity. I haven't seen a rust problem with using Simple Green/citrus/water rinse. I alway try to get the chain dry as quickly as possible and relube it thoroughly. The only time any of my chains got rusty was when I had to ride 200 miles in the rain with a chain that was lubed with White Lightning, but that was years ago. I think the latest formula of White Lightning works better--haven't seen any rust on my current White Lightning chain. White Lightning seems to be the easiest to use since you just drip it on and don't mess much with cleaning.

11-21-2002, 11:40 AM
Well, most of my more intense maintenence problems have been with mountain bikes that do a lot of mud and water time, and I used to just destroy chains. White Lightening has worked incredibly well for me, but then every body is different, different terrain and climates, different types of riding, different expectations and standards. I haven't ridden much in the last few years due to injury myself, but parrafin lube really impressed me and made my life a lot easier for a number of years. My chains stayed in much better shape and shed dirt instead of eating it. Environmental water is unavoidable, and good chain lube should protect from that. Dumping more water on with a hose or water based degreaser just strikes me as an aggravant to the problem- I use petroleum based products for moving parts, period. If not parrafin then Park grease. You don't see that Simple green or Citrus stuff in good LBS mechanics room. I asked one of my mechanics, who has stellar credentials (fighter jets, team mechanic, ect) about all that stuff and he laughed, said the only water based thing good for bikes is beer. This has been my experience as well.:D
So, whatever works for you. Everybody should go with their own comfort level- this is mine.


02-27-2003, 03:03 AM
Originally posted by missliz
I just avoid the whole pain in the neck by using White Lightning; I didn't know anybody still used greasy stuff. It's parrafin in petroleum solvent to make it liquid, comes in a dropper bottle, and sheds the mud and water as you ride. I haven't cleaned a chain in years. Make the shop show you how to put it on.

I used to use White Lightning, but found it made my gears slip in wet weather. The fact that we're in a drought at the moment (Aussie perpetual summer) makes me wonder why I don't give it a try again though.

I still use a teflon product, but regularly ride thru a park that, amongst other things, has heaps of horses, dust and foliage about the place. What I've found is the best and most painless thing to do, is to wipe my chain down nightly (ok sometimes I forget) with a rag. You see the trick is not to put too much grease on the chain anyway. Just enough to lube it. So by wiping it down daily I seem to avoid having to degrease the chain and cogs too often.