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Thread: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

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    Default Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    I will explain why this came about later, but I've been working on removing petrochemicals from my bike maintenance and cleaning practices.

    I had cause to clean a particularly filthy drivetrain this weekend and I developed a technique that worked really well and avoided most of the usual pitfalls.

    Basic description: soak the parts in degreaser*, place in a container, add ~ 100ml denatured ethanol (metho over here), stick container in ultrasonic bath for 5 min at 50 oC, remove, rinse with metho, allow to dry.

    That's it.

    Parts come out wonderfully clean, process avoids using kero, petrol or turps (all petrochemical derived) and avoids problems with water spotting typical of water based degreasing methods.




    * I used the degreaser I developed based on methyl oleate and eucalyptus oil but any non - petrochemical degreaser should work, just check that it is miscible with ethanol first.

    FYI this does not include Simple Green and the like, they're based on ethoxylated alcohols which are derived from petrochemicals: ethoxylation is treatment with ethylene oxide.

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    Hot water and Dawn Liquid is my go to. For the electronic parts cleaner I do the same however put the parts into a plastic bag containing the soap.

    I like where you are going with this.

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    What do you guys do with the dirty waste water and solvents?

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    Part of the impetus for me was solvent disposal, I live on an inland waterway and work in an industry (wine) which is very conscious of its waste disposal*.

    I designed my degreaser so that it is completely safe for waterways, for instance I didn't use methyl laurate (which has slightly lower viscosity than the methyl oleate I did use) because the breakdown product (lauric acid) is toxic to fish. The equivalent breakdown product from methyl oleate, oleic acid, is used as a nutrient by virtually every lifeform known.

    Accordingly I filter out the worst of the gunk and the rest goes on the garden.



    Toots, this doesn't apply to Dawn. Read the MSDS and be afraid.


    *any winery above a certain size here will not be allowed to discharge anything to drain, it all has to be treated on site. Usually the treated wastewater is used to irrigate a plot, typically sown with sorghum (which absorbs a lot of potassium) which is then fed to cows. Some people use a treelot because it's prettier but you need a lot more tree to absorb a given amount of potassium and the cows find it difficult to chew. If you are big enough you can sell the trees for woodchips: the world's fine paper industry runs on eucalypts because of the short strong fibres, which is quite possibly also why it also makes an excellent material for bike frames.

    The potassium is because we all moved away from sodium based cleaners (caustic soda) because the effluent causes problems with soil sodicity. Plants prefer potassium, animals prefer sodium.

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    Quote Originally Posted by Too Tall View Post
    Hot water and Dawn Liquid is my go to. For the electronic parts cleaner I do the same however put the parts into a plastic bag containing the soap.
    Yep, the container mentioned above was a plastic bag but I'm trying to find a re-useable alternative (and one that's less likely to leak). I'm buying my packaging from the only company here that makes 100% recycled PET products, I'll see if they have something that suits.

    Re Dawn: see comment above.

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kelly View Post
    Yep, the container mentioned above was a plastic bag but I'm trying to find a re-useable alternative (and one that's less likely to leak). I'm buying my packaging from the only company here that makes 100% recycled PET products, I'll see if they have something that suits.

    Re Dawn: see comment above.
    Why not a glass jar with a silicone lid or similar?

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    When I commuted on Oahu, I used SRAM chains with the quick link. About once a month I'd remove the chain and put it in a small plastic gatorade bottle with hot water and orange cleaner. I would let it soak for a while before shaking. I used the same bottle for three years and for the most part, I just let the gunk accumulate in the bottom. I only got about three months (1800 miles) out of a chain due to the abrasive dirt.
    Weight Doper

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    Any concerns about the denatured alcohol in an ultrasonic parts cleaner? I had always held back, figuring flammable liquids in an electronic device was a bad idea. If it's not a concern, this would be way more effective than only using simple green in there.
    This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the bike.

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    Yes, flammability is a concern, that is part of why it's in a closed container in the ultrasonic bath. Assuming it's about 70% ethanol after adding the degreaser, the vapour pressure will be about 25 kPa at 50 oC.

    That's well above the LEL for ethanol. In fact it is above the UEL but it's never safe to assume that the UEL will save you, naturally the edges of the diffusion zone are below the UEL so that makes the area at risk bigger.

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    if the objective is only to avoid petrochemical solvents, and you live in a dry area (or at least only ride on dry roads and trails), my recommendation is paraffin wax. The seasons I ran wax lube my drivetrain was always spotless. It just doesn't work so well if there's any water on the ground at all. Just dunk the chain back into the crockpot once a week and you're G2G.

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    Quote Originally Posted by zachateseverything View Post
    if the objective is only to avoid petrochemical solvents,
    The objective is to avoid using petrochemicals if at all possible, which rules out paraffin "wax" (it being 100% petrochemical derived).

    I'm working on a chain wax based on jojoba esters* and carnauba but I'm also breaking my own rules and playing with a graphene suspension.

    The graphene is made from methane (from natural gas) and is supplied suspended in a mineral oil based liquid but altogether the end product will have less than 10% petrochemicals.

    I made the rules, I'll break them if I think the end result is worth it. You never know, if I got big enough I could get the people who do the graphene to use non-petrochemical feedstocks.

    In my dreams.



    * Jojoba is the closest thing to the legendary sperm oil that doesn't involve killing an endangered species, splitting their heads open and bucketing out the contents. That's literally how they harvested the raw material for the highest quality sperm oil.

    FWIW modern "synthetic" lubricant oils basically mimic sperm oil and the even rarer blackfish jaw oil. They were higly valued because they were fantastic lubricants that retained their properties at low temperatures. This is because they are almost completely composed of esters of medium chain hydrocarbons: in the case of blackfish jaw oil the hydrocarbons are branched. The esters derived from jojoba are slightly longer chain but since I don't need it to stay liquid at low temperatures it isn't a problem.

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kelly View Post
    I'm working on a chain wax based on jojoba esters* and carnauba but I'm also breaking my own rules and playing with a graphene suspension.
    I've moved to wax for all of my chains and am sold on it. I would love to move to something like this, let me know when you have something to share, I'd love to support this project.
    This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the bike.

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    When (if) I am happy with what I've developed I will do a little launch on my smoked out.

    I am not sure the value proposition will survive shipping internationally.

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    Default Re: Drivetrain cleaning without petrochemicals

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kelly View Post
    the legendary sperm oil that doesn't involve killing an endangered species, splitting their heads open and bucketing out the contents. That's literally how they harvested the raw material for the highest quality sperm oil.
    Don't give the cycling industry purveyors of Veblen goods any ideas.

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