Clean freak: getting tough on dirty bike parts

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Is it just me or is there something supernatural about a good cleaner? It’s almost like a religious experience, isn’t it? Okay, maybe it is just me. It’s possible I may be a bit fanatical in this area. When you spend a lot of time working with old, unloved, and dirty bikes, though, you learn to appreciate the power of a good cleaner.

Think about it…isn’t it mesmerizing to watch a power washer stripping moss and crud off a wooden deck? Little by little in a defined and symmetrical pattern, the dirt disappears and the brightness, the light from below becomes visible. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

Back when I first looked into sandblasting equipment, I’d inevitably land on YouTube, which offered plenty of technical videos explaining the needed equipment, how to connect all of it and so on. But, there were other videos showing the blasting process doing its thing. Slowly but surely, rusted metal would transform before my eyes. After watching a few of those, I was hooked and had to experience the magic for myself. (It really doesn’t take much to entertain me.)

So yeah, you can say I like cleaners. In my world, there’s a cleaner for every job and type of surface. For the purposes of this post, though, I won’t get into cleaners for plastics, tires, chrome, painted parts, glass, leather, garage floors—or wax/polish products—yet. Today, I’ll just list the main cleaners I rely on to help out with my vintage bikes, whether they’re being fixed or parted out.

The basics

Dawn...good for oily ducks AND greasy bikes
Dawn…good for oily ducks AND greasy bikes

Dawn: It takes grease out of your way.

Lestoil: An oldie but goodie. Helps keep rubber parts soft and pliable.

Simple Green: Hard-working and safe.

WD-40: Over 2,000 uses.

Purple Power: Good all around degreaser with no strong smell.

Media blasting

Soda Blasting: You are getting sleepy…your eyelids are getting heavy…

Must haves for vintage work

CRC Pro-Strength Degreaser: Can be used just about everywhere.

CRC Brākleen Non-Chlorinated Brake Parts Cleaner: Safer than chlorinated.

K & W Professional Strength Carb and Choke Cleaner: Good stuff for an aerosol.

CRC Lectra-Motive Electric Parts Cleaner: Aggressive cleaner.

CRC QD Electronic Cleaner: Safe on plastics and residue free.

Zep Powerhouse: Heavy duty cleaner that works on many surfaces, including plastic.

Note: Just because brake cleaner, carb cleaner and electric cleaner smell alike, it doesn’t mean they do the same thing. For example, brake cleaner will work over plastic pieces…in other words, brake cleaner can ruin plastic pieces.

When your motor’s running

Chevron Techron Fuel System Cleaner: In the fuel tank.

Seafoam Motor Treatment: In the fuel tank and in the crankcase.

Brighten up the bike

Eagle One Etching Mag Wheel Cleaner: Cleans up engine cases.

Marvel Mystery Oil: A must see video.

Quick shine

Lemon Pledge: For a quick clean and shine.

A clean shop is better than a dirty shop

Gunk Heavy Duty Shop Tool Degreaser: Works well on dirty tools, as does WD-40.

Cleaning up

GOJO Creme Hand Cleaner

GOJO Orange Pumice Hand Cleaner

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And there you have it…my short list of favorite cleaners. In a future post, I may wax on about cleaners for plastics, tires, chrome, leather, glass, and more. That is a much longer list, though, and I was trying to keep this short.

Just to be clear, there is a limit to my obsession. I don’t like to clean just for kicks. Cleaning is more rewarding when it doesn’t require a lot of elbow grease. So while its great that we no longer have to scrub clothing on river rocks or make soap from animal fats and ashes, I’m still amazed that we could put a man on the moon decades ago, yet can’t seem to invent a simple spray that cleans soap scum off the shower without working up a sweat. C’mon, there’s got to be a better way. We need NASA engineers working on this problem.


Okay, maybe not.

Next: Painting the gas tank on a budget

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