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  1. #1
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    how do you clean a new (but dirty) chain ?

    so after a google hunt for the right way to clean a chain/drivetrain i realize the internet just makes some thing more complicated than it probably needs to be. But i did get 2 consistent take aways.

    • The factory lube is the best lube, dont degrease (or at least dont soak) a new chain.
    • The most effective way to get rid of all that grime and grit is to soak the chain for 30 min or so in some degreaser/mineral spirits/kerosene.


    so my relatively new drivetrain is filthy from wet/muddy trails. I gave it a light hose down, scrub, sprayed a little degreaser on it, another light hose down, and let it dry. But its still got all kinds of grit in the chain.

    What would you do here? say screw it, it's a mountain bike or take time to clean it out?

  2. #2
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    I think the stuff they put on in the factory is a heavy grease designed to stop it going rusty in the box so it's nice and shiny when you open it up rather than a lube but it works. I've found it attracts dirt more readily than any wet lube I've tried and gunks up and goes black after one ride. I clean it off the outside off the chain using isopropyl alcohol before riding because of this then ride it till it gets noisy; then I'll use one of those cleaning lubes and then a wet lube - If you intend to use one of those dry lubes like white lightning or some of these ceramic - its probably a good idea to do a complete degrease and get rid of it at the outset.
    That's not to say I'm doing it right or there aren't other ways to keep your chain clean and lubed

  3. #3
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    I would recomend a quick link in the chain. Remove the chain and put it in a disposable water bottle filled with a bio degreaser and allow it to soak with some shaking thrown in for good measure, blow dry and lube with a wax based lube. This is the first step I preform on a new chain, the factory lube is durable but is a sand/grit magnet.

  4. #4
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    The best way to clean a chain is to submerse it in paraffin. Warning this is very dangerous. Paraffin is the same same mix of chemicals as gasoline it just has a higher proportion of the longer molecules. So heating this stuff up on the stove will cause a fire or explosion. I would suggest putting the paraffin in a coffee can then placing the can in a bigger pan of boiling water after you remove it from the stove. Submerse the chain it only needs to soak for a minute or so then remove it and let the majority drip back into the can. Once it is cool the paraffin will flake off go ahead and ride it as is. The dirt in the paraffin can will sink to the bottom. Paraffin can be bought under the name of gulf wax or use candles of crayons.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by zerodish View Post
    The best way to clean a chain is to submerse it in paraffin.

    Your favorite way, not the best way IMO.

    For a new chain I believe it's best to wipe the outside plates as dry as you can using a clean rag with a little bit of citrus solvent on it, and leave the factory lube on the inside of the chain.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    Your favorite way, not the best way IMO.

    For a new chain I believe it's best to wipe the outside plates as dry as you can using a clean rag with a little bit of citrus solvent on it, and leave the factory lube on the inside of the chain.
    certainly not mine either. i stay clear of anything paraffin based.

  7. #7
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    well i just said screw it and soaked it in mineral spirits for about 30 min, shook it around a bit and then laid it out to dry/evaporate.

    All my rag wiping was just not doing the job, there was way too much grit. I then heavily lubed it with finish line wet lube, wiped down the access and also gave it a few wipes with a rag with degreaser to try and dry off the outside of the links.

    I think i gotta just make it so i dont pack my chain with grit next time

  8. #8
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    I soaked my new chain in a dry lube, then wiped it clean, and use dry lube every third ride or so, or more often in wet conditions.

    I use DuPont ChainSaver from Wal-Mart -- about $7 for a can, so you can afford to use it generously. Cleanliness is more important than lubrication IMO. Nothing will protect against wear from sand mixed in with the grease

  9. #9
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    Well, a new chain, I now take it right out of the box/package and taking a moist rag with rubbing alcohol wipe it over a few times... then after each of the first 3-5 rides... the alcohol will "skin" the factory oil instead of stripping it and get rid of the tacky so it wont attract dirt. (again, not a soaked rag but just lightly moistened) The factory oil is by far the best under normal conditions and it's best to leave it in there if possible.

    Even though you basically stripped the factory oil out, where you stated you used a wet type oil to re-lube it I'd still do the same treatment...

    I also have a "chain cleaning tool" which I use alcohol in also (very little) these things get the brushes inside and get the dirt out of between the links. Again the alcohol wont strip the oil as much as skin it so it still protects and lubes but attracts much less dirt. Alcohol WILL strip the oils if you use too much and soak the chain, but unlike the Orange cleans and melting waxes and such, alcohol will leave NO residue that continues to break down the oil.


    I do use Orange cleans/striper after the chain starts to get noisy and remove all oil.. the soda bottle method mentioned above works great. Rinse the chain a few times also until the water comes out clear .. let dry in the sun. Soak in you favorite oil and then do the Alcohol treatment.

    It sounds like a lot of work, but it's actually less as this method you don't have to play with it for months at a time between hand.. (based on my riding Schedule of 2-3 times a week,with 10ish mile rides average. Obviously some racers and heavier riding will cause it to need to be done more)

    I often ride right on the beach in the sand and this method has kept my chains reasonably clean and running quiet.

    As to the oil,.. I have tried all kinds of fancy Bike chain oils,..
    • dry/teflon lubes (not bad but need rather often re-application)
    • Waxes of multiple varieties (work poorly at actually lubing the bearings as the wax drys and the "pressure points" wear through it's soft structure and waxes can't pull more lube in to replace like oils as it has no surface tension like liquids do, very high wear on the pressure spots of the bearings)
    • Fancy Wet Lubes (best working but attract the most dirt, unless you give it the alcohol treatment)



    If I had to buy a new "Bike chain lube" I'd go with ChainL .. by far the best, quietest, longest lasting oil specifically designed for bike chains I've ever used.

    Honestly though.. I use plain old fashion chain saw bar and chain oil.... A chain saw gets WAY more dirt in-on and around it than your bike will ever get and it works great on them (yes they re-apply the oil with chain saws, but think of the RPM differance between your chain and that on the saw.. and what your chain is doing compared to it!!! ) It doesn't last as long as the ChainL does, but I still get a good month or 2 before having to do a strip and re-oil... I do use the chain cleaning tool on it now and again and especially after very muddy or sandy rides... But I almost never need to re-apply oil on a ride by ride basis.


    chain cleaning tool for those inbetween brushings
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  10. #10
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    +1 on the quick link just so that you can remove the chain to clean it.

  11. #11
    Trail Tire TV on blogger
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    Quote Originally Posted by chinaman View Post
    +1 on the quick link just so that you can remove the chain to clean it.
    ya.. +2 on that one
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbourne84 View Post
    well i just said screw it and soaked it in mineral spirits for about 30 min, shook it around a bit and then laid it out to dry/evaporate.

    All my rag wiping was just not doing the job, there was way too much grit. I then heavily lubed it with finish line wet lube, wiped down the access and also gave it a few wipes with a rag with degreaser to try and dry off the outside of the links.

    I think i gotta just make it so i dont pack my chain with grit next time
    I would skip the degreaser and just use a clean dry cloth to wipe off as much of the excess lube as possible.
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  13. #13
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    A chain saw gets WAY more dirt in-on and around it than your bike will ever get
    Well, the dirt on a saw chain is primarily sawdust, which is not nearly as abrasive as sand, especially when the sawdust is soaked in oil. True, even though you take great pains to keep from running the blade in dirt, it does happen. But it gets washed away by the oiler.

    A bike, on the other hand, gets dirt thrown at it constantly, and doesn't get cleaned until after the ride.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by DennisF View Post
    Well, the dirt on a saw chain is primarily sawdust, which is not nearly as abrasive as sand, especially when the sawdust is soaked in oil. True, even though you take great pains to keep from running the blade in dirt, it does happen. But it gets washed away by the oiler.

    A bike, on the other hand, gets dirt thrown at it constantly, and doesn't get cleaned until after the ride.
    basically true.. but the force/pull/wear of the chainsaw is WAY WAY higher and the RPM's is thousands per second where your bike is maybe a thousand per hours...

    been using it it for 2 yrs now.. works great.. as long as you do the alcohol wipe after the sand and dirt sticks much less...
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  15. #15
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    My prefered install for a new chain finishes with a wipe down with hand cleaner wipes like those from Pro Gold or similar. This gets the factory lube off the outside but keeps that stuff on the inside where it can do a lot of good.

    I don't take a chain off the bike until it's ready for the trash. With proper lube you don't need to soak a chain to get it clean it. A mild degreaser and a stiff bristled brush will get a chain plenty clean.

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