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Drivetrain cleaning, will Simple Green work?(26 posts)

Drivetrain cleaning, will Simple Green work?txcross
May 16, 2003 7:50 AM
Ran out of degreaser but have a bottle of Simple Green laying around. Seems like it would work, any opinions out there?
yes; may take some brushing if really gunked on nmDougSloan
May 16, 2003 7:59 AM
re: Drivetrain cleaning, will Simple Green work?desmo
May 16, 2003 8:04 AM
Some say no because it's water based but I use it all the time to wipe down my chain, cassette, etc. I think it works great. As long as you are re-lubing right away I see no problem with the small H2O content.
re: Drivetrain cleaning, will Simple Green work?Val_Garou
May 16, 2003 8:08 AM
I believe there was some talk on awhile back about it weakening chains, particularly Sachs stuff. I don't know, I could be totally wrong. Do a search, I guess.

Yep, I'm a big help....sorry.
Yes, but don't soak the chain in it.TWD
May 16, 2003 12:19 PM
I also heard several times on MTBR that simple green and sram chains don't mix. I didn't believe it until it had 2 sram chains that I threw into a small container of pure simple green to soak. I was going to leave them in there for half an our or so, but I forgot about them, and left them in there for about a week since they were spare chains.

When I went to use those chains again, guess what, I was breaking my chain at least once per ride, sometimes 2 or three times (thank goodness all of them broke while climbing seated at slow speeds on mtb) Cracked sideplates at the thin part near the pins every time.

Don't know what reaction SG has with the metal, but the sram chains sure didn't like it. I've been using sach/sram chains for over a decade and rarely if ever broke one of their chains before or after this instance.

I still use simple green sparingly though, just spray it on, scrub, rinse off, then dry the chain and relube right away. No problems since then.
My monthly struggle with my environmental conscience...cory
May 16, 2003 8:08 AM
Every time I clean anything greasy, I wrestle with the Simple Green decision. I'm a 25-year member of the Sierra Club and a solid Green voter...but SG just doesn't WORK very well on serious crud.
A partial solution that's probably only marginally more harmful, because you use a lot less of the stuff: The cheapest kind of Home Depot paint thinner/solvent, usually about $1.49 a gallon, works fine. I use it in my chain cleaner and put half an inch in a coffee can to clean bearings and whatnot. It's faster than SG, less volatile than a lot of other solvents, and if you let the gunk settle out and pour the liquid back for re-use, you can do a whole bike with much less than a cup of the stuff.
Satisfying your conscience.Alex-in-Evanston
May 16, 2003 8:34 AM
Ethyl lactate is an excellent environmentally benign degreaser. Unfortunately, it's also a powerful paint stripper - so no cleaning the chain on the bike. It's corn derived, food grade, breaks down into CO2 and water. It's difficult to find, but if you want to go the extra mile to use an environmentally sound product, you can contact the manufacturer for a sample.

Go to, you can get the tel # off the website. Tell them Alex is your bike buddy and he told you to call. They'll charge you about $2 per pound plus shipping.

I don't have a financial interest in the company, but they are friends and a small company struggling for market share against very nasty (but cheap and effective) chlorinated solvents.

Ease your conscience with my trick ...Humma Hah
May 16, 2003 9:58 AM
I use mineral spirits (a paint thinner) similar to what you do, and it works great. I struggle with the same worries. I keep mine in a 1-gallon paint can (also from Home Depot) and keep the lid on when not in use. That way I don't have to worry about losses transferring the solvent back to a can or bottle, or evaporation from what gets left behind in the crud. When it finally gets too cruddy to work (which has not happened yet), my city does have a hazardous waste pickup day several times a year. Presumably, they recycle it or burn it in an incinerator.

You can't leave it in a coffee can as the lid will warp and fail to seal after a few weeks of exposure to solvent fumes. The paint can will seal almost perfectly.
A problem with the SG approach or biodegradable solvents ...Humma Hah
May 16, 2003 10:03 AM
... the solvents themselves may be environmentally friendly, but the stuff they take off your bike rarely is. If you flush them down the drain, the old grease and lord-knows-what is still an environmental problem.

Careful use of more conventional solvents, such as low-volatility mineral spirits, then recycling or properly performed incineration by a proper reclaimation facility, may be the better option environmentally. With many jurisdictions now offering free collection of these wastes from homeowners, this may be a good option.
A problem with the SG approach or biodegradable solvents ...PdxMark
May 16, 2003 10:06 AM
How about letting the gunk settle out of a biodegradable solvent before tossing the solvent down the drain? Or does alot of gunk stay in the solvent (suspended, dissolved, etc.)?
I believe Simple Green has a caution on the label ...Humma Hah
May 16, 2003 11:39 AM
... about this. They're proud of their product, but suspicious of the stuff it may remove from dirty parts.

Letting it settle will certainly take out the worst of it. I've got a bottle of dirty SG that I've used for cleaning parts, and it has gotten reasonably clear with gunk at the bottom. Disposing of this down the sanitary drain, where processing will take care of the trace of oils remaining, is probably better than down a storm drain where it goes straight into a stream. I don't know of any formal recycling program for Simple Green.
Are citrus degreasers bad?PdxMark
May 16, 2003 10:03 AM
Actually, I still have some Performance Bike degreaser that is supposedly safe to dump down the drain, and might be nothing more than Simple Green...
Depends on if you are an ant ...Humma Hah
May 16, 2003 11:43 AM
... citrus degreasers are harmless to most higher animals, but absolutely deadly to many insects. One accidental discovery was that its one of the few things that will kill fire ants. Their function in orange peels it to keep insects from eating the oranges.

Dumped down the drain, the big problem is not the solvent, but the awful stuff it removed from your bike parts. I would expect, once diluted in a normal sewer system, the effect of clean citrus degreaser would be to make the sewage smell slightly better, with no harmful effects at all.
re: Drivetrain cleaning, will Simple Green work?Leroy
May 16, 2003 8:16 AM
I use it all the time. Works just fine.
Simple Green - Good stuff for parts OTHER THAN drivetrainFez
May 16, 2003 8:37 AM
For the drivetrain, I assume you mean full strength. Even though it is water based, it is probably OK, since there are plenty here who clean with the sponge w/ soapy water method.

Keep in mind that for general household use, Simple Green is designed to work diluted 30:1 with water.

Although I DO NOT clean my drivetrain with Simple Green, I DO use it for other parts of the bike. I put it in a spray bottle diluted 30:1 or even more, and it is very gentle but effectively cleans tires, spokes, rims, and unpainted Titanium frame tubes.

I just use water (via spray bottle or wet rag) for more delicate parts like carbon forks and componentry.
simple green (full strength) and toothbrush works fine (nm)maximum15
May 16, 2003 8:45 AM
Go to Home Depotpmf1
May 16, 2003 8:50 AM
and get a gallon or two of Zepp citrus cleaner. For $7/gallon, its cheap enough to use undiluted. Pour some in a can and scrub your drive train with an old toothbrush. Works very well.
May 16, 2003 9:15 AM
I use simple green at full strength for my drivetrain. I use SRAM chains, primarily because I like to take the chain off to clean it. I leave the chain soaking in SG while I clean my bike's rims (with rubbing alcohol), derailleurs, etc.

I don't know what the problem with water would be--I rinse the chain off in running water, then let it air dry (hanging from ceiling). Put the dry chain back on the bike, hit each link with a few drops of ProLink, and you're good to go.
Chain Brite !!!!!Mootsie
May 16, 2003 9:20 AM
I used SG for all the right reasons and settled for the results which are marginal at best. You need lots of elbow grease (pun intended) and patience to do anything beyond getting simple dirt off the drive train. Then I asked my LBS shop for a recommendation on what to use to get the gunk off a new chain. They told me to use Park Tool's Chain Brite. Wow, what a difference. It works - fast. Sorry about the environment, but this stuff will be on my bench for a long time.
Too slow. Recently started using mineral spirits ...Humma Hah
May 16, 2003 9:50 AM
I've used Simple Green full strength. Nice for wiping down greasy fingerprints on frames but not for removing bulk grease and grime. I've even tried it in an ultrasound bath, and its just pathetically slow.

My most recent system is a gallon paint can I put about a quart of mineral spirits into. When I have a chain off, or any other greasy parts, I soak them in that can, and agitate them a bit, and the gunk just falls away. A second can with cleaner mineral spirits acts as a rinse.

I don't have to throw this out very often, just keep the can sealed when not in use, and allow the gunk to settle out . I intend to get a proper solvent storage cabinet, for these cans and other solvents.
Don't spray the cassettepitt83
May 16, 2003 9:51 AM
I killed a hub this way. They aren't as sealed as you'd like them to be. My hub only lasted 2 seasons. When I went to rebuild it, that nice green Phil Wood grease was blackened and scarcely there. Remove the cassette and clean away.
My Environmental $.02MWM
May 16, 2003 11:31 AM
The best idea is to use solvents sparingly. I've been running chain for years by wetting it with BoesShield and then running it through a rag while it's still wet. Don't laugh but WD40 - being 50% spirits anyway - works well for the same purpose. 80% of the crud comes off on the rag and the little solvent you used evaporates. I do this every week or so and never let my chain get too nasty. The rag can be used many times. Don't put grease or solvent into the sewer.

As a couple folks mentioned, if you let mineral spirits sit, the solids tend to settle out and you can use it again. Works for paint too. When it's too nasty to use anymore, take it to your local recycling center where they'll incinerate it at extreme heat.
Not very wellAlexx
May 16, 2003 12:24 PM
SG contains a good bit of detergent, and you'll need to seriously rinse the chain 3-4 times, or else you'll kill the lubricant with the leftover detergent. Also, it's quite acidic, so don't use it on ANY bearing surfaces. I wouldn't use SG on anything that moves.
Not acidic!!davet
May 16, 2003 4:46 PM
Simple Green is NOT acidic. It has a pH of 9.3 to 9.5, which means it is very slightly alkaline. (neutral is 7.0. Lower numbers mean more towards acidic, higher numbers mean more towards alkaline)
OK, then, "caustic"!Alexx
May 17, 2003 6:08 AM
FWIW, the USAF has BANNED the use of SG. It seems that it CORRODES ALUMINUM. Good reason to not use it around bearing surfaces, but I'm only a mechanical engineer, not a sales rep......
OK, then, .......................davet
May 17, 2003 6:31 AM
I'm not a sales rep either, but I just hate it when 'urban legends' get repeated as facts. I've been using Simple Green for years on my boats and bikes, and my bearing surfaces are just fine thank you. Like any cleaning solution, Simple Green must be rinsed off. Any solution, acidic or caustic will attack a material if left on for extended periods of time. The Air Force guys would spay Simple Green on engines, surfaces, parts and equipment and let them air dry. Anything could be damaged when treated like that.

In my opinion Simple Green is an excellent product when used properly. It works, it's safe and it's environmentally friendly.