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This has always bugged me. At the end of the season I'm breaking down my bikes and cleaning every inch of them and I get to the derailleur and can't seem to ever get all the junk out of the middle of it! Anyone have any good strategies for getting in by the springs and around the moving parts?

I'm fine with removing the cage and doing jockey wheels, etc., but would prefer to keep the main body together.

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    I find my method very effect..... Only clean the moving parts.
    – mattnz
    Nov 25, 2013 at 18:57
  • I'll get shot for putting a link in but Park Tools rear derailleur overhaul is a good start: parktool.com/blog/repair-help/rear-derailleur-overhaul or I found this for SRAM type 2 bicyclingaustralia.com.au/2013/08/sram-type-2-overhaul
    – DWGKNZ
    Nov 25, 2013 at 20:58
  • You can also try removing gunk from the derailleur more often.
    – Batman
    Nov 26, 2013 at 2:51
  • @DWGKNZ Putting in a link is fine but overhauling a derailleur just to clean it? I think you're more likely to do more harm than good doing that. That's like overhauling an engine instead of just changing the oil and filter. Nov 26, 2013 at 4:33
  • @CareyGregory - the way I read Aaron's question essentially that's what he's doing.
    – DWGKNZ
    Nov 26, 2013 at 5:01

3 Answers 3

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Lean the bike slightly against something with the derailer facing out. Slide a section of newspaper up behind the derailer and large cog and let it drape down over the tire and onto the ground. (This protects the tire and absorbs most of the solvent.)

Get an old toothbrush and a spray can of (no shouting now!) WD40 or some other similar solvent. Alternately spray the derailer (and cluster, if you're so inclined) with WD40 and work it with the toothbrush.

When it's sufficiently clean (ie, no longer caked with congealed crud) wipe it dry and lubricate with chain oil. (Since this is usually done in tandem with a chain cleaning, simply oiling the chain will usually oil the derailer sufficiently.)

You may want to hit it with another shot of oil after a day or two, since the small amount of remaining solvent may prevent the oil from reaching all surfaces at first.

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    WD40 is not a solvent. It's a penetrating oil and hence solves oily residue. It's too light to serve as lubricant for longer periods of time, but at some point I used it as chain lubricant without ill effects. You'll only have to redo it on a weekly basis.
    – arne
    Nov 26, 2013 at 8:29
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    @arne - I wasn't recommending WD40 as a lubricant. Use chain oil for that. But it is a fairly decent solvent, and comes in a convenient form. Nov 26, 2013 at 11:59
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    @DanielRHicks - It was just about the "solvent". WD40 is not a solvent as the word is usually used. It's an oil.
    – arne
    Nov 26, 2013 at 12:54
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    @arne - WD40 is an oil in a "vehicle". The "vehicle" is a fairly decent solvent. Nov 26, 2013 at 18:06
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    @DanielRHicks I just read the ingredients list -- I stand corrected.
    – arne
    Nov 27, 2013 at 6:30
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For a complete clean and overhaul, which works wonders for shifting performance, the Park Tool dérailleur overhaul instructions cannot be beaten. See http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/rear-derailleur-overhaul

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Wash it with mild soap and water. Use an old toothbrush to clean and low pressure water to rinse. Put in the sun to dry.

There are very few things on bikes that will actually rust any more. As long as you avoid high pressure sprays[1] and make sure its' dry before you store it, there's almost nothing on the bike that will be affected by soap and water.

[1]- High pressure sprays can get water past bearing seals and that is not good.

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