Maybe it's just me, but most of the commercial degreasers sold in bike shops seem pretty expensive for what they do.

While they work well for lightweight grime, especially when used regularly, they just don't cut it when it comes to cleaning off months' worth of caked-on road grease and filth. Lots of time and elbow grease required (or a stiff brush, which can damage the finish on some parts).

Community mechanic that I am, I often end up sorting out friends' bikes for them. Now when it comes to salvaging a neglected bike, there is only one thing that is cheap and potent enough to make my task bearable: petrol (gasp).

Yes, I know. Awful for your skin and lungs, and the surrounding environment, and a stupendously good fire hazard, but it takes off just about any gunk in seconds. I realise that this may just spell death for a nice laquer finish, but I always use it quickly and sparingly, and I've never seen any ill effects to date. A nice rub down with oil and wax afterwards, and the job's a good 'un.

Seriously - 5 litres of petrol is cheaper than 500ml of degreaser. It is also 5,000,000,000 times worse for myself and everybody around me. Without hating on me for being a terrible being, can anybody recommend me a suitably cheap alternative?

  • Yeah, a good auto parts store will have several different types of "parts cleaners" to choose from. Pretty much any of them should work, so long as you keep them off of rubber, plastic, and carbon composite. And, when you're done with the cleaner, put it into a jug and take it to a recycling center (though before you do, note that you can reuse it several times). Jul 18, 2014 at 21:29

3 Answers 3


Go to an auto parts store. In the case of cleaners and the like they typically sell the same things in larger packs and larger quantities than bike stores. They often also have a house brand that's cheaper than the other stuff.

You can get degreaser in the spray can (something like GunkFoam or also a non-foam version). Or you can get a solvent as used as parts cleaner. The linked one is 5 gallon but you can find it in 1 gallon as well. This is good for soaking parts or dipping a small brush to clean parts.

You can also try household degreaser like Purple Power – it works better than you would guess.

And another trick is tire cleaner. For that profession detail look.

  • Cheers Blam. I don't drive, so rarely think to visit such a shop. Jul 18, 2014 at 15:16
  • 3
    Tyre cleaner, yes. "Wet black", no. I have a mate who slathered it all over his bike tyres, making them look trick, but he couldn't understand why he kept sliding out :D Jul 18, 2014 at 15:27

In an answer to a similar question industrial degreaser is explained. Moreover, a recipe for home made industrial degreaser may be found there as well.

In a nutshell it is a combination of an alkaline booster (eg. sodium bicarbonate), a polar and a non-polar solvent (eg water and alcohol), and a surfactant (eg dish washing soap).


I use methanol, which in my area is sold as burning alcohol for fondu.

The advantages: it's very quick, it's cheap and it dries in seconds.

The disadvantages: it cuts through paint and lacquer, it's a fire hazard, it's somewhat toxic

I'm not a chemist, but I get the feeling that most anything that disolves grease must be toxic and a fire hazard.

  • FYI citrus-based degreasers are not fire hazards, non toxic, and smell quite pleasant. You might find the methanol is unofficially sold as a "cheap booze" for the very poor and the fondue thing is just a cover.
    – Criggie
    May 30, 2017 at 1:41
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    i doubt its sold as cheap booze -- don't need that much methanol to die or go blind.
    – Batman
    May 30, 2017 at 4:42
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    @Criggie Methanol is toxic. Perhaps you're thinking of methylated spirits, which is ethanol for solvent use, which is dyed and mixed with methanol and a bittering compound to make it undrinkable, so it can be sold cheaply without attracting the tax that's put on drinking alcohol. May 30, 2017 at 19:15
  • @Batman good point - david too. I can't imagine there's a large market for fondue fuel - its not the 70s any more. Burning alcohols tend to be blue rather than yellow, so they're terrible for illumination.
    – Criggie
    May 30, 2017 at 22:48
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    @Criggie The 70s lives on here in France, in fairness we use it for raclettes and you buy it by the liter in most supermarkets
    – curly
    May 31, 2017 at 0:11

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