After reading comments that chain cleaning solvents could have substances of questionable health effects, and despite the benefits of bike chain-specific cleaning liquids, I'm doubling down on choosing an ordinary household citrus degreaser for chain cleaning, while ensuring to rinse with tap water—perhaps using a separate run of a bike chain cleaning device—promptly after using the degreaser (then drying for five minutes in the sun, applying a few drops of grease, spinning, and wiping).

I cycle on roads and only mildly dusty paths. My chain doesn't get grimy. Still, I would like to enjoy the peace of absolute zero noise emanating from the chain (the wind whistling between my ears and the helmet straps will be a tougher problem to eliminate), and so I am aiming for a perfectly clean chain. Also, I am starting to feel, perhaps delusionally, that this little remaining chain friction is what's standing between me and the "next stage" of cycling (faster).

Where do you discard the liquid when you're done? A citrus degreaser meant for household cleaning can presumably be safely flushed down the toilet, but this is not an option when it has been used to clean chain grime/grease. The cycling-specific solvents appear to be nasty enough they cannot be flushed down the toilet, even before they're mixed with dirt/grease.

Just dropping the tiny two ounces / 60 milliliters at the side of the road means the material will make its way unprocessed alongside rain water to canals, which is the worst possible option.

Which leaves a backyard or a garden, not too near any plants that might be consumed. The "bio" indication on some citrus degreasers suggests they can be poured right next to a tree, with little to no harm—but the presence of the grease means that pouring farthest from tree roots is wiser. Can bike chain-specific solvents also be discarded on some grass patch?

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    Are you connected to a reasonable modern municipal wastewater system, or a septic system? Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 20:59
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    @whatsisname The former. I think I see your point. If it was a septic system, then pouring in a sink/toilet would be no different than pouring in a grass patch. Both will be slowly filtered through the earth until they eventually reach the level of the water table.
    – Sam7919
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 3:36

2 Answers 2


Disposing of hydrocarbon-based solvent would have to be at your local waste disposal service. Where I live, you can drop it off at the same place that you drop off bottles and cans (we pay an environmental refundable deposit). I suppose you could also burn it off, but that also seems environmentally harmful.

Flushing used citrus cleaner down the drain shouldn’t be a problem. Assuming where you live has a robust wastewater treatment system in place, I don’t see how it is any different from disposing of, say, oily dishwater. I suppose you could drop it off at the disposal centre too.

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    I don't intend to burn the solvent, but are you saying that the bike-specific products are flammable? It's rather useful to know this to choose a safe place to store the used portions until disposal. Also, (just to keep everything in one answer) any thoughts on whether the used citrus degreaser would hurt grass?
    – Sam7919
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 17:22
  • @Sam Some products are soap-based and shouldn't be flammable. The solvent stuff will be though. I would just dump the citrus down the toilet. It's not worth the risk to the grass.
    – MaplePanda
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 19:32
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    For the maintenance of five or six bikes in a household (varying amounts of use and maintenance requirements) an empty gallon jug will take several months to fill with used solvent, whether petroleum or citrus based. Discarding at a hazardous waste collection site can be completed infrequently, saving time, money and hassle. In my mind, the fact that such chemicals are manufactured, exist and are discarded, means the pollution is going to happen. It can be mitigated, but overall, one is simply transferring their waste to another making it someone else's problem and doing nothing for Earth.
    – Jeff
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 21:55
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    @Jeff we can often use them sparingly, e.g. when cleaning paint brushes that need solvent rather than water do a first clean in old solvent, which then goes in the waste can. Do the final clean in new solvent than becomes the old solvent for next time. Is also have a process that can use this approach in work, and have occasionally done it on the bike, though I don't get through nearly as much there (except denatured alcohol for degreasing, which mostly ends up evaporating or soaked into rags
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 10:49
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    (In the UK) municipal waste recycling sites usually take such things. I go about once a year, and don't need to take solvent waste every visit. My recent trip was >50% worn out/damaged bike metalwork, so if you've got space keep a bottle for waste solvent next to a scrap metal bin. But soap and water type stuff goes down the drain
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 10:51

If you don't have an incinerator, the next best option is to get it into a mechanically stable form for disposal. Pour the solvent into a thin sheet like an old baking pan or oil pan and leave it sit in the sun until it is dry. Scrape and remove. If, like myself, you live in a place where the sun never seems to shine, just leave them in an open container outside under a roof (but where animals won't be tempted to them) and allow the liquid medium to evaporate.

I've been using an old paint can to harbor all of my discarded paint chemicals and cleaning chemicals. Pure oils are barred from this can as they will not dry out and solidify. Once the can is full I will use one of my exercise days to bike it to the nearest chemical waste disposal sites (that you should look up as well). If there are none, then chuck it in the normal waste bin and write a letter to your city council.

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