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I have a bike chain which is not completely detachable from the bike, i.e., it doesn't have the quick link on it, so I cannot remove it completely. However, I can take off the rear wheel so that the chain is hanging from the bike. I want to do a proper bike chain cleaning by submersing it partially into a liquid, and then doing the same with the other half of the chain after. So the cleaning would be a two step process. If you've ever done this kind of cleaning, which liquid can you suggest?

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    Note that product recommendations are off-topic, according to the policy.
    – Rеnаud
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:17
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    @mattnz is "you" the OP or me? "Good results" include the time component. Using this cleaner is slower than removing the chain and cleaning it off the bike. But now I'm waxing the chains, so much less need to clean the chains to start with.
    – Rеnаud
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:37
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    This might be one of those XY problems - buying a quicklink or master link will be your best upgrade here.
    – Criggie
    Aug 2, 2023 at 23:06
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    @Vladimir - soaking in solvent on its own is not enough. When you remove a chain and soak it, you also move it around (shake or stir ideally vigorously, some even use an ultrasonic cleaner) in the solution, using mechanical action to loosen and remove the deposits inside the rollers. You won't easily get the same mechanical action with the chain on the bike (hence the popularity of on bike chain cleaners that provide the mechanical action). Dropping a bit at a time into an ultrasonic cleaner would be effective, but slower than removing the chain.
    – mattnz
    Aug 3, 2023 at 3:22
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    to complete @mattnz point: the solvent that works with brushes is as viscous as detergent for dishes. Soak the chain into it, you'll have at best a superficial cleaning, but what you need to is in fact inside the rollers. Even the spray, that is thin enough requires a mechanical action to get into the chain (that is provided by pedaling backwards). Even with super thins solvents like white spirit, you'll need several passes to clean a dirty chain, much more convenient to do it off the bike (white spirit is not recommended for regular chain cleaning though, only to prepare a chain for waxing).
    – Rеnаud
    Aug 3, 2023 at 4:50

3 Answers 3

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There are specific chain cleaners (they are called like this) in bike shops or general sport shops with a bike department. Doing product recommendations is off-topic here, but these are commodity products, and they work equally well (they can differentiate on other concern, like being biodegradable).

If you want to clean the chain without removing it, it's easier to leave the wheel on the bike. If you take a product in spray, you can just apply the spray directly on the chain by pedaling backwards. There are other degreasers that need to be diluted and then applied to special brush with a reservoir (see picture below). This "cleaning tool" is also meant to be used when the chain is on the bike, by pedaling backward. I never really got good results with the latest, that being said, and it takes more time than just removing the chain and cleaning out of the bike.

enter image description here

But it's easier to just buy a chain cutter tool and quick links: you cut the chain, clean it of the bike (with the same kind of products), and when you remount it, install the quick-link. If you want to do maintain your bike, you'll need the chain cutter anyway. Chains are consumables, and it's very unlikely that you'll find a chain with exactly the right length (in fact it's the case for one of my bikes, but I need the chain cutter anyway to remove some plates to use it with a quick link). So you'll need to buy a slightly longer chain, and cut it at the right length.

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    I have the park tool bath, and I've tried it. But somehow, after putting all of the 400-500ml spray can bottle on the chain, and bathing it with the parktool blue thingie, the chain still stayed dirty. This is why I am considering the full immersion in the solvent kind of bath. Aug 2, 2023 at 21:18
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    Then the chain cutter + quick link is the best option. I know it doesn't answer strictly the question, but it's how you'll get the best results, and the fastest. Cleaning the rest of the drivetrain will also be easier with the chain off the bike. This kind of products are kind of commodities, so there is no particular recommendation to do from this point of view.
    – Rеnаud
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:20
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    Also: the pictured tool doesn't work with spray, it requires a more soapy cleaner - as far as I remember, the product is labelled as such.
    – Rеnаud
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:28
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    @VladimirDespotovic confirmed, I look at a bottle I have (from Decathlon). The label includes some drawings that says to put it in the parktool cleaner.
    – Rеnаud
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:57
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    decathlon.be/fr/p/degraissant-transmission-velo-vegetal-500ml/_/… But it's not an endorsement. As I said, degreasing is a solved problem.
    – Rеnаud
    Aug 2, 2023 at 22:04
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I want to do a proper bike chain cleaning by submersing it partially into a liquid

This is not enough. Submersing a chain into liquid only removes whatever the liquid is capable of dissolving. It means it will dissolve all of the oil in the chain (bad since you don't want to remove that), but none of the road dirt (bad too since you will want to remove that).

Besides, I don't think that "proper" bike chain cleaning makes any sense, for two reasons:

  1. It is messy and requires lots of time and requires safely disposing of the used solvent which you will have lots of
  2. Dirt gets into the chain anyway

What I suggest instead is to extend the oiling interval so that the chain rollers and innards get naturally clean. Dirt is held inside a moving chain only if there's oil in it. If you oil your chain all the time, never letting it to get dry of oil, the dirt is maintained inside. If you instead oil your chain when you hear the slightest amount of squeak, the chain has gotten to the point where it's no longer oily inside, hence it is no longer dirty inside or on the rollers.

When the chain rollers and innards are clean of dirt and oil, all you need to do is to brush most of the external dirt away. I use two stiff brushes and specially reinforced paper towels.

I use this chain cleaning and oiling strategy with my CN-HG54 chain. The cleaning and oiling interval is 800 - 1200 km depending on whether I encounter rain when riding (rain removes oil faster than riding in good weather) and depending on how often I ride the bike (if I ride the bike only occasionally, I get only 800 km, if I ride it often, I get 1200 km).

I already have about 6300 km on my CN-HG54 and it still wasn't worn when I last checked it. The next check is at the next cleaning and oiling event, which will happen at about 7200 km. It may or may not be worn at this stage, but if it is, I got 7200 km (0.5% wear limit), if not then maybe 8400 km or even more.

Note this bike of mine isn't just any bike, it's a mid-drive e-bike. Rumor says mid-drive e-bikes eat your chains very fast, but with my chain cleaning and oiling strategy, I get at least 7200 km out of a single chain. The best of all is that my cleaning and oiling strategy requires only very little time.

If you've ever done this kind of cleaning, which liquid can you suggest?

I don't suggest a liquid. I suggest letting the chain get dry of oil. Then riding it naturally cleans it. Then you need to act very fast when you hear the slightest amount of squeak: remove the worst external dirt with two stiff brushes and specially reinforced paper towels and re-oil.

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Unless it's a cutting-edge chain, just get an old-fashioned chain remover and push out the rivet - you will need this anyway when it's time to replace the chain. Clean the chain, and put a quick link in, or just replace the whole thing now.

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  • thanks! It's not cutting-edge really, no. I probably just need to look that the length of the chain is the same as the old one. Aug 13, 2023 at 11:20

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