Homemade bicycle degreaser liquids

  • Does anyone have a recipe for a homemade bicycle degreaser solution? I'd like to make my own degreaser solution instead of buying one. I have read about using lemon juice and various types of alcohols - white spirits, etc.

    EDIT: I should have actually explained I was looking for a homemade bicycle degreaser liquid, not just cleaning liquid. I have now edited the title and wording. Sorry for the wrong title.

    Commenting: Commercial citrus cleaners seem to work well. But there's only one answer that makes a tangential reference to citric acid. This could be an unexplored line of inquiry.

  • Jem Fisk

    Jem Fisk Correct answer

    7 years ago

    I am an industrial chemist, and manufacture commercial-grade degreasers and other cleaners.

    Firstly, there are 3 main parts to a degreaser:

    1. Alkaline booster, to increase the pH, allowing the dirt, grease and grime to be effectively removed, for faster cleaning
    2. Solvent, to cut through tough grime and grease, as well as extract grime and grease from hard-to-get areas
    3. Surfactant, to hold grime and grease in the cleaning solution, preventing it from depositing back on the bikes surface once lifted off by the solvent and the alkaline solution

    (there are also other components in professional degreasers, such as water softeners, hydro-tropes, anionic and ionic surfactants, specific application solvents, etc...)

    The main source of the above 3 parts can be from using baking soda as a alkaline booster, methylated spirit as a solvent (I would use methylated spirit because it is water-soluble), and a small amount of dish-washing liquid as a surfactant.

    An example formulation by volume would be:

    • 50% Methylated Spirit
    • 40% Water (H20)
    • 5% Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda)
    • 5% Dish-washing Liquid

    The methylated spirit and the sodium bicarbonate will work together to extract and lift the dirt/grime/grease, and the dish-washing liquid will work as a surfactant to stop it from depositing back on the bike again.

    The dish washing liquid will also act as a wetting agent and a foam booster.

    EDIT ----

    Please also note, that the methylated spirit will prevent (or nearly prevent) any foam or the like from forming. If you want foam, you will have to substitute the methylated spirits with a mild solvent that is hydrophilic and not oil-based (lipophilic).

    I made this mixture, but substituted methylated alcohol with isopropyl rubbing alcohol; this recipe seemed to work better than the degreaser I had purchased, thanks for the tip!

    Please also do note, that the methylated spirits will prevent or close to prevent any foam or the likes forming... if you want foam you will have to substitute the methylated spirits with a mild solvent that is hydrophilic and not oil based (lipophilic)

    @JeremyFisk do you wash off your degreaser before applying lube? Would it work the same if I use dishwashing liquid + baking soda + water, and then wash it off with methylated spirits or isopropyl alcohol?

    this mixing percentages are by mass or by volume?

    @alkar Yes you should wash it of with water first as the dirt/grime/grease will be sitting in encapsulated little balls on the surface that needs to be rinsed off. Cleaning with methylated spirits or isopropyl alcohol is a good idea as a final clean however is not necessary (however it can make it easier to apply lube etc as it will allow everything to dry more water free and any alcohol residue will evaporate fast meaning pure application of lube is easier)

    @DavorinRuševljan This is by volume

    I am having issues with the baking soda not dissolving. I am needing to constantly shake or mix the solution. My first attempt I put it all in a spray bottle but it stopped pumping I assume because I was moving solids through it. FWIW the solution may not make suds like dishwasher detergent alone, but it is foamy enough I have to stir or agitate and not shake to mix the degreaser. Any tips or ideas or is this par for the course? It's not letting me down as a degreaser, so thank you, I'd just like a little more functionality. Thanks!

    Thanks a lot, I've used this degreaser to great effect in several circumstances. However, for bike cleaning I found that it might be more effective if it would not run off as quickly. Would a thickener or gelling agent help? Is there an easily available one that would be compatible with your concrete 'recipe'?

    @BEVR1337 add baking soda to the water and methylated spirits and mix before adding anything else should help

    @gschenk to thicken it you could use guar gum or zantham gum.

    @Jem Fisk Would this differ much from windshield wiper fluid?

    @dave a windscreen washer/wiper fluid is normally pH neutral and is normally very similar to dishwashing fluid, adding a solvent or anything with to strong of a degreasing ability could course streaking and smearing on the window

    @Jem_Fisk Here in Canada, our winter wiper fluid is 38-50% methanol. This is a solvent, no?

    How long can you keep it? Where do you store it? Thanks!

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM