My question about lubricating automotive gears and chains also got me thinking about cleaning said contrivances which is required prior to lubrication. Oftly, kerosene is used as a generic cleaner. Other chemicals harmful to the environment could also be used.

I know there are biodegradable cleaners available, such as some citrus-based solvent I have to clean bicycle parts, but those come in small and expensive containers, and I could easily use a quarter- to a half-litre of fluid to clean, say, motorcycle chain, depending on the degree of contamination. And it could prove really spendy in the long run.

Is there generic category of biodegradable solvents that can be purchased cheaply and/or in bulk, and at the same time provide decent cleaning performance?

  • I'll let someone else do the research, but Sodium Laurel Sulphate may be a possibility (ie everyday shampoo). Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 11:25
  • 1
    If you buy in bulk, the citrus cleaners are a lot less expensive. Amazon sells a 5 gallon (20 liter) bucket of Orange 88 Citrus Degreaser for $45. Still over twice as expensive as kerosene, but at a half liter per chain cleaning that's only around $1 per cleaning.
    – Johnny
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 1:14

1 Answer 1


The two I would look at carefully would be citrus cleaners and turpentine depending on what you are trying to clean. Turpentine is the older traditional one, but is fiarly expensive compared to petrochemicals. It is destilled from pine resin.

Turpentine is quite a bit more expensive than citrus cleaners. the cheapest I can find it on Amazon is about $30/gallon. It may be worth looking at in cases where citrus cleaners are inadequate.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.