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TRACK CLEANING. isopropyl Alcohol v track rubber


andy stroud
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I use the cardboard from cereal packets cut up into small squares

I rub that along the rails and it seems to remove dirt I didn't even know was there.

No residue, no dust, no fibres and there is a cheap and plentiful supply

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Pendon use a square of hardboard, rough side down,  weighted and mounted between two bogies as a simple wagon that can be run round the entire layout. Of course their track is pretty clean to start with. I find Isoprop good for cleaning wheels but I'd like to find something better than cotton buds to apply it with.

 

I find pipe cleaners bent over work well. Just make another bend when the bit you're using gets dirty.

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  • 5 years later...
  • 6 months later...

Good morning, having been testing the theory for some time and getting the chance to work with a very knowledgeable chap, I have this significant update to my previous video guide that I hope others will be interested in.

If you do take the advice I'd love to hear how you get on?

I used to clean the track before every major running session, since this its around twice a month! 

 

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  • RMweb Gold

Interesting video.

I went over to White spirit for track cleaning some time ago after reading an article along similar lines as WS is non-polar. Generally happy with the results.

Chris

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  • RMweb Gold

I undertook a major wheel and track clean over the new year mostly using IPA and have noted a build up of crud on the railhead already which rather validates the science as explained in the video. I shall be investing in a can of WD40 contact cleaner to see how this works for me. 

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Great video, Mike.

Your previous video about cleaning blocks not scratching rail surfaces was a real eye-opener & dispelled the myth that many have been spreading for years.

It was nice to see a discussion based on what you observed & showed through your microscope.

After seeing that, I'll be ditching my meths in favour of white spirit.

 

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2 hours ago, Pete the Elaner said:

Great video, Mike.

Your previous video about cleaning blocks not scratching rail surfaces was a real eye-opener & dispelled the myth that many have been spreading for years.

It was nice to see a discussion based on what you observed & showed through your microscope.

After seeing that, I'll be ditching my meths in favour of white spirit.

 

 

Thanks very much, is white spirit not too greasy? 

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3 hours ago, young37215 said:

I undertook a major wheel and track clean over the new year mostly using IPA and have noted a build up of crud on the railhead already which rather validates the science as explained in the video. I shall be investing in a can of WD40 contact cleaner to see how this works for me. 

 

Thanks yes lol me to years and years of it hahahah we live and learn eh :)

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5 hours ago, Pete the Elaner said:

Great video, Mike.

Your previous video about cleaning blocks not scratching rail surfaces was a real eye-opener & dispelled the myth that many have been spreading for years.

It was nice to see a discussion based on what you observed & showed through your microscope.

After seeing that, I'll be ditching my meths in favour of white spirit.

 

What struck me about Mike's use of the

cleaning block was the very light application.

Where the damage would probably occur

is with a heavier application.

In order to scratch something you

have to apply pressure.

A light rubbing is much less likely

to cause scratching.

 

As for the polar/non-polar cleaners,

(IPA/lighter fuel) I guess it proves that

smoking is  better for railway modellers

than drinking  :)

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I have recently took to using WD-40 Contact Cleaner. It seems to work OK. No complaints.

 

I have used lacquer thinner with good results too. I have also used RailZip, but that starts to build up in a short time, though in the short term it does work well.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

Having watched the video in question, I  tried some WD40 Contact Cleaner on my 6.5mm narrrow gauge test track which uses Marklin setrack and the results are very acceptable.  Some cleaner was applied to loco wheels by dropping some on with a small brush and letting capillary action take it round the rim.  The cleaner was applied to the rails using a cotton bud.  No other rail cleaning was done.

While it's not conclusive, it does indicate there's gains to be made over simple physical cleaning.  The proof of the pudding will be under exhibition conditions so that'll be some while yet.

Mark

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7 minutes ago, 2mmMark said:

Having watched the video in question, I  tried some WD40 Contact Cleaner on my 6.5mm narrrow gauge test track which uses Marklin setrack and the results are very acceptable.  Some cleaner was applied to loco wheels by dropping some on with a small brush and letting capillary action take it round the rim.  The cleaner was applied to the rails using a cotton bud.  No other rail cleaning was done.

While it's not conclusive, it does indicate there's gains to be made over simple physical cleaning.  The proof of the pudding will be under exhibition conditions so that'll be some while yet.

Mark

 

Hi Mark, I am so pleased. 

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On 05/03/2021 at 04:29, MichaelE said:

I have used lacquer thinner with good results too

The main ingredient of lacquer thinners is acetone, which is mildly polar. So better than IPA, but not the best cleaning candidate here.

 

To put things into perspective, relative polarities of proxies for common solvents are (v water =1.00): IPA 0.62, acetone (lacquer thinners) 0.35, hexane (WD40 contact cleaner) 0.009. Lighter fluid and white spirit are mostly low-polarity hydrocarbons so they would be at the bottom of the scale.

 

However, an essential quality of a track cleaner is that it should not leave greasy residues, so more volatile hydrocarbons such as hexane are desirable. I'd guess lighter fluid is probably better than white spirit in this respect. WD40 contact cleaner looks the best candidate, but some of its rivals include lubricants and these may fail the greasy test.      

Edited by dpgibbons
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I have since switched to the WD-40 Contact Cleaner but not have noticed any big difference over the lacquer thinner. It does a very good job of cleaning, but it just doesn't stay that way any longer that it would using lacquer thinner. I've also used Hoppes #9 Bore Cleaner with about the same results. That stuff really cleans, but again, it stay cleaner no longer than anything else I've used.

 

The main lines do seem to run longer without a cleaning, but the narrow gauge RhB line seems to need a cleaning almost every session. At least parts of the line do. Maybe the BEMO locomotive is just a bit more sensitive to track that is not quite sterile.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 27/03/2021 at 15:05, dpgibbons said:

The main ingredient of lacquer thinners is acetone, which is mildly polar. So better than IPA, but not the best cleaning candidate here.

 

To put things into perspective, relative polarities of proxies for common solvents are (v water =1.00): IPA 0.62, acetone (lacquer thinners) 0.35, hexane (WD40 contact cleaner) 0.009. Lighter fluid and white spirit are mostly low-polarity hydrocarbons so they would be at the bottom of the scale.

 

However, an essential quality of a track cleaner is that it should not leave greasy residues, so more volatile hydrocarbons such as hexane are desirable. I'd guess lighter fluid is probably better than white spirit in this respect. WD40 contact cleaner looks the best candidate, but some of its rivals include lubricants and these may fail the greasy test.      

 

Thank you for posting this very informative series on track cleaning. I was using IPA but I have now purchased WD40 contact cleaner and will try it out.

 

Steve

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Guys, your findings would be most appreciated?

 

Those who have switched from IPA to a non-polar cleaner recently.

 

Do you find your unpowered wheels seem to get dirtier more quickly?

 

My track is certainly cleaner for much longer, but I am seeing what I think is a bigger build up of crud on wheels.

 

Thanks

 

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I came across the video quite by accident - and was a bit of revelation as I've never used IPA as I can't buy it around here - just a track rubber. Years ago, in the 60s and 70s, I used to use Ronson lighter fluid - can't get that here either. Seems like white spirit will be the way to go.

 

I do have a question regarding alternatives: Years ago Peco used to do 'Electrolube' - is that still a thing and where would it come in the polar/non-polar scale?

 

One thing I have noticed regarding electrolube (and it MAY be relevant to other contact cleansers) is that a number of older locos that had been enthuastically serviced by my father and stored away, now suffer from insulation breakdown on their wheels as the electrolube has bridged the gap!

 

The matter of crud on rolling stock wheels was mentioned a little way up - I thought that was mainly due to plastic wheels rather than metal ones?

 

Cheers,

 

Philip

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10 minutes ago, Philou said:

I came across the video quite by accident - and was a bit of revelation as I've never used IPA as I can't buy it around here - just a track rubber. Years ago, in the 60s and 70s, I used to use Ronson lighter fluid - can't get that here either. Seems like white spirit will be the way to go.

 

I do have a question regarding alternatives: Years ago Peco used to do 'Electrolube' - is that still a thing and where would it come in the polar/non-polar scale?

 

One thing I have noticed regarding electrolube (and it MAY be relevant to other contact cleansers) is that a number of older locos that had been enthuastically serviced by my father and stored away, now suffer from insulation breakdown on their wheels as the electrolube has bridged the gap!

 

The matter of crud on rolling stock wheels was mentioned a little way up - I thought that was mainly due to plastic wheels rather than metal ones?

 

Cheers,

 

Philip

 

Hi Philip

 

Ah yes Electrolube is still out there, it is a very, very effective light lubricator and conductivity enhancer and used in the right places (like Dapol's terrible class 73 pickups) its very good.

However it is utterly pervasive and will always get where it should not be so great care has to be used.

 

I run mostly metal wheels and it is these that are getting the build up.

 

Cheers

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Acautious word on Electrolube.

Many years ago I was working at Pye (Philips). As an electronics firm I had the use of Electrolube - genuine article - at work. Peco around that time introduced their pen-styled Electrolube dispensers. I assume this was the same product as Electrolube, to the best of my knowledge, is a brand name.

I don't know which variety I used, but I started using it, sparingly, as a lubricant for wagon axles. I remember some Airfix wagon kits that then got dissolved axle ends/bearings, which were caused by the Electrolube. I've always been wary of using Electrolube on plastic since. Wonderful stuff for its intended purpose though, as a switch contact lubricant. In other words, a conductive oil.

 

Stewart

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On 04/04/2021 at 08:59, mikesndbs said:

 

Hi Philip

 

Ah yes Electrolube is still out there, it is a very, very effective light lubricator and conductivity enhancer and used in the right places (like Dapol's terrible class 73 pickups) its very good.

However it is utterly pervasive and will always get where it should not be so great care has to be used.

 

I run mostly metal wheels and it is these that are getting the build up.

 

Cheers


The wheel cleaning technique I mentioned above seems to be working well on locos and I see no reason why it shouldn't work on metal rolling stock wheels.

As for plastic wheels, the type of plastic seems to be the critical factor.  Some years back, Denys Brownlee moulded some wagon wheels in white Acetal (a.k.a Delrin) which was fitted to a wagon in a train on Copenhagen Fields.  It ran for the entire duration of Imrex - 6 days -  and at the end of the show there was signs of use on the tread but no crud buildup.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is all very interesting and I believe every word is somehow true.

There are so many reasons  why rail contact may cause problems.

If you try it with the wrong measures not touching the root cause result will be inferior.

If you are having deep dimples because recently some loco did  run with sparkling wheels neither white spirit nor IPA will help alone. But maybe some wet´n dry which should otherwise be avoided will help if rail and wheel are cleaned and smoothened further. Just an example and in no way exhaustive.

The idea of alcohol is that it will dissolve both grease and water soluble dirt.

May be in some aspect other solvents are better if they do not leave any residue.

So I wouldn´t expect that anybody will be able to find the philosopher´s stone here in one rattle can.

Well, very interesting pictures with the microscope at any rate. 

But it is not a scientific approach alone because a microscope is involved.

 

cheers

Klaus

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