July 06, 2008

How to use soap and water

Bike dirt used to really bother me, especially oily chain dirt. I thought it was the dirtiest substance known to man-- impossible to wash our of your hands or your jeans. But chains and bike grease don't bother me any more since I discovered this handy trick.

1) Go ahead and get your hands greasy, oily and dirty working on your bike, even under your nails, it's OK.
2) When it comes time to clean up, rub a healthy squeeze of dish soap into your hands, like it was skin lotion. Work it in. Don't use water!
3) Rinse off the soap with water. Presto, clean hands!

The reason this works is simple chemistry, 'like dissolves like'. Soap molecules are long hydrocarbon chains with a polar group on the end. They dissolve oil using their oily side and bring it into water using the polar end. If you put the water on your hands first, the dirty oil prefers your skin and stays where it is, but if you just use soap with no water the dirty oil dissolves in the soap directly. Think of dry dish soap as thick turpentine.


At July 08, 2008 4:46 PM , Blogger rigtenzin said...

I guarantee that I'll try this out. I normally use dish washing soap to clean chain grease from my hands, but I've always used water.

I hate chain grease so much that I day dream of ways to replace the chain. Belt drives really get me excited. I mean it!

At July 09, 2008 10:20 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

This trick has changed the way I see the world.

At July 10, 2008 4:47 PM , Anonymous Tim said...

I Tried this last night and I can report it worked like a charm.

I feel so different about my chain now.


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