Grease Off, Wax-On… With A New Batch O’ Wax

greaseFor those who didn’t see the comments that followed my A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words: Why I Wax My Chains…. blog entry back on November 10th, here’s the back story on that very grimy chain:

I installed a new KMC chain and just for kicks decided to follow KMC’s FAQ advise on chain lubrication and left their factory lube in place; from the FAQ: “Don’t degrease your new chain, you’ll take out the valuable lube which we injected into the chain’s bearing, instead, just dry the chain’s outside, in order to prevent it from attracting dirt.”  []

Wiping down & drying the chain after rides became a full-time job; it was just amazing how much crud spewed forth from that chain. But, it was very quiet!

Again, as noted in my comments, while dry lubes aren’t as bad as KMCs grease, my old-school wax remains a “good” solution.  And with that said, the plan forward was to soak that nasty chain in solvent to remove all of that “valuable lube” and then cook the chain in my Fry Daddy filled with a fresh bath of paraffin wax + other stuff.  The November PEACHES ride planned for last Sunday was going to be the forcing function for getting that drive train cleaned-up, but lousy weather allowed me to put off the cleaning and re-waxing until today.

Now, regular readers will remember that back in May I provided a detailed description of my chain waxing process in a blog entry entitled Tandem Tech & Equipment: Chain Wax & Rain Don’t Mix. That little exercise came after we got caught out in some heavy rain that pretty much washed-away my chain wax: it’s clearly the Achilles heel for paraffin-based chain lubes.  But, if getting caught in the rain is a rare occurrence — as it is for us — then it’s not a big deal.  Note, I don’t use wax on my mountain bikes or my mud bike for that very reason….

Anyway, my wax bath was clearly in need of being refreshed even back in May so I finally got around to doing that today. As you can in the photo below left, the “wax cake” was pretty dark and the layer of black crud that settles to the bottom had gotten pretty thick. If the wax had been fresher I would have simply scrapped the crud off the bottom of the cake and then thrown it back in the Fry Daddy for continued re-use.  But, not this time; it was way overdue for a re-fresh.

DSCN0166 DSCN0167

The ingredients for my chain wax are pretty much household items: Gulf paraffin canning wax, petroleum jelly, mineral oil (I went with baby oil this time; very fragrant!) and beeswax.  It’s about 6 parts paraffin (I use just one box; dont’ be thrown off by the photo), 1 part petroleum jelly, 1 part mineral oil and 1 part beeswax.  Everything gets thrown into a freshly cleaned Fry Daddy and “cooked” so that the various waxes and petroleum products become blended into a chain wax with the right mix of properties for chain duty: this is about as much art as it is science.  As you can see from the photo at right, the fresh wax bath starts out translucent… but it won’t stay that way for long!  Note that I could easily get by using just two of the four blocks of wax vs. all four and still have more than enough wax in the Fry Daddy for a single chain. However, I tend to do several chains at the same time and the “deeper bath” just seems to work better.

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With the fresh new batch of wax ready to go, I turned my attention to cleaning that grimy chain. As noted, I knew it would take a strong solvent to strip that grease off the chain; citrus degreaser didn’t stand a chance.  I put the chain into a 16oz plastic Diet Coke bottle and filled it about 1/3 full with solvent, sealed with the cap and then shook vigorously for a while: that clear solvent looked like cappuccino when I was done!  I fished the chain out of the bottle with a bicycle spoke and let it air dry before giving it a final rinse and then carefully putting it in the hot wax bath such that the water in the chain’s nooks and cranny’s quickly boiled and pulled in hot wax as the water evaporated.

DSCN0170 DSCN0171

DSCN0175After pulling the chain out of the hot wax bath and letting it sit for a minute I laid it out on the cold concrete garage floor which accelerated the cooling-off process by a factor of 10.  I followed-up by giving the sync chain a bath, noting that I typically do both chains at the same time, hence the amount of wax that I keep in the Fry Daddy.


Before reinstalling the chain I also had to give the cranks and cassette a thorough cleaning as well.  I tried to use my Citrus degreaser bath, but it didn’t get the job done on that very sticky KMC grease. So, once again I had to go to a very strong solvent to break down and remove the grease.  It was a pungent mess, to be sure: but the chain, chain rings, cassette and jockey wheels all ended up being sparkling clean… just the way I like it!



About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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2 Responses to Grease Off, Wax-On… With A New Batch O’ Wax

  1. Doug Wagner says:

    The only guys I know who still boil their chains in Gulf wax are engineers:-). I still believe this is a result of mistranslations from British English where fine lamp oil with wax in it is called Parafin. I have used it as a lubricant ( found at Ace Hardware next to cheaper lamp oil). It is clean and lasts longer in wet weather. Much less work…
    Doug Wagner

  2. AEH says:

    We’ve used parafin with a few squirts of graphite (comes in small tubes) for many years. We re-wax every 500 miles unless we get stuck in the rain. Then we re-wax at first opportunity. The two alternating chains on my road bike have a total of nearly 22,000 miles on them with very little wear 🙂

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