Cleaning Up

Perhaps your idea of bicycle maintenance is taking your Pashley Sovereign Roadster, with its fully enclosed chaincase, to the shop once a year for its annual service. Perhaps you call someone to come pick you up if you have a flat. Maybe you like to take care of basic bicycle maintenance yourself, and can quickly change a tire without any roadside drama. Maybe you are someone who enjoys the hours of work bringing an old bike, coated with years of grease, grime and rust, back from the bicycle graveyard to vintage splendor. Or possibly, like me, you are one of those people who can get grease on yourself just from passing within three feet of a perfectly clean bicycle.

Recently at the hardware store, I saw a container of Gojo “FINE ITALIAN PUMICE” hand cleaner.

Oooo.... Fine Italian Pumice!

Sounds like it has the cachet of a fine Italian olive oil  or something. None of that domestic stuff or cheap Chinese pumice!  (Yeah, I know the “fine” refers to the particle size, and not the quality, but it just sounds so special.) According to the container, this cleaner is “for removing heavy grease, tar & oil.”  How could I resist?

I had the opportunity to try it out after getting pretty grubby doing some preliminary cleaning on a pair of 1970 Raleigh Twenty folding bikes that came home with me recently. Here’s one of them.

The Other One Is Just Like It


I must say, it worked great… better than the Gojo Orange Pumice Hand Cleaner or any of the many other hand cleaners I have used over the years. It left my hands clean and feeling so nice that I was almost tempted to rub some on my face. If you ever pick up a wrench, you owe it to yourself to try some.

Nice to Know During These Hard Economic Times That You Can Afford a Fine Italian "Something"

Do you have a favorite bicycle cleaning or maintenance-related product that you would recommend to the rest of us?

24 replies
  1. Tom Armstrong
    Tom Armstrong says:

    The old formula still works well–better than the citrus-based newer formula. It can be hard on skin if you use it a lot (it’s petroleum-based, after all), but you have to use it a LOT to get there.

    That is one sweet-looking Raleigh folder. It looks a lot cleaner than my ’74 Raleigh Superbe that I bought from a local bike collective for $25 three years ago. I wound up putting a LOT of work into getting it working right–new rims, spokes, tires, tubes, handlebars, stem, cables, brake levers, brake pads, Brooks B66 saddle–not to mention add-ons like lights, reflectors and bags. It remains an enjoyable errand bike.

  2. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    It’s difficult to find sometimes (Ace Hardware!) but I’ve become partial to Lava bar soap, probably with fine italian pumice or something similar inside. Not waterless, and the bar is hard like stone, but does a great job of cleaning away the bicycle lubricants formerly embedded in one’s skin. I think there’s a picture of a volcano on the wrapper too.

  3. Scott
    Scott says:

    I much prefer nitrile gloves.

    Even though my hands sweat in there it’s much nicer than trying to scrub grease and crud off my skin.

  4. Diana
    Diana says:

    I had almost forgotten Lava soap. Great stuff! And it’s only been around since 1893. My Dad always had a bar of it in the house and in the garage. I think I’ll go buy a myself a bar. Lava is now owned by WD-40, another great staple I wouldn’t be without.

  5. Eric
    Eric says:

    Is the Gojo original formula still available? I liked that the best but haven’t seen it in the stores for a few years.

    I was under the impression that the “secret” ingredient in Gojo was the mineral spirits. I never thought much of the newer gritty stuff since it, like lava soap, seemed a bit rough on my girlishly smooth hands.

    If you are going to do this kind of work, don’t forget to keep your tentanus booster shots current. Last I heard, every 10 years.

    • Diana
      Diana says:

      I think the original formula Gojo is only available in larger shop/industrial size containers. Eric, your “girlishly smooth hands” will like the Fine Italian Pumice Gojo. Mine did, anyway.

      • Eric
        Eric says:

        I forgot to mention what else the original formula is good for — laundering oil and grease out of clothes. First put corn starch on both sides of the fabric where the stain is and let the oil soak into the corn starch.

        After about 30 minutes rub and brush the Gojo into the stain as a pre-treatment. Or you can use mineral spirits out of the can, but Gojo is nicer and has a slightly less offensive smell. Never put clothes treated this way in the dryer. If there is any stain left after your best efforts, then it will stay in there for life if heated up in the dryer. But if air dried, you get another chance to try next time.

        My wife hates the smell of Gojo, so I have to wash up again with some girly stinky soap to try and kill the mineral spirit smell. Ivory soap is not stinky enough.

  6. Ed W
    Ed W says:

    I’ve used dishwashing liquid without water to clean my hands. Work it in well, then rinse off. Nothing worked to get the crud out from the crevices in my fingernails, until a GF told me to try washing my hair. Sure enough, hair is small enough to work all the crud loose, and shampoo sends it down the drain

    It wouldn’t work well these days, because there’s little hair left!

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      Washing the dishes by hand also cleans the fingernails better than brushes, plus you get the “bonus” of saying that you help out around the house even though you don’t . . . much.

    • Diana
      Diana says:

      All of you women who have been wondering why Ed W keeps offering to shampoo your hair now have your answer.

  7. Rodney
    Rodney says:

    At home I prefer to use the Chain Gang Cleaning System> by Park Tool, Co.. Dishwashing detergent and hot water really get the chain clean. Due to the reservoir size, about 5 “cleanings” are needed to get the job done right.

    The chain gets lubed with >a href=””>Clean Ride> from White Lightning.

  8. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    I need to clean my bike this weekend actually…any recs on cleaning dirty handlebars? They are white, which of course means they are just calling the dirt to come out to play, but I’d like to clean them if possible.

    • Keith
      Keith says:

      I have had good luck with the Clorox pop-up wipe cloths. They do not actually have bleach like you might assume. I grab the handle bars and twist being carful to follow the rotation of the tape.

      I also like to use simple green to get my whole bike clean and grease free.

  9. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    My Pashley Sovereign Roadster doesn’t just have a fully-enclosed chain case. It also has sealed, fully-enclosed Internal Hub Brakes, Internal Hub Gears, and Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. All of which are factory standard equipment.

    Result: I’ve never, ever got a flat tyre since I got the bike four years ago. When it was new I had to tweak the front end a bit because I’m 203 cm tall. But since then I have never, ever had a breakdown of any sort for any reason at all. The bike just runs.

    The annual maintenance is done by the suberb mechanics at Curbside Cycle, because I’ve found that the easiest way of getting my hands clean is to not get them dirty in the first place.

    But that’s just me. If someone else likes to get their hands dirty, go for it! There are a lot of places with a shortage of professional bike mechanics. One of them is Denmark, which offers a superb three-year bicycle mechanic apprenticeship program.


    • Diana
      Diana says:

      Sounds like you have found a great bicycle for your needs, and one would certainly want excellent and reliable equipment during a Canadian winter!

      • Kevin Love
        Kevin Love says:

        Yes, I love my bike. And a bicycle is a much simpler machine than an automobile, so one should expect it to have much, much higher reliability. And brands like Pashley, Batavus, Gazelle, Flying Pigeon, Hero, Avon and Bridgestone do have such superb reliability that their users have become accustomed to bikes that never, ever break down.

        Sometimes it is rather amusing to hear the sense of shock and betrayal when one of them DOES break down after too many years of abuse. “My 43-year-old Flying Pigeon that I use every day and which has had zero maintenance broke down on me! How dare it! What a betrayal! Its a Communist Party plot!”

        The reality is that a good bike, properly maintained, will last much longer than the lifespan of its owner. So I’ll take my Pashley into Curbside Cycle every year and leave it to my son in my will.

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