View Full Version : Removing Cotton, etc from Casters

Paul Alciatore
09-17-2003, 02:14 AM
Here's a challenging "how to".

We have a mumber of items with 3" or 4" casters on them that have been exposed to artifical snow in a video shoot. I am told that the "snow" was partially cotton matts and partially a mixture of cotton, fiberglass, soap or detergent, and perhaps some other things that were chopped up and run through a blender. So all these casters are fouled up with cotton fibers and the rest. The casters can not be disassembled w/o destroying them.

Anybody got any ideas for cleaning this mess out of the caster bearings and axels? Or do we just need to get new ones?

Paul A.

09-17-2003, 02:24 AM
Seeing as how it has detergent I think a pressure wash, thorough drying and then re-lubrication would be worth a try. When I worked for Xerox they used to pressure wash the remanned photocopiers and then re-lube all the non sealed bearings. It actually worked fairly well.

Oh yeah, use compressed air to dry.

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 09-17-2003).]

09-17-2003, 02:51 AM
A longshot, but novel: If the thin cotton strands (left after pressure washing) burn off at a low enough temperature, perhaps you could heat them in an oven. Or use a low temp flame between the caster and frame?

09-17-2003, 08:11 AM
How about a sharp, narrow, Xacto knife blade drawn radially outward to cut the bundles.

Forrest Addy
09-17-2003, 09:12 AM
If the casters are all metal you could give them a few very short blasts with a cutting torch. There's a fire danger of course. But if precautions are taken.

A strong vaccuum cleaner is also a must around messy materials.

There is fake snow is on the market. I don't know what's in it but easy clean up is one of the sales points.

L Webb
09-17-2003, 09:35 AM
A very common problem with casters. Chair casters suffer the most as they pick up long hair strands and any stray threads.
Check the chairs in an office full of women and you find every caster clogged and hard to turn.

About all you can do is attack the strands with needlenose pliers and a razor blade. The use of an airgun will drive the strands deeper into the wheel or bearings.

There is no easy way to do it. Just get in there and dig it out.


Paul Alciatore
09-17-2003, 07:18 PM
Thanks guys. I suspected it would be a common problem and I was hoping someone would say something like Oh yea, just mix tooth paste with grape juice and Ovalteen and it will magically disolve cotton, etc. And be sure to flush it out with sewer water and relube.

I'll buy new ones before using needle nose and Xacto blades. And the wheels are sone kind of synthetic rubber or plastic so a torch is a no-no.

Oh well. Thanks anyway.

Paul A.

09-17-2003, 07:36 PM
I used to work in a knitting mill. We had many carts in the mill, so much string wound around the wheels it would stop the wheels like brakes. Our solution was purchace casters with shoulder screw and nut axels. It only took a few minutes to flip a cart over and take the wheels out to clean them. The wads of string would easily peel off of each side of the wheel.

09-17-2003, 07:39 PM
Not a torch, but a weenie flame, like a bic lighter has. Or let the cotton absorb a little ligher fluid or alcohol and spark it off. The rubber should hold up to a little heat for a short time. If you have resigned yourself to replacing them, you have little to lose by experimenting. But perhaps there is some chemical that will dissolve cotton and not hurt the rubber. Maybe apple juice and Tang, then flush with urine?!

09-17-2003, 07:45 PM
Uhh, zinc chloride dissolves cellulose, aka "butter of zinc", buy at herbal medicine/health food store. Also known as solder flux for plumbing. So does a mixture of lye and carbon disulfide. Look for carbon disulfide in the pesticide fumigant department. Stinks.

You could also try drooling a bit of battery acid on it. It sure eats holes in jeans in a hurry.

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 09-17-2003).]

09-19-2003, 02:35 AM
I think you are right in replacing them. The movie production company should pay the replacement costs. I have a friend that rented some automobiles to a movie production company and they abused the cars and there was some trouble in getting compensation. There will be some manual dirty work in getting the casters to work again. Almost everything in my shop has to be on wheels because of limited space. I love to find good quality casters that I can buy cheap like yours and easily restore. But that is me. I've had to do lots of nasty jobs, like replacing toilet wax seals and everything else. I just do the work that has to be done. This summer at our cabin, a main water line broke. When I saw the problem I grabbed a shovel. My Dad and brothers said " We'll just get a backhoe up here to fix that". It took over two months to get someone to fix it and then most of the summer was over. I like the exercise, because I have done good physical work in the past, and now that I do office work my body is turning to jelly and I don't like it. I need some real exertion to keep me feeling good. I have to play harder, and get rid of some remote controls.


Forrest Addy
09-19-2003, 04:35 AM
Scrap the casters. They're not worth saving.

This problem of debris exclusion in casters has been solved long ago in garment factorys and textile mills where big carts of work in progress are pushed through floor debris consisting of threads, scraps, and linters. Years ago casters were developed having thread quards on on the wheels and the swivel. It's old and not costly technology that, I think, adds about $3 to $5 per 4" caster.

Going on to make a suggestion: never buy the cheap rubber wheeled casters from the home center. They're cheap, bereft of features, and seldom suited for any but very light duty low usage applications in clean conditions. Contact a caster dealer and ask them to match a caster to your requirements. There's tons of specialty feaures and options available.

I know what I'm talking about. The guy who runs back stage at the local community theater has 5 gallon buckets of cheap caster that bind, lock, and refuse to swivel when needed during curtain up scene changes. Once a big thrust almost went astray in the orchestra pit. Next show before curtain Bob digs out another junk caster and replaces it without solving the problem.

I was bit by the same snake and learned my lesson about false economy. I pay the money and use quality casters bought with theater work in mind. Now my opera sets are predictable and manageable - even the village from Cavileria Rusticana consisting of three flats with platforms on two levels, a flight of steps, and the bodega folds up into an 8 ft x 12 ft 1000 lb package that rolls completely off stage by two high school kid stage hands.

The price for a quality caster custom fitted with options from a quantity wholesaler isn't much more than a cheap POS caster with two mark-ups from the big box store that fails at the worst possible time.

For your application you could ask the wholesaler for a 4" x 1" caster with polyurethane over plastic wheels, delrin bearings, and thread guards. They will cost you maybe $9 each. If you want swivel and wheel locks that will add about $3 per.

If you need more load capacity ask for phenolic wheels. They're a bit noisier but they roll freely.

I prefer Faultless or Colson casters for my theater work but there's a line of Korean made casters that are less expensive.

[This message has been edited by Forrest Addy (edited 09-19-2003).]

09-20-2003, 03:19 AM
What Forrest said.

I have a set of 3" Faultless ball bearing chair casters with ball bearing rubber tyre for carpets. They have been holding my dainty 400Lb. arse up just fine for over 25 years - I have had to replace, or reinforce many a chair, but the casters still kick ass. http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif