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  • Cleaning bearings


    There was a short discussion a while back about cleaning bearings, in which the use of Pine-Sol was suggested. I had mentioned bad results, and here is a picture of a test I made with several old bearings. They were soaked overnight in straight "Original" Pine-Sol, purchased at the store recently for the test.

    The large one, was unaffected, as were most of the others. All were cleaned. But a few were damaged.

    Out of a dozen or so, "only" three were affected, although that "only" comprised 25% of the sample. I show two of the three in the picture.

    The affected ones, as can be seen, were etched by the Pine-Sol. The races came out of it with a blackish coating, which washed off readily, to reveal the grayish etched surface of the races. They are now junk, if they were not before, although I have to admit they are quite clean junk. One of them had caked grease, and the Pine-Sol did a good job removing it.

    So, if you try it, be aware that the process may actually ruin the bearing as well as cleaning it. If you have nothing to lose, go for it. But I would probably not recommend trying it with your only bearing that you need to re-use.


    CNC machines only go through the motions

  • #2
    Why would someone use Pine-Sol ? If a person doesn't have a parts washer a small container of kerosene, gas, turpentine, lacquer thinner, mineral spirits etc. are all common things to use and will cut the grease and gunk a lot faster than an overnight soaking in Pine-Sol. Might not smell as nice though !

    JL...............

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    • #3
      One reason for it is that Pine-Sol seems to remove the congealed "soap" component of the old grease better than other things. I have found that even purple cleaner does not do well on that.

      One of the etched bearings had a lot of that stuck in it, and it is gone. I did not scrub the bearing at all, it was just dissolved and removed. That's a huge plus, since often a bearing will be cleaned with solvents and other cleaners, only to find there is still "bumpiness" in it due to unremoved "soap" component stuck in there.

      Problem is that "plus" comes with a danger of damage. Not to all bearings, but clearly to some.
      CNC machines only go through the motions

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      • #4
        After being abducted by extraterrestrial beings several years ago I learned one simple fact from them, never use pine based solvents on radial rolling element bearings. This never ends well.

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        • #5
          I missed the previous thread about cleaning bearings with the use of Pine-Sol being suggested. This is news to me but lo and behold after a quick search I did find a number of mentions suggesting Pine-Sol. First time I'd heard it mentioned.

          Like JoeLee mentions above I too have always used petroleum based solvents without issue and they have served me well. A tooth brush or something similar and some warm solvent has worked for for stiff congealed grease and if I don't have a tin of elbow grease on the bench and have the time, an overnight soak has always worked well.

          Usually though time is not on my side so the brush with Varsol comes out and does it's job quite well all by itself, followed of course with a good healthy spritz of fresh extra virgin Varsol just to give the bearing a rinse after the bath.

          Thanks for posting these results, lest I fall pry to a new technique that produces results that are iffy at best insofar as bearing welfare is concerned. This is all good info.

          Are the balls and races equally etched? It appears they are.
          I wonder why some bearings are affected and others not. Metallurgy I suspect.
          Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
          Bad Decisions Make Good Stories​

          Location: British Columbia

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Willy View Post
            I missed the previous thread about cleaning bearings with the use of Pine-Sol being suggested. This is news to me but lo and behold after a quick search I did find a number of mentions suggesting Pine-Sol. First time I'd heard it mentioned.
            .
            Same here, missed that thread and have never heard of cleaning bearings in Pinesol.

            What is in it that causes the etching? Weird it effects some bearings and not others.

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            • #7
              Here are the ingredients. perhaps someone can figure out which one of these ingredients stained or etched the mild steel bearing cage.

              https://www.reference.com/world-view...0d7bf71ed286d9

              If I had to take a guess, I would say a combination of the glycolic acid and pine oil may have stained it.

              Most bearing cages that I've seen are pretty soft, I wonder if they contain any copper ? It says not to use on copper.

              JL.....
              ​​​​

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              • #8
                Originally posted by JoeLee View Post
                Most bearing cages that I've seen are pretty soft, I wonder if they contain any copper ? It says not to use on copper.

                JL.....
                ​​​​
                I thought he at first said cages and said not really a big deal but re-reading the OP he said races, and indeed the picture does look like the races have been etched.

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                • #9
                  I think the metals are different and there is a battery set up in some way. The Pine-Sol would be the electrolyte, and the different steels the plates.

                  It's possible the cages were the other plate, since they look pretty clean and not etched.
                  Last edited by J Tiers; 12-12-2021, 02:05 AM.
                  CNC machines only go through the motions

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                  • #10
                    I would never have thought to use PineSol on metal parts- nor Simple Green, nor Ammonia, nor Bleach. Dish soap, yes. Hand soap, yes. Lye soap, no.
                    I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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                    • #11
                      It appears that "original" pine-sol is not same as pine-sol 30 years ago. Maybe it once worked and the current formulation doesn't.
                      From wikipedia:
                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine-Sol
                      In 2006, The Clorox Company's product line included "Clorox Commercial Pine-Sol Brand Cleaner", with the same ingredients and concentrations as "Original Pine-Sol Brand Cleaner 1."[17]

                      In 2008, the material safety data sheet for the "Original Pine-Sol Brand Cleaner 1" formulation listed 8–12% pine oil, 3-7% alkyl alcohol ethoxylates, 1-5% sodium petroleum sulfonate and 1-5% isopropyl alcohol.[12]

                      In January 2013, Clorox began making a product called Original Pine-Sol Multi-Surface Cleaner which included glycolic acid while lacking any pine oil.[18]

                      In January 2014, Clorox announced that Pine-Sol products would no longer contain pine oil, due to pine oil's limited supply and increased cost.[19] In response to consumer requests for the original formula, Clorox made available a product containing 8.75% Pine oil to online purchasers, but said it would not be sold in stores.[4]

                      As of 2018, Pine-Sol can be found on store shelves with an ingredient label stating "Contains Pine Oil" but this is not listed as an active ingredient. Pine oil in modern Pine-Sol seems to be added for fragrance only, as the product still uses glycolic acid as the sole active ingredient


                      Even the old-ish 2006 version MSDS lists PH at 3 to 4.
                      Acidid solutions in generally are bad idea with steel while basic solutions are usually much safer.
                      Location: Helsinki, Finland, Europe

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                      • #12
                        Id wager that the reason some corroded while others didnt is metallurgical, with the non-corroded ones just being made of a steel with either a higher chromium or nickel content. Id expect a bearing made of 52100 to be more susceptible to corrosion than a 440c bearing

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                        • #13
                          I suspect that the reason Pine-Sol was even considered as a cleaner was one of a need for a cleaner where none was present.

                          You take a weekend "technician" ready to tackle a bearing cleaning task confronted with the fact that he now discovers that he has no viable grease solvent on hand to do the job. He looks in Ma's kitchen cleaning supply cupboard and tries a few likely candidates and finds that Pine-Sol ain't so bad as a cleaner. This gets shouted out to his internet buddies and the rest is history.
                          Either that or someone needed what they thought would be a more "green" alternative to conventional solvents.

                          In all of my years in and around various shops have I witnessed it's use as a means to clean bearings. Not to say there aren't other non-petroleum based products suitable for this task, just that Pine-Sol is not one of them.
                          Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
                          Bad Decisions Make Good Stories​

                          Location: British Columbia

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                          • #14
                            i just use white spirit and wash the bearings in a glass dish. Keep changing the spirit till you don't see any black bits in the bottom of the dish. Wash once more and call it good. Might take 6 or 7 washes.
                            Just don't get the glass dish from the kitchen cupboard, or if you do, don't try putting it back afterwards. Don't ask how I know.
                            'It may not always be the best policy to do what is best technically, but those responsible for policy can never form a right judgement without knowledge of what is right technically' - 'Dutch' Kindelberger

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Willy View Post
                              I suspect that the reason Pine-Sol was even considered as a cleaner was one of a need for a cleaner where none was present.

                              You take a weekend "technician" ready to tackle a bearing cleaning task confronted with the fact that he now discovers that he has no viable grease solvent on hand to do the job. He looks in Ma's kitchen cleaning supply cupboard and tries a few likely candidates and finds that Pine-Sol ain't so bad as a cleaner. ............................
                              It seems to have a long history of being used. and is still recommended regularly.

                              One thing it does better than solvents and purple cleaner, etc, is removing of the separated "soap" from the grease. And that seems to be the reason for it being recommended. Too bad it is messing up some bearings.

                              I've seen other cleaners and solvents remove every speck of oily stuff, but leave globs of the "soap" component still in place, causing bumpy operation of the bearing.

                              Interestingly, the actual New Departure Handbook recommends the use of a cleaner they refer to as a "floor cleaner", with the name "Oakite". (A FLOOR CLEANER for cleaning bearings? EEEEEEEK! People should run away screaming these days.) That company or brand is still around, but I question if the same composition is still used. it likely is just a strong base, which would act to remove wax (and dirt) from floors.

                              The use of glycolic acid may be on account of it being in the pine oil extract that was originally used. Given that, unless there were buffering compounds in the pine oil which are not in the new Pine-Sol, it should not be an issue with the new version of Pine-Sol.

                              More likely the Pine-Sol is just a good electrolyte for the low quality battery formed by different steels. The black coating that developed on the balls and races (but not on the cage) was reminiscent of the black coating developed by electrolytic de-rusting. Early stages of that are removable, although later it holds tighter than mill scale.

                              Last edited by J Tiers; 12-12-2021, 12:33 PM.
                              CNC machines only go through the motions

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