Favorite cleaners and lubes

Anyone have any favorite cleaners? I just got back into the hobby and I converted a DC Athearn (no factory plug) to DCC and upgraded the decoder in
a Bachmann engine. While I was at it, I decided to clean out the factory lube. I tried using alcohol per some web advice, but it doesn't really do a good job of cutting the grease. I then tried my personal favorite of naphtha (good old lighter fluid). Worked beautifully as always, only $12/gallon at ACE hardware.
Another piece of advice I found on the web for cleaning the locomotive wheels was to soak a paper towel with WD-40 and drive the engine over it. It probably loosens the gunk on the wheels, but I'd also think that it greatly reduces traction. I did do the paper towel thing but with naphtha instead and it worked great on the wheels. It also cleans the rails quite nicely.
The only thing I've ever seen naphtha harm is thin latex rubber gloves. Outside of that it is an excellent grease/oil remover that drys fast and leaves no residue behind. Doesn't seem to harm paint at all either.
For lubricants, any recommendations? I used watch barrel "grease" (used in wind-up wristwatches to lubricate the mainspring) for the truck gear teeth and Hoppes oil for the shafts/bushings. I've seen recommendations for teflon based lubes and this does sound like a good idea to me. Comments? Flames? ;-)
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On 1/1/2008 8:48 AM Anthony Fremont spake thus:

Yes, naphtha is very good. But you can get it cheaper: just buy charcoal lighter fluid. Same stuff. Also not very dangerous, compared to other solvents.

What you're using seems fine. No need to search for "plastic-compatible" lube if that's what you're thinking (assuming you're not working on a 60-year old loco that was made before modern plastics). These are not exactly precision instruments, just simple ones that need adequate lubrication.
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For wheels, first I use Goo Gone on the blue industrial paper towels, laid on a piece of powered test track, and then 90%+ isopropyl on a different paper towel to get rid of the GooGone left overs. Roco blocks (if you can find them) for track. We've been using the super fine 3M sanding blocks with some success.

Good luck. Hope you use it in a very well ventilated area.

You are probably coating the wheels with a bit of shellac (or varnish or what ever it is in WD40) it's slippery.
Paul
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On 1/1/2008 1:12 PM Paul Newhouse spake thus:

It's one of the safer and less offensive solvents available; far less noxious than, say, gasoline, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, etc., etc.

Where do you get shellac or varnish? Neither one of these is in WD-40. It's got other stuff that's maybe not so good for cleaning wheels and such, but no sticky stuff like you suppose.
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"... or what ever it is in WD-40"

It's NOT sticky that's why the OP notices a loss of traction.
Paul
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NEVER use WD40 on anything to do with model railroading.
It is NOT plastic compatable and isn't a lubricant.
To clean wheels use a cloth or paper towel dampened with Isopropyl Alcohol I always use the 90+%, whatever that is. To clean loco wheels, lay the towel/cloth on the track and run the loco onto the cloth and spin its wheels. Then move the cloth to the other end of the loco, change directions, run the loco onto the cloth/towel and spin the wheels again. Use this same Isopropyl Alcohol to clean the railhead using a soft, lint free cloth. I coat my track with "Rail-Zip" and rarely need to clean my wheels or track.
For lubricants, use the various Labelle oils and greases made for model railroad use as they are plastic compatable. Remember, just ONE drop of lubricant is all you need. Don't go flooding any moving part with oil.
Once again, do NOT use WD40 and don't let it anywhere near a model railroad.
-- Happy New Year
Roger T. Home of the Great Eastern Railway at:- http://www.highspeedplus.com/~rogertra / Latitude: 48 25' North Longitude: 123 21' West
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You're correct, but there are an *amazing* number of WD40 myths running around out there, and no matter how you try you'll probably never convince people not to use the stuff except as it was originally intended to be used.
For instance: I'm a luthier (I build and repair high-quality fretted instruments such as guitars, mandolins, banjos, Etc.) and one of my long-time customers has been oiling the fingerboard of his -very expensive- Gibson mandolin with WD40 for years, despite my repeated warnings that it was a very bad idea.
He kept replying "Ain't nothin' gone wrong with it yet." up until last month when he brought it in with all the frets lifting out of their slots.
The WD40 eventually worked it's way into the fingerboard, and since the frets are held in only by friction they've all started to work their way out, and hammering them back down has no effect: they just pop right back up again.
Looks like I'm gonna have to replace the entire oil-soaked fingerboard, the frets, and the binding around the edges as well; probably a $750 job by the time I get done.
Sheesh!
Pete
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<snipped for space only>

It sounds as if you're complaining about having work. :^)
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I'm primarily a luthier, and nobody who builds high-quality musical instruments likes to see them mistreated, even if it means losing some repair income -and I'm semi-retired anyway! :-P
Pete
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wrote

I was told of a guy who went deer hunting on a really cold January day and his rifle wouldn't fire. Turns out he cleaned an lubed it with WD-40, and claimed that WD-40 really gets thick at low temperatures. Cleaned out the WD-40 later and everything worked fine.

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wrote

Of course... he cleaned it out *later* at higher temperatures then when it wouldn't fire, which makes us suspicious that it could actually be other things which kept the rifle from firing.
Unless he cleaned out the WD-40 and went back out on a *really cold January day,* I'm not sure if we can really learn a lesson from this, especially second-hand...
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On 1/1/2008 3:40 PM Roger T. spake thus:

Sorry, have to dispute that. DISCLAIMER: I'm not suggesting WD-40 is a great lubricant for locomotives, etc. But this whole stupid "not plastic compatable" business has to be refuted.
THERE ARE NO LUBRICANTS IN USE TODAY THAT WILL HARM THE PLASTIC OF YOUR LOCOMOTIVE DRIVE. Notice I said "locomotive *drive*". I'm not talking about dripping oil on the styrene shell of a model, which probably won't do it any good. But no oil will harm any plastic IN USE TODAY.
There may have been plastics made at the dawn of the age (back in the 1940s and 50s) that could be harmed by certain types of oil, but they aren't in use any more.
WD-40 IS TOO a lubricant. Whether it's a good one or not is debatable. I use it all the time on my bicycle chain, for example, and it's perfect for that.
But please, let's not agonize over whether the oils we use are going to "destroy" or "dissolve" or otherwise harm our Delrin/nylon/etc., trucks, gears and other mechanical parts. They won't.
I probably wouldn't use WD-40 here either, simply because it does "gunk up" over time. But it doesn't physically harm any plastic; it just leaves a deposit behind that gets sticky over time. It would do the same thing to metal parts.

Isopropyl alcohol, or methyl alcohol ("methylated spirits", shellac thinnner, etc.) is also good stuff. Evaporates without leaving any residue behind. However, it's not as good a grease cutter as, say, naphtha. But if you used naphtha, it would be good to follow it up with alcohol to make sure all the gunk is gone.

This is good advice no matter what you use to lube.
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We will have to agree to disagree.
-- Happy New Year
Roger T. Home of the Great Eastern Railway at:- http://www.highspeedplus.com/~rogertra / Latitude: 48 25' North Longitude: 123 21' West
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On 1/1/2008 5:55 PM Roger T. spake thus:

So what evidence do you have that "non-plastic compatible" oil can harm plastics?
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">>>> NEVER use WD40 on anything to do with model railroading.

Any model railroading magazine, for example.
WD40 is way too heavy for model railway use as well as not being suitable for plastics.
Besides, I'm not going to be drawn into a long winded battle over WD40 or anything else. This newsgroup is far too combative anyway and I'm not going to be drawn into another fight.
If you think it's OK to use, you go right ahead and use it.
Bye.
-- Happy New Year
Roger T. Home of the Great Eastern Railway at:- http://www.highspeedplus.com/~rogertra / Latitude: 48 25' North Longitude: 123 21' West
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Roger T. wrote:

C'mon, guys, is it that hard to just go right to the source and find out for yourselves?
<http://www.wd40.com/Brands/wd40_faqs.html
Stevert
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On 1/1/2008 7:49 PM Stevert spake thus regarding the magic elixir (WD-40):

Interesting. Basically kind of a promotional puff piece, as you might imagine. However, it does have this to say about what it's safe to use on:
What surfaces or materials are OK to use WD-40 on?
WD-40 can be used on just about everything. It is safe for metal, rubber, wood and plastic. WD-40 can be applied to painted metal surfaces without harming the paint. Polycarbonate and clear polystyrene plastic are among the few surfaces on which to avoid using a petroleum-based product like WD-40.
So, as I had pointed out earlier, it's probably not a good idea to get it (or any oil for that matter) on a styrene model.
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Problem here is, we *know* they're either lying about the "safe for wood" part or they're so badly misinformed as to not know what they're talking about, which comes down to the same thing: untrustworthy information.
In over 40 years as a luthier/instrument repairman I've personally seen WD40 ruin quite a bit of wood -mahogany in particular. The most common problem I've seen is musicians using WD40 to lube their guitar tuners. The oil then penetrates around the screws that hold the tuners in position, and migrates down into the screw holes. It eventually penetrates right into the wood's grain, causing the wood to swell, discolor, and eventually lose much of it's strength.
About rubbers and plastics I have no opinion, never having seen WD40 cause problems there. But about wood I can speak as something of an authority on the subject, and WD40 is very definitely *not* safe on unfinished wood!
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On 1/1/2008 10:16 PM P. Roehling spake thus:

Well, I'd give them the benefit of the doubt here; after all, they said "safe for wood", not "OK to spray on the fingerboard of your expensive guitar/mandolin/bass/charango, etc.". Having worked quite a bit on guitars myself in a previous lifetime, I know from whereof you speak. Really any petroleum product isn't going to do your nice mahogany, rosewood, bubinga or maple any good. But I don't think the WD-40 folks are giving people a green light to slather their musical instruments in the stuff.
We used to use a touch of Vaseline on the exposed gears of tuning machines. (As Roger pointed out earlier, as little as possible is sometime almost too much.) Of course was always nice when the customer was rich enough to spring for a new set of Grovers or Schallers, obviating any need for lubrication.
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Weeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllll....that's stretching a point. From my viewpoint bad info is bad info, and if they didn't want to make an incorrect blanket statement they didn't have to. After all: getting much WD40 on just about *any* unfinished wood is gonna screw it up pretty good...

Very cool! Here's some of my stuff:
http://www.banjowizard.com/Angelpics.htm
I also used to do repair, vintage instrument, and instrument review articles for "Banjo Newletter","Pickin'", and "Frets" magazines, and published some tabs in each as well.
What sort of stuff do you play?

The factory lubricants eventually evaporate (or harden) in even the best tuners, and when I take 'em apart to clean and relube 'em I use -wait for it- LaBella's #106 Lubricating Grease! It works at least as well and lasts at least as long (circa 20 years) as the other greases I've used, and unlike them it's available in small easy-to-apply quantities!
Of course the LaBella stuff *does* say "Plastic Compatible" on the tube, which might be where this whole question came from...
Pete
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