Biodegradable, made from renewable raw materials, plant-based, without solvents, even vegan and without animal testing: organic bike cleaners sometimes advertise with numerous promises regarding the origin of the ingredients and the production of the containers. It’s not that easy to keep track of things. BIKE BILD used nine products to test how well organic cleaners are used and what to think of the “organic” label.
Winner of the BIKE BILD organic cleaner test: Dr. Wack F100 Bio Bike Cleaner
For a short time, Dr. Wack also has an organic version of its F100 bike cleaner in its range. The service is convincing, the difficult balancing act between strong cleaning performance and material compatibility is best managed by the Ingolstadt company. The developers at Dr. Wack made a lot of effort.
The somewhat viscous substance is very economical, but the organic bicycle cleaner is still one of the most expensive products in our comparison – and is still the price-performance winner. The yellow-green foam is very effective and deserved test winner. In the test, the Dr. Wack F100 organic bicycle cleaner received the grade “good” – with 44 out of 50 points.
This is how BIKE BILD tested it
The most important factor of a bike cleaner, whether organic or conventional, is the effect. In order to determine the cleaning performance, we treated a surface with test dirt with the respective cleaner. Depending on the exposure time specified by the manufacturer (between 3 and 10 minutes), we let the cleaner work and then only rinsed it off with running water. The cleaner the surface after treatment, the higher the score.
The most difficult task of the cleaners is to remove the unwanted dirt without leaving any residue or even damaging the material. For material compatibility, we allowed the chemicals to act on the paintwork, iron and aluminum test strips for 24 hours. Depending on the extent, corrosion and damage led to the deduction of points.
To assess the sustainability of the entire product, we also asked how the packaging was made and what raw materials were used. There were points for organic labels, containers and spray heads. The manufacturers advertise, among other things, with bottles based on sugar cane and labels made of recycled material. In addition, we evaluated whether the manufacturers offer refill containers in order to be able to use the sprayer once purchased again and again.
We tested the point of handling in a very practical way: Here we evaluated how well the bottle and the spray head fit in the hand and can be operated. The spray pattern was also included in the evaluation, from foamy-viscous to liquid-clear, the chemicals behaved very differently on the test surface. The yield of a product is also important when it comes to handling: it may be that the product is more expensive, but requires fewer sprays and cleans very efficiently.
We recently also evaluated the biofactor of the products based on the raw materials used. Sustainable or renewable raw materials scored points, although we had to rely on the information provided by the manufacturer. In addition, we awarded points for manufacturers not using dyes and fragrances.
The test results at a glance
First things first: the label “biodegradable” does not mean that it is a sustainable and environmentally friendly product. This label is mandatory on the German market and only states that the product will degrade within a certain period of time.
From “aerosol-free” to “vegan” everything is on the labels. To the annoyance of some market participants, some manufacturers advertise things that are taken for granted, such as “biodegradable” or “free from animal testing”. To put it bluntly, one could even advertise that the agent is water-based – this applies to all cleaners. In any case, there is no uniform organic seal like in the food sector.
The raw materials of the product and the bottle are primarily decisive for the biofactor. Renewable, plant-based raw materials should be used as much as possible, although all the laboratory experts we spoke to have yet to find a blend that is completely based on sustainable ingredients.
No bicycle cleaner is 100 percent organic. To make matters worse, the whole product has to be considered, including the packaging. We recommend that you rely on a manufacturer who has an eye on the entire product cycle and also (like everyone in the test) relies on refill canisters. You should also choose a product with a high yield, which can also put a higher purchase price into perspective. Anyone who needs less cleaning power can easily dilute their cleaner with water and thus get more out of a filling.
How resource-saving a product is ultimately depends to a large extent on us, the customers. With careful use, refill containers and water dilution one saves chemicals. Because it doesn’t matter whether it’s the cleaning agents themselves or the life cycle of the packaging – none of the tested agents is completely sustainable
Are there differences in the application?
For the cyclist who wants to clean his bike, the use of a bio-cleaner is essentially no different from conventional products. The container consists of a bottle and a spray head, the dirty frame is sprayed with its contents, the cleaning agent is given a short time to take effect. Then rinse off, if necessary use a cloth to help with heavy soiling – done.
What types of dirt do the cleaners remove?
Bicycle cleaners are basically designed for mud and road dirt on frames and attachments (wheels, fenders, handlebars). The stronger degreasers are used for oily contamination in the drive area (chain, sprocket). We think a bike cleaner belongs in every good bike workshop. Not only because a clean bike looks better, but also because well-maintained components last longer.
How often should you clean your bike?
At the same time, we advise against weekly foam orgies, as shown in the advertisements of some cleaners. In the wet winter, frequent drivers should clean once a month, in the dry summer it is often not necessary. Exceptions are the mountain bikers, who should keep their high-quality equipment in good condition after every muddy round.