Riding a bike is only fun if all drive parts run smoothly: no chain squeaking, no grinding gears, no unnecessary loss of power due to heavy friction. It’s just stupid that the drive, i.e. chain, pinion and sprockets, is located exactly where the most dirt is thrown around. The best way to combat dirt from the road and lubricant residue on the drive is to use a special, grease-dissolving chain or drive cleaner. BIKE BILD tested eight environmentally friendly products.
Winner in the BIKE BILD bio degreaser test: Bio-Chem drive train degreaser
No weaknesses: Bio-Chem’s drive train degreaser reliably removed our test dirt, got by without warnings and scored the most points in all test categories. Due to the pure online sales of the cleaning experts from Gütersloh, the product is also very attractively priced, whoever orders more gets a quantity discount. By the way, the little brother of this strong drive train degreaser is the drive train cleaner from Bio-Chem: This loosens moderately heavy dirt and immediately relubricates the chain – two work steps in one. In the test, the Bio-Chem drive train degreaser achieved the grade “good” – with 32 out of 40 points.
Winner in the BIKE BILD organic degreaser test: Wash’n Roll organic drive train degreaser
Behind the Wash’n Roll brand are the cleaning and lubricating agents of the Bio-Circle company, which also manufactures the Bio-Chem products. It goes without saying that cleaning performance and material compatibility are at the same high level. So false labeling by Wash’n Roll at a higher price? Not at all! Wash’n Roll’s long-lasting spray bottle has a unique handling with a thumb pump. In addition, the makers rely entirely on inexpensive refill solutions. Means: a little more expensive to buy, but very sustainable in the long run – great! In the test, the Wash’n Roll bio drive train degreaser achieved the grade “good” – with 32 out of 40 points.
Price-performance winner Dr. Wack F100 Bio Chain Cleaner
The doctor from Ingolstadt makes a strong impression with a special concept: Instead of spraying it around generously, the chain is just sprinkled – just like with chain oil. The cleaner only flows where it is needed. However, this level of thriftiness also has to be, after all, the product is one of the most expensive cleaning agents, measured by the price per litre. The oil-based agent was outstanding in the area of corrosion protection, and the company from the automotive sector has also done its homework in terms of sustainability. In the test, the Dr. Wack F100 Bio Chain Cleaner received the grade “good” – with 31 out of 40 points.
This is how BIKE BILD tested it
For our bio chain cleaner test, we got professional support from the company Bio-Circle in Gütersloh. This has a wide range of organic cleaning agents, not only for bicycles (Bio-Chem/Wash’n Roll), but also for household and industrial applications.
The most important point for any agent is the cleaning performance. After all, the most sustainable product is of no use if it does not serve its purpose and is unable to remove the dirt. In order to evaluate how well the individual agents do this, we dripped 25 milliliters onto a sloping plate with test dirt, a nasty mixture of used oil, used grease and dirt particles. The cleaning performance was assessed visually; on the test plate, it was then possible to compare how much dirt the individual agents were able to remove. The test showed that no agent was able to remove the dirt 100 percent, but there were still large differences in performance.
The chemists who make the cleaners have to make a compromise between their agents attacking dirt while not damaging the bike’s finish and components. We recorded how well this worked with the item material compatibility. For this purpose, a few drops of the agent were dripped onto gray cast iron chips that are very susceptible to corrosion; The extent of the corrosion could be visually assessed after two hours on filter paper underneath.
The handling factor is anything but insignificant; Here, too, there were clear differences: In the course of this practical test, we tried out the spray bottles and examined them for ergonomics, yield and spray pattern. Even if it sounds banal, a light spray bottle with an ergonomic thumb grip is much more fun to use than a heavy canister with hard plastic edges, which requires a lot of force when spraying.
We even had to go outside for the aerosol bottles; the propellant caused an unpleasant odor in the laboratory, although spraying overhead and the high outlet pressure are of course very convenient to use. Speaking of smell: This also tells experienced chemists a lot about the ingredients and the composition; Fortunately, most manufacturers avoided using unnecessary and potentially environmentally harmful fragrances when developing their organic cleaners.
Since our test is about cleaning agents and degreasers with the organic label, sustainability is also a test category: The toxicity of the ingredients is included in this evaluation, and warnings on the product label indicate this. The more warnings, the fewer points in the test. The material the packaging is made of is also decisive for the organic factor of a product; Points were awarded for the use of recycled or bio-based plastics.
We also evaluated how economical a product is to use. If a lot of liquid gets spilled (overspray), points are deducted. We also evaluated the ratio of cleaning agent to packaging material, and the aerosol bottles in particular did relatively poorly here. We also awarded points for the liquids that can be used several times, for example in chain cleaning devices or other containers. In this test, too, points were deducted for the manufacturers who rely on aerosol bottles.
The test results at a glance
The crux of the matter with cleaning chemicals is that they should loosen stubborn dirt without damaging the paintwork and components. Chemicals that are too aggressive are nice because you don’t have to do as much manual work, but discoloration on the frame or corrosion on aluminum parts spoil the fun enormously. You should therefore carefully rinse with water and – very importantly – re-oil the chain. The manufacturers protect themselves against complaints from users by advising them to check the material compatibility in an inconspicuous place. Last tip: only use cleaning agents intended for the bike. Aggressive car rim cleaners or household products do not belong on your beloved bike!
In terms of sustainability, it makes a difference how specifically the respective agent can be applied. In practice, too, the test reveals large differences between the different types of application. Let’s start with the worst option, the aerosol bottle: Actually, no single-use aluminum or metal can should be allowed to bear the organic label. There are less foul-smelling alternatives to propellant. Also pay attention to the differences between the gross and net contents of an aerosol bottle. Often a good fifth of the content is used for the propellant. The only advantage of the spray can: you can use it to spray overhead and hit hard-to-reach areas.
A spray bottle with a pump lever works at least as well in our practical comparison. Ingenious: the spray jet can even be adjusted on some spray heads: from precise to flat. And even when pumping, we were able to determine significant differences in comparison. Noticeably cheap spray heads quickly slip out of your hand, require a lot of effort or even cause pain. With high-quality, ergonomic levers, however, spraying works really well.
The conclusion of the bio-degreaser test
Our test shows: There are big differences between the bio-drive cleaners. If in doubt, we recommend using a less aggressive agent and working with a brush and cloth before and after instead of letting aggressive chemicals do everything.
Alternative to spraying: a chain cleaning device
By the way, there is another alternative to spraying: a chain cleaning device. The chain is pulled through a small box containing cleaning fluid and brushes. A sustainable variant if you keep cleaning liquid in it and use it several times. However, make sure to oil the chain thoroughly afterwards, because these devices remove the deep lubrication from the chain.
Whether sprayer, can or cleaning device: Use the agents as efficiently as possible. For light soiling, spray the cleaning agent onto a rag and use it to pull off the chain. For more stubborn dirt, the manufacturers recommend exposure times of 5 to 10 minutes.
Be aware that you are handling chemicals – even if it says organic. Manufacturers recommend protective clothing and goggles. At least work gloves are mandatory when cleaning the bike, so washing your hands after cleaning is less time-consuming.
Also important: The chain is not cleaned in the forest next to the trail, but in a cleaning area with a special drain. Even if the agent is environmentally friendly, the dissolved lubricants are not!