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I was quite pleased six or so months ago to hear on this forum about Simple Green cleaner.  Nothing I have found before of since cleans my track of gunk and whatever impedes electrical connectivity as effectively and fast. Amazing . . . 

 

EXCEPT - every time I use it now, within just two days -- as predictably as swallows returng to Capistrano, the track is really "dirty" again, covered with a nearly electrically impermeable dull, grayish gunk that feels a tiny bit sticky and plastic -- but I can definitely feel it with my fingertips. . . and my trains just won't run well at all.  

 

This gunk comes right off with a pad moistened with Simple Green.  One swipe and its gone . . . but  returns within a day or two, just as bad or worse than ever. . . This happens if I use the Simple Green on a pad by hand or if I use it in my track cleaning cars - either way. 

 

When I switched back to isoprophyl alcohol this problem went away.  My track still gets dirty again -but in a way that it always has - slowly and with a darker black kind of tarnish . . . 

 

Of course, with alcohol, cleaning normal gunk and grim off the track is noticeably more and slower work than with Simple Green (it really is amazingly instant in cleaning!).  But . . . no side effects!

 

My operating theory - it explains everything but I can't prove or disprove it -- is that Simple Green is interacting with the plastic Fastrack roadbed.  That repeated use "weakened" or softened the Fastrack plastic surface so that now each repeated application creates gasing or quickly gets a residue from the softened plastic on the cleaning pad and transferring some plastic residue  to the rails, where in a day or two it hardens.  Regardless, it was a lot of work (all by hand) to remove this simple Green or whatever it is residue from my Fastrack rails using only alcohol.  I also found I had to use a whole roll of paper towels for only about 300 feet of track as the towels were noticeble "gunky" after only a bit of cleaning - I guess they were picking up and absorbing that gunk, whatever it was.  But it was worth it, because the residue has not come back since and it has been over two weeks.  

 

Anyway, much as I loved the stuff, I poured the rest of mine down the drain and will stick with alcohol for track cleaning on fastrack. 

 

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The closest thing you can find to 100% isopropyl alchohol on a paper towel leaves no residue like simple green,nor does it have the noxious odor of denatured alchohol. Anybody interested in a free quart of denatured alchohol that can pick it up in the south suburbs of Chicago can have mine. I don't care to have my train room smelling like an auto body paint shop. If you really want clean track, rub it with lionels abrasive eraser or an equivalent like a "bright boy"then go over it with alchohol, better than new.

Last edited by RickO

I use nothing on the track except  a plain scotch brites pads with a sponge on one side and the green scrubbing pad on the other. Track is then nice and clean and last for a long time maybe 3-4 weeks between cleaning. It also does not harm the track in any way. Running your trains often also keeps your tracks clean. I have never seen a track cleaning car work in all my years but the pad works great either by itself or building a cheap track cleaning car out of these pads. (in another thread)

Simple Green has been known to attack and soften certain plastics. Some R/C car people use it to strip paint off plastic bodies. There are different types of Simple Green. If you use Extreme Simple Green® Aircraft & Precision Cleaner, you should not have any issues. This version has been tested to be safe on plastics. We used it at the airline I worked for with no ill affects on plastics.

I use something that was suggested in a thread several months ago.....electrical contact cleaner with lubricant.  I apply it on the wheels of the locomotives as well as the rollers.  If you are just starting to use it, you need to go over your track with the contact cleaner using a soft cloth...but after that it will be likely that you won't have to clean your track for a very long time...perhaps years...  Really!!

  I know this is unbelievable but I know other folks that have never cleaned their track using this kind of product...this has worked for me and I am very satisfied.  Also use it to clean the wheels on locomotives.  Only have to do that once in a few years too...

 

Check out what Home Depot or Lowes has in their electrical section....

 

Alan

Originally Posted by wild mary:

Lee do you use IPA or denatured alcohol?  Personally I think the denatured cleans quicker and doesn't leave a film the way that IPA sometimes does.

I've never heard of or seen any film or other residue left by Isopropyl Alcohol.  I recommend the 99% stuff, simple because it has virtually no water content.  After reading the MSDS for IPA or denatured alcohol, I think most will choose the stuff that is used in hospitals for cleaning, not the industrial cleaner.

I have a smaller CARPET layout (6' x 9') and I wipe off the the FASTRACK with paper towels or toilet paper, then I use the Kendall Webcol Alcohol Preps to finish the job.  The cost for a package is between $2.00 to $4.00 for 200 alcohol preps.  Just my 2 cents.  Killian

 

 

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VETERANS HOME - NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

POW/MIA YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN

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All these household cleaners I see people using... why? Denatured alcohol is nasty stuff. Not recommended. 91% isopropyl alcohol is inexpensive and plenty good enough to clean tracks, AND does not leave any residue or film. For the life of me, I don't understand why people have to make such an easy thing like cleaning track into something so difficult. All that film seen on your rails is also going to be on the track pins, and you can't clean them. 

Originally Posted by killian:

I have a smaller CARPET layout (6' x 9') and I wipe off the the FASTRACK with paper towels or toilet paper, then I use the Kendall Webcol Alcohol Preps to finish the job.  The cost for a package is between $2.00 to $4.00 for 200 alcohol preps.  Just my 2 cents.  Killian

 

 

VETERANS HOME - NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

POW/MIA YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN

Smart!  I gotta get some!

Originally Posted by Lee Willis:
Originally Posted by killian:

I have a smaller CARPET layout (6' x 9') and I wipe off the the FASTRACK with paper towels or toilet paper, then I use the Kendall Webcol Alcohol Preps to finish the job.  The cost for a package is between $2.00 to $4.00 for 200 alcohol preps.  Just my 2 cents.  Killian

 

 

VETERANS HOME - NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

POW/MIA YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN

Smart!  I gotta get some!

Alcohol prep pads are convenient but the alcohol may not be as concentrated.  Killian's pads, for example are 70% as opposed to 91% out of the bottle.

 

Still...  a good idea.

If you're going to use Simple Green to clean your tracks you're going to have to follow up with a clean damp rag to get the soap film off the track.  Of course after the damp rag you'll probably want to go over it with an alcohol wipe to dry the track so just use IPA to start with and save the extra steps. The soap film is what's attracting the dirt and over a few days time it will set up like a thin film of glue. We used to use it at work to clean wax and grease off of lenses but we ran into the same issues. Simple Green does not evaporate away like alcohol does. 

 

Jerry

Rob...I said you wouldn't believe it!!  Honestly, the brand I use has so little lubricant in it that you don't notice.  It is designed to increase the conductivity and the "oil" does just that.  For many years the HO folks used Wahl oil, hair clipper oil, on their track and it did wonders for operations.  The trick is, use it sparingly....

 

Alan

There is no "one size fits all" solution to track cleaning because there are so many variables involved, including how often one cleans the track and how one cleans and lubricates the equipment that runs on those tracks.  Keep in mind that the "gunk" that accumulates doesn't just build up on the track; it also builds up on the wheels of locomotives and rolling stock.  Few O gauge modelers I know of really take the time and effort to clean wheels on a regular basis and take care not to over-lubricate their locomotives.

Some of the "gunk" is actually the oxidation layer on the track.  Nickel Silver and tin have oxides that are actually conductive (not as conductive as the metal but not an insulating material either).  Tin oxide is dark grey and has a slightly greasy feel to it.  This material tends to attract other debris.  Smoke fluid (which is usually some kind of mineral oil) and excessive lubrication are the principal "culprits".  This "stuff" can cause the traction tires to wear down faster and add even more crud.  Since the track is now used for signal communications purposes either directly or indirectly the need to keep track clean has increased dramatically.

 

Abrasives should be avoided, e.g. sand paper or emery cloth as they can remove protective coatings (like tin plate) and leave debris (particles that can mess up gear trains).  Steel wool is also a very, very, very bad idea (the iron fillings will get into anything magnetic and mess up gear trains as well).  Any solvent should be checked for compatibility with the materials it will come in contact with and human safety factors like prolonged skin contact, inhalation issues, and/or ignition issues.  You want something that doesn't leave residue.

 

Count me in with the group that uses high percentage Isopropyl alcohol (90%).  Splash some on an old tee shirt "rag", wipe down and then done.  This is not the same as the usual 70% that's typically found in the medicine chest.  99% stuff is available but you can watch it evaporate from the bottle and it's pretty good at pulling water out of the air so it doesn't stay 99% very long.  It's not worth the extra cost plus it's really flammable. 

Has anyone tried the Mr Clean Magic Eraser?   It cleans almost anything and has no odor and almost zero residue (which a quick wipe with a dry rag should take up.)  I haven't used in on track but with my hottub it did wonders removing the iron scale from the water level.  I used to scrub and scrub with a sponge scouring pad but with the Magic Eraser, a quick wipe and it's gone.

 

Chris

The only thing I use Tuner Cleaner with lubricant on is pick-up rollers. It flushes the dirt out of the bearing hole and lubricates at the same time. For other things, like E-unit drums, wheels, etc.,  I use Electronic Contact Cleaner with no lubricant.

 

For track cleaning, denatured alchohol and a blue Scotch Brite pad on a sponge.

 

 

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