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Cleaning Chain Saw Chains

by admin on March 31, 2012

Sharpeners Report readers say these methods work to clean sap, tar and other dirt from chain saw chains before sharpening them:

  • I clean all my saw chains before sharpening with Simple Green (environmentally friendly). I spray them and let them soak for a few minutes, then scrub them with a toothbrush on both sides–that usually gets the gullet clean as well.  Then I rinse them in water and air-gun them to get moisture out of the nooks.  For stubborn resin build-up, I might also soak them in Pitch & Resin Remover available from Rockler. – John Ashbrook, The Sharp Shop of Merryville
  • Try this product: Citrus Kleen, from National Chemical Lab Co., in Philadelphia. I bought 5 gallons, and it was expensive but it lasted 5 years with the dilution 1:5 water. I do hundreds of dirty chains a year. You soak it for 30 min., brush the blades off, and it is safe for the environment, too. Mike Calovich, Alaska
  • We use two Speed Sharp machines, one for the cutters, and the other for the rakers. A key piece of equipment is our cleaning tank. It’s a salvaged, none-working 2 compartment deep fat fryer from a restaurant. The tanks are thin, deep and stainless steel with a ball-valve in the bottom for easy clean-out. We soak them for an hour, or overnight in Lye (drain cleaner), purchased in a can, dry powder form at a hardware store. Next, we scrub the chain on a flat surface with hot water, dish soap and a coarse brush. Rinse, pat dry, and sharpen the cutters. The rakers are checked for height and ground down, if necessary. When finished, the chain is dipped into the 2nd tank containing cheap motor oil. Once drained off, it’s put in a zip lock bag and billed out. The system works well as we see a lot of chain business. – Bruce Wyman, former owner of Henrick Brothers Sharpening, Sioux City, IA

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Davis July 15, 2012 at 4:30 pm

The cheapest and fastest cleaner I’ve found is purchased from the “Family Dollar” or from “Ranch King” stores (If you have in your area). It’s called “Purple Power”. I clean all of my chains with it and it cleans them like new. Soak them for a few minutes then hit them with a wire grill brush and rinse, dry and your done. A gallon runs between $4-$5. Give it a try.


John Thurston July 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I use Saw-Kleen that I get from J Tool Express. It costs me about $9.99/bottle but is diluted with water 3:1. When it’s new and clean, I use it on circular saw blades. I soak them 15 – 20 minutes then brush them with a nylon brush. When the solution begins to turn color, I pour it into my chainsaw take, I soak the chains 15 – 20 minutes, brush them with a nylon brush, rinse them, and hang them to dry. It cuts the pitch and gum and the grease.


admin June 28, 2013 at 3:13 pm

RESTORE RUSTED CHAINS! To remove rust from chains, I use a gallon of white vinegar in a plastic bucket. One gallon works to soak two, 20 foot loop chains overnight. Then, dump out the vinegar, which by now is an awful looking purple/green/brown foam solution, then rinse the chain repeatedly in water. Soak again overnight in WD40. I charge $15 to treat rusted chains before sharpening — Mark Peterson, Superior Sharpening in Carolina.


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