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AhmadKane

Electrical Cleaning

Which one do you use to clean track, pickup and any conductive components?  

7 members have voted

  1. 1. Which one?

    • Dry Cleaning
    • Water
      0
    • IPA
    • Lighter Fluid
      0
    • Nail Polish Remover
      0
    • Vinegar
      0
    • WD-40
    • Abrasive Track Rubber
    • Other


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AhmadKane
Posted (edited)

I'd like your thoughts on how you guys clean electrical circuits in your layout. Track, pickups, circuit boards, etc. 

 

From what I can gather so far. There is a feisty battle between people that use track rubber, and those that are totally against it. With supporters saying that the track rubber would rid gunk and rust to increase conductivity, while those against it dislike it because it destroys the protective layering of the track, and the residue from the track rubber are mostly dirt and non conductive. 

 

Some use IPA and Nail Polish Remover for tracks. IPA being the most famous for cleaning including locomotive cleaning and track cleaning. I use IPA to clean the train, but I find it difficult to use IPA for track, pickups and anything electrical. It may clean everything up, though the water in the IPA would seep into the track. Although supporters of it applaud its stellar cleaning properties. 

 

Now the most controversial pick would be to use contact cleaners. Such as WD-40. While some use WD-40 and other contact cleaners for nearly the electrical and mechanical components of their trains. There are a lot of people discouraging it, saying the plastic will melt, but mostly making the track slippery and crust the machine components of the train (Like concrete?)

 

So what are your thoughts? Personally I use IPA for the body and plastic parts. But I use Fast Drying WD-40 contact cleaners to reduce oily track and keeping it as conductive as possible.

 

 

Edited by AhmadKane

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brill27mcb

My understanding is that WD-40 is not a good contact cleaner. It is also not a good lubricating oil. It's a penetrant, and pretty good for that purpose. I used to belong to a discussion forum of people that owned and kept old Volkswagen "Type 2" buses/caravans running and that was the consensus, including from some well-qualified technical folks. If you get something rusty freed up with WD-40, it's best to go back later and apply a good lubricating oil, because WD-40 does not coat the surface protectively and will actually hasten re-rusting, which is oxidation. I don't know of anyone that uses WD-40 on N-gauge trains or rails, and I think the lingering smell would be a deterrent, too.

 

Rich K.

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cteno4

I’ve been around a lot of electrical stuff and none of the techs I’ve been around ever used any kink of eraser or abrasive eraser to clean a contact, go to is a fast evaporating contact cleaner specifically designed to clean metal quickly and help a tiny bit with oxidation layer but not a penetrating heavy reducing agent. Usually clean with rag or swab. At worst they use fine files or very find sandpapers (sometimes going up in grit thru a few finer ones) to resurface and polish the surface.

 

Ive never liked any of the erasers for two reasons. One is rub and eraser on glass and see what is left behind. While it might rub off a lot of the crud it does leave behind a thin layer of eraser. The second is the polishing reason above as many electrical techs thing a rough metal surface tends to collect dirt faster than a nice polished one and less oxidation surface area. Over a decade ago some chap on the train boards did some nice microscopic pictures of rail (pretty sure it was HO) as it was hit again and again by abrasive erasers and you saw how scratched the metal surface got. The. He did the test of running a train several hundred times over track that were not abrasive cleaned and ones that were and showed build up faster on the scratched tracks. Settled it for me!

 

Rich is spot on with wd40 (it was a standard part of working on my 64vw bug too!)! It’s meant to work stuff loose not as a lubricant in the long run. It should be cleaned off Parts once used and really oily and a bad conductors to have around rails and wheels. Some folks swear by coating rails and wheels with brake fluid or clipper oil to keep track clean and oxidation free, but I’ve also heard folks curse it causing traction loss and degrading traction tires. The idea is that it makes a surface that dust, grime, oil etc won’t stick to. I haven't tried to go down that road yet. If I do I’ll go with an electrical contact agent that is used to coat contact and keep off oxidation while not having conductivity issues. With nickel silver we really don’t have to worry much on oxidation in most model railroading situations. The black gunk though is oxidation products from arcing from track to moving wheels, not oxidation firming on the track itself.

 

IPA is really the best go to, all around cleaner. 70% is very safe with all plastics for short contact (even for emersion for ultrasonic cleaning). I’ve never had it attack paints for short cleanings nor decals. We have rubbed some of our Unitrak in the club now for 15+ years with rag and ipa on the finger and we have never gotten any of the tie centers start to change color with the bit of ipa and cloth abrasion you get. 70% is much gentler on the skin than 95% as well and less likely to cause any solvating issues. Of a lot of organic cleaners out there ipa is a pretty mellow one for exposure as well. No worries on the 30% water as the evaporating alcohol acts as an evaporation agent for the water so moisture is left behinds. 70% is used to do a drying cycle on parts when 95% can’t be used. 
 

nail polish remover is usually acetone for the god stuff, but acetone is super harsh solvent on both plastics and paints and not good stuff to whiff or get on you a lot. Newer non acetone removers (the fragrant ones) are usually ethylacetate which is a decent solvent that can take off paint and not great around plastic.

 

jeff

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cteno4

I had spaced the bit about isopropanol being polar solvent and potentially more arcing and thus more schmutz produced.

 

Now I remember why I have the can of CRC contact cleaner and protectorant on the bench! I meant to test it against ipa to see if there was a difference in oxide creation. Bright shiny object took me away there for that little project I’m sure!

 

 Jeff

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AhmadKane

I use one of these

 

wd-40-specialist-11-oz-electrical-contac

 

I've seen enough to note that one of the main problems if put on track are the petroleum and the silicone. Metal safe and plastic safe. One of the stellar features of this one is that it used Carbon DIoxide as the volume, making it super quick to dry out unlike normal WD40. Spray and rag it out. I've observed this to be best for both to spray a bit unto the pickups and the track.

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cteno4

Contact cleaners are a totally different formulation from the regular wd40! Will be interesting to see your experience. I had forgotten the can of crx contact cleaner on the bench was to experiment with as track cleaner after reading that article last year! Want to see how it does. Good thing about contact cleaners is they are made for cleaning electrical contacts and current transfer specifically! Do need to make sure they are plastic safe (funny they say metal safe as it’s job is to clean metals!) as some use some organic solvents that are not plastic safe.

 

one way to not rub your ties while cleaning is to put the cotton cloth over the end of a flat stick (like a paint stir stick) with a rubber band so the center doesn’t dip down to the ties like it can using your finger. The stick works well on the hard to reach spots but the good old phalanges work so well with a bit of old tee shirt over them. Old heavy flannel sheets work great as well as thicker, but I doubt you have need for those in Indonesia!

 

jeff

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AhmadKane

I just use an old kitchen rag to rub the tracks. They work well to get rid of all the muck. Tried using kitchen towel and absorbable tissue but I would need to bring out the vacuum again.

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cteno4

Plain old cotton Material seems to work the best, doesn’t shed and absorbs cleaner and muck well.

 

jeff

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Martijn Meerts

I normally use a 2 step process. I have a block of MDF which I wrap a cotton cloth around, then add a few drops of IPA and go over the track. For the yard I have a large block that allows me to do like 5 or 6 tracks at a time. Once that's done, I use the same MDF block with a dry cotton cloth and go over everything again. If I've not run trains for a while (which is pretty much always the case at the moment), I first go over the track with a vacuum cleaner before doing the actual cleaning.

 

I never use specialised track cleaner or anything like that. They pretty much all contain oil, and while the track will clean up real quick, the residue left behind will just attract even more dust, so you'll end up having to clean it more often.

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brill27mcb

OK, "WD-40 Contact Cleaner" is a different product than "WD-40." Now I understand.

 

I also do O-scale trolleys, and modelers going to DCC control on these had a real problem with contact continuity of the single small trolley pole contact shoe and the narrow overhead wire, usually phosphor-bronze. The Boston Society of Model Engineers club did a lot of experiments (the problem was driving them crazy), and they came up with a particular liquid graphite product where the solvent used to apply it evaporated and left a thin, clean graphite coating on the trolley wire. I forget the exact product (I'll have to see if I can find out), but it solved their problem for weeks on end. Sounds better than rubbing the rail (or wire) with a graphite stick, as discussed in the excellent article and comments for which Madsing posted a link above.

 

Rich K.

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cteno4

Rich,

 

I remember using that liquid graphite on relay contacts on a ship like 30+ years ago. Paint it on and solvent evaporates and leave the thin layer of graphite.


one issue on rails could be traction as graphite is also a good lubricant with the sheets sliding so well.

 

jeff

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brill27mcb

I found the information on the liquid graphite used by modelers on the trolley wire. The product is called Lock-Ease Graphited Lock Fluid (the word "fluid" is important). It turns out to have been on a Yahoo Group, and all Yahoo Groups are gone now, so that knowledge base has disappeared into the ether. But it is still referenced and summarized on an Australian discussion group here:

http://www.railpage.com.au/f-p1330269.htm

 

The trolley club used it very sparingly, applying it with a Q-tip on just a short section of overhead trolley wire here and there, and then letting the trolley poles spread the graphite around even more thinly. This agrees with the MRH article about too much graphite being a negative. I agree, Jeff, that on rails it might reduce traction a bit. How it might affect traction tires, friction-wise and chemically, is another consideration.

 

By the way, real trolley pole shoes contain a replaceable, wearable graphite block that rubs along the trolley wire. Likewise, real pantographs have long, replaceable graphite strips on them to make contact.

 

Rich K.

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cteno4

Being a lubricant really is a big plus on the trolly pole/pantograph to catenary connection!

 

did you ever try a graphite block on your model trolly poles? They were o scale right?

 

jeff

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power tools 23

What is Electrical Cleaning? I want to know or how I can know. 

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cteno4

Electrical cleaning is just cleaning the parts that electricity has to flow between that are exposed to moisture, oil, dust, electrical discharges (tiny sparks/arcs where electricity jumps a tiny distance with movement of parts like wheels on the rails) on parts like the rails, wheels and electrical pickups on the trucks and chassis.
 

Usually the gunk is cleaned with a rag and and some cleaning agent (discussion here, like isopropanol or contact cleaner) to wipe it off or using an abrasive eraser to rub it off.

 

jeff

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