179 – How to Clean Blades & Bits

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If you find that your blades and bits just aren’t performing like they used to, you might not need to send them out for a sharpening. They might just be in desperate need of a good cleaning. Over time, pitch and resin builds up on cutting surfaces and causes them to cut less effectively. If the buildup isn’t removed, the increased friction and heat will accelerate the dulling of the edge and eventually the blade or bit will be toast.

Cleaning Agents

The cleaning agent I use is a water-based formula from Rockler called Pitch & Resin Remover. I don’t know exactly what it’s made of but it has a pleasant citrusy smell that is reminiscent of citrus cleaners. I have also heard of folks having good luck with another cleaning product called Simple Green. There are plenty of more caustic cleaners and degreasers out there but I don’t find that the extra cleaning power is necessary nor is it fun to work with. In a pinch, I have used soapy water with good results.

Cleaning

For router bits, I like to use a small plastic cup to hold the concentrated cleaner. I then drop the router bit into the liquid and let it sit for at least five minutes. More stubborn pitch and resin may require a longer soak. After the soak period I use paper towels, acid brushes, and scotch brite pads depending on how much scrubbing power I need. Take care not to work the sharp edges too much, not only for safety but to avoid unnecessarily dulling the bit. For saw blades, I like to do the same soak method only using a wide shallow plastic bowl.

Once clean, I like to rince the blades and bits with water, followed by a thorough wipe-down with a dry paper towel. Since water likes to hang out in the little nooks and crannies, I like to blow dry the blades and bit just to make sure they are bone dry.

Lubrication

The cleaning process no only removes the pitch and resin, but also any beneficial oils that were previously lubricating the tooling surface. In order to help the blades cut cleanly and also prevent rust buildup, we need to lubricate and protect the metal. I like to use Bostik DriCote for this. This aerosol dry lubricant is very easy to apply. After a light coat is applied, I use a paper towel to buff it into the surface.

Simple routine maintenance can save you a lot of time and money. If your blades and bits are clean, they cut more effectively and that translates to better quality results. And without all the pitch and resin on the cutting edge, the edge will stay sharper for longer. That translates to few sharpening sessions. I send my blade and bits to a professional sharpener so anything I can do to lengthen the time between sharpening is welcome!

I’m curious what materials and methods you use to keep your blade and bits nice and clean. Comment below!

Category: Techniques

Comments

  1. Steve Linna August 1, 2012

    I have used simple green in the past, and it does work, but the generic oven cleaner sure works a lot quicker! :-)

    Who do you use for your sharpening?
    -Steve

    • Ludovic August 2, 2012

      I do too use oven cleaner : Put some on my blade and wait a few minutes. Then with an old teethbrush, I rub it, and everything goes out.

      Finaly, I rince it with some tap water, and dry it with a towel.

      I never use any lubricant, but maybe I should ;)

    • Jeff August 3, 2012

      I’ve learned from good authority that oven cleaner will damage carbide.

  2. I got some Boeshield Blade and Bit cleaner as a door prize one time, and have been using it ever since. It’s in a very small spray bottle, you just spray directly on the area you want to clean. I use a container similar to yours to contain the overspray, but I use a small block of 2×4 to hold the blade up off the bottom so I don’t slice my fingers trying to lift the blade out or turn it over. I use a small brass-bristle cleaning brush for the stubborn bits.

  3. Boeshield blade and bit every time for me. Hey Marc I hope you got the hair dryer back into Nicole’s boudoir before she noticed.

  4. Osaka Jim August 1, 2012

    Started to use my wife to clean my bits and blades. She also does the whole workshop too. That’s a multi-surface cleaner, domestically produced, ecologically friendly (she produces very little methane) and great for my own personal economy. Probably have to ask her about the products, technique and stuff like that.

  5. Dave August 1, 2012

    I use the exact same products. The only difference is I usually scrub with a small brass bristle brush.

  6. I use Simple Green and a stiff bristle brush. Sometimes I use a brass bristle brush for the really stubborn stuff.

    Mike

  7. Garry T August 1, 2012

    I have found what works really great for me is a solution of 50 per cent household ammonia and 50 per cent good old water. Place solution in round aluminum pizza tray.
    Put blades and let sit for few minutes and you will have clean blades that require very little scrubbing. Works like a charm and is very cheap.

    • Bert August 17, 2012

      I have always used pure ammonia and it always worked very well for me.

  8. RMcG August 1, 2012

    I’ve used WD-40 and a brush ( tooth or brass, I forget), before. It did not seem to work as well as the stuff mark is using.

    A question I have had for a long time: how do you know when a table saw blade should be sharpened or replaced.

    • jHop August 10, 2012

      You can feel when a cut is not going as smoothly as you would like. The problem most of us have is that it is a gradual buildup. All these little sticky thingies add up slowly, so it’s hard to say exactly when you need to clean it.

      My general rule of thumb has been to run my thumb over the saw blade from the side. Start in the center (or by the spine) and lightly drag it towards the teeth. On a hand saw, I drag it in a diagonal line, but on a circular saw blade, I go straight out towards one tooth. When you feel the thumb catch or drag, you know it should be cleaned.

      If, after you’ve cleaned it, the cut is still difficult, then I’d look into sharpening. Plus, while you are cleaning it, inspect your teeth. If they are carbide and chipped, stop right there and get a new blade. (‘Swhat I did, anyway.)

  9. I use a toothbrush or sometimes a brass bristle brush and 409. Spray on let it set for a minute or two and it usually come clean with minimal effort.

  10. David white August 2, 2012

    Ive used various commercial woodworker cleaners and nothing is as good as Charlie’s soap (Amazon) for bits and saw blades. Spray or soak a few minutes and wipe off, rinse and dry. They advertise it for dentures to diesels and we use it for any tough job around the house.

  11. Tennessee Yankee August 2, 2012

    does the cleaner lose its effectiveness over time, because of reuse, or does it simply just run out so you have to buy more?

    •  

      I haven’t noticed it losing effectiveness at all.

      • James Tearse August 24, 2012

        Hi Mark, we don’t have Rockler in England, and i can’t seem to find any on Amazon UK, do you have any suggestions or have any advice from UK woodworkers, thank you James

    • Keton August 20, 2012

      My grandpa runs his own sharpening shop and has used simple green for years in his shop. He has a couple of homemade dip tubes that he uses for saw chains and longer saws. He uses a couple of different sized off the shelf tubs for circular blades and small stuff. Generally he only changes out the simple green every couple of months. A spray bottle filled with it and a brass brush work well for the stubborn spots, but if you soak them long enough, they usually wipe clean with a paper towel.

  12. Alex August 2, 2012

    Are there any woods that get the blades dirtier faster or it’s pretty much all the same?

    •  

      Yeah there are definitely some woods that will gum up your tools faster than others. Pine is a good example.

    • Mike Wrobel August 16, 2012

      I agree with Mark. Pine gums it up pretty fast. I am building bee hive boxes and I have to constantly clean my blade and bits.

  13. John Daugherty August 2, 2012

    I use simple green and an old tooth brush too. I usually let it soak for 10 – 15 min. then scrub and rinse with water. I then blow the blade dry with the air compressor.

    I’ve found that softwoods like pine produce a lot more buildup on the blade quicker than hardwood do.

    As far as when do I have my blade sharpened, my rule of thumb is when a clean blade cuts like a dirty blade I have it sharpened.

  14. Mike Candella August 2, 2012

    Do you ever let the bearings on your router bits contact the cleaning liquid?
    How do you deal with the bearings on your router bits?

  15. In the uk we don’t have any of those lubrication sprays mentioned. But we do have PTFE sprays. Will they work?

  16. Dean August 3, 2012

    I’ve used “Orange A-p-e-a-l” which I know sounds more like a cheap cologne but it seems to work pretty good. I think it’s basically the same type of solvent as the Rockler stuff. Available at Lee Valley under “Citrus Cleaner”.

    I’m also trying out a couple rust removers this week-end anyone is interested. I already starting trying out the first one Evapo-Rust on the wing of a planer last night which I just checked this morning and wow, I’m pretty impressed. The second one I’ll be trying out is “Rust Remover Gel” (again, Lee Valley) for some of the areas that can’t be soaked overnight. I’ll probably have the results posted on the forum under “Jointer Quandary” by Sunday.

  17. Patrick Schupbach August 3, 2012

    I use Purple Power…. Works great and can be cut with water if needed… A little goes a long way!!!

  18. David Haniquet August 3, 2012

    I’ve used the CMT orange cleaner and have had good success with it and it has an additional mild lubricant in it that helps keep the tools preserved.

  19. I am pretty sure I am in need of cleaning just about all my tools. Do you really think the soap and water will do just as good? Do you think an oily soap residue would generate heat?

    • CraigF August 13, 2012

      I would think it would rub/burn off rather quickly (as in within the first few inches of a cut), but then again, I’ve not tried..

  20. Sanford G August 3, 2012

    great info Marc.

  21. chuck zimmer August 3, 2012

    Thanks for reminding me, time to clean the blades. I jusr use 409 cleaner. Works great, and best of all its cheep.

  22. George DiGaetano August 3, 2012

    I am always amazed at how quickly saw blades need to be cleaned and how much better they work after cleaning.
    I was taught to use Simple Green but based on the comments it looks like any grease dissolving cleaner works. Thanks for telling us about DriCote lubricant, I will definitely give it a try.

  23. Danny H. August 3, 2012

    Simple green has worked well for me although I’ve also used Fast Orange hand cleaner as well. I have used oven cleaner in the past but have stopped using it since it has been found to be detrimental to the carbide. That was the caustic one, not sure about the non-caustic oven cleaner.

  24. Mark, not sure how often you clean blades and bits. But I noticed in your video you are rinsiing the blade with water allowing it to run off into your cleaner. You know you are diluting the cleaner each time?

    Of course if you only did it that way for time constraints of the video, nevermind.

  25. Joel August 3, 2012

    I just use water and liquid detergent and scrub with an old toothbrush.

  26. franklin pug August 3, 2012

    I use freud’s product (read and white bottle), availble at Home Depot. I find it really works well on all my blades and bits. I think it’s called “pro-solve”.

  27. Tomfoolery August 3, 2012

    Sometimes it is the simple things that have the largest impact…

  28. Tom August 3, 2012

    I use Simple Green and have excellent results with it. It’s cheap, non toxic and it cleans the pitch and gook off the blades quickly. I soak the blade for 10 minutes or so, and then brush it with an old toothbrush. The pitch comes off without much scrubbing.

  29. Shawn August 3, 2012

    Great video Marc. I cleaned my blades after watching this and I couldn’t believe how much crud was on them.

  30. I’m going to have to give the tickler cleaner a try. I’ve always just used the oven cleaner trick in the past. Works great but is too caustic for my liking. Maybe with a more environmentally friendly solvent I’ll clean my blade more than once a year.

  31. Connor DeWald August 3, 2012

    hey i just use soap and water and it seems to work fine

  32. Dan August 4, 2012

    I use simple green. It works well. I clean my blades about every 3 months since I don’t use my saw every day. In the summer months I like to go through the shop and clean all my tools and blades and give them all some sort of rust prevention treatment.

  33. Jeff August 4, 2012

    Oil Eater is a biodegradable cleaner and degreaser that works well with a toothbrush or brass bristle brush. We also use it diluted 1:1 with water as a general purpose degreaser for grill grates, chili and spaghetti sauce pans, etc.

    The rinse is water followed by plain old 90% isopropyl rubbing alcohol for quick and thorough drying without a hair dryer or compressor.

  34. Jeremy Scuteri August 4, 2012

    I have also heard of using baking soda and water to clean blades/bits.

  35. emmrys August 4, 2012

    I have been using bit and blade cleaner. I also started a shop policy……every tool, bit and blade gets cleaned before it is put away and everything is put away between projects. Goal is a shiny clean shop.

  36. Rob DeMarco August 5, 2012

    I use lestiol cleaner little bit in a pan let soak for about 5 to 10 minutes . Use a acid brush to scrub and some water to rinse.

  37. Jeffrey August 5, 2012

    I did a lot of research when I first started this great hobby about a year ago and found a lot of info steering me away from oven cleaners & the like. Even Simple Green is too caustic in that it weakens the bond between the carbide tips and the steel – so says the company. But you can use Simple Green HD – it’s actually purple- which does not have that problem. 5 minute soak and maybe a scrub with a stiff plastic brush and it’s all clean plus you can keep using it for repeated cleanings. I always spray off the water with the air compressor and use wd-40 to top it off. Works great for me!

  38. Thank you for sharing Marc. I may have to give this a try with some of my router bits before I go replacing them. Some that I have perceived as dull may still have some life in them, and just simply need to be cleaned.

  39. Justin Erb August 6, 2012

    Thanks for posting this Marc. I have been needing to clean my miter saw for awhile.
    Someone told me to use kerosene but I think I’ll go pick up some Simple Green instead.

  40. ryan August 6, 2012

    Thanks for the video Marc
    Does this work with bandsaw blades as well? I dont think i have ever seen anyone address cleaning bandsaw blades. I know most blades dont get resharpened, just replaced, but could cleaning them extend their life?

  41. Chris August 7, 2012

    Good tips. I would have never of thought to clean the teeth on a saw blade or router bit.

  42. Michael August 8, 2012

    These are very good tips. Sharp blades prevent injury, and sometimes the simple things are the ones that count. Keep em’ comin Marc.

  43. JeanF August 10, 2012

    I use Boeshield Blade & Bit cleaner. Safe for the blades and really cuts through the gunk. It’s caustic so I always wear nitrile (blue) gloves which also afford some protection from the sharp edges of the blades and bits. I use a “toothbrush” type brush with stiff horsehair bristles made by MG Chemicals (#859) (www.mgchemicals.com)

    I don’t feel comfortable using a brass bristle brush. I’m worried it might be a little too abrasive and risk dulling the edge of the blades. “Acid flux” type brushes from plumbing supplies have bristles which are way too soft for this task IMO. A small piece of scotchbrite pad is a good idea so thanks for that tip Marc.

    Oh BTW, the wood that leaves the worse buildup on blades from my personal experience is an exotic wood from Brazil called Ipé (pronounced E-pay). It’s very dense and hard and produces a pungent brown-yellowish dust that sticks to basically everything. It even stains the flexible dust collection hoses on my machine tools.

  44. Pete August 11, 2012

    I wonder if an ultrasonic cleaner would be useful for cleaning router bits? Anyone tried one?

  45. thom August 11, 2012

    I use a cleaner called hypro with a brass brush to clean blades, then a spray of camelia oil. use the same method on router bits. the oil will not stain wood so i leave a film on the tools to prevent rust.

  46. S.Wellington August 12, 2012

    I was wondering the other day how I might go about cleaning my blades after working with some pine. Great timing and informative video as usual. I think I might see if I can start using Osaka Jim’s cleaning method. Sounds easier by far. :-)

  47. Randy Cosgrove August 12, 2012

    I use a mixture of TSP ( tri-sodium phospate ) and water in a cheap pizza tray.

    Immerse the blade, rub with an old toothbrush immediately and no more gunk.

    No wait time at all.

    Rinse with water, dry and back on the saw. Definitely cuts a lot better then.

  48. Justin Erb August 13, 2012

    I tried the Simple Green on my miter saw today. That blade was way over do for a good cleaning and it came out nice. Soaked for about 5min and scrubbed with a denture brush. Worked really well.

  49. Larry August 20, 2012

    Hey Marc,
    Great reminder about this necessary maintenance. I use the Rockler product as well and have had great results. Thanks for all you do.

  50. A few days ago I cleaned my two 10″ blades using Mean Green and a brass brush. WOW what a difference! I never really gave blade cleaning a thought before. Thanks for sharing!

  51. TennesseeYankee August 30, 2012

    I have had this kit in my shop for nearly a year, and after your video Marc I decided to break the seal and clean my table saw blade and a could router bits. The citrus cleaner did a fine job. My only complaint was that the blue tub that comes with the kit raises the blade up pretty high in the container, almost enough that the full bottle of cleaner isn’t higher than the blade. Not sure if this was a design feature or design flaw, but I anticipate that after a few cleanings, the one bottle of cleaner won’t reach the blade and I will have to buy another just so the blade is truly soaking.

    And no, I do not dilute my cleaner. I do as Marc did…..after using it full strength, I pour it back into the bottle.

  52. Philip Browning August 30, 2012

    Instead of the DryCote, would T9 Boeshield do the trick?

  53. I’ve been working on laying some solid pine floors in my dad’s this last few weeks and can’t believe how my blade has gummed up. I’d normally just send it to get sharpened but I tried simple green on the advice of a buddy of mine and the blade’s running like new. €55 saved. Every day’s a school day eh!

  54. John J. Guarino October 21, 2012

    Hi Marc,

    Just found your website and videos. Thanks for all the great info. As a beginner I am learning allot.

  55. TJ October 22, 2012

    Simple Green makes some great products, but be careful using the regular simple green on your carbide bits and blades. I would suggest to use simple green hd pro heavy duty cleaner (you can find it at home depot). My understanding is that the hd pro does not have the ingredient that may cause carbide breakdown that is in the “regular” simple green. My understanding is that the simple green hd pro is essentially the same product as their industrial cleaning product Extreme Simple Green Aircraft and Precision Cleaner that does not harm the underlying metal.

  56. Bearclaw December 11, 2012

    I spray some dry teflon on the bits & blades but also on things like the tablesaw top so the wood glides real nice.

  57. Brandon December 27, 2012

    I know this is a video primarily about cleaning bits and blades, but you mentioned that you periodically send your blades out for sharpening. The only blade I’ve had to replace was the original that came with my table saw. Having it sharpened wasn’t really even a thought. Instead I took the opportunity to upgrade the blade quality. But, I’m curious what the cost difference is between sending a blade out for sharpening compared to purchasing a new replacement?

  58. Larry S. February 21, 2013

    Great video on cleaning. I use Simple green HD. I use a flower pot coaster from Walmart (clear plastic). It’s cheap but hard to pour liquid back into bottle. Your automotive oil change basin is a lot better. Really enjoy your web site. I discovered it by accident and now I’m thinking of joining as a member. thanks!!

  59. Howard Frischman April 24, 2013

    I just ran across your website and love it. I was looking at this video on cleaning blades. I’ve done basically the same thing but use an old tooth brush. It seems to work pretty well.

  60. Sawdust January 29, 2014

    How about Min-wax finishing wax for the final step?

  61. Good ideas, but basic chemistry will tell you that removing pitch requires a compatible solvent. For pine resin, nothing beats turpentine which comes from pine trees. Plain rubbing alcohol should dissolve resin if soaked for a while.

  62. Todd Hitchner September 1, 2014

    I just used Castrol Super Clean (the purple cleaner) and it worked fantastic, i mix it 50/50 PLUS if you wanted to you could buy a gun bore brush to use for cleaning between the teeth for the stubborn buildup…..i used a .25 caliber brush but in reality a .30 cal might have worked better for a 40 tooth blade, i would say the .25 would work good on an 80 tooth blade

    • Todd Hitchner September 1, 2014

      PS….the blades work FANTASTIC too, saved me big $$$$$…..i make my furniture out of pine so the residue is pretty heavy from that

  63. Bogmer October 16, 2014

    I just watched this video and read most of the comments. I just realized that most used degreasers to clean their blades.

    I was a mechanic for about a decade and I found that nothing would clean my hands well. After a will my hands would stay back and I just assumed that I couldn’t get them clean. Until I started to do the dishes in the sink because our dishwasher was broken did I realize that dish soap really got my hands clean.

    What I resided to try today was just dish soap and water. I started with a old tooth brush like a lot of people here where saying then I said this is going to take a while so I looked around for an alternative. That cheap broom you know the type with plastic bristles with a cheap handle that breaks easy. Well that took a lot of the labour out of it.

  64. Drake October 28, 2014

    Here’s a cheap (yes cheap, not inexpensive, cheap) and easy solution. LA’s Totally Awesome All-Purpose Cleaner. Get it at one of the various dollar stores or walmart. I sprayed it on, waited a couple of minutes and wiped it off. The resin started flaking off immediately. It took a couple of minutes for the heaver buildups on the back edge of the carbide teeth. Washed it off and a light coat of WD40. Wipe it down and go.
    At $1 for a 32oz spray bottle it doesn’t get much cheaper.

    From the Mfg website FAQ
    “LA’s Totally Awesome All Purpose Cleaner ® is a safe, naturally gentle soap, specially formulated for cleaning a variety of surfaces like floors, furniture, and other household surfaces. And it leaves your home smelling fresh and clean. LA’s Totally Awesome All Purpose Cleaner ® contains no harsh detergents, ammonia, or bleach”

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