ToolCrib.com's Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Saw Blades and Router Bits

In a post about table saw blade storage reader Craig asked “what do you use to clean saw blades?” I dug in with Google and our trusty forum search engine to bring you this, the ultimate guide to cleaning saw blades and router bits.

Here’s what’s in this post:

>> Top 5 Reasons to Clean Your Saw Blades and Router Bits
>>WARNING: Don’t Use Oven Cleaner or ANY Other Caustics/Lye-Based Cleaners
>>Recommended Saw Blade and Bit Cleaning Products
>>Recommended Saw Blade and Bit Cleaning Tools
>>Interesting and Useful Cleaning System
>>Saw Blade Cleaning Resources

Top 5 Reasons to Clean Your Saw Blades and Router Bits
Just incase you’re not convinced that cleaning your blades is worth the time… OR if you already clean your blades regularly and just need 5 reasons to pat yourself on the back… here are the top 5 reasons to clean your saw blades and router bits.

1) Pitchy coating increases friction and therefore heat.
2) Pitchy coating increases insulation on blade, making it retain heat.
3) Increased heat accelerates the dulling process
4) Dirty blades “act” dull and require more push through force
5) Cleaning your saw blades saves money over replacing them

(From Tom Hintz’s Cleaning Circular Saw Blades)

WARNING: Don’t Use Oven Cleaner or ANY Other Caustics/Lye-Based Cleaners
In reading through forum threads I found lots of folks who still use oven spray cleaner. Then there are lots of folks who say don’t use it, but don’t have any proof or studies to back up their reasoning. Then there’s Freud’s “Charles McCracken.”

Here’s why he recommends in Tom Hintz’s article that you never use oven cleaner (especially on carbide tipped blades):
“These attack the binder in the carbide and, on Freud blades, they also deteriorate the special tri-metal brazing we use. This can cause carbide or brazing failure and could lead to injury.”

Here’s a link to pictures that Mr. McCracken posted in SawmillCreek showing what a caustic cleaner can do to the surface of a blade after immersion for 24 hours. Oven cleaner is bad for your saw blades and could deteriorate them to the point that they are dangerous for you to use. DON’T DO IT!

Recommended Saw Blade and Bit Cleaning Products
I read through numerous forums and articles to bring you the following list. It’s far from exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start. Note that some of the ideas are a little… on the creative side. Boiling your blades to loosen pitch, for example. Or the guy who soaks them in coffee overnight. Anyways, here are the cleaning solutions I found and the number of folks who suggested or recommended them.

Simple Green: 14 Recommendations

from simple green’s site:
“We do not recommend long-term soaking of Carbide blades in Simple Green. Long-term exposure like this can possibly cause cobalt leaching that will, in turn, affect the integrity or carbide. Shorter term “spray/wipe/rinse” applications do not create that kind of problem.”

CMT 2050: 5 Recommendations

Kerosene: 5 Recommendations
(Kerosene mentioned as a cleaning option by both Forrest and Freud, though not the sole cleaning option)

Woodcraft brand Resin Remover: 4 Recommendations

Great description of using Resin Remover to clean blades from Vanguard >>

409: 3 Recommendations

Washing soda: 3 Recommendations

Other Saw Blade Cleaning Chemicals and Techniques
-Orange Oil
-Goop
-TSP
-T-9 bit and blade cleaner
-”I use a 5 gallon bucket w/ 1/2″ of water/amonia 1 to 3 mix…” Joe Scarfo from SMC
- boil them in an electric frying pan: Put water in it an turn it on then soak the blade awhile,a quick scrub with a brass kitchen brush and usually its clean. threecreeks3 from Rigid Forum
- DNA (denatured alcohol)
- “I put some coffee in a pan place the blade in the pan and let it set overnight.” Tom W from the Rigid Forum

Recommended Saw Blade and Bit Cleaning Tools
Ideally you’re only having to brush away residue rather than apply elbow grease. Here are the top tools I found mentioned:

>>Plastic-brisled brush or tooth brush
>>Plastic scraper
>>Cloth
>>5-Gallon Bucket
>>Brass-bristled brush (it could be argued that if you have to use brass then you’re not using the right cleaner… but I saw brass mentioned frequently so I added it to the list.)

Post-Cleaning Treatment
Once your blade is cleaned you need to dry it well and coat it with WD-40. I also read someone suggest you rub paste wax on them after drying. Yet another woodworker suggested drying the blades with compressed air and then giving it the WD-40 treatment.

Interesting and Useful Cleaning System
I read this idea and had to put it in wholesale. This guy has thought cleaning all the way through. Here goes:

“What I use is a 5 gallon bucket with a lid. If you put a 10″ blade in the bucket (with nothing in there) you’ll see the blade fits in the bottom with only a little bit of room to spare. Get one of those refill bottles of a cleaner you like, 409, Simple Green, etc. and then pour it in the bucket. Now get some marbles or something else that doesn’t float to keep your blade from sitting directly on the bottom. The marbles also make it easy to get the blade out of the bucket, by giving you some room to stick a finger through the arbor hole.

Put the blade in the bucket of cleaner and let it soak awhile. Say 10-20 minutes. After it’s done soaking, stick your finger in the arbor hole of the blade, and pull it out of the solution. Now clean the teeth with a tooth brush. The gunk should come off pretty easily. After this, I blow off any remaining cleaner/liquid with compressed air.

When you’re done, put the lid on the bucket and store it away. In this way you can keep reusing the solution. Throw the solution away when it doesn’t seem to be working anymore, or there’s too much gunk in the bucket. I’ve been using 409 with good results. You can also use this bucket of cleaner for router and drill bits as well.”
Michael Faurot – SMC

Update:
I found this method over at Family Woodworking: How to do Electrolysis of a saw blade. Just one more idea for those hard to clean saw blades ;) -G

Saw Blade Cleaning Resources Used in Writing this Post:
Cleaning Circular Saw Blades from Tom Hintz
Cleaning Blades from Vanguard
Saw Blade Savvy (from Industrial Strength Woodworking)
Cleaning Circular Saw Blades from WoodCraft

saw blade build-up SMC
What do you use to clean your table saw blades? LumberJocks
Saw Blade Cleaning SMC
Cleaning Resinous Buildup from Table Saw Blade Rigid Forum
Carbide and Lye (Oven Cleaner) – Problems? SMC
Cleaning Bandmill Blades

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3 Responses to ToolCrib.com's Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Saw Blades and Router Bits

  1. toolcrib says:

    Mr. Robert Bagby wrote me an email to describe how he keeps his blades and bits clean… WITHOUT cleaning them!

    –All my bits are in a case sandwich between two pieces of foam rubber that are soaked in WD-40. They are always sharp, clean and the bearings are always free. The blades I just spray before putting them up. I never have to clean the bits or blades. I start with a piece of scrap, and that gets all the oil off before I start on my good woodworking.

  2. toolcrib says:

    Antonio wrote me an email to say he uses oven cleaner… I’m sure he’s not the only woodworker out there who does. It’s not a method of cleaning that I recommend though – there’s too much evidence to show that it could damage your carbide. Your mileage may vary though, and there are certainly lots of woodworkers with all ten fingers and both eyes scrubbing their blades with easy off ;)

    -hey franch to clean saw blades i use easy off oven cleaner it works just the same as commercial cleaners.

  3. barneyireland says:

    i have recently bought a sedgwick sawbench secondhand andthe inside is fairly gunked up with sap and residue. Could the techniquesdescribed above be used to clean quite thick buildup inside a machine or is there a better way to tackle the problem?

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