One disadvantage of IPA for track cleaning

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One disadvantage of IPA for track cleaning

Postby Someone » Tue Nov 16, 2021 2:12 pm

Alot of people use Isopropyl alcohol for track cleaner, while it is alright for track cleaning it isn't the best, the reason being because it's polar.

Here's a quote from a science article I read.

IPA is a polar solvent. The hydroxyl group of the IPA molecule has a significant separation of electrical charge, in effect giving it both a positive and negative end. The electrically charged “end” of the molecule will attract those soils that are composed of molecules or ions that are themselves electrically charged


Using IPA cleans the track but the positively charged molecules may get into micro cracks on the rail services overtime and can cause corrosion inside those cracks.
Last edited by Someone on Tue Nov 16, 2021 9:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Isopropyl alcohol is not a very good track cleaner

Postby Flashbang » Tue Nov 16, 2021 3:10 pm

Well that's interesting. In all the years of using 99.9% IPA both at work on switch contacts and electric motor Commutators and on model railway rails and wheel treads I've never experienced any issues. I've never seen corrosion on Nickle Silver rail occur either! Heaven knows where the information came from?? No suggested alternative(s) given either!

Never use less than 99.9% IPA as those low percentage ones contain water! (often referenced as Rubbing Alcohol).
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Re: Isopropyl alcohol is not a very good track cleaner

Postby glencairn » Tue Nov 16, 2021 3:39 pm

It probably is correct over (a very long) time, but negligible in our lifetime. :lol:

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Re: Isopropyl alcohol is not a very good track cleaner

Postby Someone » Tue Nov 16, 2021 9:03 pm

Flashbang wrote:Well that's interesting. In all the years of using 99.9% IPA both at work on switch contacts and electric motor Commutators and on model railway rails and wheel treads I've never experienced any issues. I've never seen corrosion on Nickle Silver rail occur either! Heaven knows where the information came from?? No suggested alternative(s) given either!

Never use less than 99.9% IPA as those low percentage ones contain water! (often referenced as Rubbing Alcohol).


As Glencairn pointed out, it is negligible, so IPA is still a fine track cleaner, but it does it over a very long time.
Also methylated spirits is an alternative.

The information about The track corrosion came from a video posted by Ron's Trains N things.

https://youtu.be/lBYxjcTWCB0

Methylated spirits is a alternative, but I feel like the best method for the average track cleaning is dry cleaning using track rubbers, because it's not a liquid there's no doubt over wether it will dissolve certain substances, and you can use a track rubber for years.

The information In my qoute came from here.

https://blog.gotopac.com/2010/11/18/ipa ... antages-2/
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Re: One disadvantage of IPA for track cleaning

Postby Dad-1 » Wed Nov 17, 2021 9:36 am

In my dusty & damp garage I need to clean about once a year.
The best thing is to run a train every day - in my case usually
with around 20 wagons for about 20 minutes.

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Re: One disadvantage of IPA for track cleaning

Postby Bigmet » Wed Nov 17, 2021 10:49 am

Someone wrote:A lot of people use Isopropyl alcohol for track cleaner, while it is alright for track cleaning it isn't the best, the reason being because it's polar.

Here's a quote from a science article I read.

IPA is a polar solvent. The hydroxyl group of the IPA molecule has a significant separation of electrical charge, in effect giving it both a positive and negative end. The electrically charged “end” of the molecule will attract those soils that are composed of molecules or ions that are themselves electrically charged


Using IPA cleans the track but the positively charged molecules may get into micro cracks on the rail services overtime and can cause corrosion inside those cracks.

Water is also a polar solvent, and you would be dead if there was no water vapour present in the air, so the rail and everything else always has a polar solvent acting on it. Occasionally adding a little IPA, or Ethanol/Methanol (Aka Methylated spirit) to that constant action will make diddly-squat difference to the state of the rail attributable to the action of a polar solvent.

This claim regarding IPA is typical horseshit use of 'science', true but irrelevant. I would look very closely at the source of that information to see what they are attempting to sell...

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Re: One disadvantage of IPA for track cleaning

Postby Mountain » Wed Nov 17, 2021 11:29 am

My personal experience is that IPA is more of a gentle cleaner. Other products like electrical contact cleaner (Switch cleaner etc) are stronger in their cleaning abilities but be careful as some makes will disscolour paint on loco bodies etc and as they are more powerful cleaners, they can also be too powerful and cause other issues... IPA is much safer to use for more delicate things.

I have heard that IPA available in the USA can be something like 10% water so if living over there one has to check the grade of the IPA before one buys the product to ensure that it is as close to 100% IPA as one can get.
Of course if one is buying an inferior type product that contains water etc then one is far more likely to have issues.... So if someone who can only obtain the inferior product does a review they will be less impressed and report on corrosive issues (The corrosion will usually be due to the water content I am guessing?).

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Re: One disadvantage of IPA for track cleaning

Postby luckymucklebackit » Wed Nov 17, 2021 3:51 pm

Is this what they mean by Polar IPA? :D

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Re: One disadvantage of IPA for track cleaning

Postby Bigmet » Wed Nov 17, 2021 4:29 pm

luckymucklebackit wrote:Is this what they mean by Polar IPA?

Plenty of polar solvents inside both the can and a polar bear. 8)

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Re: One disadvantage of IPA for track cleaning

Postby Someone » Wed Nov 17, 2021 7:13 pm

Bigmet wrote:
Someone wrote:A lot of people use Isopropyl alcohol for track cleaner, while it is alright for track cleaning it isn't the best, the reason being because it's polar.

Here's a quote from a science article I read.

IPA is a polar solvent. The hydroxyl group of the IPA molecule has a significant separation of electrical charge, in effect giving it both a positive and negative end. The electrically charged “end” of the molecule will attract those soils that are composed of molecules or ions that are themselves electrically charged


Using IPA cleans the track but the positively charged molecules may get into micro cracks on the rail services overtime and can cause corrosion inside those cracks.

Water is also a polar solvent, and you would be dead if there was no water vapour present in the air, so the rail and everything else always has a polar solvent acting on it. Occasionally adding a little IPA, or Ethanol/Methanol (Aka Methylated spirit) to that constant action will make diddly-squat difference to the state of the rail attributable to the action of a polar solvent.

This claim regarding IPA is typical horseshit use of 'science', true but irrelevant. I would look very closely at the source of that information to see what they are attempting to sell...

As far as I know, there selling IPA. :D
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