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What’s The Best Method For Cleaning Track?

Jim asks:

What is the best method to clean track other than a track eraser?

16 Responses to What’s The Best Method For Cleaning Track?

  • Dale Arendssays:

    You are going to get many varied answers. Some people use 70% alcohol on a lint-free cloth; some use other cleaning agents. Personally, I liked using alcohol in a track cleaning car like the Tomix or Bachmann cars.Be aware that they should be heavy so it may require extra loco power to move it around the layout.

  • Don Cheekssays:

    I use a track cleaning car from IHC. I fill it with alcohol and it has a lint free pad attached to the bottom. I use an 8 wheel drive Athern diesel to pull it.

  • Herveysays:

    This question has been asked numerous times and I always answer the same way. The best “machine” is the CMX Clean Machine Car. It is heavy and is better pulled by a consist of two four wheel drive locos or one heavy six wheel drive loco. One of the best and safest liquids to use in this cleaner (or any other machine that uses a liquid) is mineral spirits.I use the odorless kind. Mineral spirits is much better than most liquids because its molecular structure reduces the electrical arcing at the pick-up wheels that causes most of the crud that dirties your wheels and interferes with smooth operation of your trains.
    Avoid using abrasive tools as much as possible. They do clean the rail, but in the process they scratch the rail. Those scratches are great places for the crud to catch and accumulate.
    I do as I outlined in the first paragraph and my 250+ ft layout needs to be cleaned once every 6 to 8 months.

  • Stevensays:

    I don’t have a track cleaning car and I use paper coffee filters dipped in in a comerical track ckeaning fluid , I was told coffee filters are better then cloth , less lickly to got lint or thread stuck to the track . I also have used a piece of cork glued to a small piece of wood attached toa stick that pivots and use this for cleaning in my tunnels .and i use these 2 methods for all my track , O , HO , N and Z scale .
    I have some Standard Gauge track thats from the 1920s that had a lot of corrosion , and I used a rubber track eraser to get the worst of the corrosion off and followed that with track cleaning fluid .

    • David Stokessays:

      ,” I was told coffee filters are better then cloth” Steven, I know that this is not a Grammar Lesson, but you really meant to say , “I was told coffee filters are better THAN cloth”,didn’t you?

      So many English speakers, from the USA, Australia and even England get this wrong.

      • Stevesays:

        Needless to say I wasn’t paying attention in class that day 60 ? some years ago . I nust of been thinking about playing with trains
        did I get the question mark right ?

  • Garthsays:

    No one will believe this but ATF (automatic transmission fluid) is the answer. A drop on each track about 2m apart is all that is required. Too much will result in wheel slipping but thsi will go away as the trains spread the ATF around the track. I was very sceptical but tried it and I have now not cleaned my track for 6 months.

    • Bill Morrisonsays:

      I have also found ATF works well in not only cleaning the track, but the locomotive wheels and pickups as well. At first, I used a bit too much, soaking my track cleaning car, then changed to just dabbing a bit on a 1″ portion of the track with a Q-tip. Application: 1″ every 5′ or so, then run an old loco around the track 5+ laps and done.

  • David Stokessays:

    I find old singlets (vests, undershirts) of cotton, dampened with alcohol (methylated spirits or iso propylene) good for a general clean, wrapped over the index finger and dragged along the rails works well.

  • Franksays:

    I use a block of mdf wood cut to fit under a wagon. Stick two that washers minus the washer to the off. Drill two holes through floor and position between trucks. The weight of the washers is enough to keep pressure of the track. Just run with other wagons. Use alcohol 90% for stubborn marks. Don’t clean track physically just let wagon do the job. Best part is its cheap and replaceable.

  • George lewissays:

    ATF or WD 40 are excellent cleaners Synthetic ATF is better but not a prerequisite. Too much will attract dust Try a little…you can always add more.

  • mikesays:

    I have used alcohol, ATF fluid (which ends up gumming the loco gears), also some special cleaner sold just for track cleaning purposes, a couple brands. I use a CMX car (at great expense) and it works ok, hard to get set up. I like using hand methods best, i bolted a pink school house eraser on to a paint stir stick and cut a strip of old t shirt and just spray a little cleaner on the tip and run in back and forth over a short section of track, painful and time consuming, but it beats messing with all the other stuff.

  • Joe deBysays:

    Many many years ago I was steered onto using Wahl oil. It’s a conducting oil used on hair clippers and I find a drop or two on locomotive drive wheels not only makes them run better it leaves a fine film on track. I’ve been around so long most of my track is brass rail spiked onto Atlas fibre tie-strip. Most turnouts are Atlas brass live-frog. Makes wiring so much easier.

  • Morgan Bilbosays:

    My take on this is: I’m cheap. I like simplicity – K.I.S.S. So, Wipe rail tops with acetone. I had used alcohol, but it wasn’t cleaning enough. The acetone cleans a little better. It may damage plastic, so I use a micro brush and carefully wipe the rails, getting the inside edges as best I can. Then, try to run trains/cars/etc as often as you can. Then, you need do the wipe only occasionally. After wiping, I then use another micro brush and spread a bit of graphite every here and there. You don’t need to spread graphite all along, just every foot or so, a inch of graphite. Use your cars to spread the graphite along. Now – you should be all set. If I see a need, I spread a bit more graphite once a week or so. All this helps me keep from “wiping” too often. I never use abrasive. A rubber eraser may be used – extremely rare. If there’s some kind of gunk. But if you operate fairly often, gunk don’t get a chance.
    When I first built the layout, I had put the track spread on newspaper and sprayed brown. Immediately wiping the rails before it dried. And as I laid the track, using caulk, and after it had pretty much cured so the track wouldn’t move. I wiped with alcohol. That was initially.
    Yes, ATF and mineral spirits all work. But are they readily available? Acetone is nail polish remover and no, I don’t use chemically pure acetone. That’s a bit too strong. And alcohol that is used was the cheapest 70% I could buy. Graphite I had was from pencils. Back when drafting, I had pencils that you sharpened but were not wood, so the graphite I use is just what came off the lead. Also, I did use a magnet to be sure it’s not magnetic in any way. And some say you can get graphite from a crafts store. There. I’ve said my peace! Or is it piece?

    • Frank Bsays:

      Hi Morgan, what is your purpose in using graphite ? It will not stop corrosion, and it will reduce traction. Graphite’s only use is as a lubricant where oil is not suitable.

  • Morgan Bilbosays:

    To be honest, Frank. I had only heard about it. Tried it. And it seems to improve conductivity. The only place I know of that it might be a problem is on grades. I have no grades. And I operate only short trains. So, you might test it on a grade and see if it makes any difference. I just know that I had the graphite handy and tried it. I like it. I don’t have to clean track anywhere near as often as I did before using graphite. Maybe after a month or so, if I think my wheels are getting a bit darker, I will re-clean with acetone and reapply graphite. But that’s only if I think I need it. Bottom line is that it’s relatively cheap, easily obtained/I’ve heard Michaels has a graphite pencil that is ideal. And I will add as I stated above. Use it sparingly. You are not trying to stop corrosion. And used sparingly, I don’t see how it could affect traction in a large way.

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