The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Winch-Cleaning Solvent

I have always cleaned winches with kerosene, but I hate the smell and I’m guessing that breathing the vapours for hours is not good for us.

So last winter I tried this water-based degreaser from WD-40, even though I don’t like or use their spray lubricant.

The stuff really works. After a good soak the old grease came right off. No smell, and probably better for the environment, although we did take the used stuff to a hazardous waste drop-off.

Is it the best water-based degreaser? Who knows…or cares. It was available at the local hardware store and solved (ouch) my problem.

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James Greenwald

On this subject as a competitive road cyclist I have found a number of products for winch cleaning and maintenance. #1 Finish Line Citrus Degreaser Bicycle Degreaser, #2 Phil Wood Tenacious Oil and #3 Phil Wood 3-Ounce Grease Tube. A fraction of the cost from say Lewmar products and far superior.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
WD40 does the job, but over the time it takes to do multiple winches, it might be hard on the hands and skin. I am also often doing the job inside (during the winter or on a rainy day) so fumes can be a problem.
Decades ago, I started using lamp oil (aka paraffin). One can pour a cup or so in a disposable aluminum meat loaf pan (big for the big parts and small for the bits and pieces) and work on them with an old toothbrush.
The oil is surprisingly easy on the hands and the oil I buy is unscented and basically fume-less and is quite inexpensive.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Bob Buck

I use an ultrasonic parts cleaner with a mix of Simple Green and water. Works great, easy, no fumes, and probably relatively environmentally friendly.

Marc Dacey

Just as an aside, WD-40 makes a product called Bike Dry Chain Lube that is cheaper than the specialty bike store products like Tri-X and does a pretty good job, if, like us, you bring bicycles aboard to shop ashore in various state of disassembly. Available at Crappy Tire.