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Cleaning Saw Blades

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Cleaning Saw Blades

Cleaning Saw Blades, Router Bits, & other Carbide Tools 

It is important you clean saw blades and other carbide tools regularly as pitch, glues and other materials can build up and severely effect cutting tool performance.  It is also essential that the carbide and the steel tool bodies be cleaned before brazing or welding. 

The question comes up as to what is the best cleaner.  Below are some sugestions as to what cleaners work best for cleaning saw blades.  The information is from my own research and from a discussion among professional saw shops.  I have separated the results for the best cleaners by Sawfiler Opinion, Test Results, and Internet Users on woodworking forums.  Take a look at the results below.  Also take a look at our article- Do Cleaners harm Saw Tips, or refer back to the Saw Blade Index for more articles.





 Sawfiler Opinions 

Victor Da silva

I came up with the tank cut in half & water heater element years ago, except I used an old  galvanized pressure tank, which had thicker walls. I use Saw Kleen, distributed by J Tool Express, which, according to the manufacturer, works better when heated. Heating any solution will help soften the pitch & gum, making it easier to brush off. 

That being said, I eventually moved up to an ultrasonic tank, which really works great. I still use the Saw Kleen and heat it to about 175 degrees. Brand new units can be costly, although they are a great investment. I searched E Bay for a few weeks until I found a unit that could handle 12" blades laid down or 14" stacked on an angle. I put my saw blades on a galvanized carriage bolt with washers in between and can fit several stacks in at the same time. Nasty old chain saw blades have the gunk brush right off and the hose takes care of the rest. 

Bob Cook

You can buy sodium hydroxide/Lye at most janitorial supply houses in 50 # bags for around $2.00 a pound. A stiff wire hanger suspending each individual saw blade from a rod across the top of the open drum will allow you to soak more saw blades at a time without the weight when removing them. A good machine coolant concentrate in the rinse water will let you drip dry the blades without rusting. 

Mr Neil Franklin, Marietta Saw

Removing residue on plastic and Corian-cutting blades. I use a very concentrated solution of NaOH (sodium hydroxide) to loosen it, and then wearing long rubber gloves, I scrub the blades with a stiff plastic bristle scrub brush. What doesn't break loose with that procedure, I'll hit with a wire wheel on a bench grinder. 

Rob Rzasa, Equipment Ltd.

We have a very good machine that will clean all types of blades and tools. We offer an ultrasonic tool cleaner in two sizes, one for saws up to 16" and another unit for saws up to 26", both machines will clean in excess of 24 to 36 blades at a time in about 5 to 7 minutes. 

The easiest thing to find is: Red Devil Lye. A 16oz bottle costs about $ 4.00, we used to get it at Lowes but not every store carries it. The last time we bought some, we got it at Home Depot. 

David Farris

I just ordered a drum of powder from ZEP with product number 9878 and is called heavy duty vat stripper and it says that heating the mixture works best. 

Stan, Aksarben Saw & Tool, Inc.

I too use a solution of sodium hydroxide, however maybe not strong enough.  Then we wash with soap and water, clean the edges, and polish the plate. 

R.S. Ponton, ICE

Cut a 52gal steel drum around its "belly" forming 2 half tanks.  One is used as a cold water rinse tank and the other is used as a heated sodium hydroxide (NaOH) soak tank. 

The NaOH soak tank is constructed as follows: Purchase a 220V hot water heater heating element at a hardware store.  It must be the straight type, a not folded-over type.  Mount it into the side of the tank at the bottom. 

Drill random holes in a length of pipe which is long and large enough to cover the exposed length of the heating element inside the tank.  This pipe serves as a physical protection guard for the heating element when sawblades are immersed into the tank.  Mount it inside the tank at the bottom covering the exposed heating element.  Wire the 220V heating element through a standard wall mount light switch and connect to a 20Amp 110V outlet. 

Fill the tank with water and add about 6lbs of NaOH.  Exercise care because NaOH is a very strong organic solvent. 

The heating element can be left on all day and it will not overheat.  No regulating thermostat is necessary because the element is 220V but powered by 110V, it provides an ideal soak bath temperature.  It is advisable to switch-off the heater at night and on weekends.  The heating element typically lasts about 5-6 years before needing replacing. 

After a 5 minute soak in the heated NaOH tank, gummed sawblade are quickly cleaned.  The worst gummed sawblades might require a few light strokes with a plastic bristle brush. 

Add water and NaOH as necessary to maintain a full tank and a saturated solution.  Change the solution periodically as residue accumulates in the tank.  The solution can be dumped down the drain because it is the equivalent of Drano(tm) and should contain no hazardous products. 

A handy "carrier" for holding the sawblades being cleaned can be fabricated as follows:  Bend a 24" length of 3/8" steel rod or "all-thread" into an "L" shape with the foot of the "L" about 4" long to serve as a handle.  Weld the straight end vertically in the center of a steel plate about 1/4"T x 1-1/2"W x 6"L.  This carrier provides a simple means of containing a stack of sawblades while immersing them into the soak tank, the rinse tank, etc. 

Stan, Aksarben Saw 

Our shop does not heat the mixture.  I use heavy rubber tubs used for livestock, big enough to lay 18" blade in the bottom. (Local farm supply store) I made a rod for holding the blades out of 1/2" rod with a threaded end on one end and a small plate welded to the other end.  (about 16" long) I made T handle that screws to the theaded end. As we stack the blades on the rod we space each blade with 2" washers made of plastic mud flaps (Local truckstop gives them to us free) This whole arrangment is stored in a lockable cabinet. 

Ed Bissell

For information only you might want to be careful what you put down your drain. Several issues to consider;

1.   What is it going to do about the working bacteria system of your septic tank.

2.  Is your system large enough to handle the volume your going to put in.

3.  Last but most important, anything you discharge from your shop is considered industrial waste and must be disposed of properly. Big EPA problem if not handled correctly.

TSP (Tri Sodium Phosphate)

Marty at Carbide saws, Inc. in High Point, NC sent Emily a sample of this with a great drawing just in case Emily didn’t know how to scrub saw blades.   They mix 1 pound per five gallons and really like the results.


Test Results 

Dip Tanks

There are a variety of chemical preparations available.  Oakite #3 is a product that was recommended to us.  It is effective on oxides and scale as well as oil and grease.  Oakite is in New Jersey at 908 464-6900. 

Pretty well any strong caustic solution from a janitorial supply will work.  The problem with caustics is the danger. Hot caustic can burn skin and eyes.  Working with a dip tank can make the danger much worse. 

Caustic is popular and effective so we tested Easy off oven cleaner in spray can as well as “Oven & Grill Cleaner” from our local janitorial supply house. 

Citrus based

We have been hearing good things about these so we tested a couple.  We tested two; Citrus from Orange Fresh and Orange Clean from Orange Clean

We also tested 409 as well as Simple Green and Brakleen 




$ / oz


Health Risk

Citrus - spray bottle

Orange fresh

$32.76 for 4 - 1 gal. bottles




Citrus - spray bottle

Orange fresh

$32.64 for 12 - 32 oz. trigger spray bottles 




Caustic - spray bottle

Easy Off

$53.40 for 4 - 1 gal. bottles






$45.59 for 12 - 32 oz. trigger spray bottles 




Orange Clean

Orange fresh

$74.99 for 4 - 1 gal. bottles or 516 oz.




Caustic - spray can

Easy Off

$33.60 / case of 6 @ 24 oz.




Simple Green

Simple Green

$70.36 for 12 - 24 oz. trigger spray bottles 




Brake Cleaner - Spray Can

CRC Brakleen

$74.88 for 12 - 19 oz. spray cans





One stood out for being really horrible: Brakleen is far and away the most expensive.  It is the worst cleaner, it causes cancer and it can explode.  This is a great product for getting in very tight spaces and dissolving greases and other packed crud.  However this is not what we are doing with Carbide Tool cleaning.  We want to dissolve a thin layer of light materials on a flat surface.

We tested the sprays with a 2 second spray and 8 wipes.  We tested the liquids by holding the towel over the top of the bottle and tipping it to soak a patch on the towel and then giving that 8 wipes. 

The cheap oven and grill cleaner was far and away the best cleaner followed by the Easy Off then the orange cleaners (no real difference among them).  The 409 and Simple Green were not as effective and Brakleen was the worst at cleaning.



Brakleen is Carcinogenic as well as having other problems.  All the rest cause skin and eye irritation.  It looks like the caustic might be worse than the citrus which might be worse than the 409 and Simple Green.  All recommend gloves and goggles.  Aprons are a good idea and some recommend them.  Brakleen mentions a respirator (not just a mask) if there is a possibility that the exposure limits maybe exceeded.

Basically the stronger they clean the more likely they are to irritate skin.  Skin has oil sort of like any other oil so this makes sense. 


1.  For best cleaning use a strong caustic such as an oven and grill cleaner.

2.  Avoid brand names.   Most of the extra ingredients are to make it easier to spray.  You also get butane as a propellant and spraying butane in a saw shop doesn’t sound like a good idea.

3.  We know one very good shop that uses an orange cleaner and likes it because they don’t have to rinse it off.   Caustic compounds can be a bit hard to rinse.

4.  Buy concentrate and mix your own.   You can drop your cost in half and you can get the mixture you wish. 

Saw Users on the Internet

I did an Internet search.  Here are recommended cleaners in alphabetical order.  All of these have people who strongly favor them.  Many have people who oppose them.  Some I would not use for health or safety reasons.  All can be dangerous.  For MSDS info check 

Note: These are for uncoated blades.  If your blade has a Teflon or other plastic coating the strong caustics, such as oven cleaner, can remove that coating.   



Pro Pride Heavy Duty Cleaner Degreaser' from 'Smart and Final'


Arm & Hammer washing SODA

Black Maxx


Boeshield Bit and Blade cleaner


brake fluid

bug and tar removers for cars

Castrol degrease

Castrol Super Clean

citrus-based cleaner

CMT Formula 2050

Dawn dishwashing detergent

Dawn Power Dissolver

De-Solve it

Dish Soaps (For a Dishwasher)

Do All machinery cleaner

Empire Blade Saver


Fast Orange hand cleaner

Freud fresolv(?)

Fume Free Easy Off Oven Cleaner


Goo Gone

Goof off


Greased Lightning

Hand Soaps

Hand Washing Dish Soaps

Hot tap water and a nylon brush


Krud Cleaner from HD

LA's Awesome Original Cleaner and Degreaser (undiluted)


Lye - a half teaspoon of lye and a drop of detergent in a quart of water


Mean Green

methyl hydrate

Mild Detergents

mineral spirits, but will use Naptha, Acetone, Toluene or gasoline if that's all I have.

most degreasers or citrus cleaners

Mr. Clean


Oil Eater

Orange Glow

Oven cleaner works well too

OxySolv, from Woodworker's Supply

Purple power

Rocklers cleaning kit


Scrubbing bubbles bathroom cleaner

Simple Green

Simple Green Xtreme


spray carburetor cleaner

Spray Nine

strong coffee for long term soaking

Sudsy ammonia

TSP or tri sodium phosphate


Washing Soda

water - just soak the overnight in a pan of water then scrub with a soft bristle brush.


Woodcraft Resin Remover

Zep Purple