I realize there is plenty of information out there on different ways of cleaning. I don't want to rehash everything here, unless the general consensus is that it would be helpful. But to provide a bit of background, perhaps it would be helpful to summarize just a bit before I ask my REALLY specific questions.
There seem to be three main approaches:
1) Use a citrus-based degreaser/cleaner or a detergent/surfactant like dishwashing liquid, either with or without diluting it in water. Dry and re-lube before rust sets in.
2) Use a solvent (for example, mineral spirits, a.k.a. paint thinner or "white spirits") and then some sort of alcohol to disperse and remove the solvent. Dry and re-lube.
3) You mean you actually CLEAN your bearings? What are you, some kind of a freak? Just buy some new bearings, ya moron!
I will disregard #3 and focus on #1 and #2.
One of the most-cited cleaning methods I've seen is from Powell Corp., the manufacturer of Bones bearings, at http://www.bonesbearings.com/gap/maintenance.html
Some selected quotes from Bones article, which are echoed in other how-to articles:
AndCitrus base cleaners usually work, but may leave a slight residue. Solvents are dangerous to use, but often do a better job of cleaning very dirty bearings.
So, finally, here are my questions:Some solvents we have tested that will do a good job are: Gumout® carburetor cleaner (found in auto parts stores) is easy to use and cleans well; kerosene, acetone or lacquer thinner (found in hardware stores) clean well. All these solvents are very flammable, and should be used with great care, so be careful and don’t use them around any flame or spark. If you are using a solvent cleaner, please use rubber gloves, a metal container, in a safe, well ventilated area. When you are finished, remember to dispose of your solvent in a safe, ecologically sound manner. (my emphasis, not Bones'.)
If citrus-based cleaners leave a residue (let's assume that they do), what kind of residue is it? And can it be removed (say, for example, with denatured alcohol), or is it somehow permanent? (And if so, does it make the bearings slower or harm them somehow?)
It seems a bit easier and less toxic to use something like dishwashing liquid, which would dissolve the old grease and gunk and could safely be washed down the drain. As long as you dry and re-lube the bearings quickly afterwards, you're home free, right? Well, apparently not. Rockin' Ron Foster of www.californiabearing.com has told me that using a surfactant destroys or reduces the "wettability" of the steel (which means, in practical terms, the ability for lubricant to function properly). Again, my question is: If using a surfactant leaves a residue or impedes wettability, is the effect permanent or harmful? Or can a quick bath in some other liquid remove the residue and restore that wettability?
So, is there really a safe, ecologically sound way of disposing of gunk-filled mineral spirits or denatured alcohol? Can citrus/surfactant residues be removed? Or should I simply revert to technique #3 mentioned above?