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  • Fuel Bottle Cleansing.

    I disposed of white gas that had been in fuel bottles for more than 10 years. I have read that the bottles should be cleansed of the varnish and gum that has surely formed and is sticking to the sides of the bottles. Paint thinner is what is recommended. After a couple of good rinses with the thinner it is further recommended to scrub the insides of the bottles with very hot soapy water using a stiff-bristled bottle brush.

    For the thinner I have both methyl hydrate and Varsol on hand. Is one better than the other for the job?

    Also, any observations and suggestions would be welcome.
    Thanks!
    The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.

  • #2
    If it says to use "Paint Thinner" I would stick to that.

    "Paint Thinner" from the hardware store is almost always "Low Odor Mineral Spirits":

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paint_thinner

    Methanol ("Methyl Hydrate") is not generally on the list of Paint Thinner ingredients.

    "Varsol" is a brand name that is predominantly composed of Mineral Spirits.

    (Years ago in my career we used a particularly effective solvent blend we called "Ink Remover." It consisted of Mineral Spirits, Methanol, Cyclohexane, Toluene and MEK, if I recall correctly. That would dissolve just about any organic compound.)

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    • #3
      If the varnish is sticking to the container, what harm is is doing? Does it flake or fall off easily? Why not let it stay where it is? It has been there for years. Do you think it will suddenly redissolve and cause problems with your stove when you add new fuel?

      Before I became a serial hiker, I was a chemist specializing in solubility. Some pertinent points to consider:

      * What is the varnish, and what does (does not) it dissolve in? Paint thinner does not make sense since it is also a non-polar hydrocarbon like the fuel (from which the varnish went to the container surfaces). Beginning chemistry students are always taught "like dissolves like".

      *It would be better to try a solvent unlike the fuel or varnish such as an alcohol (methanol or denatured ethanol) or ketone (like acetone). Unfortunately, these solvents are more difficult to find due to environmental regulations (and you are stuck with a full container if it doesn't work).

      * Aqueous materials like acid or alkaline chemicals might react and dissolve the varnish but they should be avoided because of their potential for reaction with the aluminum container. Chlorine bleach is great for coffee pots for example. Aqueous household cleaning agents such as a dishwashing detergent can be a good cleaner for oily residues, but the evidence suggests that the varnish is not an oil since it would not have separated from the fuel in the first place.

      *The hydrocarbon fuel itself is a petroleum distillate which is very chemically stable (mostly free of additives, unlike gasoline which is loaded with stuff). The varnish may be an impurity in the fuel or more likely the result of degradation/reaction of fuel or impurities by pathways such as oxidation or polymerization. If the varnish is a polymer it may be very difficult to remove without using something which would damage the aluminum of the container.

      * Heating the container in an oven, preferably without fuel, might cause chemical or physical change to the varnish. If it dries and flakes off, you might be worse off. The hope is it converts to something which can easily be cleaned out.

      After considering and doing all this, if you are still concerned about possibly harmless varnish on your container, you will probably choose the "nuclear option": throw the bottle in the trash and buy a new container.

      Enjoy your experiments!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by JoeCedar View Post
        If the varnish is sticking to the container, what harm is is doing? Does it flake or fall off easily? Why not let it stay where it is? It has been there for years. Do you think it will suddenly redissolve and cause problems with your stove when you add new fuel?
        The bottles, with tax, are about $30 a pop.

        I have not observed any varnish or other substances that may have precipitated out of the fuel onto the walls of my bottles. I read about it on a few websites that seemed credible. In fact, I have not attempted to peer into the bottles through their narrow mouths but I will take a headlamp and have a go.

        My concern is that refilling the bottles with fresh fuel will cause the varnish et al to redissolve and then gum up the stove, which on a back-packing trip would not be so hot. (haha!)
        The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.

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        • #5
          Gumout carburator cleaner.
          Be careful, don't spread invasive species!!

          When a dog runs at you,whistle for him.
          Henry David Thoreau

          CL50-#23

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          • #6
            How did you dispose of the old white gas? (Molotov cocktail?)
            If that purified fuel was stored in air tight container and wasn't subjected to high temperatures, there is nothing wrong with it, even after decades.

            MSR fuel bottles (that I've seen) don't have a coating on inside, others might vary. It is usually the container / tank coating that dissolves and causes problems.
            Rinse it out with fresh fuel and don't worry, varnish advice is probably for motor vehicle petroleum fuel.

            Do check the O-rings on the fuel bottle caps, those do dry out and crack.
            Cold stove pails in comparison to a hot pack (that caught fire from leaking fuel).
            Feverishly avoiding "a steady stream of humanity, with a view that offers little more than butts, boots, elbows and backsides". (description quote from Joe Hackett)

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            • #7
              I was going to say that I thought white gas was pretty much free of varnish-causing impurities. I have a multi-fuel stove that I have never used anything other than wg and it fires up every time. I bet that stove is close to 30 years old

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              • #8
                Originally posted by timberghost View Post
                How did you dispose of the old white gas? (Molotov cocktail?)
                Didn't you see me at the Capitol on Jan 6? I was wearing a pair of horns.

                Actually, I poured it into my car's gas tank at the rate of 0.5 liters per 50 liters of gas. So far, so good.
                I am not going to bother cleansing out my bottles after reading the replies here. I will refill with fresh gas and run my stove for say, 20 minutes and see what transpires.
                The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Neil View Post
                  Didn't you see me at the Capitol on Jan 6? I was wearing a pair of horns.
                  Too soon...

                  Originally posted by Neil View Post
                  Actually, I poured it into my car's gas tank at the rate of 0.5 liters per 50 liters of gas. So far, so good.
                  I am not going to bother cleansing out my bottles after reading the replies here. I will refill with fresh gas and run my stove for say, 20 minutes and see what transpires.
                  It will surely ruin your car.*

                  Biggest issue I've faced with my very-rarely-used white gas stove is o-rings. Make sure you supervise it for 20 min. Last time I did a test run on a patio I ended up with a small thermal incident.

                  Like an oak or pine, it's designed to burn. Change the o-rings, clean the jet and it should be a champ until it eventually finds itself back in your closet for another 10 years.

                  Also make sure to carry or replace the pump cup and oil it if it's a MSR. They fail and render the stove useless in service.

                  *I'm actually 99.9% sure it will not harm anything in the car.

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