My house has exterior roller shutters operated by a manual crank inside (right pic). But operating it created a lot of squeaking noise from the crank handle so I used a few drops of fine-mechanic oil to lubricate. Problem solved -- but now it's dirty (left pic) and it keeps getting dirty again every time I wipe it clean.

Evidently I should not have used oil here. How can I correct my mistake?

It seems the mix between the combination of plastic tubes (handles) around metal shafts caused the squeaking, but adding oil to that combo creates "dirt" = a very thin black greasy substance that is easily wiped away yet reappears within a day or two (we operate these daily).

I wonder how I can:

  • remove the oil to stop this problem, and
  • add something else to prevent it from happening again?

Important update:

  • I neglected to mention that this is a brand new system; the house was built last summer so there can't be years of dirt. I think it must be a phenomenon about the materials.
  • Also, the crank doesn't seem to be removable. I can't tell how it's put together but there are no visible screws.

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  • 1
    Probably any oil or grease you use will cause dirty to stick. Your best bet would probably be dry silicone spray.
    – Tester101
    Jul 19, 2014 at 11:32
  • That dirt likely results from wear on the joint during all the years it was not lubricated. Flushing the joint w a solvent, or repeated flexing and cleaning should get it all out of there. Jul 19, 2014 at 12:03
  • Dry teflon (PTFE) spray would (after cleaning) be my lubricant of choice here - if you don't find it at a hardware store, look for it at a bicycle shop. Usually costs less at the hardware store, though.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 19, 2014 at 16:39

2 Answers 2


The oil that you applied to the crank joints is doing several things.

  • Foremost it has eliminated the dryness in the joints that led to the squeaking.
  • It is flushing out the years worth of wear dust and particulate that collected in the joints from operating them without lubrication.
  • Oil present on the joints now will be a magnet for new dust and dirt from the area nearby the crank rod, although this is a relatively minor issue.

The primary factor that is leading to the 'dirtyness' is the second point above. So you may want to look into thoroughly cleaning joints with something that can penetrate into the wear areas and flush out all the old crud. This could be achieved by either removing the crank and moving it to a convenient work are or done in place. If you remove the crank you may get effective results by soaking and working the moving parts in a bath of warm soapy water. If done in place you may have luck with using a penetrating type cleaner that comes in a spray can with a nozzle tube. (Note that if you spray in place hold the rod and joint in an old cloth or rag so the spray does not get all over everything else nearby).

Once the joints are nice and clean you have any number of options for lubricating the joints for smooth operation. Using the oil again is an option but it would take a very small amount. A dry lubricant such as a silicon spray may work well if applied right down into the joints with a nozzle tube. The key to the lubrication is to eliminate or significantly reduce the wear on the moving parts.


You may have to take them down and disassemble them if possible to thoroughly clean. You could probably use about any standard cleaner. Then you could use grease instead of oil to lightly lubricate the metal or inside the plastic before reassembly. You can find various greases in an auto shop or auto section of a larger store. You may like Permatex White Lithium Grease.

EDIT Even though it is new it probably came with slightly "dirty" parts. Metal parts are inherently dirty after processing. I see there are pins holding the pieces together and everything is probably just pressed together. Obiously, you can try flushing it with solvent or degreaser. I see that people like the longer answer posted after mine even though it says essentially the same thing. Anyone want to help me out with an up-vote?

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