How to Clean a Bike Chain: Find Out in this Guide

The chain may not be as big as the wheels or the frame, but it is one of the most important parts of the bike. Therefore, you should pay attention to care and maintenance. With this, the rest of this post tackles the basics of how to clean a bike chain on your own.

Cleaning the bike chain is important not only for aesthetics but also for its performance and durability. The dirt on the chains can negatively affect the bike in many ways. It wears the chain faster, impairs shifting performance, and reduces the flexibility of the link. It can even compromise your safety.

Luckily, you don’t have to exert a lot of effort to maintain your chains. Read on and learn from some of the tips we’ll share.

Table of Contents

How to Clean a Bike Chain

Ready to start cleaning your bike chain? As you will learn in this post, this is a task that is easy to do for almost anyone.

Clean the Work Area

The first thing you need to do is to find a place where you will do the cleaning. Ideally, this should be outdoors and in an area that is well-ventilated to ensure your comfort. The garage or the basement can also be good choices. Once you found the area where to work, put newspapers on the surface to avoid dirt on the floor.

Prepare the Materials

After cleaning the area, prepare the materials that you will need. Most of these materials are readily available on the garage.

Some of the materials that you will need in cleaning the bike chain include the following:

  • Bike stand

  • Alcohol
  • Rag
  • WD-40

  • Toothbrush
  • Tub or pan
  • Lubricant

Inspect the Chain

Before you start cleaning the chain, set the bike in an upright position. It is best to use a bike stand to keep it steady and to make it easier for you to work. A quick inspection will let you know if the chain already needs cleaning. If it is heavily-damaged, cleaning might not suffice. It might require a replacement.

When Do You Need to Clean the Chain?

As you inspect the chain, pay attention to whether or not cleaning is needed. Ideally, if you bike regularly, you need to clean the chain at least once a week. If not, pay attention to the extent of its use. It is best to have it cleaned once after riding 200 kilometers.

Clean the Chain

Now, let us go to the main part of this post and let’s discuss the specific steps on how to clean a bike chain.

First, apply alcohol directly on the chain and wipe it off the surface using a rag or clean cloth. Slowly pedal the bike while cleaning the chain to make sure that all parts will be reached. In most cases, this is all that it takes to clean the bike chain, provided that there is only light dirt and grime. Otherwise, the bike needs deep cleaning.

Aside from cleaning the chain with alcohol, you can also use WD-40. It has a red straw attached to the cannister, which will come handy when it comes to its direct application. Spray the solvent and wipe the chain.

For a more thorough cleaning of the chain, use a toothbrush. Dip it in a solvent before brushing the chain. The good thing about using a toothbrush is that it reaches the parts of the chain that cannot be cleaned with the use of a rag alone.

In some instances, it will be best to remove the chain from the bicycle before you clean it. This is the case if the dirt is too thick and if the steps mentioned above are not enough. With this, once the chain has been removed, all that you need to do is to have it soaked in a degreaser. In a tub or pan, pour your choice of degreaser. Add a degreaser, solvent, or hot water. Soak the chain. Remove it from the pan and wipe the chain. You can also use a brush for more detailed cleaning. After scrubbing the chain, return it to the cleaning solution, remove, and dry using a clean cloth.

If you have removed the chain and you need to return it, make sure that you apply a lubricant. This is important to preventing it from hardening and being difficult to remove in the future. However, not all lubricants can prove to be the best.  Choose a lubricant that is made specifically for bikes. It is also best to choose one that is Teflon-based.

A quick tip about the use of lubricants – do not use the bike immediately after the application of a lubricant. You should wait for at least a couple of hours before your ride, making sure that the lubricant will penetrate. Otherwise, the lube will be useless.

On or Off the Bike?

Above, we discussed how to clean a bike chain both when it is on and off the bike. But which one is the better option? The traditional practice is to remove the bike chain. However, this may no longer be necessary these days. Even when the chain is on the bike, you can perform deep cleaning. If you will ask us, we prefer doing it on the bike. This spares you from the need to remove and return the chain.

There are innovative products that you can use when cleaning the bike without removing the chain. With the use of a chain-cleaning device, the degreaser will penetrate all parts of the chain while it is on the bike.

The problem about removing the chain is not only that it is tasking, but it can also be a complicated job for most, especially for novices. It is even more difficult to return the chain in its original position

Wrap Up

As discussed, cleaning your bike chain is an easy task. You do not need to be an expert to do it right. So, inspect your chain and follow the steps mentioned above if it needs cleaning. This will ensure its optimal performance and safety.