How to Clean Bike Chain: Effective with 10 simple steps

The bike chain is one of the most important parts of a bicycle, but it’s often overlooked.
Keeping your bike chain clean not only allows your bike to be back its former glory but also save grease and dirt from building up, resulting in a long lasting chain. A clean chain will slow down the damage on different bike parts, saving you time, money and troubles.
Read “How To Clean Bike Chain” now to prepare yourself before you clean your bicycle chain!

How to do proper bicycle chain cleaning?

Chain cleaning is an essential part of bike maintenance. It extends the life of the whole drivetrain and can greatly improve shifting and overall drivetrain function.
The first tip in getting a clean chain is to use a degreaser.
Bicycle specifical degreaser is formulated to cut through the thick build up of grime and oil usually found on most bicycle chains.
The second tip is to use a chain cleaner.
In addition to the chain cleaner and solvent, you will need rags, soap and water, apron and rubber gloves.
If you are inside, protect the surface you are working on. If you are outside, consider spraying water on the concrete to make grease and contaminants easier to clean up later.

How to clean bicycle chain
How to clean the bicycle chains?

Here are the steps to help you know deep clean it:

  • Put the bike in a repair stand
  • Rotate the bike so the lower section of the chain is level
  • Shift to the smallest cog in the front and rear. If you have a dummy hub, remove the wheel and install a dummy hub. A dummy hub is recommended but not required. It will add chain slack and keep the loosen contaminants away from the wheel and components
  • Attach the chain cleaner to the lower section of chain. Make sure the chain fully seats into the brushes.
  • Fill the chain cleaner with a solvent to the fill line
  • Slowly pedal backward. Pedal at least 30 revolutions.
  • Remove the chain cleaner and empty the solvent into a container. Once the contaminants have settled, the solvent on top can be reused.
  • Rinse out the chain cleaner and refill with spray water.
  • Repeat the process of installing the chain cleaner and running the chain through until the chain if thoroughly rinsed. When you are cleaning the chain, it is a good idea also to clean the other components of the drivetrain.
  • Wipe off the chain by running it through a clean, dry rag and leave the chain to air dry or blow it off with a compressor.

Notes on cleaning bicycle chain:

  • Clean your chain after each trip, especially after riding in the wet.
  • If necessary, use an old toothbrush to clean between the plates.
  • Do not forget the sprockets and the derailleur pulleys.
  • Never use acidic or alkali-based detergents (such as rust cleaners), these agents can damage the chain and may cause breakage.

What to do when you lubricate bike chains?

After cleaning your bicycle chain, it is important that you lubricate it as well.
Before you say that is ridiculous, you’d be amazed by the number of people who get this wrong. So here is how you do it the right way.
You do not really need any tools, you will only need a rag and some oil. Your choice of oil is important, forget about using WD 40, GTA5, TF2. All those kinds of maintenance lubes are great for dispersing water but they do not have any lasting lubricating properties that you need on your chain.
Basically in the winter when it’s wet, you need to use a wet lube. In the summer, some kinds of dry lubes that will evaporate is used. And when you use them, make sure you give them a proper shake before you apply them.
There will be lots of different ingredients in the oil and it’s always easier to use a bottle. Spray can get lube everywhere. If you’ve got disc brakes on your bike, they can contaminate your bike pads, make a big mess and waste oil.
What we aim to lubricate is the inside of the roller of the chain. The outside of the chain does not need any lubrication. The only benefit of oil on the is to help prevent it from corroding.

How to lube bike chain
How to lube the bicycle chain

Now, this is how you do the job:

  • Use the chain lube and add a drop of lube to each individual rivet
  • Take a clean dry rag, backpedal to wipe off any excess lube. This will prevent dirt from collecting on your drivetrain.
  • Remove the dummy hub and reinstall the wheel.

How often should you clean and lube it?

Chains are a consumable part of the bicycle’s drivetrain. As you bike on the miles, your bike’s chain will wear out.

How often to clean bike chain
How often to clean it?

A lot of people have very strong beliefs about looking after their chain and it is also possible to overthink things. In terms of trying to eek another couple of hundred kilometers of life out of your chain, maybe it’s not worth getting obsessed about.
As a rule, re-lube your chain if it starts to get dry and noisy. And then in terms of decreasing, you need to see what kind of condition the chain is inside the links, between the rollers cause that’s where a chain will get worn.
If it is true that a clean bike is a happy bike, a bike would be utterly despondent by how dirty its chains are. So it is a good rule to clean your bicycle chain thoroughly around once a month if you ride regularly.
If you do not clean and lube your BC, it will wear out quickly. So remember to keep your chain clean and nicely lubed then you are ready to go out and hit the road.