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How to clean a bike chain (5 easy steps)

In this article, you will learn what a bike chain is, when to clean a bike chain, and 5 easy steps on how to clean a bike chain so it lasts longer.

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If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give your bike chain much thought. After all, it’s just some oil and grease that gets onto the sprockets and works its way around the bike. However, if you want your bike to last longer and function more smoothly, you must clean it regularly. But how does one go about cleaning a bike chain?

In this article, you will learn what a bike chain is, when to clean it, and how to clean it, so it lasts longer.

A degreaser and a brush will be required to clean a bike chain. Fill a spray bottle with a degreaser and spray it on the chain. Remove all the dirt and grease from the chain. Next, brush the chain using the brush’s soft bristles. Wear gloves if you have oil on your hands and are handling the chain. But how do you clean a bike chain?

A dirty bike chain. Source: mustachescactus gsoh, unsplash
A dirty bike chain. Source: Mustachescactus Gsoh, Unsplash

What is a bike chain?

A bike chain comprises a series of links, mostly made up of side plates, pins, and rollers. Each link contains two side plates that are joined together by rivets (also known as pins), and a roller sits on the outer link’s shoulder. A separate bushing on either side of the roller is possible in some chains, but these are frequently omitted in current bike chains.

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A joining pin (also known as a “rivet”) can be pushed part-way out of a link using a chain tool, then pushed back into the chain around a link from the chain’s other end to make the chain continuous.

When should you clean your bike chain?

Chains should ideally be thoroughly cleaned after each ride. Unfortunately, few of us have the time to do this, but even a fast wipe with a clean rag may have a significant impact.

How to clean a bike chain (5 easy ways)

Here are five easy ways to clean your bike chain.

  1. Degreasers play an essential role in cleaning a bike chain

    Degreasers should be used not just in the chain but also in the individual components. Scrub the chain, chainrings, and damp wheels well with a brush. A clean chain allows for continued pedaling, whereas a filthy bike causes mental pain. So, after cleaning the drive train components, wait ten minutes and properly wash the bike.

  2. Scrub with soapy water and liquid detergent

    To keep your fingers from being cut and damaged, use a used but clean sponge bathed in liquid detergent or soapy water to scrub up the chain. The ideal method is to pedal back the chain while tightly wrapping the detergent-soaked sponge around the moving chain.

  3. Clean the chain ring teeth thoroughly

    Untreated chain ring teeth will result in a partial or incomplete cleaning. To complete the task, you will need a cleaning brush and floss. First, the chain ring’s sides and in-between gaps should be thoroughly cleaned. Next, apply floss around the gear teeth until they are gleaming.

  4. Rinse off any liquids that have been applied

    Before lubricating your bike, ensure all the cleaning substances have been thoroughly washed away. Unless and until you apply lubricant to your bike chain, the entire process of how to clean a bike chain will be incomplete.

    Degreaser residue will entirely destroy the lubricant’s effect by dissolving it. Use dry and clean clothing to completely rinse the degreaser off the components.

  5. To finish the cleaning process, apply the lubricant

    Ensure all liquids have been blotted and the components are dry to a warm level. Now is the time to apply lubricating oil to each chain link. The best method is to keep the dropper pushed to pour oil while gradually turning the chain one or two times. As a result, the lubrication will suffice to finish the cleaning operation.

Image of a clean bike chain with black backdrop. Kira cheng, unsplash
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Image of a clean bike chain with a black backdrop. Kira Cheng, Unsplash

What are some good degreasers for a bike chain?

Below are some of the best bike chain degreasers for cleaning your drivetrain.

  1. Muc-Off Bio Drivetrain Cleaner
  2. WD-40 Specialist Bike Degreaser
  3. Finish Line Speed Bike Degreaser
  4. Peaty’s Foaming Drivetrain Degreaser
  5. Pedros Pig Juice
  6. Smoove Prep Chain Cleaner
  7. CeramicSpeed UFO Clean Drivetrain

If you want even more tips, watch this video called “How To Get A Perfectly Clean Chain – GCN’s Top Tips For Cleaning Your Drivetrain” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube Channel.

A video called “How To Get A Perfectly Clean Chain – GCN’s Top Tips For Cleaning Your Drivetrain” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube Channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about cleaning bike chains.

Which bike chain cleaner is best?

The Park Tool CG-2.4 Bicycle Chain and Drivetrain Cleaning Kit comes highly recommended. Pedro’s pig II chain cleaner came in second place. Ozzy Outdoors’ bike chain cleaning tool is the cheapest.

How can I make my bike chain last longer?

Proper bicycle chain lubrication not only makes shifting gears easier but also extends the life of the drivetrain. If you are experiencing shifting troubles, you may need a new chain. Replacing the chain at regular intervals will extend the life of the cassette, which is a cluster of sprockets on your bike’s back hub.

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Should I clean my bike chain after every ride?

A clean bike chain is just as crucial as a well-greased one. Chains should ideally be thoroughly cleaned after each ride. Unfortunately, few of us have the time to do this, but even a fast wipe with a clean rag may have a significant impact.

How do I clean my bike chain without removing it?

A tiny cog brush, such as the Park Tool GearClean or Pedro’s ToothBrush, can aid in the cleaning process. Alternatively, pour the soiled chain into a degreaser container and shake vigorously. After cleaning up, carefully rinse with water.

Can you clean a bike chain with soap and water?

Hot water mixed with dish soap, a solvent, or a degreaser can be used. Step 2: Place the removed bicycle chain in the pan or plastic container. Allow one to two minutes for the chain to soak. Then, remove the chain from the cleaning solution.

How do you clean a chain at home?

In a bowl, combine warm water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid, then soak the chain for a few minutes before gently massaging the gold clean with your fingers. Next, rinse the chain with clean water and spread it to dry on a clean tea towel.

How do you clean a bike chain without a degreaser?

Dirt and grease are the most important items to remove from your cycle chain to maintain optimum operation. If you don’t have a chain cleaner or degreaser, dish soap or detergent can work as a substitute. Liquid detergents are more effective than bar soaps and can assist you in scrubbing the dirt away.

Conclusion

The bike chain is one of the most essential components of your bike. Cleaning it regularly will keep it in top shape and safe to ride. So, if you want your bike chain to survive a long time, maintain it properly.

If there is something wrong with the cleanliness of your chain, take a closer look at our article on how to clean a bike chain for guidance on what to do when this occurs.

This article covered what a bike chain is, when to clean it, and the steps to clean it so the bike chain can last a long time. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • A bike chain is made up of a series of links, mostly made up of side plates, pins, and rollers. After each ride, the chains should be thoroughly cleaned.
  • Degreasers help clean a bike chain.
  • The crank on your bicycle is in charge of transferring power to the wheels.
  • The spinning axle, which is supported by friction-resistant bearings, prevents undue wear and strain on all moving parts.
  • A pressure washer can be used to clean bearings.
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So, did we cover everything you wanted to know? Let us know in the comments section below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks about fixed gear bikes. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.

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Author avatar - Bradley Knight
Written By Bradley Knight
As a native New Yorker, Bradley is no stranger to the fixed gear scene. He’s been riding fixed for over ten years. When he’s not on the bike, you can find him practicing his many hobbies including playing guitar, video production, and photography.

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