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How to Clean Your Bike: The Easiest Way to Wash and Maintain Your Bicycle (8 Easy Steps)

Cleaning and washing your bicycle is not as hard as you might think. This guide will teach you how to clean a bike, and lubricate the chain correctly.

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Do you like riding your bike but hate having to clean it? If this describes you, you are not alone. Bicycles may become dirty and oily. But, how do you clean a bike?

To quickly clean a bicycle, you will need a bucket, soap, and water. First, fill a bucket halfway with water and add enough soap to form a sudsy solution. Next, disassemble the wheels and brush the drivetrain. Finally, rinse it with fresh water.

In this article, you will learn why you should keep your bike clean, what equipment you need to clean your bike and the best ways to clean individual parts of your bike so you can keep your steel stallion looking great for years to come.

Image of a dirty fixed gear chain and rear wheel cog. Source: burst
Image of a dirty fixed gear chain and rear wheel cog. Source: Burst

Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 29, 2022, to include additional information about bicycle maintenance.

Before learning how to clean a bike, let’s first understand why you should keep your bike clean.

Why should you keep your bike clean?

Your bike is made up of several moving parts. These parts degrade when exposed to dirt, sand, mud, and other debris. You also need to consider lubricating your parts, not just cleaning them. Lubrication protects moving components from excessive wear caused by friction, keeps them from “freezing up,” and aids in preventing rust and corrosion. Clean your bike regularly if you spend a lot of time riding in wet, muddy conditions or if you ride hard, quickly, and often.

When is it time to clean your bike?

If you touch the chain with your finger and it comes away black and oily, it’s a dead giveaway that needs to be cleaned and lubed. Another symptom is hearing excessive chain noise when pedaling. Also, just use common sense. If it looks dirty, it is.

Consider washing it every few weeks rather than waiting until it gets dirty. This way, you’ll always have something clean and shining to show off! You should also look for any evidence of damage that needs to be repaired, such as scratches and dents.

Image of a muddy white bicycle. Source: markus spiske, unsplash
Image of a muddy white bicycle. Source: Markus Spiske, Unsplash

What equipment do you need to clean your bike?

The equipment needed to clean your bike is described below. These basic things solve the majority of cleaning and lubrication tasks:

  • Clean rags: Keep sufficient of them on hand for chores involving grease, oil, and wax, as well as routine cleaning and drying.
  • Brushes: Use different sizes and shapes to reach hard-to-reach areas and remove filth that rinsing alone cannot. Old toothbrushes are ideal.
  • Water: Water is essential, but take caution. Water from a high-pressure hose can harm delicate bearing systems throughout your bike.
  • Soap: For frame cleaning, use diluted dish soap or a preformulated bike wash cleaner.
  • Degreaser: Gummy items like your bike chain may be cleaned using a bike-specific degreaser (avoid kerosene or turpentine). Choose an environmentally friendly solvent. All solvents must be appropriately disposed of.
  • Chain lubricant: Proper chain lubrication helps to increase the life of your powertrain. Clean chains should always be lubed using bicycle-specific lube oil. Lube comes in two varieties: wet and dry.
    • Wet lube: When biking in wet conditions, wet lube is recommended. It sticks tightly to the drivetrain and is less prone to washing away in bad weather. However, dirt and grit will adhere to it, so be careful to wipe away any leftover lubrication.
    • Dry Lube: In a dry environment, dry lube is best. Dirt and grit stick less to dry lubrication. However, it does rinse off readily if you ride in the rain.
  • Bike stand: This will allow you to work on the bike while standing at a comfortable height. It will also enable you to spin the pedals or remove the wheels to clean all the moving and difficult-to-reach parts. This is certainly not a necessary component, but it is helpful.

You can also check out some of these cleaning kits below to make your life a little easier.

How to clean a bike

Clean bicycles not only look good, but they also function better. In addition, regular washings will save you money on expensive repairs or damage caused by rust or corrosion; it only takes 10-15 minutes to do it properly.

  1. Gather your equipment

    Get all of your equipment laid out and ready to be used. Fill two clean buckets with water and a generous squirt of dish soap.

    Place your bike on a work stand. This brings it up off the ground and makes all the nooks and crannies easier to reach. No work stand? Try hooking the nose of your saddle over a taut clothesline. You won’t need to use either of these methods to clean your bike, but it makes it a little easier. For best results, fully disassemble the bike.

    Don’t mix your buckets, tools, and rags. You don’t want to cover your frame with drivetrain grease. And don’t use an abrasive sponge or brush on your frame. Finally, don’t blast your bike with a high-pressure hose. Water will get into and degrade your bearings.

  2. Remove your wheels.

    Next, remove your wheels. You can insert a chain keeper—a guide for your chain when the cassette is removed—to keep tension on the drivetrain. It’s fine to skip this step if you don’t want to spring for the tool, but using one prevents the chain from folding up on itself or falling off the bike when you try to work on it.

  3. Clean the drivetrain

    Grab your chain cleaning brush and, while still moving the pedals backward, rub the sharp end between the cogs on the cassette to loosen any collected grit. Next, run the chain against the brush’s strong bristles on the other end.

    Clean the chain with a chain cleaning gadget* if you have one. If not, wrap a towel around the chain stay and thoroughly spray the chain and cassette with a degreaser, carefully spinning the pedals backward to circulate the chain. Continue until the chain is dry and clean, then go to a new piece of cloth.

    Allow a few minutes for the lubrication to permeate before wiping off any excess, especially on the chain’s side plates, as extra lube collects dirt.

    If the chain is still dirty, use small droplets of dish soap as lubrication, grab the chain on the rough side of your sponge, and turn the cranks many times.

    Make sure you use a drivetrain brush and don’t use it on any other parts of the bike, especially the brakes—contaminating your braking surface with chain lube can impair performance.

  4. Clean the Wheels

    Scrub around the wheel, hitting the spokes and hub, then flip the wheel to obtain the opposing side. Rinse after repeating on the opposite wheel. Pat everything down with a clean, dry cloth and let it air dry in the sun.

  5. Clean the frame

    Dip a clean, soft sponge into your second (fresh) bucket. Soap up the frame, working your way from front to back, then rinse.

    Wet the bike with a hose or a bucket and sponge to remove the majority of the muck and filth that has accumulated. If you’re using a jet wash, step back or reduce the intensity.

    This is also a good time to clean off any stickers you don’t want on your bike. Check out our guide to removing stickers from your bike.

    Rinse the bike with clean water. Rinse the detergent from the tread. Check that all the dirt has been removed, and if any remains, repeat the rinse process.

  6. Clean the braking surface

    If you have the time and are experiencing gritty braking, examine the brake pads for small particles of embedded metal, pluck them out, then softly file the flat surface of the brake pads. Next, clean your brake pads with the abrasive side of the sponge. Do not get great or lubricant on the pads.

  7. Reassemble your bike

    Grab a dry rag and dry each component. You may also let it air dry. Let the parts dry before putting the bike back together. Once all parts are dry, put your bike back together.

    Then, polish it with PTFE or silicone spray, carefully avoiding contact with any braking components. Then, with a paper towel or gentle cloth, rub it in. This will not only make your bike sparkle, but it will also reduce the amount of filth that will adhere to it on your next ride.

  8. Apply lubricant

    Lubricate the chain when spinning the pedals. It’s easy to overdo it with lubrication, so take it easy. And be careful not to get it on your brake surfaces.

Supply:

  • Degreaser
  • Soap
  • Chain lubrican

Tools:

  • Clean rags
  • Brushes
  • Water
  • Bike stand

How can you clean your bike in an apartment?

If you’re looking to clean your bicycle in an apartment, you can follow most of the steps above, but you won’t be using a bucket of water or a hose. Instead, remove the wheels and place all the parts in the shower and use soap and water to clean the bike. Use the showerhead to your advantage. Then use a damp cloth or sponge to wash the components with soap and water. Finally, rinse everything thoroughly before putting it all back together.

How often should you clean your bike?

Cleaning your bike at least once a month is a good idea. This is especially critical if you cycle in rainy conditions. This can help prevent rust.

Remember that dirt and grime are attracted to water, so riding through puddles or muddy areas will cause the dirt on your bike to look dirty again.

If you want more tips, watch this video called “The 30 Minute Bike Wash – How To Clean & Degrease Your Bike” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube Channel.

A video called “The 30 Minute Bike Wash – How To Clean & Degrease Your Bike” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube Channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about how to clean a bike.

What is the best way to clean your bike?

To clean a bicycle, fill the bucket halfway with water and add enough soap to form a sudsy solution. Remove the wheels, and clean the drivetrain. Using a scrub brush, wipe down the frame. Finally, rinse it with fresh water. Let it dry and lightly lubricate the chain.

What type of sponge should you use to clean your bike?

Several kinds of sponges may be used to clean your bike. The soft sponge is ideal for cleaning delicate surfaces such as spokes and the frame, and the rougher sponge is ideal for cleaning regions that may become too filthy.

What kind of soap should you use to wash your bike?

You can use regular dish soap on your bike. Many mechanics use Dawn dishwashing liquid* because it cleans and cuts grease better than so many other dishwashing soaps.

Can you wash your bike with shampoo?

There’s nothing wrong with washing your bike with shampoo. However, shampoos are less effective than the soap oil used in workshops. Even so, it can get the job done.

How do you dry your bike after washing it?

Air and hand-dry the bike. Run it through a clean, dry towel. The rest of the bike may air dry. However, hand-drying the bike with a towel allows you to capture any soap that was not rinsed off, as well as check the frame and components for any needed maintenance or repairs.

How do you keep your bike from rusting?

Here are five easy things to keep your bike rust-free for life.
1. Do not leave your bike out in the elements. 
2. Regularly wash your bike. 
3. Maintain the lubrication of your bike.
4. Use a fender or frame protection.

Conclusion

Cleaning a bicycle is an ongoing chore that must be done to keep it in excellent shape. You’ll be able to keep your bike in great shape and ride it confidently if you follow these simple tips!

This article covered why you should keep your bike clean, what equipment you need to clean your bike, and how to clean your bike. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Your bike is made up of several moving parts.
  • Keep sufficient of them on hand for chores involving grease, oil, and wax, as well as routine cleaning and drying.
  • Wrap a towel around the chain stay and thoroughly spray the chain and cassette with a degreaser, carefully spinning the pedals backward to circulate the chain.

So, how do you wash your bike? In the shower? Backyard? 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 our full blog for more tips and tricks on fixed-gear and single-speed bikes. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.

Helpful resources

Image of a dirty fixed gear chain and rear wheel cog. Pinterest
Image of a dirty fixed gear chain and rear wheel cog. Pinterest
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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