Bike Chain Lube Alternatives: What Else Can You Use?

The one way to make sure your bike is properly maintained is having a well-lubricated chain. But if you run out of a bike chain lube, don't worry there are alternatives available, some of them might even be in your cabinet!

All cycling enthusiasts know the importance of a well-lubricated bike. It makes your pedaling smooth along with extending the life of your drivetrain. But what if you run out of bike chain lube right when you need it? The probability of that happening is quite high!

When that happens, there are some Bike Chain Lube Alternatives that you can use. Can you use Engine Oil? Or can you apply Vegetable/Olive oil? I know you are riding a bike not deep frying chips. But some of these options are going to blow your mind!

What Can You Use Instead Of Bike Chain Lube?

A good bike chain lube always gets the job done correctly. Here are the alternatives you can use.

1. Using Household Oils As A Lubricant

Using household oils like olive oil is a good option. I only use it in emergencies because it is not recommended for off-road riding. You can also apply motor oil if you have some but it is known to be a favorite of the dirt and dust. 

If you are going to use household oils, make sure that your chain is clean before you apply it. Or else your chain will be loaded with a mucky substance which will definitely cause you more harm than good. 

Pros

  • They Are Easily Available 
  • They Provide Temporary Lubrication 
  • They Are Inexpensive

Cons 

  • Household Oils Attract More Dirt  
  • The Chain Will Require More Cleaning 
  • Household Oils Need To Be Re-Applied Frequently

2. Can You Apply Basic Vaseline Oil?

Basic vaseline oil can also be used as a bike chain lub alternative. There will be a lot of degreasing and re-greasing of the chain if you are going to use a vaseline oil. The reason is that Vaseline oil does not provide long-lasting lubrication and it catches dust easily. 

Still, if you are going to use Vaseline, don’t be fooled by the stuff that comes in the jars. Use only basic Vaseline oil. 

Pros

  • Vaseline Oil Is Readily Available 
  • It Provides Necessary Lubrication 

Cons 

  • Your Chain Will Need Regular Maintainance 
  • Vaseline Oil Doesn’t Prove Long-Lasting Lubrication 

Keep your bike in top shape with our basic bike maintenance guide. Check it out now

3. Using Paraffin Wax As An Alternative

Paraffin wax is the same wax that is used to make candles. Before you begin applying paraffin wax as a chain lube alternative, clean your chain completely. Get rid of all the oils. Put petrol or mineral oil in a jar. Now submerge your bike chain in it and give it a good shake.

Begin lubricating by melting your wax at a low temperature. Once melted, soak your chain in it for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove your chain. Place your chain on a clean surface to let it cool. You can reinstall it once the chain has cooled down. 

Create Your Own Wax-Based Lubricant Using This Method

You can also create your own wax-based lubricant. You will need a 

  • A Slow Cooker 
  • Paraffin Wax 
  • Teflon Powder 
Process

Break 4 parts of paraffin wax and place it in the cooker. Now add 1 part teflon powder. Give the ingredients a good mix. Let them cook. Stir your mixture so that the ingredients can melt and mix properly. This will also give you a smooth texture. 

Once everything is melted, remove the slow cooker from the heat. Let your wax cool down until it starts solidifying. At this point, your wax-based lubricant is ready to be applied to the chain. 

Pros 

  • It Offers Clean Lubrication 
  • Paraffin Wax Reduces Chain Friction

Cons 

  • The Application Of Paraffin Wax Is Time-Consuming 
  • It Is Not Suitable For Cold Weather

Read how to wax a bike chain? to know the process in detail!

4. Using Thin Oils As Lubricants 

Thin oils make a really good lubricant. It is important that you find the right viscosity for the thin oil. This is important because when the oil has the right viscosity, it will penetrate the chain links thoroughly. Oil-based lubricants are very famous in the market as well as among bicycle riders. 

I have used sewing machine oil to lubricate my bicycle’s chain quite a number of times and it’s always a success. You can also use a motor oil with a solvent.

Pros 

  • It Offers Highly Effective Lubrication 
  • Sewing Machine Oil Along With Motor Oil Are Easily Available

Cons 

  • Tricky To Find The Right Viscosity
  • It Does Wear Off Quickly

5. Using Silicon Spray As A Bike Chain Lube Alternative 

Man Spraying Oil To Bike Chain
Man Spraying Oil To Bike Chain

Although silicone spray is not a long-term solution, still you can use it as a chain lube alternative a few times. Silicon spray is a famous alternative. It is lightweight. It also has the capability to reduce friction faster than other lubricants. 

Although a silicon spray cannot beat a chain lube. It will give you the needed lubrication for 3 to 4 miles. 

Pros 

  • Silicon Spray Is Easy To Apply 
  • It Provides Short-Term Lubrication 

Cons 

  • It Wears Off Quickly 
  • It Offers Only Limited Protection 

6. Can You Use Mineral Oils As A Bike Chain Lube Alternative?

Mineral oils provide the lubrication needed to keep your bike running but only for a limited period. After that, the lubrication will wear off. So mineral oils are not a permanent bike chain lube alternative. You can use it as a temporary quick fix.  

When you ride your bike on dust tracks, after using mineral oil as a lube, your chain will catch a lot of dirt. Dust particles will mix up with the mineral oil particles and create friction. If you use mineral oils for long riding, you will only end up doing a lot more cleaning than riding. 

Pros 

  • Mineral Oils Temporarily Reduces Friction 

Cons 

  • Mineral Oils Attract Dirt 

Since you are lubricating, it is a good time to also tighten your chain!

7. Using 3-in-1 Oils As A Bike Chain Lube

3-IN-1 oil is another multipurpose household oil. However, it does have the same drawbacks that I have described above for other oils. You will be facing the same issue of having to clean and lubricate again and again. These oils are easily available but they need frequent reapplication. 

Sure you can use it temporarily, but I will not suggest it as a permanent solution. All these oils cannot replace the real deal. 

Pros

  • It Quickly Reduces Friction 
  • It Is Easily Available In Houses 

Cons 

  • It Requires Frequent Reapplication
  • It Is Not Suitable For Long Rides 

8. Using WD-40 As A Bike Chain Lubricant 

WD-40 is used as widely as a household essential. It’s a go-to for removing rust and resolving squeaky hinges. But WD-40 is not a true bicycle chain lubricant. It’s an emergency losing agent and I would recommend not to use it as a long-term chain lubricant. The spray can be used for a lot of fixes in the house but it is not a chain lubricant. It will not get your bike chain to run smoothly. It might harm your chain if you use it permanently. 

Pros 

  • WD-40 Can Be Used To Teperorily Free A Stuck Chain 

Cons 

  • It Is Not A True Chain Lubricant. It Is A Losing Agent
  • It Is Not Suited For Longer Rides

3 Things To Consider While Choosing A Bike Lube Alternative 

Man Lubricating Bike Chain
Man Lubricating Bike Chain

Choosing a bike lube alternative may sound like a decision that does not require much thinking, but you have to consider these three things before you choose an alternative:

1. Your Ridding Conditions 

Be mindful of your riding conditions. Are you going to ride on roads or does your riding involve wet, dirty tracks? For the latter, it is better to choose a lube alternative that is water-resistant. It will also not attract dirt. 

2. The Type Of The Bike You Are Riding 

The type of bike that you ride also weighs in on the decision of choosing a lube alternative. For mountain and gravel bikes, alternatives that provide long-lasting lubrication will be much better.

3. Your Budget 

Bike chain lube alternatives are not that expensive but some certainly do cost more dollars. You can easily invest the amount in buying a lube rather than using that money to buy an alternative. Lube alternatives are only a temporary substitute. It is better to use the one available at home rather than going out to buy one! 

How To Transition Back To Your Standard Lube After Using Alternatives 

Bike chain lube alternatives are life-saving, but they are only temporary solutions. You will have to transit back to your standard lube whenever you have the chance. To make sure that this transition is effective in maintaining the life span of the drivetrain, here are the steps that I follow:

  1. Began by cleaning your chain thoroughly. Remove any residue of the alternative that you were using. I use a bike chain degreaser to clean my chain and remove any dirt, lubricant, or particles that might be stuck on my chain. Cleaning is important because it makes sure that the new lube that you will apply has a clean surface to adhere to. 
  2. Once you are done with cleaning, allow the chain to dry completely. If there is any moisture on your chain, it will hinder in the way of the lube from grasping the chain. 
  3. When the chain is dry, carefully apply the lube to your chain. Every chain lube has a specific set of application instructions. You can refer to them to get to know how much lube you should be applying and if it is better suited for a wet or a dry chain. 
  4. Now that you have applied the lube, take a clean cloth and remove any excess. You don’t want a dirt buildup on your chain. 
  5. Re-install the chain and take your bike for a test drive. Shift through your gears to see if the process is smooth. 

Congratulations! You have successfully transitioned back to a standard chain lube. 

If your bike won’t shift gears, it is a good time to look at the chain to see if it is the reason!

FAQs

What Liquid Is Used To Clean Bike Chains?

It is preferred to use a chain degreaser or a solvent-based cleaner which is specifically designed for bikes to clean bike chains. You can also use a dishwashing liquid but it will not provide the same level of cleanliness. You will need to make more effort to clean your chain thoroughly. 

Can I Use Sanitizer To Clean Bike Chain?

No, Using a sanitizer is not recommended for cleaning a bike chain. It will not remove any grease or dirt effectively and might cause damage to your chain.

Can You Lube A Dirty Bike Chain?

No, it is not ideal to lube a dirt bike chain. You will fail to effectively lube your chain because of the dirt lodged in the chain. Clean your chain first before you begin lubricating it. 

Will Vinegar Clean A Bike Chain?

You can use vinegar to clean your bike chain but it will not be as effective as a chain degreaser. 

What Is The Best Way To Apply A Silicon Spay?

The best way to apply a silicon spray is by maintaining a distance of at least 12 inches between the chain and the spray. Spray the chain evenly and let it completely dry. 

Recap

A well-maintained bike chain is necessary for a smooth ride. When you find yourself in an unexpected challenge like running out of a bike chain lubricant, you do have plenty of creative options at your hand. Using Perrafin Wax and Household Oils will save the day but remember that they are only a temporary solution. 

They are just alternatives like a patch on your tire but not a permanent fix. The only key to keeping your ride in top shape is shifting back to your standard lube. So, explore all these options and let me know if you have any questions in the comment section. When things get tough, just remember what Greg LeMond said: 

It never gets easier. You just go faster!

Also Read


This article was crafted by Luke Ameen, Associate Editor, a seasoned expert, bringing 8 years of experience and knowledge about all types of bikes. Our goal is to provide you with accurate, reliable, and valuable insights to help you make informed decisions and enhance your biking experience.

Should you have any questions or require further clarification on the topic, please feel free to connect with our expert author Luke Ameen by leaving a comment below. We value your engagement and are here to assist you.

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Luke Ameen

Luke Ameen

For many years, I've journeyed the world as an ardent cyclist, feeling the pulse of the road beneath two wheels. Even though competitive mountain trails might not be my battleground now, my zeal for cycling remains undiminished, pushing me to chase new escapades every chance I get.

My heart beats for everything related to cycling. Over the years, I've immersed myself in extensive research and hands-on tests of cycling equipment and enhancements, aiming to guide fellow cyclists in amplifying their riding experience. My mission is clear: deliver trustworthy insights and reliable guidance that readers can lean on. My vision is to kindle the same fervor for cycling in others, whether they're seasoned veterans or just embarking on this journey. Rest assured, I'm here to equip you with the freshest updates, advice, and perspectives to enrich every ride.

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