How To Clean Bike Chain – Bike Maintenance Tips

Riding a bike is easy, the fun begins when you have to maintain it! Research shows that the most important part of a bicycle that you will clean is the drivetrain! 

You might not know it but the dirt and grim from riding the bicycle can pile up over time and eat away at the metal parts of your chain. When this happens, your bicycle will not perform the same. You might even have to upgrade your drivetrain because it can get damaged. The only way to avoid this is by cleaning your bike chain.

What exactly happens when you keep the bike’s chain clean though? Good question! You will notice:

  • A Better Performance
  • Prolonged Life

But what is the proper way to clean the chain? Well, I have compiled the opinions and tricks of many renowned professional mechanics who have given more than 10 years of their lives in this field. I have also gathered these tips and tricks also come from various technical seminars from the best manufacturers like SRAM, Shimano, Saris, and many others. 

Tools Needed to Clean Bike Chain

Clean Bike Chain
Clean Bike Chain

You can either go for soap or a degreaser, whatever suits and interests you the best. Here are the tools that you need:

  • Soap
  • Degreaser
  • Scrubber
  • Chain Lubricant
[Bike Maintenance Tips: How To Remove Rust From Bike]

What Kind of Cleaning Agent to Use?

The first part that comes when you start cleaning the bike’s chain is your choice of the cleaning agent. There are mainly two options to go for, either go for soap or a bike degreaser, you have complete freedom here. Cleaning a bike’s chain is not technical, so even if you find something really good in your local grocery store, you can probably use that to clean the bike’s chain.

Bike Cleaning Agent
Bike Cleaning Agent

The common thing that all professionals recommended was using dish soap to clean the chain, this was an odd choice but it works the best. The dish soap can wash the surface of these drivetrain components quite effectively. When it comes to cleaning the bike’s chain, you need a product that isn’t too harsh. Degreasers are way too harsh for cleaning the chain!

Another disadvantage of using the degreasers is that they remove the initial lubricant from the chain, this is the kind of lubricant that cannot be applied again so you need to be very careful. The only way you could reapply that lube is to take the chain off completely and give it a thorough lube bath, and that requires a lot of patience and technique.

With the bike’s chain, you need to be as gentle as possible, if you aren’t then it will only lead to problems. The main problem that can happen is the removal of the original factory lube, you certainly don’t want that. Why is the factory lube so important though? If you remove the factory lube then it lessens the bike’s life by a whopping 1000-1,500 miles.

Cleaning Agents give you a lot of freedom, you can experiment as much as you want, and each cleaning agent will give you a unique experience. Choose the best for yourself!

What Kind of Scrubber to Use

Scrubbers are very necessary for bike chain cleaning, and our professionals recommend tools from Park Tool- one of the best bike-related manufacturers. There are other amazing companies that you can try out too, but with Park Tool, you just cannot go wrong. Amongst amazing brushes, they also make devices that just stick on the chain and allow you to clean it thoroughly.

Anything that you can use to brush the chain will do just fine, a fine example of that is also a toothbrush. You may maybe hoping for a dedicated cleaning tool, but some professionals love toothbrushes, especially the ones with long bristles. Who knows you might love the experience of a toilet brush maybe?

Now let’s get started with cleaning the bike’s chain.

How To Clean The Bike Chain – Easy-To-Follow Steps 

With these steps, you can clean the bike’s chain very easily. There are mainly three steps involved with cleaning the bike’s chain. The three components that you need to go after are:

  • Cassette
  • Chainring
  • Chain
Cleaning a Bicycle Cassette
Cleaning a Bicycle Cassette

Step 1. How to Clean The Cassette

To get started, you need to shift the gears first, this will put the chain on the other end of the cassette. Now, you need to clean the cassette thoroughly, apply the cleaning agent to a brush, and start the cleanse, make sure that all the cogs are covered except for the one that is close to the chain. When one side of the cassette is cleaned, shift the gears again, and clean the other remaining side of the cassette properly!

Step 2. How to Clean The Chainring

The next step is to clean the chainring, the best way to do this is to remove the chain from the chainring and then start. That way the results will be more effective and thorough! The process is the same as what we did with the cassette. Apply some soap or degreaser and give it a thorough cleanse!

Step 3. How to Clean The Chain

The last step is to clean your chain, do it properly and you will be done. You need to get started with shifting your chain to the chainring, in the case that you have multiple chainrings, shift your chain to the largest chainring. Now, you need to apply the soap or degreaser again and clean all angles of the chain, keep on doing that till all the sides are clean.

You can even use the chainring as a surface effectively, just scrub the sides of the chain while leaning it against the chainring, this is a very genius hack according to the professionals. Once you do this properly, you will see that the chain has been cleaned properly from every angle, if there is an area left then make sure that is clean too!

Step 4. Water and Rinse Gently!

Now that the cleaning is finally done, you need to rinse the drivetrain with water but gently. If the water pressure is too much then it could damage your drivetrain. Apart from damaging the drivetrain, water can go to areas that you will not like!

Rinse Bike Gently

Step 5. Dry Everything Fully!

There is one last step that you need to perform before you put your bike back into storage. You need to dry your bike completely. I use an air compressor here. There are other options as well such as the leaf blower but the choice is completely yours.

If you don’t dry your bike before storing then there are chances that it could catch rust.

Reapplying The Chain Lube is Necessary

When everything is done, you need to reapply the bike chain lube, which is the most final part, after that you are done. You can use any brand that you love, apply it to the chain thoroughly, let it dry, and then just wipe off any excess. Make sure that you apply the lube in between the roller and plate area nowhere else, otherwise, you will only be attracting dirt and other contaminants.

If things get very nasty, you can always replace your old chain with a new one to stay away from risks.

When Does Replacement Become Necessary?

If a chain becomes too stretched then you need to replace it immediately! If the wear is over 0.8mm then your chain needs to be replaced asap. You might need to replace the whole chainring if the situation is worse. If there is a problem at the rear of the bike then it is suggested that you also replace the cassette.

Overwhelming isn’t it? But if you take care of your bike frequently then there is nothing to be worried about.


Can I do my own bike tune up?

Yes, you can do a bike tune-up.

When should I tune my bike?

You can tune up your bike after every 2,000 miles.

Read More Bike Maintenance Tips


Taking care of your bike is very necessary, you need to make sure that every component of the bike is fully cleaned and working at its best. Maintenance is the key here, do that often and you will never have to face any major problems with your bike.

A clean chain will help you enjoy the quietest performance, and the life of your bike will also be prolonged. So what to do you? Shall we clean that bike chain? 

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

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Rhodes Perry

Rhodes Perry

Rhodes is a writer, social justice advocate, and passionate cyclist. He primarily spends his time in the saddle commuting or riding multi-day, self-supported tours, and volunteers time wrenching at his local bike coop.


1 thought on “How To Clean Bike Chain – Bike Maintenance Tips”

  1. Use these practical tips on cleaning a bike cassette that is easy to make me like a pro. I just need some things like Rags, cloth, and mat, Elbow grease (water-soluble), Chain-lube spray (i.e. WD40 on bike cassette), Buckets with water, paintbrush, sponge, and soap, etc to do this process.


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