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A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Clean a Bike Chain

Your bike chain will wear with time. All that dirt, mud, and debris builds up grime and creates friction, which wears down your bike. So, you will need to clean it, inevitably. Cleaning your bike chain can be a messy job, but it is a fairly inexpensive and easy way of getting better performance out of your bike, prolonging its life,  and keeping it running smoothly. Plus, your clean bike chain will look spick and span.

Remember, it is essential to clean your bike chain regularly, about once a week if you ride daily, and always after riding in the rain if you want to have a faster bike and save money. So, keep reading this article to learn more about the best way to clean your bike chain.

Why Should I Clean the Bike Chain?

There are many reasons why you should clean your bike chain. Cleaning your bike chain won’t only avoid marks on your jeans; it will also help your bike perform better. Riding in mud, dirt, rain, and other contaminants will increase friction drastically, making your bike slower and requiring more pedaling energy. You will save that pedaling energy and go much faster with a clean, lubed chain. It will also extend the life of the chain as well as the drivetrain. If the worn chain erodes, it will also damage the gears, and replacing them will cost you a lot of money. So, it is easier and cheaper to prevent all of that and just clean your bike chain regularly. 

When Should I Clean the Bike Chain?

You should clean your bike chain at least once a week if you ride daily and once every month if you ride occasionally. But if you ride in the rain or on a muddy road, you should clean your bike chain as soon as you can. And if it dirties your legs or you hear that annoying chirping sound when riding, it is definitely time to clean your bike chain. 

What to Clean Bike Chain With?


Okay, now that you’re convinced of the importance of cleaning your bike chain, let’s get to it. The good news is that you don’t need too many items. A good cleaning agent and a scrubber will do the job. You can find the things you need in your home, grocery store, or at your local mechanic shop.

Choose your cleaning agent

The first thing you need to do is pick your cleaning agent. You can choose a soap or a specific bike degreaser. Many prefer simple cleaning agents like dish soap. Whether you get your cleaning agent from your nearest grocery store or your local mechanic, make sure it is not too harsh. Harsher cleaning agents won’t do a better job of cleaning your chain; they will only strip the chain of its factory lube, increasing friction and, as a result shortening the lifespan of your bike.  

Pick a scrubber

Now select your scrubber. There are scrubbers and other devices made for this specific purpose, but you don’t need anything fancy to clean your bike chain properly. Any scrubber or brush will do, even an old item of clothing, a toothbrush, or a toilet brush. 

How to Clean Bike Chain?

Let’s talk about the cleaning process step-by-step. It can be dirty and messy, so make sure you’re wearing clothes that you don’t really need while doing this. Also, be careful and protect yourself. It would be best if you wear glasses and gloves while cleaning to protect your eyes and hands. 

Scrub the cassette

For this, the chain needs to be on the end of the cassette. Take your brush and apply a generous amount of cleaning agent to it. After doing that, continue to scrub the cogs. Remember to shift the chain to the other side, so you clean all the cogs.

Wash the chainring

Next, it’s time to wash the chainring, a relatively easy process but a crucial one. You need to clean the chainring regularly because it collects dirt and debris; this causes a grime build-up which will wear the chain more quickly.

It’s best to drop the chain off for this but do that carefully so that you don’t mix up the small parts. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of removing the chainring, then you can clean it without taking it apart. And again, start by applying plenty of soap or degreaser to the scrubber and begin scrubbing the entire chainring. Pull the brush or cloth that you’re using back and forth to clean the inside of the chainring too. Scrub away until all the grime disperses. 

Rinse the drivetrain

This step is not optional either. You must give your drivetrain a quick clean and rinse so that it runs smoothly. Use hot soapy water to rinse the mud and dirt off the drivetrain. You can use a hosepipe to flush it all away. Whatever you decide to use, you should not keep the water pressure high because it will damage the drivetrain and shorten its lifespan. End it with a clean water rinse to flush the soap completely. Your drivetrain should look sparkling clean by now.

Reapply the lube to the chain

We cannot stress enough how important reapplying the lube to the chain is. But first, let your bike chain and the drivetrain dry thoroughly. You can let it dry in the sun, but if you’re in a rush, grab an old cloth and dry it.

Once everything is squeaky clean and completely dry, go ahead and choose your favorite lube. Apply a lot of it to the chain and let it sit for some minutes. Next, wipe off the excess lube so that it doesn’t collect road dirt and grime. Make sure to apply the lube to the inside of the chain. Doing this will increase your bike’s lifespan considerably and save you a lot of money.   

So, regularly cleaning your bike chain and drivetrain is great for your bike and will save you a fortune. It’s best if you give it a quick clean after every ride. But, we all know that realistically, that’s not likely to happen. But try to wash it every time you’ve been riding in the rain or winter conditions. A good rule of thumb is to give your bike chain and drivetrain a deep clean every week if you’re a frequent rider, but if you only ride occasionally, then cleaning it once every month should be fine. It won’t take too much time, but it will improve your bike’s performance and increase its lifespan considerably.


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