Have you had your pleasant ride through a scenic route on your bike interrupted by a rusty chain? If bicycle chains are not properly cleaned or maintained, rust and noise are the least of your concerns. To make sure you can enjoy a pleasant ride through your city, you must regularly clean the bike’s chain.
Now, you might be wondering what supplies you need to buy for this. Don’t worry, as cleaning a bike chain is so easy that you can do it with the supplies you have at home.
Let’s show you how to clean a bike chain with household products.
Household Products You Can Use
You’d be surprised at how many objects lying around your house can help you with cleaning your cycle chain. Some notable mentions include-
1. Dish Soap
Dirt and grease are the main things you need to clean out to ensure your cycle chain is working properly.
Even if you do not have a chain cleaner or degreaser, dish soap or detergents can serve as a suitable alternative. Liquid detergents are more effective than bar soaps and can help you scrub the dirt right off.
Small rocks or lumps of dirt can get stuck in the chain. Detergents or degreasers will not usually be able to get them out. So, you need to remove them manually.
At times like these, an old unused toothbrush can prove to be very effective. Toothbrushes are small enough to reach the chain. Some good scrubbing will allow you to remove the lumps and clean the master link.
3. Old Shirts or Rags
A cleaning cloth is needed to properly scrub the cycle chain and ensure that the dish soap or detergent properly reaches all the parts. Any old piece of cloth, like an unused shirt, will suffice for this task. Cotton swabs and dish sponges are also great alternatives.
4. Homemade Degreasers
Sometimes it can be hard to remove grease without a degreaser. You can make a degreaser for your chain with household items.
Baking soda and lemon juice are the two essential components. Mixing them with some hot water in the right amounts can help you make a homemade degreaser.
All of these can be used very effectively to maintain a clean bike chain. While a homemade degreaser won’t be as strong as some branded ones, it is still powerful enough to remove grease.
Just remember to do maintenance more regularly for the homemade one.
How to Clean a Bike Chain
If you have the tools at your disposal, you can start cleaning your bike chain. There are some important steps to the process.
Your approach can be different depending on whether the chain is removable or not. The first few steps include the following-
1. Get Protective Gear
Basic eye protection and gloves will suffice for the task. Cleaning a bike chain isn’t dangerous by any means, but it doesn’t hurt to have some protection.
2. Preparing Your Bike
Next, you’ll need to get your bike secured so you can properly clean it. Bike stands can allow you to work much more easily.
Keeping your bike wheels upward will make it easier to get to the chain. If possible, a helping hand will make the process smoother.
3. Get Your Cleaning Equipment Ready
Have the proper equipment ready for use. This includes rags, brushes, detergents, and degreaser.
Make sure your detergent and degreaser are ready in a bowl or a bottle for easier access.
After that, you should inspect the chain itself. This will give you an idea of how dirty it is.
You should also check whether it is removable. Your next step will depend on whether the chain is removable or not.
Also Read: Best Bike Chain Cleaners
When the Chain Is Removable
If the chain is removable, follow these steps;
1. Locate the Master Link
Removable chains often have a master link that secures them. You will first need to locate the master link. This will help you unlock the chain and pull it free. Don’t pull too hard, as it can damage the gears.
2. Immerse the Chain in Degreaser
Once removed, you can dip the chain in the degreaser solution. Having the degreaser in a bottle can make the next steps easier. You can also separately apply the degreaser, but this ensures a thorough cleaning and removal of grease and grime.
3. Ensure Thorough Degreasing
Seal the bottle and shake it. This will ensure the chain is thoroughly degreased. Leave it still for some time afterward.
4. Take the Chain Out
You can then take the chain out from the solution. Gloves will prevent any solution from getting on your hands. Or, you can use a stick or wire hanger to take it out. Leave it out to dry for a bit.
Take some detergent and soak a rag or old cloth. Then run it through the chain along with a stream of water. This will eliminate any traces of degreaser solution and clean the chain.
For best results, after the chain has dried, you should lubricate it with a bicycle chain lube. This will ensure smooth operations. After lubrication, reattach the bike chain and connect the master link.
When the Chain Is Not Removable
If the chain is not removable, follow the below steps;
1. Soak a Rag in Degreaser
Cleaning a bike chain without removing it needs extra precaution. Soak a cleaning cloth in some degreaser. Having the degreaser in a bowl will help with this.
2. Apply the Degreaser
Using the rag, begin to soak the chain with the degreaser. When one part is soaked properly, use the drivetrain or pedal to shift to another section of the chain. Soak the other section.
Repeat this process until the whole chain is soaked.
3. Rinse the Chain
Take another rag and soak it in some detergent. Similar to the degreasing process, move the chain and rinse it with the detergent and some water.
3. Cleaning and Drying
Using a dry cleaning cloth, clean and dry any water on the chain. Also, clean any water or detergent that spilled over to other parts of the bike during the cleaning process.
Take a bottle of bike chain lube and carefully apply it to the dry chain. This will make the chain operate smoothly.
As mentioned above, the master link keeps the bike chain secure. Unlocking it will allow you to remove the chain for cleaning.
To locate the link, you need to mount the bike on a bike stand and rotate the wheels. Be on the lookout for a chain link that is much bigger than the others. This is the master link.
You can open the master link by sliding the pin open. Once the slot is open, you can take the link out and proceed to remove the chain.
Cleaning the Drivetrain
Another important part you need to clean along with the chain is the drivetrain. The drivetrain can get clogged up with dirt and prevent smooth rides. You can use many of the same household products for bike chain cleaning to maintain your drivetrain.
The most important thing about cleaning the drivetrain is to prevent dirt buildup. Run a cleaning sponge or rag through it from time to time. Chain cleaning devices can also be helpful for maintenance. Also, remember to lubricate your drivetrain from time to time.
You should inspect the chains of your bicycle. This will help you monitor dirt and grime build-up and also give you an idea of whether the chain needs to be lubricated. Inspect the chain every 2 to 3 weeks.
Run your hand around the chain to see if there are any lumps stuck inside. Check for rust or any damaged links. Move the drivetrain and see whether the operation is smooth or not. All these are important cues. Regularly inspecting your cycle will let you know when to clean or lubricate it.
Degrease Your Bike Chain
Degreaser solvents are available for purchase, citrus degreaser being the best option for use as bike chain degreasers. However, if you are intending to make a homemade one, you can use baking soda and lemon juice.
In a bowl, take 2 cups of hot water and add 1 teaspoon of baking soda and lemon juice. Mix it all. The acidic property helps to break down grease.
Although some owners opt to use kerosene, it is not healthy for the environment. The homemade degreaser can achieve similar results and is easier to apply.
Using a degreaser will remove the factory wax of your cycle chain. So, lubricating your chain is necessary after the cleaning process. One household product that works as a bike chain lube is castor oil. Another alternative is olive oil.
Lubricating the Bicycle Chain
For easier lubrication, a spray bottle with a long nose is recommended. On average, you should lubricate the chain every 2 to 3 weeks.
We hope that you’ve understood how to clean a bike chain with household products. Many of the usual products lying around your house are very effective at degreasing and cleaning a bike chain and even preventing rust. Knowing how to use them will save you time and money.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I clean my bike chain?
Cleaning your bike chain improves the longevity of it. It also impacts how smoothly your bike operates. Dirty bike chains can get stuck and cause unwanted noise.
Are there faster ways to get a clean bike chain?
Bike cleaning kits often come with a bike chain cleaning device, which automates the process. You only need to apply some lubricant afterward.
Can you use vinegar to clean a bike chain?
Vinegar can be used for cleaning primarily as a degreaser. However, it must be prepared properly. Or else, it can damage the bike parts if applied carelessly.
Is WD 40 good for cleaning bike chains?
Yes. You can use WD 40 as a lubricant and primary cleaner. However, WD 40 isn’t very effective if you ride your bike out in the rain a lot, since it comes off quickly.
Which household product removes rust from a bike chain?
White vinegar and baking soda are two common products that can help remove rust. Make sure to properly rinse them off after use.
What is the best bike chain cleaner?
Park Tools has a very good bike chain cleaner that works on all bike chains. The cleaner is also eco-friendly.
Can I use thinner to clean bike chain?
You can, but it is not very effective at cleaning a bike chain.
Can I wash my bike with shampoo?
You can wash a bike with shampoo, but be very careful near the brakes. Shampoo can cause the brakes to lose their effectiveness.
Can I use washing up liquid to clean bike chain?
It is possible, but it isn’t as effective as detergents or bike chain cleaners.