How to Clean Bike Chains

How to Clean Bike Chains
How well your chain operates depends on the type of bike you ride, the gear you ride in, even your pedaling style. But no matter how much you try to minimize the strain on your chain, over time it will get dirty, causing minor damage to both the chain and the gear teeth. You can minimize this by cleaning the bike chain periodically. While it can be a difficult process, it will make your ride smoother and your bike last longer.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Degreaser (diesel fuel also works)
  • 2 buckets
  • Paint brushes
  • Sponges
  • Rags
  • Chain lubricant
Step 1
Remove the quick-release pin from the rear wheel to relieve bike chain tension. Place the pin in the rear dropouts to maintain chain slack. This will also allow you to turn the crank without the risk of scraping your bike frame's paint job.
Step 2
Fill two buckets with water. In one bucket put one cup or more of soap. Place a small amount of degreaser in the other bucket.
Step 3
Spray degreaser on the chain, gears and entire bike chain apparatus. Take care not to spray degreaser on any hubs or axle shafts, such as the pedal axles. Allow 15-20 minutes for the degreaser to soak through the collected grease and dirt.
Step 4
Dip a stiff paint brush into your degreaser and scrub the top and bottom of the bike chain while turning the crank to rotate the chain. You can also use a sponge and manually hold the chain. Allow at least three rotations for the degreaser to be adequately applied. Also brush degreaser onto the deraileurs and chain rings.
Step 5
Wash down the bike chain using a sponge and soapy water. You can also remove the bike chain and place it in the soapy water bucket if the chain needs soak time to loosen up dirt and any remaining sediment.
Step 6
Dry the chain with a soft rag. Allow to air dry for one to three hours, then mount the chain back on the bike if necessary.
Step 7
Apply a brush or spray lubricant to the chain. Turn the crank several rotations to distribute the grease evenly.
Step 8
Remove the rear quick-release pin from the crank and place it back on the rear wheel to apply proper tension to the chain.

Article Written By Jonathan Croswell

Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.

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