A Complete Guide on How to Clean a Bike Chain


The chain is one of the most important parts of the bike, and without it, nothing would connect the drivetrain together and the bike just wouldn’t move. Looking after your chain is vital for your bike and not only will it give you a better ride, but it comes with some huge benefits that we will speak about later in this article.

A clean chain could be the marginal gain you're looking for in a competitive sprint against your friends or in a competition. The key is to not let a dirty chain get the better of your riding by staying on top of the muck with regular and routine cleanings.

In this article, we’ll teach you about:

Bike Chain Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning a chain can be a bit more challenging than cleaning a wheel, and having a few cleaning tools and supplies will go a very long way to getting the job done properly and keeping it clean for as long as possible. Here is our list of recommended supplies that will give you the most immaculate chain possible:

  • Bike Degreaser: Chain dirt doesn’t come off easily. Using a degreaser can change that. The Muc Off bike degreaser is one of the best ways to go when it comes to degreasing and chain cleaning.

Muc Off Degreaser

  • Chain Cleaning Tool A chain cleaning tool will make it really easy to get inside all the links and places that are just too tough to reach. The Park Tools CM-5.3 is one of our favorites.

Park Tool CM-5.3 Cyclone Chain Scrubber

  • Brushes: Having a brush set will go a long way to helping you get into all those hard to reach places. We recommend the Muc Off set and will be using this for more than just cleaning the chain.

Muc Off 5 Piece Brush Set

  • Chain Lube: You might have a clean chain, but it won't stay clean or work properly unless it has some lube on it. One of the best dry lubes on the market is the Muc Off C3 Dry Ceramic, and we highly recommend it.

Muc Off C3 Dry Ceramic

  • Cloth: You are also going to want a cloth. Using a microfiber cloth will go a long way, and you will be able to keep reusing it.

Muc Off Premium Microfiber Cloth

  • Bike Stand: You are going to have a much better experience using a stand than if you are to clean the chain with your bike on the floor. We recommended the Foundation Bike Stand.

Foundation Bike Stand

Steps to Cleaning a Bike Chain

Next, we are going to run through the step-by-step guide on how to clean your bike chain. A good time to do this is when giving the bike a proper clean itself. We follow this process and feel it provides the best way to clean bicycle chains.

Step One: Setup

Having a clean area will go a long way to not having to do more cleaning later. We recommend cleaning the chain outdoors. This is a mucky job, so ensure that you are in a place where you don't mind getting some dirt on the floor. Then you’re going to want to get the bike in the stand and have all your cleaning products and tools close by.

Step Two: A Good Rinse

Start this process by rinsing the bike down and getting whatever you can off the bike without too much pressure in the hose. Having a focus on the chain, cassette, and chainring area will get rid of any big clumps of grime.

Step Three: Degrease the Cassette and Chainrings

You are now going to want to start using the degreaser. So get some on the cassette and the chainrings and start brushing these areas to free up dirt. Once you have loosened the muck, give the drivetrain a rinse off, and it should look much cleaner now.

Step Four: Using the Chain Cleaning Tool

Now that we have the cassette and chainrings clean, let’s get started on cleaning our bike chain. Spray some of the bicycle chain cleaner onto the chain, and then grab your chain cleaning tool. Dilute some of the degreaser down in the cleaning tool with some water and attach the tool to the chain.

Try and make sure the chain is as level as possible, and then start running the chain through the tool. Aim for about 30 repetitions and then remove the tool. At this point, your chain isn’t going to look too nice, but give the drivetrain another rinse and it should be sparkling after.

Step Five: Dry and Protect

Now we need to let the bike chain dry, or you can dry it yourself with a cloth. Once dry, we need to ensure that the bike chain can stay clean as long as possible, so it's time to get it protected and lubricated. With the lube, you are going to want to start at the quick link and put a drop of oil on each link. Work your way around till you have completed the full chain and leave it for a couple minutes to soak in.

Once it has all soaked in, you will want to get your microfiber cloth and clean off all the excess oil. Pop the cloth in your hand and, using the pedal, run the chain through the cloth, ensuring that you have got any excess lube off.

Why It's Important to Maintain a Clean Bike Chain

A clean chain will help immensely in shifting performance and overall drivetrain efficiency. Not only does a clean drivetrain have performance benefits but it can save you money in the long run by reducing the wear and tear of your chain and all components that make up your drivetrain.  Here’s our list of why you should always have a clean chain.

  • Chain lasts longer: When dirt is covering the chain, it has the ability to get inside and start wearing it down. If we keep it clean, it will last longer.
  • The chain has less friction If you have a clean chain with no mud or dirt on it, the chain has less friction and can move more smoothly, making it much more efficient.
  • Looks much better: Although it’s not everything, having a clean chain does look so much better than one covered in muck.
  • The chain helps the longevity of other components: When your chain is dirty and worn, it is also going to start wearing the rest of your components down. No cassette or chainrings are safe from a dirty chain, so keep an eye on your bike chain maintenance.
  • Has less chance of breaking: Chains have to be lightweight and strong. They are not designed to be full of dirt and tiny stones. A lot of the time a chain breaks, it's because something has got caught in the drivetrain. Having a clean chain can minimize the chance of this happening.

Bike Chain Cleaning FAQs


What household items can I use to clean my bike chain?

Some people use a mix of baking soda and lemon juice mixed with water to clean their chains. It’s not something we would recommend and does actually work out more costly in the long run than buying the proper cleaner.

Is it okay to use WD-40 on a bike chain?

Many people actually use the WD-40 spray as a cleaner to degrease the chain. It’s not the most effective way and is a multi-use substance. It’s better to use other products designed especially for bikes.

Can you use dish soap to degrease a bike chain?

You can, but we wouldn't advise it. A degreaser made specifically for bike chains will do a much better job.

What’s the best way to dry a bike chain after washing it?

First, freewheel your chain a couple rotations in the reverse direction to help move some water inside the links to the outside. Next, take a rag or cloth in your hand and wrap it around your chain. With your other hand, rotate the cranks as if you were pedaling on your bike, lightly gripping the chain with the rag in your other hand. Complete a half dozen rotations or more and your chain should be dry and ready for the next step.

How often should you clean your bike chain?

Regular and routine maintenance is the name of the game. There are many variables when it comes to how dirty your chain gets and when it is time for another cleaning. Factors such as how dusty your trails are and whether you are riding through water or in wet/muddy areas all determine the frequency at which you should clean your chain. Typically, it is best to clean your chain every other ride, but it wouldn't hurt to do it before or after every ride.

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