How to Clean Your Bicycle Chain With Household Products

Do you want to extend the life of your bicycle chain? Cleaning and maintaining it is the only way forward. Your bike chain majorly decides your riding experience and an unclean chain reflects poorly on your other bike parts as well as your riding experience.

Here’s how to clean your bike chain with household products:

  • Put your bike on the stand
  • Locate and undo the master link of your bike chain
  • Remove the bike chain and then prepare a cleaning solution
  • Soak the cloth in the solution and thoroughly clean the bike chain
  • Apply lubricant and inspect your newly cleaned chain

Stay with me as I will discuss how to clean your bicycle chain easily with household products!

What Household Products Do You Need to Clean Your Bicycle Chain?

Here is a list of all the household products you will be needing to clean your bicycle chain:

  • A clean cloth
  • Old toothbrushes
  • Water
  • Degreasing agent
  • Flask
  • Chain lubricant
  • Bike stand

#1 Cloth

You would be needing a cloth and some other rags to first clean off the grease and other waxy grimes. The same cloth will also serve to submerge in the cleaning solution and then clean the bicycle chain.

#2 Brushes

Old toothbrushes make for excellent cleaning agents because they allow you to reach difficult and narrow areas in the chain.

You should use different-sized brushes to remove stains and grimes that may be otherwise difficult to remove from the chain. 

#3 Water

Water is the necessary solvent that can dissolve all the dirt and grime and make it easier for you to clean it off. Moreover, you will also require water to make the cleaning solution. 

While using water, you should be careful to not apply it through a high-pressure water pipe because it may damage your bike’s bearing mechanisms.

#4 Degreaser

Even though you are using water for the cleaning solution, some stains and grime are too sticky and gummy to get off with just that. Hence, you will additionally have to use a degreaser for your bike chain. 

You shouldn’t use Kerosene as your bike degreaser because it has a strong odor that may interfere with the rest of the process.

You can though make a homemade degreaser. 

To make a homemade degreaser, simply mix distilled vinegar, with soap, baking soda, water, and lemon juice. You can now apply this degreaser to take out the grimy grease stains from your bike chain.

#5 Flask

Pick any container that you have handy to make the cleaning solution.

#6 Chain Lubricant 

Applying a chain lubricant can significantly increase the life of your drivetrain components and your bike chain. You should be careful while choosing a lubricant for your bike. 

You can use a wet or dry lube depending upon the conditions you usually ride your bike in. If you ride in damp conditions, wet lube is the right way to go whereas dry lube is suitable for you if you ride in dry environments.

#7 Bike Stand

A bike stand is a tool that is important to use whenever you are maintaining your bike chain. It helps you accomplish the task by placing it at a certain elevated height that makes it easier for you to get the work done. 

» Read my blog post: What Is a BMX Bike?

How to Clean Your Bicycle Chain With Household Products

Cleaning your bicycle chain with household products is as simple as it sounds if you follow the right instructions.

So, if you have gathered up these products, it is time to jump into the process of cleaning your bike chain. 

#1 Position Your Bike

The first step to cleaning your bike chain is positioning the bike on the bike stand. A bike stand allows you the ideal position to fix your bike and then work on its chain at an angle that is workable for you. 

You should know that you can easily position your work without a bike stand too. If you don’t have a bike stand, you can simply turn your bike upside down such that the saddle seat of the bike touches the floor. 

However, to prevent any damage to the bike seat, you should place cardboard or another supporting structure underneath it. 

#2 Locate the Chain’s Master Link

Now that you have positioned your bike, you should now locate the master link of the chain to open it and remove it. To locate your master link, you should look for any link that looks different from the rest of the chain. 

A master link usually has a different structure or a different color than the rest of the chain which makes it easier for you to locate it. 

You can also take a picture of your bike chain’s structure if you think you will have difficulty reassembling the chain once you remove the master link in the next step. 

#3 Remove the Bike Chain For Proper Cleaning

Even though you can clean your bike chain while it is attached to the drivetrain system of the bike, I would highly recommend removing the chain first and then cleaning the bike.

If you have decided to remove the bike chain, you should start by first undoing the master link. You can remove the master link of the bike chain by holding it between the pliers’ jaws. 

After you have successfully placed the link between the pliers, you should squeeze as hard as you can to undo the master chain link. 

If you don’t want to remove the bike chain, then you will have to clean one area of the chain and then advance the chain forward to reach the next area.

This way you can clean the entire bike chain, however, you will have limited access to difficult-to-reach areas since you have not entirely removed the chain.

#4 Prepare the Cleaning Solution

Once you have removed the bike chain, you should now prepare the cleaning solution with which you will clean your bike chain. You can get a cleaning solution from a nearby shop but it is extremely easy to make one yourself too. Here’s how:

How Do You Make Homemade Chain Cleaners?

Start by dissolving 2 cups of water with half a cup of borax. Next, you can add 2 to 3 cups of distilled vinegar to the solution and mix it well. Finally, add some lemon juice and half a cup of salt and mix everything well. 

This homemade chain cleaner can work wonders on your bike chain. The best part about it is that it can be easily made from homemade ingredients and works just the same as a bike chain cleaner that you may buy from the market. 

#5 Soak the Cloth

To clean your bike chain, you would first have to thoroughly soak the cloth in the cleaning solution. 

You should give the cloth sufficient time to soak in the solution so that it can absorb it thoroughly and then clean your bike chain effectively. 

#6 Rinse Off the Solution and Let it Dry

After thoroughly soaking the cloth in the solution, you should now rinse your bike chain with it. This cloth would effectively apply the solution to the entire bike chain.

Next, leave the solution on the bike chain for about 15 to 20 minutes. 

After that, use the brush to thoroughly spread the solution and clean the entire bike chain with it. Make sure that you remove the grime and sticky material that may be stuck to the bike chain.

Next, rinse off the cleaning solution from the bike using water. After that, let the bike chain get dry for about half an hour and then see the results. 

#7 Put the Bicycle Chain On the Drivetrain

Once your bike chain has thoroughly dried, it is time to put it back on the drivetrain of your bike. If you want to reassemble your bike chain, you will have to rejoin the master link that you removed earlier. 

To join the master link, you will first have to first fix the chain on the sprocket and then align both ends. Next, push the plate and pin assembly through the ends of the roller chain. 

Finally, install the master link clip on the outside of the link assembly. For the last step, install the spring clip and push it in place with the help of a flathead screwdriver.

#8 Degreasing Your Bike Chain

You have cleaned the bike chain with the cleaning solution, however, you can use an additional degreaser to remove some grime or stains left on the bike chain. 

As explained earlier, you can easily make your own homemade degreaser. All you need is some distilled vinegar, lemon juice, water, baking soda, and some salt.

Many bikers make the mistake of not degreasing the bike chain before lubricating it.

Degreasing your bike chain before lubrication is important because a bike laden with grime and dirt will attract more contaminants and make its functioning difficult. 

#9 Lubricate the Bike Chain

Lubricating your bike chain is important as it allows it to move more smoothly through the drivetrain system. 

Moreover, it increases the life of your bike chain and makes it easier to move without any friction. This leads to less heat production on contact and as a result protects your other components of the bike as well. 

To apply the lubricant on the chain, gently squeeze a tiny amount of the lubricant on the bike chain. Next, continuously move the pedals of the bike forward so that the chain moves forward and you can apply the lubricant to that area as well. 

#10 Final Inspection

Yes, you are finally done with the entire process. It is finally time to hit the streets again. You should instantly take your bike out for a ride and thoroughly inspect the chain and check how it is functioning. 

You should also get off the bike and then check how clean the chain is.

Moreover, you should constantly check if the chain is moving easily through the drivetrain components. If not, your drivetrain components may also need some lubricating. 

» This could also be something for you: How to Put On a Chain For Mountain Bikes

What Is The Best Solvent to Clean a Bike Chain?

The best solvent to clean a bike chain is one that doesn’t damage the metal yet cleans away all the debris attached to it.

The best ones are:

  1. Muc Off Bio Drivetrain
  2. WD-40
  3. Finish Line Speed Bike
  4. Peaty’s Foaming Drivetrain
  5. Pedros Pig Juice
  6. Smoove Prep Chain Cleaner
  7. Ceramic Speed UFO Clean Drivetrain
  8. WPL-Bio Solvent
  9. Isopropyl Alcohol
  10. Citrus Based Cleaner

You can get any of these cleaners from a nearby market and use that to instantly clean your bike chain and then ride your bike. 

Can You Use WD-40 to Clean a Bike Chain?

You can use WD-40 to clean a bike chain as it has an organic base and works well to remove grime and dirt from almost any surface. Thus, it works well as a degreaser and you can use it to remove the gunk from your bike chain. 

However, you should note that WD-40 is in no way the perfect agent for lubricating your bike chain.

Even though it will allow some amount of lubrication, it will nowhere be near enough that it requires running smoothly.

If you want, you can use WD-40 to first degrease your bike and then use a high-quality specific lubricant to lubricate the bike chain for its smooth movement. 

How Can I Clean My Bike at Home?

To clean your bike at home, you would first need to start by first applying soap solution to the bike frame and then spread it with the help of a brush.

Then, throw in some water to mix to remove the soapy mixture. While drying, you should use a new piece of cloth to clean off the dirt and grime that may be accumulated on the bike. 

You should start from the top and work your way down. First, clean the handlebars of your bike, then the headset, top tubes, seat posts, seat stays, forks, and then finally the brakes. 

Also, keep the soap away from the disc rotors if your bike has disc brakes as it can damage the braking system, specifically the rotors. 

Can I Use Vinegar to Clean My Bike?

Ideally, you should avoid using vinegar to clean your bike. To understand the reason, let us first understand the nature of the vinegar. Vinegar is made up of acetic acid and even though using it would temporarily clean your bike, it would make the metal more susceptible to rust. 

If you want to use a cleaner to clean your bike, you should ensure that you are using a non-corrosive cleaner that doesn’t degrade any of the paint, plastic, or rubber pieces on the bike. 

The Bottom Line

Cleaning your bike chain is an essential part of maintaining your bike. As an avid biker, this is a skill that you should not only have but also actively practice so that the life of your bike chain is extended.

Thankfully, the method of cleaning your bike chain is quite simple and easy, and the plus point is that you can clean it with the help of just your household products. 

In this article, I have explained to you the entire process of cleaning your bike chain with household products. Now it’s your turn to apply this knowledge in real life and see the instant productive results of this procedure!

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