How to Clean a Bike Chain

How to Clean a Bike Chain

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A dirty bike chain can ruin your cycling experience because it makes peddling tiresome and strenuous. So it’s important to clean it after every two weeks or after cycling for 200 miles if you’re a regular cyclist.

The goal if this guide is to help you learn how to clean your bike’s chain at home and still enjoy the process.

Here is a video guide for you

1. Get the Tools and Cleaning Reagents Ready

The choice of cleaners you buy will have a direct impact on how well the chain gets cleaned and how much longer it will serve you.

 I love using products that are easy on the wallet and work well while cleaning. Here are a few options.

Orange Citrus Degreaser is a solvent that will leave residue on your chain. The reagent is natural, biodegradable and it contains no phosphates. The other product is Shellite, which is a white spirit-based metal cleaner.

Sheltie is effective when cleaning a chain that is not very dirty because it air-dries and you might have to use quite a volume of it.

Kerosene is also an alternative to Shellite but the downside is its high odor and it washes out all the oil from your bicycle’s chain.

You will need a medium-sized bottle, soft rags, a hanging line, and a lubricant. You might also want to wear gloves to avoid being greased with oil on hands and an overall coat may come in handy.


Preventive maintenance of your bicycle chain usually prolong the life span of the sprockets and you get to notice changes like stretches and damaged links on the chain.

2. Position the Bike on a Stand

Place your bike on a solid work stand. This will make it easy for you to get a clear inspection of the chain and prevent damages such as falling.

If you don’t want to position the bike on a stand, consider placing the bike upside down such that it will rest on the seat and handlebars. This will enable you to examine the chain while standing. It also makes the chain easy to remove.

3. Degrease the Bicycle Chain

The process of degreasing involves putting some degreaser reagent into a spray bottle and then spraying it all over the chain. You should leave the chain for some minutes and then observe if you need to spray again depending on the amount of debris on it.


4. Taking Pictures

This is a vital step especially if you are just beginning the exercise of cleaning the bicycle chain or if you are not an innate mechanical geek.

 The pictures you will take will show you the exact positions that the chain passes through and the fittings of other components like the drive train.

5. Removing the Chain

You will need to identify the master link and slide the pin holding it closed out gently. Once you remove the master link, pull the chain out through the drivetrain.

Now put the chain inside one of the bottles with the degreaser and fasten the lid. You should then shake the bottle several times and let it settle for a few minutes.


You should use firm but gentle pressure while removing the chain from the drivetrain to avoid damaging the sprockets and the gear-shifting mechanisms.

6. Rinsing the Chain

This step involves placing the chain into a bottle or a basin containing hot water. Hot water rinses off the degreaser, dirt, grime and the dust particles that could have remained between the joints.

You should do a thorough rinsing and even use another basin of hot water.

Take your dry rag and use it to rub the chain dry. You should squeeze a rug on the chain while passing it on the bicycle chain ensures that the chain is free from moisture.

 It is important to place the chain on a dry surface in the sun to dry it even further.



Isopropyl alcohol is also effective in cleaning the chain if you pour some on the rag and move the chain across it.

7. Re-placing the Bicycle Chain

Once the chain is dry and clean, the next step is replacing it into the drivetrain. This step might be difficult if you have not mastered the technique but you can go online for a tutorial or use the pictures you took as references.

The process of replacing the chain requires precision and carefulness to avoid damaging the master link.

Drive one end of the chain through the drivetrain and make the two ends meet at the midpoint of the bicycle wheels. This gives you a clear view of the master link and your hands can easily reach the joint.

You will then put the master pin back into its position to complete the reconnection of the chain. It is important to use your fingers to feel if the joint is rigid such that it does not get too loose or tight.

8. Lubrication

 This step requires a good quality lubricant that will ensure that your bicycle chain moves easily and other parts of the bike are protected. You should never compromise on the quality of the lubrication product.

Since your bike is positioned on a stable stand, you can spin the pedals slowly to confirm that the chain is well-positioned and it does not warp.

You should hold the lubricant bottle above the chain and in the middle position and then squeeze a steady flow of the lubricant on the moving chain.

This ensures that the lubricant is well distributed on the chain and you should repeat several revolutions of the bicycle chain.


You now have a complete guide on how to clean your bicycle chain at home and the products are easily available. The process is fun and you might find it so amazing that you will clean the chain every week.

A clean bicycle chain makes the riding experience easy and more enjoyable even without mentioning the joy of a durable bike. Next time you hit the road, clean the chain well and have fun at it.

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