how to remove rust from bicycles

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Last Updated on February 8, 2022

Whether you’re using your bike or not, it’s bound to get rust. This is because your bike is exposed to moisture, air and debris that accelerate the process of rusting. 

You may undertake various bicycle maintenance practices to minimize the effects. 

However, it may not be possible to protect all the bike sections. Routine checks will aid in identifying deterioration from rust when it occurs.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to get rust out from various parts of your bike. We’ll cover the best way to remove depending on the area affected.


How to Remove Rust from Bike Chain

rusty bike chain

The first step to knowing how to handle rust on the bike chain is to examine it. This will enable you to make the decision on whether to work on it or replace it altogether.

Position the bike upside down and secure it. Carefully examine the kind of damage on it. If there’s deterioration, warping or extensive imperfections, opt for replacement.

On the other hand, if the rust and material build up is on the surface, it can be salvaged. Once you’ve determined this, the next step is to identify the materials needed. 

For best results, remove the chain from the bike by removing the chain from the master link. Alternatively, jump one of the links from the spikes of the gear to be able to separate the chain from the drivetrain. 

You’ll need the following;

  • A degreaser, 
  • Lime juice
  • Bucket
  • Clean cloth
  • Brush or steel wool 
  • Gloves

The first step is to degrease the chain. The aim of degreasing is to remove accumulated grease and particles that build up over time. 

Wear gloves when handling a degreaser as they are harsh on hands. Apply adequate amount of degreaser on the clean cloth or soak the cloth in the product. Then, run the cloth over the chain.

If the level of build up is high, opt to soak the chain in the degreaser for at least 24 hours. This will give ample time for it to act on the rust.

The next step after degreasing is cleaning. Here, you’ll need a brush or steel wool and lime juice. Apply the lime juice on the brush or soak the steel wool in the juice for absorption. Use your preferred scrubber to remove the rust from the chain.

Occasionally, wipe off the chain with a piece of cloth to asses the progress. If rust is still present, repeat the process until you’re satisfied. The level of cleaning is determined by the amount of rust on the chain.

What follows is to wash away the lime juice from the chain. Here you’ll use soapy water. You can soak the chain or rinse it. Once clean, dry it with a cloth. 

The final steps after the cleaning processes is to lubricate the chain and re-attaching it. Lubrication prevents rust from forming on the chain quickly and it also ensures that the system runs smoothly. 

How to Remove Rust from Bike Frame

rusty bike frame

To remove rust from the bike frame, the champion is baking soda.

You can use a variation of mixtures but baking soda is the main ingredient in the rust removal process. Other additions that may work together with the baking soda are vinegar and lemon juice. 

Aside from baking soda, you’ll need water, a dry cloth, a sponge, brush and a bowl or bucket. Mix equal portions of water and baking soda in a bucket to form a paste. 

Apply this paste on the bike frame affected by the rust. Ensure that the frame sections are adequately covered for effective removal. Let the paste sit on the frame for about 15 minutes.

This contact time gives the paste time to break down the rust. Using the brush, scrape off the paste from the bike. It easily comes off with the rust. If the removal is not satisfactory, add more paste to the frame and let it sit as before.

Repeat the process until you’re satisfied with the outcome. When the rust is off, wipe the frame down with a clean cloth until it’s clean and dry.   

How to Remove Rust from Handlebars

The process of removing rust from your bike handlebars is straightforward. There are two options for this- using a mixture of salt with lime juice or a rust remover available in the market.

If you’re looking to minimize costs, make a paste by mixing six tablespoons of salt with two tablespoons of lime juice. Apply this paste on the handlebars using a cloth or towel. 

Once this is done, let the paste sit on the handlebar for about 20 minutes. This gives it time to disintegrate the rust. 

After the time has lapsed, wipe the paste with a piece of clean material. You’ll notice that it comes off with the rust. Wipe the handlebar clean and leave it dry.

To avoid leaving the handlebars susceptible to the elements, apply a primer, varnish or wax. 

If you choose to use a store-bought rust remover, follow the same process. You may want to scrub the handlebar sections with a brush to increase the effectiveness. 

How to Remove Rust from Bike Spokes

rusty bike spokes

If the spokes on your bike are made from a chrome or zinc plating, you’ll experience rusting. Bikes with stainless steel bike spokes do not experience this problem. 

To remove the rust, you’ll need to clean the spokes one at a time. It is a tedious and repetitive process but worth the hassle to get your spokes rust free.

You’ll need steel wool with a very fine grain. This will be enough if the level of rust infestation is minimal. To speed up the process, you may add lime juice or vinegar. 

Take the steel wool, apply the vinegar if necessary and rub each spoke up and down as robustly as possible.

Ensure that you get in contact with all areas of each spoke. Repeat this process for each spoke until the rust is eliminated.

When you’re done with the process, apply a protectant on the spokes to prevent rust from accumulating again. A great protectant is wax or grease. 

How to Remove Rust from Bike Rim

The rims of a bike are constantly exposed to water and other forms of dirt. Therefore, they’re bound to rust faster than the other bike sections. 

Like when dealing with the bike chain, inspect the rims and ascertain the damage.

You’ll be able to quickly do this by removing the wheel from the bike. Removing the wheel will also make it easier to clean since it’ll stay in place.

Before you start the cleaning process, remove sections of the wheel that are non-metallic. These include the rubber sections.

This will ensure that the they’re not damaged by the material used in the rust removal process. 

To remove rust from the rims, use a mixture of baking soda and water. You can also opt for a store-bought removal agent. 

For the baking soda, create a paste that is easy to apply on the affected areas of the rim.

Once applied, use a steel wool to scrub and scrape off the rust. If all the rust comes out, use a clean cloth to wipe the rims to clear the paste and debris that comes off.

In case the rust has affected more than just the surface of the rims, opt to soak. Formulate a lime juice mixture or use a removal agent from the store.

Soak the rim for a few hours depending on the extent of damage. Ensure that all sections of the rim are soaked for even rust removal. 

However, ensure that you stick to one regimen when soaking. Mixing the lime juice and removal agent might cause an adverse reaction that might damage the rims, your hands and cleaning materials. 

Rust-proofing your Bike

Putting the effort in removing rust from different sections of your bike without rust-proofing is a waste. This is because it will find its way back.

Remember, the conditions have not changed and the bike is exposed to moisture, salt and other materials that facilitate rusting.

So, how do you rust-proof your bike?

The best way to do this is by applying rustproofing materials such as grease, wax, varnish or primer. The product to apply largely depends on the specific bike part that you’re trying to protect.

Another great way is to paint. Paint adds a layer of protection as the metal parts have little to no exposure. Also, ensure that you re-paint sections of the bike if it starts to chip off. 

Make it a habit to regularly clean the bike after cycling. This is especially important when your bike is exposed to water, dirt and other forms of debris.

Moreover, do not only clean, ensure that the bike is dry and stored safely. 

Although bike rusting is inevitable, you can minimize the extent.

Continuously conducting maintenance practices such as cleaning and greasing prolongs the durability of your bike. You’ll also minimize the costs and time spent in repairing the bike. 

Harold Whitford

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About the Author

My name is Harold Whitford, a husband, father, and avid cyclist with a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Delaware. Having been in the industry for more than 15 years, I have a number of the road race and national time trial championships in my bag.

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