How To Clean A Bike Chain With Household Products

A bike is a combination of a lot of parts and especially moving parts such as chains. So, when a bike is exposed to mud, debris, and grime, these parts get dirty and deteriorate. And to keep your bike in a healthy shape, these parts need regular cleaning and scheduled maintenance.

The chain is one of the main components of a bike that helps you keep moving by transferring the energy of the pedaling. And If your chain is not maintained well, then it can reduce the efficiency of the bike’s performance making your ride less optimum.

Is it important to clean your bike?

Yes, it is! If you want to keep your bike in good shape and want it to perform better you better take good care of it. Scheduled maintenance of your bike can prevent unnecessary wear and tear on the components.

What happens when you don’t clean your bike chain?

If you don’t clean your bike’s chain regularly, then the chains won’t grasp onto the cogs and chain-wheels as firmly as they would do when they are clean and the dirt can also make the parts fail and a single failure on any of these parts could quickly affect other parts which as a result could affect your ride and make it less smooth.

So, to make sure you get an easy, enjoyable ride by ensuring that your bike’s chains are in good condition and well maintained. Cleaning the bike chain is not that hard if you have the right supplies and know-how.

How to clean a bike chain with household products:

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Tools and materials:

  1. Bike stand
  2. Chain tool
  3. Chain lubricant
  4. All-natural degreaser
  5. Gas mask
  6. Kerosene or turpentine

Placing the bike on the bike stand:

The first and foremost step you should do is put your bike on a stand. Why? It’s because it will make sure your bike remains in one possible while you do your job. It also makes the inspection easier and better and also protects against any bump that could knock your bike to the ground and cause any damages.

You should always use a bike stand for any kind of bike maintenance. But if it’s not possible then you can set your bike upside down on the ground, so that your bike rests on the seat and handlebars.

Inspecting the bike chain:

Now that you have put your bike in a comfortable possible, now let’s check out the bike chain. After checking if you find your chain dirty and grimy then it’s time to clean the chain.

Though you should check your chain regularly to protect it from being damaged. A regular cyclist should perform their bike’s chain cleaning every week or two or at least after every 200 miles riding. Chain cleaning performance also depends on how much you ride and under what conditions.

Moreover, inspecting the chain regularly, will prolong your chain and protect it from damage, and also will allow you to notice any changes to your chain like stretching or damages.

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Step by step process of cleaning a bike chain:

The process of cleaning the bike chain is very simple and easy. Your household products should be effective enough to clean a bike chain, especially a mountain bike chain. And remember to ensure that you choose the all-natural degreaser that is free from any harmful chemical substances.

  1. We hope you have finished inspecting your bike chain, as we have said earlier by placing the bike on the bike stand.
  2. Did you find any dirty or grimes? If yes, then it’s time to clean them up! Also, make sure to check for any damages on the chain links!
  3. To clean the chain you will need to take it off the bike. To do that, find the master link. Master link is a quick-release link that makes it easier to connect and disconnect the chain without the need for any chain tool. So, if your chain does not have any master link, you will need a chain tool to unlock the chain.
  4. Now, if your degreaser is a spray bottle, then spray the chain directly. But if it comes in a normal bottle then put the degreaser into a container and then put the chain into the degreaser and make sure all of the chains are soaked well. Let the chain soak into the degreaser for 30 minutes or longer.
  5. Once the degreaser is well applied, now wear a gas mask, because you will have to work with the kerosene or turpentine. Repeat the same process you used for the degreaser for applying kerosene or turpentine now to make sure the chain is completely cleaned.

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

It can be overwhelming to use household products for cleaning bike chains, but you should be always careful of what products you use because the use of the wrong product can ruin your chain in no time.

Use products like, all-natural bio gradable, no phosphates, ammonia – a solvent that will leave a residue on the vital parts of the chain, and leave the chain all clean and nice and ready to lubricate! You can also use white spirit-based metal cleaner, which will clean your chain that’s not too dirty by air drying it. Basically, it means if your chain is average dirty, you can clean it very easily and it leaves has a low odor.

Along with the degreaser, you will also need some bottles, soft rags, gloves, a wire cloth hanger, two bottles, and a chain lubricant.

How to remove the chain from the bike?

Locate the master key on the chain of your bike. To remove the chain, slide the pin holding the link closed out of its slot to open the master link. Once you open the master link it will be very easy to pull the chain by sliding it through the drivetrain.

Degreasing the chain:

Before removing the chain for degreasing, make sure to take pictures of your chain and its set up on your bike, so that you can quickly check for reference later if you forget the mechanism of replacing the chain.

Now, let’s start with degreasing the chain. At first, put some degreaser on a spray bottle and spray the degreaser onto the chain. Then leave the spray for some minutes depending on the amount of dirt and then rinse it well. You may need to apply a degreaser for the second time for a deeper cleanse.

You can also put the chain with the bottle of the degreaser, fasten the lid tightly and shake it for a couple of minutes. To make sure it is cleaned thoroughly, you can leave it for up to 20 minutes. Now, after it being soaked, remove the chain with the coat hanger hook, to prevent your hands from getting dirty, and place the chain in a bottle of hot water for rinsing of the degreaser, along with the dirt, grime, and dust. Now, after removing the chain from the bottle again, take a rag to rub and squeeze dry the chain and ensure that it is moisture-free.

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Replacing the bike chain on the drivetrain:

After drying the chain properly, it’s time you put it back on the drivetrain. If you struggle to replace the chain, then use the pictures you took earlier as a reference. If it still does not work, try looking for online tutorials.

Now, reattach the master link into its place, and ensure that the ends of the bike chain meet at the midpoint of the wheels, then slide the pin of the master pin back into its slot. And you are done. Make sure you fastened it properly.

Lubricating the bike chain:

Now, it’s time to lubricate the bike chain. Make sure to get a good quality lubricant to ensure that your bike’s chain runs smoothly and protects other components of the bike.

To apply the lubricant, hold the bottle of the lubricant on the top middle pin of the chain and gently squeeze the bottle, to squeeze out a thin steady stream of lubricant onto the chain. Also simultaneously spin the pedals of the bike to rotate the chain as you apply the lubricant. Once you hit a complete full revolution, your work is done and you are ready for another road adventure.

Cleaning the bike chain if you are in hurry:

If you are in hurry or don’t have enough time then you can follow this quickest method and clean up your bike’s chain in no time. To do that, take a clean, lint-free cloth and wrap it around the bike’s chain and then backpedal the drivetrain to wipe off the exterior muck. Repeat this process until your rag stays mostly clean.

You can also use baby wipes alternatively. Now, that your bike’s chain is clean, re-apply the lubricant as needed. Try using oil-based lube as it will help float contaminants to the chain’s surface and you can repeat the wiping process all over again to properly clean the chain.

Remember that, if you do regular light cleaning like this, then it will make a thorough cleaning a rare task. But if your drivetrain is really dirty and filthy, please make sure to do a more in-depth cleaning.

Is WD-40 good for cleaning bike chains?

WD-40 is a degreaser, so yes, you can use it as a degreaser. It will help you remove any lubricant from your bike chain. Do not use WD-40 as a lubricant.

Can I use dish soap to clean the bike chain?

Dish soap can work best for cleaning some parts of the bike, but is it good for cleaning chains? Sometimes degreaser can be really harsh, and it can remove all the lubricant from inside the chain including the factory lube from the inside of the rollers which can shorten your bike chain’s life.

So, try experimenting, and asking local mechanics about which lube is better,  if you can’t decide if it’s better to use dish soap. But be careful, because dish soaps are powerful enough to harm your hands.


So, the above information should be enough for you to clean your bike chain easily and thoroughly. Always remember that chain is an important part of your bike, so ensure to maintain and inspect it regularly to increase its performance and efficiency.

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Daniel D. Harris

I am Daniel D. Harris, an enthusiastic biker who loves to ride bicycles. I keep on sharing my experience of cycling through this blog. I do keep writing to assist you in finding the city bikes, bike lights, bike pedals, and many more things related to bicycles. You may find my blog useful once you read some posts. Find me on twitter. Have a good day bikers!

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