Are Bike Chains Worth Cleaning? (Quick Guide) + How to Do it

Any good cyclist knows how important it is to keep their bicycle in good shape and well maintained to continue having good cycling experiences.

To do this, you must understand that every part, from the frame down to the gears and bolts has specific care that you must perform at regular intervals to keep your bicycle at optimum performance.

It is easy to neglect certain parts such as the chains, they don’t look like they require much cleaning and they’re so easy to skip over, makes you wonder if it is really worth it to always clean the bike chain. Well, here’s your answer and reasons as well as some tips about whether your bike chain is worth cleaning.

Bike Chains Worth Cleaning or not

Are Bike Chains Worth Cleaning?

Yes, your bike chains are worth cleaning. As a matter of fact, it is highly recommended that you clean them regularly. Your chain has hundreds of small links and plates that are constantly moving around to keep your bicycle moving smoothly, and these parts require regular cleaning and lubrication to keep working.

There are more reasons why it is worth it to clean your bike chains, some of which are discussed below.

5 Reasons Why Cleaning Bike Chains Are Worth It

You’re the kind of person or cyclist who wants proof, reasons, to understand why bike chains specifically require regular cleaning, so here are not one, but five reasons why cleaning your bike chain is worth it:

1- Cleaning your bike chain extends the lifespan of your bike chain, keeping it at optimal performance for longer periods of time.

2- It helps your chain to operate properly, improving the efficiency of your drivetrain and increasing the speed of your bike.

3- It helps to protect your chains as well as the derailleurs, gears, and the rest of your drivetrain from early wear and tear.

4- It helps to prevent your chain from getting stuck and creating squeaky or creaking noises which can affect your cycling experience.

5- Cleaning your bike chain regularly will save about 10 watts or more on your bike and reduce the energy you expend, completely improving your cycling experience.

What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Bicycle Chain?

For cyclists who don’t take proper care of their bike chain by cleaning regularly, here is the risk you are taking and what could happen to your bike chain without proper cleaning and care:

1- Dirty and grimy chains have an increased rate of wear as opposed to clean chains. They will also stretch out more which will also wear out your cassette and drivetrain cogs.

2- When dirty chains wear out and damage other parts of your drivetrain, you will likely have to replace your chain frequently as well as other parts which will cost you a lot of money and time.

3- The links and plates of your chain will have reduced flexibility and movement which will reduce the speeds your bike can attain and make for a noisy ride.

4- It will impair the shifting performance of your bike and reduce the efficiency of as much as 15-20% and possibly more without proper care.

5- It will require that you exert more energy than you normally would to cycle. This will inadvertently put more strain on you and your bike.

How Often Should Bike Chains Be Cleaned?

Now that you understand how important it is to take proper care of your bike by cleaning and maintaining its parts, particularly the bike chain, you should know how regularly this cleaning must be done to keep your bike chain in proper shape and protected from damage.

You can clean as regularly as once a week if you ride your bicycle daily, and this is even more important if you ride on wet or muddy surfaces. If you are not a regular rider and not for long distances, once every two weeks is okay.

A pointer to know when your chain requires cleaning is to listen to the sounds it makes, if it sounds creaky or squeaky, that’s a sign to clean. Cleaning, drying, and lubing your bike chain doesn’t usually take more than 30-45 minutes and can easily be done at home.

How to Clean a Bike Chain with Household Products?

Here are several household products which can be used to properly clean your bike chain and how to use them effectively:


1- Rags: Old cloths will help you to scrub the chain and ensure the soap does it work. It will also help in cleaning up.

2- Dish Soap: Dish soap or liquid detergents are a suitable option to clean out dirt and grease from your chain.

3- Baking Soda & Lemon Juice: Mixing a minimal amount of these two items with hot water helps you create a homemade degreaser to remove grease in your chain.

4- Brushes: Old toothbrushes or small paintbrushes are good to help you remove tiny rocks or buildups that are stuck in your chain.


Preparatory Steps

1- Wear protective gear. You should put on rubber gloves and eye protection as well as old clothes just for extra protection.

2- Prepare your bicycle. A bike stand can help in this process by helping you to secure your bike in position. If you do not have one, ask someone to help you hold it in place. The wheels should be facing upward for easy cleaning.

3- Inspect your chain. Check if your bike chain is removable and determine how dirty it is, pinpointing areas with buildup.

If Your Bike Chain Is REMOVABLE:

STEP 1: Locate the master link that secures the bike chain. Pull gently to unlock and remove the chain.

STEP 2: Apply the degreaser by pouring your degreaser solution into a bowl or bottle and dipping the chain into the solution. Seal the container and shake it thoroughly to ensure the degreaser is spread throughout the chain.

STEP 3: Leave the chain in the degreaser solution for about 10 minutes then remove the chain carefully. Spread on a rag or old towel to dry for some time.

STEP 4: Soak a rag in your dish soap or detergent and gently scrub the chain to remove the degreaser solution. Use another cloth and water to thoroughly clean the chain of extra degreaser and soap.

STEP 5: Leave your chain to dry. After it has dried thoroughly, lubricate it thoroughly with your brush and lube. Reattach the chain to your bike and reconnect the master link. Test the chain movement to be sure it is attached properly.

If Your Bike Chain Is NOT REMOVABLE:

STEP 1: Wear your protective gear and old clothes.

STEP 2: Pour your degreaser into a bowl and soak your rag or cloth in it. Apply the degreaser by using the rag to soak the chain thoroughly section by section, using the pedal sift between sections.

STEP 3: Rinse the bike chain by dipping another rag in detergent and water and rubbing out the degreaser carefully. Use the pedal to move between sections and ensure all the degreaser is removed.

STEP 4: Use a dry cloth and water to clean out the soap from your chain. You should also wipe down other parts of your bicycle with water to clean any spills.

STEP 5: Pour your lube into an applicator bottle and carefully apply to your chain after it has dried. You can also use your brush to apply the lube section by section.

Can I Use Wd-40 on the Bike Chain?

Apart from cleaning your bike chain thoroughly, it is also important to lubricate regularly as this is the other key to keeping your chain in optimal condition and performance for a long time.

It is recommended that you use a water-based lubricant as it also protects against rust and corrosion which can reduce chain life.

WD-40 is a multi-use product and a water-based lubricant that is suitable for use on your bike chain. It has a history of use by many cyclists and good performance on bike chains. It is a very good lubricant that will protect your chain from rust and corrosion and minimize the accumulation of dirt on the chain.

t is also durable but does not last long where your chain is exposed to moisture long, such as when you ride in the rain or wet surfaces.

What Can I Use Instead of Chain Cleaner?

In a situation where you do not have access to chain cleaner, what other options do you have to use to clean your bike chain properly? Here are some recommendations:

1- Vinegar

This can be used to clean bike chains but primarily as a degreaser. It must be measured and prepared properly, and carefully applied to protect other parts from damage.

2- Paraffin Canning Wax

This is very useful to maintain that smooth rolling and movement in your chain. It can be applied after melting the wax, removing the chain, and dipping it in the melted wax.

3- Olive Oil

This is also useful in cleaning your bike chain and lubricating it properly. However, it is a short-term lubricant and requires reapplication often.

Mineral spirits- This can be used to clean out dirt and grease from your bike chains and can be reused after it has been filtered.

Final Thoughts!

This is sufficient to show any cyclist that proper cleaning and lubrication is worth it to keep your chains and bike in good condition. Now you also have all you need to clean and maintain your bike chain, and then see the effects on your bike and cycling experience.


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