Clean A Bicycle Chain Without Special Cleaning Tools

Clean A Bicycle Chain Without Special Cleaning Tools

Most bike shops recommend that you purchase mechanical bicycle chain cleaners or pay their repair shop to clean dirty chains, but you can clean a chain simply and inexpensively using a wide mouth bottle, any degreasing dish soap and a chain tool to break and rejoin the chain.

Outdoor activity blog Pig Monkey shares this method inspired by a method from bicycle technician Sheldon Brown. Break the chain using the chain tool ($US7 at Amazon) and drop the chain into the wide-mouth bottle, add about 30g or so of the dish soap and fill with water. Shake the bottle for a minute or so and let it set for 15 minutes. Then dump out the water and repeat until the water is clear. The author states it should take around three cycles.

Bicycle Chain Cleaning [Pig Monkey]


  • kerosene, a paint brush and a drop sheet. dont event need to break the chain. breaking the chain to clean it every time puts unecessary wear on the chain and you’ll find yourself replacing it more often than you should.

    there are also inline chain cleaning tools. a lot less messy and the brushes are designed to clean inbetween all the links!! and they are relatively cheap as well.

  • You can buy a inline chain cleaner for a few bucks off Torpedo7 or somewhere similar. Fill it with degreaser, connect to your chain, run it through a few times and chain is spotless, much simpler than pulling the chain off and dropping in this solution.

    That every few months and a self cleaning lube (like Rocknroll gold) every few weeks, and your chain will stay in great shape, and you’ll enjoy a near silent drivetrain.

  • +1 Kero and a rag. Give it a good clean and a quality chain lube.

    Depends on the kind of chain you have but never use degreaser on X Ring, O ring, or XY ring chains because it’ll get behind the rings and ruin your chain. Probably not a big deal on a standard roller chain.

    You can use WD40 on a rag instead of Kerosene but don’t spray it directly onto to chain for the same reason as degreaser.

  • The problem with this technique is it strips away all the oil from the inside of the chain. If your restoring a old bike you may want to do this, but if its a modern bike just washing the outside of the chain and giving it a go over with rock and roll lube (or similar) is going to be more than enough.

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