Bike chains are probably one of the most annoying thighs in the world to clean. Any bike enthusiasts will know this pain all too well.
You have to be prepared to get your hands really dirty to remove the chain, and then you have to soak it, and then comes the special bike chain cleaning products… a lot of cleaning steps for such a small part of the bike.
However, the chain, as we are sure you know, is absolutely integral to your bike. Without the chain, the whole thing wouldn’t go. That’s why it is worth spending the time cleaning it properly.
There are ways of cleaning your bike chain without having to purchase specially formulated commercial products, though. There are some household products that can get the job done adequately for you, both in terms of cleaning and also tools to help you with the cleaning process itself.
This article is going to give you a breakdown of how to clean your chain using these household products that you probably already have laying around - if this sounds like it could help you then keep on reading.
Steps to Take
Step 1 - Removing the chain
One of the trickiest parts of cleaning your bike chain is getting it off to begin with. If your chain has a master link, you can easily remove it using that, if not take extra care when removing it so as not to snap the whole thing.
Even with the master link, remove the chain carefully. We thoroughly recommend using gloves for this because not only is the chain very oily, but it will also be dirty after riding it around.
Step 2 - Degreasing the chain
This is the step where the household items come in handy. You will want to make sure that all of that oily, gunky grease is off your choice.
To do this, our favorite method is to get a clean container and fill it with the degreasing solution of your choice, letting it soak for some time to make sure every little bit of grease is off there.
Products you could use include:
Orange Degreaser - this is a good choice because it doesn’t have any harmful chemicals in there and is formulated for bikes
White spirits - another popular way of cleaning bike chains is by soaking them in white spirits such as Shellite for 30 minutes. White spirits are often used as lighter fluids but are excellent for degreasing and are something most of us have at home anyway
Turpentine - Turpentine (sometimes known as paint thinner) is another common household product used for cleaning paint brushes, as well as numerous other DIY things. It works as the perfect household item for cleaning your bike chain. Just leave it soaking for 30 minutes and you are good to go.
Step 3 - Cleaning the chain
Next, you need to remove the chain from where it has been soaking and start to clean it, removing any loose bits of dirt and grime in the chain from where it has been soaking.
For this cleaning process, you can turn again to turpentine if you used it for soaking, or you can use kerosene, or even dish soap and water. You do not need to buy a fancy cleaner to get rid of the degreaser or clean up the chain.
All of these products can be found around your home, and if you do not have them there, we are sure you can run out to the hardware store to get them.
We simply recommend getting a clean bowl, a new toothbrush (one that you do not plan on using, because trust us, you will not be able to once you are done with it), and use a bit of good ol’ fashioned elbow grease to get the chain looking shiny and new.
You need to do this process repeatedly, rinsing in between to ensure that all leftover oil, dirt, and general gunk are cleaned off.
Step 4 - Dry the chain
For this step, we recommend grabbing a clothes hanger for your home. Hang the bike chain on the clothes hanger and let it air dry with a paper towel underneath to catch any rogue drippers. It is super important that you do not leave the chain drying for more than an hour.
Bike chains are very prone to oxidizing and rusting, which we all know means certain death for those bike chains of ours. If after an hour it is not totally dry, dab it with a paper towel. Although, an hour should be more than enough time.
Step 5 - return the chain to its home (on your bike, of course)
Ensure that the chain looks good, that there are no areas of rust, bumps, or any warps in the chain. When you are certain that it is fine to be placed onto your bike, you can go ahead and carefully reattach it.
When you are confident that the chain is fixed into its place, you can go ahead and lubricate it again. Use a lubricant of your choice, ensuring not to scrimp on this aspect of the process.
It is fine to use household products for the cleaning of your chain, but when it comes to lubricating it you really should use a very high quality bike chain lubricant, purchased from a specialist store or website.
Apply it to all elements of your chain, making sure you pedal the pedals as you do it to ensure all parts are equally covered.
...and voila! You have a perfectly cleaned bike chain, using household products for the cleaning process, and a good lubricant to ensure the longevity of your chain.
We hope you have found this article to be very useful, especially if you are a newbie to the bike world and are just about to clean your chain for the first time.
Don’t forget, always check your cupboards for these household products before you even think about buying specialized bike chain cleaning kits. These household products can do the job just as well!