How To Clean A Bike In 7 Quick & Easy Steps

Author: Alex Bristol

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A clean bike works more smoothly, lasts longer, and looks better when riding. Regular maintenance and cleaning will save your bike a lot of money in the future. But how do you wash a bike?

It’s actually very easy, and I’ve broken it down into some seven quick and easy steps for everyday cleaning and even more deep cleaning tips in this simple guide.

Now I know it’s easy to just pop it back in the shed after your ride; it could be raining or just super cold– am I explaining your situation correctly?

Well, even just spending a few minutes after every ride on cleaning your bike can really prolong the life of your bike; it will not only improve longevity but will make your ride that much smoother.

Now, wait, let me tell you something.

Every nook and cranny on your bike will start to build up with dirt; it happens. But leaving this dirt to buildup over time will just result in wear and tear on your bike and even rust!!

So even if you forget to clean your bike after every ride, it’s crucial that you clean your road bike, mountain bike, dirt bike, commuter bike, whatever bike after a wet and muddy ride.

You’ll thank me later; let’s jump in!

Woman Washing Mountain Bike

Step By Step To How To Clean A Road Bike:

So the first bike I am going to speak about is the legendary road bike, it is one of the most common bikes on the market, and regular cleaning can really push the performance of this bad boy.

Now there are a few things you’ll need before we get started so go grab these essentials real quick:

  • The first thing you’ll need is a water source (obvious, I know) but either a bucket, garden hose, or even a jet washer. But if you use a jet washer, be careful around the suspension seals.
  • Brushes: You’ll probably want to grab a dustpan brush and an old toothbrush; these will massively help get off all the dirt and grime in the smallest nooks and crannies.
  • Chain cleaning device: Now, a chain cleaning tool is a super handy tool to have, it makes cleaning the chain a breeze, but if you don’t have one, then a stiff-bristled toothbrush will do the trick.
  • Chain degreaser
  • Bike wash fluid
  • Chain lube
  • Paper towel or washcloth
  • Chamois leather
  • Workstand– this bit is optional, but it comes in handy; it means you can move around the bike easily when cleaning.
Cleaning a bicycle, closeup

Step One: Clean The Drivetrain:

If you have a chain cleaning device, then this step is very easy. But if not, then there are no issues. Just grab a degreaser and use a brush to clean the chain; you’ll have to use a brush for the cassette and derailleurs anyway.

Don’t worry, I’ll break this down in more detail as to how to clean a bike chain below if you need a few more details.

Use one specific brush for the drivetrain, and don’t use it for any other part of the bike, especially the brakes. You don’t want to contaminate the brakes with chain filth, as this can damage the performance of the bike.

It may even mean you’ll have to replace your brake pads.

On some parts of the bike, you might need to use something to dislodge the stubborn grime, like the end of a brush if it has a hooked handle; a flathead screwdriver is also good for this.

Grime and dirt tend to collect on jockey wheels, so be sure to give your entire bike a clean.

Hands of bicycle mechanic cleaning chainring bike

Step Two: Clean Discs & Brakes:

Now your drivetrain is clean; you can focus on the non-oily parts on your bike; it’s best to start from the top and work your way downwards since all the dirt will drop to the bottom when cleaning.

Give your discs or rim brakes a wipe down to prevent the change of squeaky brakes. Squeaky brakes are often caused when oil or grease is on the wheel rim– see why I said to use a separate brush now?

Make sure you’re using a clean sponge for the areas you come in contact with most such as the handlebars, brake levers, gear shifters, and saddle.

You can either use a bike-specific cleaner spray to cover your bike and work the dirt with the sponge or use hot water to remove as much dirt and grime.

If you have rim brakes, then try to clean the pads and rims thoroughly, but if you have disc brakes, then use disc brake cleaner for the pads and rotors. Most disc brakes cleaners are aerosols that you spray on the surfaces and wipe with a clean rag.

Try to avoid getting this on other parts of the bike.

There’s always a chance that the muck from the chain will make its way onto the roots, so just spray some degreaser on a paper towel and carefully wipe around the motors.

Male mechanic working in bicycle repair shop using tools

Step Three: Rinse & Apply Detergent:

Using a hose, bucket of soapy water, or sponge, wet the bike to remove all the remaining mud and grime buildup during the bike clean. This final clean is crucial to remove any extra dirt that you might have missed.

If you’re using a jet washer, then turn the intensity down to prevent damaging the bike.

Man cleaning blue bicycle using high pressure washer

Step Four: Brush Clean Again:

After the first rinse, you’re going to want to go over with the brush again to scrub the bike down; bike brushes are brilliant for removing any stubborn dirt.

Repeating the front to back top to bottom routine, paying extra attention to moving parts, and using a smaller brush for the smaller, more awkward spaces.

Using a bike-specific cleaner paired with bike brushes will loosen all the muck on your bike. Don’t forget to clean the underneath bits and awkward areas– don’t be lazy with this bit.

An old rag is brilliant for threading between tight areas such as the crankset and front derailleur, so it’s handy to use one if you have one available.

Step Five: Rinse Again:

If you’re rinsing using a bucket, go fill up the bucket again with fresh warm water and rinse over your bike again. Spin the front and back wheel to rinse off all the detergent out of the tread.

Repeat the previous step if there is still a thin layer of dirt or grime on your bike, but it should’ve removed all of the excess dirt.

Step Six: Dry Your Bike:

This is when your work stand or bike stand will come in handy as you can move around the bike easily. Using an old dishcloth or chamois leather to dry the bike as best you can.

Give your bike frame a spray with some polish or silicone spray, rubbing it in with paper towels or a soft cloth; this will add shine to your bike and make your bike look like a new bike.

Try to avoid the braking surface.

Man cleaning his bicycle for the new season

Step Seven: Apply Chain Lube & Remove Excess Lube:

The final step is to apply lube to your chain when turning the pedals; the amount of chain lube your bike needs depends on the manufacturer’s recommendations, so try not to overdo it.

If your bike is not on a bike stand, then you’ll need to turn the bike pedals backward and try to avoid the braking surfaces.

Grab an old rag to wipe away any excess lube; any excess lube on the outside of your drivetrain will provide a surface for muck to stick to, which can affect the performance of the bike, along with making it harder to clean next time.

Degreasing bicycle chain

How To Clean Rust Off A Bike

Now for some of us, our bikes have seen better days; you may be wondering how to clean a rusty bike, and don’t worry, a little TLC can make your bike feel like new again. 

Whether you’ve just left it in the shed for a couple of years and since the pandemic you’ve decided to get back out on your bike, you might be faced with rust, and that’s normal.

By mixing baking soda and vinegar into a paste and adding in a little bit of lime juice. Using a brush apply the paste to the affected areas on your bike and leave it to sit for around 10 minutes.

Scrub off the paste thoroughly using a steel wool pad until all the rust has been removed.

Didn’t work? There are a few other cleaning agents you can use to do the job. WD40, coke, vinegar, hydrochloric acid, or hydrogen peroxide are other brilliant cleaning agents which can remove rust.

How To Clean A Rusty Bike Chain:

So the frame isn’t the only place on the bike that gets rusty, the bike chain is also prone to rust, and when the chain is rusty, then the bike can’t perform very well, so it’s important to remove it as soon as possible.

Here’s how to clean rust off a bike chain; the first thing you’ll want to do is grab a few bits:

  • Dry rags: grab a couple.
  • Scouring pad
  • Link removal tool
  • A toothbrush or a bristle brush
  • Lime juice
  • Bucket
  • Chain lube

So the first thing you’ll want to do is clean the entirety of the chain using a chain cleaning tool or a toothbrush to remove all the surface grime or dirt. Lift the rear wheel and push the pedal to look for all the grime.

Wipe the dirt using your dry rags and brush off all the hidden grime with the bristle brush. You’ll want to use big and small brushes to ensure you get in all the nooks and crannies.

Dip the scouring pad in lime juice to try and release the surface rust on the chain; if there are more stubborn rust stains, then you’ll need to turn your bike upside and use the link removal tool to remove the chain and soak the chain in lime juice for a few hours.

This should help ease off all the rust without damaging the chainrings.

How To Clean A Bike Chain

Knowing how to clean your bike chain is super important and knowing how to how to clean a bike chain without removing it is a handy trick to have– it’ll save you a lot of effort too!

The mechanic is fixing the road bicycle in his workshop

How To Clean A Road Bike Chain

How you clean your bike chain all depends on whether or not you need to keep the chain on or off.

Without Removing The Chain: If you have to keep the chain on, it is best to clean your bike chain using a chain cleaning tool.

There are many bike brands on the market, including Park Tool and Muc-Off, that offer chain cleaning devices to make the job much easier, including rotating brushes that work the degreaser through the chain in a controlled manner.

The only difference between different chain cleaning tools is the quality and not so much the purpose. It avoids running the degreaser through your freehub and rear hub and also prevents getting on your chain.

If your road bike has disc brakes, then it might be best to remove the front wheel; this also ensures the oil-filled degreaser stays off your disc rotor.

Once you’ve run over your chain using a chain cleaning tool and degreaser, you should clean your bike a second time with soapy water using two different solvents to flush out any grit that remains.

Just make sure you do this outside and not over your wooden floor or white carpet; it will be messy.

With Removing The Chain: If you have a re-useable master link in your chain, you won’t need to touch the chain-breaking tool. If you can remove the chain, you can run it through a degreasing bath.

Removing the chain completely is the most effective way to clean it. The easiest way to clean the chain is by placing the chain in an ultrasonic machine.

It does a great job of removing dirt and grit from the nooks and crannies of the links. But if you don’t have an ultrasonic, you can place the chain in a sealed container with cleaner and shake it vigorously.

After using the ultrasonic machine or sealed container, give the chain a final scrub and then attach it back to your bike.

Mechanic man Hands, Spraying Oil To A Bike Chain. Bicycle maintenance.

How To Clean A Mountain Bike Chain:

Since a mountain bike is designed to deal with the roughest and muddiest of conditions, the chain is going to get grubby easily and quickly. Knowing how to clean a mountain bike is super handy.

If your chain isn’t too grubby and you want to do a quick clean after an intense ride, all you really need to do is apply one drop of lube to each link (while slowly backpedaling).

Once each link is covered, leave it for a few minutes s. Other lube can work its magic and then run a cloth over the chain while pedaling, do this in different directions, and this will give your chain a quick clean, and it’ll be ready to shred another trail.

Repeat this until all the gunk has been removed and all the excess lube is removed.

For a deeper clean, you’re going to need a few more supplies to get the mountain bike chain spotless again. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Firm brush or an old toothbrush
  • Chain degreaser
  • Bucket for soaking the chain
  • Hose or bucket of water for rinsing
  • Soap
  • Chain lube
  • Clean cloth or rag
  • Gloves– not essential but highly recommended.

The first thing you’ll want to do is take the chain off the bike (if you can) and place the chain in a bucket with a substantial amount of chain degreaser to cover the chain.

If your chain is very dirty, then it’s best to leave it overnight, but if you don’t have time for this, then a couple of hours will do nicely.

After leaving it overnight or for a few hours, then use a brush to scrub off any remaining dirt and grime (this is why gloves are recommended).

As for the rest of the bike, give it a good scrub as you would with a road bike, focusing on the cassette, derailleur, chainrings with a degreaser.

As for the suspension fork and brake pads, take care when cleaning these parts and do not use a degreaser on these parts as this can really damage these components.

Then rinse the chain with soapy water, along with the rest of the bike, to remove any remaining degreaser or grime. Then rinse it all off with the hose.

Leave your chain to fully dry before reapplying it, and then lube the chain by adding a drop of lube to each link while backpedaling until the chain has been covered.

Remove any excess lube, and you’re done!

Bicycle mechanic in a workshop in the repair process

How To Clean A Dirt Bike Chain

How to clean a dirt bike and dirt bike chain is very similar to cleaning a mountain bike as they tend to go along similar terrains, but dirt bikes tend to tackle muddier areas, so they may need a thorough bike wash after every ride.

If you have time, then it’s best to submerge your chain in a container of kerosene and give it a good scrub. Kerosene is brilliant at dissolving the old chain lube and is ideal if you don’t have a regular chain cleaner.

Leave it to sit for a few minutes and clean the rest of your bike while it is soaking; this will help the kerosene penetrate into all the small spaces on the chain.

It’s best not to use a wire brush on a dirt bike chain, instead use a stiff bristle brush or a toothbrush to prevent damage to the chain. It’ll make the dirty job of cleaning your bike a little bit easier.

If you can then give your chain a wipe-over after each ride, and if you have time, then I would recommend doing this deep clean at least once a week to keep your chain in spotless condition.

Bicycle maintenance, Rider is assembling the bicycle parts, Clos


It’s super important to clean your bike regularly to prevent issues like rust and damage to the bike, you can even take your bike to the bike shop for regular maintenance, and some bike shops will even do a clean for you.

So clean your bike after every ride, whether that is a quick cleaning job or more of a deep clean, it is super important to keep all your components spick and span for a smooth ride.

Invest in a proper degreaser as this will make cleaning that much easier. For stubborn stains, use a pressure washer on the frame but avoid using it on components as this can cause costly repairs.

A clean bike is a happy bike.

Photo of author


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