How To Clean A Bike Chain With Household Products

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It can be super tedious to clean bike chains, and time-consuming too. But if you want your bike to run smoothly and last longer, there’s no other way but to clean the chains. While there are a few ways we can clean it, not all are effective and cheap.

In this article, let’s see how to clean a bike chain with household products.

How To Clean A Bike Chain With Household Products

The bike chain acts as a medium for delivering the power generated in the engine to the rear wheel. A dirty chain will have increased frictional losses and degrade the overall performance of the bike.

Closeup of a bike chain

Materials Required

  • A few bottles
  • A pair of gloves
  • An old t-shirt or a rug
  • Any oil that can be used as a lubricant, preferably chain lubricants
  • Kerosene or turpentine oil
  • Any metal cleaner
  • An apron

Protective Measures

  • The bike chain is mostly soiled with grease all the time. Make sure to put on a pair of gloves and an apron to prevent your hands and clothes from getting dirty.
  • Make sure you have all the necessary items available before you begin the cleaning process. 
  • Some of the items may not be suitable for children, so choose a place away from their reach, like a clean concrete.
  • While disengaging the chain, make sure you study it properly or click pictures to enable smooth reassembly.

Step 1: Disengage The Chain

Though disengaging the bike chain is not essential for cleaning it, doing so is highly recommended as it makes cleaning a lot simpler.

  1. The bike chain is held in its slot by a link. This link is held by a pin which you need to slide and expose the master link.
  2. Pull the chain free after feeding the chain through the drivetrain. 
  3. Keep a count of all the bolts and nuts that are removed while disengaging the chain.
  4. Do not lose or misplace them, as you will need them while reengaging the chain.

Step 2: Use Degreaser

The degreaser, as the name suggests, helps to remove the grease that accumulates on the chain.

In case it is not available, you can also use a detergent solution in warm water.

  1. Fill a bottle with the degreaser or detergent solution and soak the disengaged chain in it.
  2. Ensure the chain is completely immersed in the degreaser, and then close the bottle’s lid tightly so that it is as airtight as possible.
  3. Now, shake the bottle vigorously for a few minutes. This is essential for the degreaser to start acting on the grease on the chain.
  4. After this, let the bottle stand still so that it can further act on the dirt. The bottle should be left undisturbed for about twenty minutes to half an hour.
Man riding a bicycle

After taking the chain out of the bottle, you should repeat the entire process taking some fresh detergent solution this time if you still notice some grease covering.

Step 3: Removing The Grease

After the degreaser has acted on the grease for a considerable amount of time, you have to remove the grease, which may have loosened by now. 

  1. Spray some more degreasing liquid onto the bike chain. Again, let it stay on the chain for about five minutes.
  2. Soak an old t-shirt or a rug in some amount of kerosene or turpentine and begin to scrub the chain with it. This begins to remove grease from the chain.
  3. The scrubbing process with kerosene must be repeated multiple times, with periodical soaking in kerosene until the chain is thoroughly cleaned.
  4. When you are satisfied, wipe the kerosene with a clean piece of cloth and let the chain dry. Let it dry under sunlight, preferably.

Step 4: Re-Engage The Chain Into The Bike

Once the grease has been removed from the chain, you must put the chain back into the bike before proceeding further.

  1. Hold the bike steadily and adjust both ends such that the master link meets precisely at the midpoint of the bike. Now reattach the master link carefully.
  2. Slide the pin of the master link to its original position and complete the entire reconnection process.
  3. Ensure that the chain is tightly affixed to its slot. Feel it with your fingers, and if your fingers don’t warp, you are good to go.
  4. Different models of bikes may require some additional steps. Refer to any manual that comes with the bike to have a smooth re-engagement process.
  5. Refer to pictures of the bike chain you had clicked previously so that this process is smooth.

Step 5: Apply Lubricant

Bike chain

After cleaning the chain and attaching it to the slot, you should apply a sufficient amount of lubricant for smoothness and longer cleanliness.

  1. Apply a thin amount of lubricant on the chain after holding the bottle precisely above the middle pin of the chain. Pour the lubricant gently.
  2. Pour a few drops of lubricants and rotate the chain. Repeat this process a few times. This puts the chain in a clean and working condition. 
  3. Depending on the age of your chain and the kind of terrain you ride on, you have to choose the amount of lubricant needed.

This completes the cleaning process of your bike chain. Carefully put away the items used for cleaning the chain.

Here is a video guide for using baking soda and dishwashing liquid instead of degreasers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Clean A Bike Chain Without Removing It?

Cleaning the bike chain without removing it is not recommended as it does not clean the chain thoroughly. However, it is suited for short-term cleaning. Soak a piece of cloth in soap water and use it to clean the chain by rubbing it on it. This removes some amount of grease from the chain.

Can Homemade Degreasers Be Used For Cleaning?

Homemade degreasers are as effective as the commercially available ones. It is more economical and enables you to change its composition according to your need and hence make it more productive.

Conclusion

The chain of a bike is its more important part which enables it to function smoothly. Therefore, it needs to be cleaned periodically so that the bike runs flawlessly. Cleaning it is simple, and doing it properly keeps your bike in good condition.