How to Clean A Bike Chain With Household Products

While riding your bike, the chains will usually attract and gather much dirt. When this dirt accumulates excessively, they will often compromise the performance of your bike. This might often be followed by the risks of accidents and tripping off. That is why you must know how to clean a bike chain with household products.

Even though this is a role that you can accomplish using manufactured products, you are highly advised to use only homemade products. The reasons here being that they are not only safer but also environmentally friendly.

Our discussions hereunder endeavor to lay bare the steps involved in the cleanliness of the bike chains using household products. We shall also answer a couple of frequently asked questions regarding the subject matter of bike chain cleaning.


Tools and Materials Required

  • Bottles
  • Soft rags e.g. old T-shirts
  • Gloves
  • Wire clothes hanger
  • 2 Bottles
  • Chain lubricant
  • Shelite (white spirit-based metal cleaner)
  • Digital camera

How to Clean A Bike Chain

Step-by-step Procedures To Clean A Bike Chain

Step I: Gather the supplies and equipment

Before you embark on the process of cleaning the bike chain with household products, you have to gather the supplies and equipment you will need for the job. They are the ones that have been listed above. If you cannot find them in the order above, look for some close alternatives.

Follow this by preparing your workplace appropriately. You have to cordon off your work area and shielding it, particularly from the small children. You do not want unsuspecting passersby to collide and interfere with your work in progress, do you? Your local city bylaws might require that you obtain some approval before embarking on the task. Find out and respond appropriately.

Step II: Put on the necessary protective gears

Now that you have already prepared your work area, you have to put on the necessary protective gear. The task of handling the bike chains is ordinarily very dirty. That is because grease does have the ability to soil garments and inflict some permanent and ugly marks on the skin.

Put on an overall to shield your garments from direct contact with the grease. Some hand gloves will shield your bare hands whereas the gumboots will offer protection to your feet and shoes. You may have to put on some gas masks if you intend to work with kerosene or turpentine. These shall spare you from the risks of lung infections.

Step III: Take pictures of the bike chain

Now that you are ready to go, you should take pictures of the entire bike chain. The purpose of the picture is to let you know how the chain looks or is supposed to look like when completely installed. This will come in handy during the re-installation process.

Take all the various parts and portions of the chain like the attachment points, chain-rings, sprockets, pedals, and bearings. You may also zoom and magnify those places that are too tiny to behold for the sake of better references later. You will need to superimpose the chain against a white background for the best shots.

Step IV: Carry out some visual inspections of the chain

After capturing shots and photos of the chain, you now have to go ahead and carry outcome visual inspections of the chain itself. Such a visual inspection aims to ascertain whether the chain may require some repair or renovation also. You will have to make use of the handy chain checker to accomplish this.

In case you determine that the chain may require some renovation, carry it out before proceeding with the cleanliness thereof. This might require the intervention of an expert mechanic as it is unlikely that you will have the expertise to do so on your own. If it does not require a repair, go ahead and clean it.

Step V: Disengage the chain from the bike

In this step, you shall disengage the chain from the bike. Though not a must, you are highly advised to capture the video footage of the disengagement exercise. The video shall aid you in returning the various components of the bike chain to their original states and positions.

To disengage the chain:

  • Slide the pin which holds the link which is closed out of its slot. This shall open the master link.
  • Proceed now to feed the chain through the drive train. This shall pull the chain fee.
  • Collect all the bolts, nuts, and other smaller pieces of items and place them on an old newspaper

Step VI: Soak the chain in a degreaser

Now that you are through with removing the chain, you have to soak it into a de-greaser. To do so, follow the steps outlined hereunder:

  • Place it into the bottle which contains the de-greaser.
  • Immerse it fully and then seal the lid tightly to prevent any air from escaping at all.
  • Shake the bottle several for some time.
  • Leave the chain to soak in the bottle for no less than 20 minutes.

The above procedures aim to rid the chain of any grease. You may have to redo the entire exercise a second or even a third time if you do not obtain satisfactory outcomes.

Step VII: Remove the degreaser

With the de-greaser weakened, you are now free to get rid of it from the chain. Wash the chain with some clean de-greasing agents. Alternatively, you may spray the degreaser onto the chain using a spray bottle. Once sprayed, leave the agent to settle on the chain for some time and then rinse in kerosene or turpentine.

You may yet again have to repeat the procedure above a second or third time for the best outcomes. After you are satisfied with the outcome, wipe the chain using a clean piece of cloth. Allow it to dry thoroughly by leaving it exposed to the external weather elements.

Step VIII: Restore the chain onto the bike

The time has now come for you to restore the chain onto your bike. To do so:

  • Re-attach the master link
  • Adjust the ends of the bikes in such a manner as to meet at the midpoint between your wheels
  • Complete the re-connection by sliding the pin of your master link back into its original slot
  • Determine whether it is properly fastened by feeling it with your fingers (It will warp if not evenly slotted)
  • Make any necessary alterations or adjustments if need be.

PS: The above guidelines are general. As such, they may never work on all the various kinds of bikes. You have to follow your manufacturer’s manual to the letter for better outcomes. Use the videos you had captured earlier for hassle-free operations. Remember, the outcome has to look exactly how the one on the photo you took earlier appears.

Step IX: Lubricate the chain

Having completed the re-attachment exercise, you now have to lubricate the bicycle chain. Insist on using a good quality lubricant for best results. Follow these steps:

  • Hold the lubricant bottle at the top of the middle pin of the chain
  • Squeeze a thin steady stream of the lubricant onto the chain gently
  • Spin your pedals to rotate the chain
  • Upon the chain completing a complete revolution, you are good to go!
  • You may have to increase the lubricant for smoother rides if the revolutions are sticky

You are ready to hit the road a second time. Before you go, restore your workspace and store all the gears you had used. This is necessary to safeguard your neighbors and members of your household from any accidents or dangers which might often arise in the process.


Q1. Can I use dish soap to clean the bike chain?

YES, you can! However, the impacts you will most likely obtain shall not be as great as what you would obtain from a powerful dedicated solvent. That is because the ordinary dish soap possesses weaker potency and is subsequently not great at breaking down the powerful greasing agents.

By far the best dish soaps to use are those that are liquid. They are generally more powerful than their bar soap counterparts. Do take care as these powerful soaps are quite harmful to your hands and some kinds of fabrics. Use some gloves while applying them onto the chains for your safety.

Q2. What can I use to clean my bike chain?

To be able to be guaranteed the best outcomes, you have to make use of numerous tools, equipment, materials, and accessories. These include:

  • Firm brush/old toothbrush – to get rid of any sticky debris
  • Dry rag – for wiping off excess lubricants
  • Pan or plastic tub – to soak the chain for weakening the grease
  • Dish soap – to act as the detergent for cleaning the chains sparkling
  • Degreaser – to weaken the grease
  • Protective gears – to shield your body and clothes from direct contacts with the grease
  • Gas mask- to safeguard you from inhaling the strong stench of the kerosene and turpentine

Q3. Can I clean a bike chain without removing it?

Yes, you can! Follow these steps to achieve this role:

  •  Pour some hot water into a pan that contains the dish soap.
  • Soak some cloth in the hot and soapy water.
  • Wipe the chain while on the bicycle using the soaked piece of cloth.
  • Advance the chain by turning the pedals of the bicycle using your hands. Follow this by wiping the entire length of the bike chain.
  • Soak yet another piece of cloth in a de-greaser.
  • Wipe the chain using the cloth while pushing the bike pedals to keep the chain rolling. See to it that you wipe the entire length of the chain.
  • Rinse the whole length of the bike chain using the cloth which you had soaked in water.
  • Dry the bike chain using a clean rag.

Q4. Why is the bike chain degreaser homemade?

Several reasons are to explain why the bike chain de-greaser should be homemade. These are:

Save costs

Homemade de-greasers are usually cheaper than their over-the-counter counterparts. That is because materials that are cheaper to come by are used to make them up. You will hence save greatly on costs if you decide to utilize them for your bike chain cleanliness.

Customize the outcomes

By making rather than buying your de-greaser, you get to alter the quality of these cleansing agents as much as you may want. With this in mind, you also get to customize the outcomes as per your expectations. These feats are impossible with those that are bought.

Convenience and Remoteness

Some circumstances may make it impossible for you to use the bought de-greasers. These are when you happen to be in a remote location or simply want some convenience. Those bought over-the-counter may not yield such outcomes.

Q5. What is the Bike chain lubes alternatives?

You do not have to use the conventional bike chain lubes, especially if you cannot afford them. You are at liberty to try out some alternatives like these:

Teflon-based Lubricants

These are generally good in the summer months. They are very fluid and more likely to yield the necessary outcomes faster.

Petroleum Jelly

If you are truly short on cash, petroleum jelly is the best product to choose from. Its most notable downside though is the fact that it is not durable or strong enough to withstand heavy impacts.

Edible Oils

Several edible oils like sunflower and olive may also serve as substitutes. They mostly yield short-term outcomes and hence suited mainly for those who are strained on budget.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is the best alternative for the extremely cold winter months. That is because it is highly fluid and evaporates faster than conventional lube.

Q6. What kind of oil is good for the bike chain?

For an oil to be deemed good for the bike chain, it has to possess some characteristics. These are:

Light or Highly Fluid

The oil must be highly fluid to allow for easy application more so in the extremely cold winter months.


To be on the safe side, you want an unscented lube oil. This shall spare you from the risks of asthma and other respiratory tract infections.


For the sake of the environment, the right oil of choice has to be all-natural and biodegradable. Also, it has to contain no phosphates or ammonia.

Q7. What is the Bicycle chain lube?

A bicycle chain lube is a substance that is mostly organic and mainly used to reduce friction between any two moving metallic parts. With the reduction in friction levels comes the reduced heat generated by the surfaces.

Some other roles it might play are the transmission of hydraulic force or pressure, cooling surfaces that are in mutual contact, heating some surfaces or transportation of foreign particles. Though most are manufactured, a number are naturally occurring. These include some plant, vegetable, and animal oils. You must acquire that lube that is designed and wholly intended for your specific bike chain for best results.


Those are the pieces of information you require to clean your bike chain with household products. We generally feel you have what it takes to do a better job. Should you get stuck along the way, feel free to return to our site for inspiration and further guidance.

We are constantly researching and updating our site and knowledge base. That is why we ask you to yet again consider visiting this page in the future. Doing that will allow you to stay current and up to date with the issue. All the best in your subsequent bike chain cleaning undertaking!

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Last Updated: June 8, 2022

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