2 Best Methods For Cleaning A Bike Chain

best methods for cleaning bike chain
best methods for cleaning bike chain

Purchasing the power tools and basic equipment as a DIYer is easy! However, keeping it in good condition is an entirely different thing. We all think we’ve got a good hold on our toolkit maintenance, but those sudden expenses do hit differently sometimes when you have to get replacements. 

Recently, I’ve noticed some DIYers get confused about cleaning bike chains or cleaning their chainsaws. These sections are notorious when it comes to catching rust, and you will likely run into the same problem at some point. 

So, it is best to educate yourself on a few tips when it comes to cleaning a bike chain. All that you need is basic equipment, and you’re pretty much sorted out. I personally like to use a toothbrush, but I’ve seen people rely on a piece of cloth along with a rust cleaner.

Best Methods For Cleaning A Bike Chain

When it comes to cleaning a bike chain, the only thing that you’ll be focusing on is getting into those annoying chain links. The rust can clog up the chain and it will not give you any performance in the long run. So, you gotta clean up the rust and then lube up the chain to get a smoother performance. 

rusty bike chain

Material Needed

  • Wash Cloth
  • Rust Cleaner
  • Toothbrushes
  • Lube


Just focus on keeping a mess to a minimum by using a plastic sheet under the bike chain or the chainsaw. That will help you out when you’re getting rid of the gunk, and your workbench won’t get all messy. As far as safety is concerned, you can just use some rubber gloves and appropriate foot protection. 

Method 1 — Using Washcloth With WD-40 (Quick & Efficient)

If you’re looking for a quick fix, then I’ll recommend what half of the DIYers do as well, which is, cleaning the chain with a washcloth and some WD-40. Will it do as good a job as a dedicated rust cleaner? Probably not! However, you won’t have to waste any time when you’re trying to get through the rust.

wd 40 with cloth

It is one of the best methods when you’re keeping track of bike maintenance on a weekly basis. If the condition of the bike chain is decent, just add some WD-40 to the chain and cover all sections. From there, you can start scrubbing away at the chain with a washcloth, and that will remove most of the rust. 

The upside here is that you will not have to waste any time, and the outer section will be crystal clear within a few minutes. The fibers on your washcloth will do a good job of getting rid of those annoying smudges, and the rust will be away in no time.

However, the downside here is that you will still need to get your fingers into the crevices. You can’t really expect the washcloth to get into the crevices all the way, and the chain links will still remain dirty. So, if your chain is in poor condition, there is not much that can be done here. 

Most of the time, you will have to switch over to other, more effective methods that don’t really rely on the use of a washcloth. Yes, that might take a bit more of your time, but it is much better than leaving the rust on the chain when you’re trying to get through it.

On the other side of things, this method is more than adequate when you just need to clean up the other layer. So, you will have to be the best judge here and use the method that best fits your bike chain. Hopefully, the hassle will be pretty limited in the long run.

Method 2 — Using Toothbrushes (Slow But Thorough)

using toothbrush

When it comes to dealing with those extra annoying rust crevices, the only thing that I will recommend is toothbrushes or metal brushes. You can use the toothbrush bristles to clean up the chain, and it will help you a ton in the long run.

All that you gotta do here is to grab two toothbrushes and then tie them up from one end to create a spatula with bristles opposite to each other. From there, you can just cinch down on the bristles and clean away the gunk by moving the chain. 

One thing that I will say here is that you can’t do this process without first applying a good layer of rust-cleaning material. It is next to impossible to clean up this rust layer without the solution, and WD-40 will do a good job of loosening up the material. 

Once the rust is loose, your job is easy. All that you gotta do is scrub it away with the toothbrush and that will be enough to have you sorted out. From there, you can just add a bit of oil or lube to the chain and make sure to cover all sections.

This layer of oil doesn’t only lubricate the chain for a smoother performance but also makes it possible for people to keep their chain free from rust in the long run. So, if you’re stuck or don’t want to be in the same shoes for a couple of months, be sure to use some oil. 

toothbrush cleaning bike

Note: There are also a ton of other methods and dedicated tools for cleaning rust off of the bike chain. If you’re not that short on cash and want to spend a bit more on these accessories, then be sure to visit your local store.

Spending a few bucks on new accessories will make your life so much easier when it comes to removing rust from your tools or chain. So, don’t go cheap on these accessories, and think about all the hassle that you will be saving yourself when sticking with this bike chain.

The Takeaway

Every beginner will get stuck into situations with rusty tools or bike chains at some point. It is best to stay ahead of the game and learn how you can best manage your bike chain. Nine times out of ten, all you need is some rust cleaner and a washcloth. 

However, some severe cases do call for severe actions, and it is not that bad an idea to stick it out with a toothbrush or a metal brush. The bristles on these brushes will make their way into those annoying chain links and crevices. So, if you’re new to the game, just stick it out with a toothbrush. 

Will it take more time? Probably! However, you can’t just ignore the rust stuck between the chain links. Otherwise, you will have to spend more cash to get a replacement, and believe me, you don’t really want to put in that added expense.

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