How To Clean A Bike Chain With The Help Of Toothbrush?

how to clean bike chain with toothbrush
how to clean bike chain with toothbrush

Whether you’re working with a bike chain or a chainsaw, it is not that rare to come across rust issues. These problems are annoying for sure, but you can fix them with a bit of hassle. All you need is a good rust remover, and you’re pretty much sorted out.

The most annoying part about cleaning a bike chain or any chain is accessing those pesky crevices. It can be next to impossible to access these crevices with your regular cloth, and you can’t really jam your fingers in every chain link. 

For this reason, it is pretty common to see DIYers and even professionals working with a toothbrush or a metal brush even to clean the bike chain. If you’re in the same boat, then using a toothbrush will have you sorted out in no time.

How To Clean A Bike Chain With The Help Of Toothbrush?

I know that it sounds pretty easy to just spray down the chain with some rust cleaner and leave it be, but sadly, that won’t remove all the rust from the chain. Everything comes down to how you’re planning on addressing the process.

Materials Required

  • Toothbrushes
  • Duct Tape
  • Tape
  • WD – 40


safety for bike chain

Just get yourself some goggles and rubber gloves. There aren’t any serious risks here, and you gotta focus more on limiting the mess. Believe me, you don’t want to get all that gunk or rust on your hands, and keeping them clean will be much better in the long run. 

Step 1 — Prep The Chain

Before you jump the gun, just start by prepping the chain. The only thing that you gotta focus on here is to remove all the loose rust and dust from the chain. This can be done pretty easily by using a cloth to clean up the chain or by tapping it with a mallet.

The vibrations will help you free up the loose gunk, and from there, you will only have to worry about the lodged section. Everything comes down to how bad of a situation you’re dealing with, and you can’t just skip past this step. So, be patient and try to prep and clean up the chain before moving forward.

prepping the chain

It won’t take more than a few seconds at max to get the excess out. One more thing that I will suggest here is that you should keep a rag or some plastic to collect the rust. The last thing that you want with this project is to ruin your workbench.

Step 2 — Tie Up The Toothbrushes

At this stage, you gotta grab a roll of duct tape along with the toothbrushes and tie them up together. Here, the focus should be on keeping the bristles opposite to each other for thorough access. It will not take up much of your time, and you can tie up the bottom end of these brushes for a better grip.

tie up toothbrush

You’ll be just fine here as long as you don’t go too cheap on the duct tape. Use a generous amount of duct tape to create a strong connection, and that will be much better for you when you’re scrubbing down the chain from all sides. 

One important thing when purchasing the brushes is to stick with the harder bristles. Softer strands on the brushes don’t really do that good of a job when it comes to scrubbing away the rust from the chain. So, have that in mind when you’re stuck.

Step 3 — Apply WD-40

Now, you can’t rely on this makeshift toothbrush tool to get rid of all the rust. Instead, you will also need some rust-removing material to loosen up the rust before it can be scrubbed away. So, you gotta grab your can of WD-40 here and apply a generous amount of it on the chain. 

Make sure that you’re covering all the sides and the chain is practically wet from the WD-40. Yes, I know that it will take a fair bit of this solution to cover the chain, but you shouldn’t think too much about going cheap on the solution. 

apply wd 40 on brush

Otherwise, you will be spending hours scrubbing down on the chain, and it will be next to impossible to get decent results from the WD-40. Everything comes down to how you’re planning on addressing the situation, and going overboard with WD-40 won’t be the end of the world.

Step 4 — Scrub The Chain

For the hard part, you just gotta cinch down with the toothbrush and then use it to scrub away all the sides. The strands from the brush will get into all the crevices and get rid of the dirt. As long as you’re sure that the rust cleaner penetrated through all the rust, you’re pretty much sorted out. 

Just cycle through the chain and get rid of the extra gunk from the side and the crevices. Make sure to cover all sections, and I personally like to get through the whole chain at least twice to remove the whole gunk layer.

scrub chain

However, if your chain is in worse condition, then I will recommend that you keep on scrubbing it for a few more cycles. Otherwise, you will not believe how quickly the rust comes back to ruin your bike chain. Everything boils down to how efficiently you remove the rust.

Step 5 — Finish Up

Now, you might think that you’re done, and everything is green at this point. However, that is far from the truth, and you gotta do everything you can to preserve the condition of your chain. The best thing here is to lube up the chain, and you can use any lube you like.

As long as you’re not using grease that will clog up the chain with gunk, you’re pretty much sorted out. Just make sure to cover all sections of the chain, and don’t worry too much about the wastage. Lubing up the chain will also help you get a smoother response from the chain. 

If you’re having trouble with removing rust from the chain, then you can also ask the local professionals to help you out. Reaching out to other experts will make your life so much easier, and you won’t have to go through any hassle. So, have that in mind when you’re stuck.

Note: Many of you will think that using a metal brush is better for the chain when it comes to removing rust. However, it can be pretty hard to get the metal strands into all the crevices. You will struggle a ton when it comes to getting rid of all the rust. 

finishing up cleaning

Sticking it out when the toothbrush might seem “impractical,” but it is more than enough to get you through all the projects. Everything comes down to how you’re planning on addressing the situation with the lodged gunk between the chain links. So, don’t focus on the outer layer only.

The Takeaway

Cleaning a bike chain with a toothbrush might seem like a joke, but it does wonders for your chain. You can get through the rust layer and even remove the rust from the annoying crevices with the bristles on your brush. So, have that in mind when you are not able to clean up the chain properly. 

All you need to do is to spray up some WD-40 and then start scrubbing away at the chain. It will take a bit of your time, but you will surely be able to get through the gunk. All that you gotta do is to ensure that the rust cleaner makes its way throughout the chain. 

I’ve also seen some people ignore the preservation of their bike chains after removing the rust. You should avoid making the same mistake and use some lube to oil up the chain. Yes, it will take a bit of your time, but I am confident that you will be able to get through the rust layer pretty quickly.

Lastly, if you’re unable to remove the rust or the rust cleaner is not penetrating the rust layer properly, then you should reach out to the local experts. They will surely help you out and you will learn a lot about how to lube up your chain and keep it rust free for months to come. 

Leave a Comment