We all know that chain cleaning is essential in keeping the bike chain in good condition. Sadly, some of us don’t do it because we assume that commercial chain cleaners are expensive.
But what if I show you how to clean a bike chain with household products?
Well, it takes these steps to clean a bike chain using household products:
- Secure the bike and wear protective gear
- Take a few pictures of the chain as you inspect it
- Disengage the bike chain to degrease it using household products
- Wipe off the degreaser before reattaching the chain
- Lastly, grease up the chain
Now, I’ll explain all the above steps in detail to help you clean your bike chain comfortably. I’ll also recommend household products that you can use as a degreaser.
How To Clean A Bike Chain With Household Products – A DIY Guide
Here are the steps to follow when you want to clean a bike chain at home.
Step 1 – Gather Necessary Supplies
You need these supplies to clean your bike chain:
- Protective gear (which includes gloves, an overall, gumboots, and a gas/face mask)
- Camera (your smartphone camera can work here)
- A rag (which can be an old cloth)
- Degreaser (which can be white vinegar, baking soda, kerosene, turpentine, or borax)
- Chain lubricant
- Chain tool
- Empty spray bottles
- Clean, warm water
- Chain checker
Note that if you choose to use vinegar as your degreaser, you’ll need to mix it with water at a ratio of 1:4. And if you opt for baking soda, you’ll need to mix it with water at a ratio of 1:5.
But if you choose to use borax, you’ll need to mix it with laundry detergent and water at a ratio of 4:1:12.
After mixing all the degreaser ingredients, you should put the mixture in a spray bottle awaiting use. It’s essential to use it immediately to avoid clogging.
Step 2 – Secure the Bike
You must position your bike on a stable surface when learning how to clean bike chain.
If you have a bike stand, which I advocate for, use it to hold the bike. One choice you can go for is the Park Tool PCS 9.2 Bicycle Stand.
Don’t worry, nonetheless, if you don’t have a bike stand. After all, you can always turn your two-wheel upside down to let it rest on the seat and handlebar.
Step 3 – Wear Protective Gear
Chain cleaning is a dirty job, but that’s not the worst thing. Some degreasers, especially kerosene, borax, and turpentine, are unhealthy for your respiratory system.
So, you have to wear gas masks/face masks.
Your hands need protection from the grease and degreaser, and so you have to wear some gloves. Also, wearing an overall can protect your clothes
Don’t forget to put on gumboots to protect your feet. Once you suit up, proceed to the next step.
Step 4 – Take Picture While Inspecting the Chain
If it’s your first time cleaning a bike chain or you haven’t done it a lot of times, it’s easy to get confused when reattaching it. That’s why you should take a few photos of it before detaching it.
While at it, inspect the chain’s condition to confirm that it’s okay. Watch out for missing links, rust coat, and chain wear.
Remember to use a chain checker to detect chain wear, and I recommend the Park Tool CC-2 Chain Checker. This checker will show you if your chain is worn out or not.
Step 5 – Disengage the Bike Chain
Now detach the chain using these steps:
- Release the master link by sliding the pin that holds the closed out link
- Feed the bike chain via the drivetrain to pull off the chain fee
- Then collect all nuts and bolts
Note that you’ll need a chain tool here and when you reattach the chain. In that case, get the Oumers Professional Bike Chain Repair Kit if you have none. The kit comes with all chain repair tools.
Step 6 – Degrease
Now that you have detached the chain, it’s time to remove grease and all kind of gunk. As I mentioned earlier, you can use white vinegar, baking soda, paraffin, turpentine, or borax.
You have the option of putting the degreaser solution in a spray bottle and then use it to spray the chain. Alternatively, you can set the degreaser in a small bucket and then soak the chain.
Either way, you’ll need to allow the degreaser to act for about 20 minutes before you can wipe it off.
Step 7 – Wipe off the Degreaser before Reattaching the Chain
After the degreaser dissolves the grease, you should wipe it off the chain. Use a dry clean rag not to contaminate the chain.
Once done, allow the chain to dry before reattaching it.
Here are the steps for reattaching your chain:
- Start by reattaching the master link
- Slide the master link pin into position
- Feel the chain to ensure it’s well tightened
- If not, then adjust it accordingly
Step 8 – Grease Up
Lastly, you have to lubricate your chain to ensure it runs smoothly and to prevent rusting. It’s essential, however, that you use a good quality chain lube to give your chain the best protection and service.
One top chain lube is the WD-40 Specialist Bike Chain Lube.
When using a lubricant, ensure you squeeze it gently into the chain as you spin the pedals to distribute it.
FAQs On How To Clean A Bike Chain
1. What Household Products Can I Use To Clean My Bike?
Some of the best household products for cleaning a bike chain include:
- Natural degreasers like dish soap, bar soap, white vinegar, baking soda, or borax
- WD-40 multi-use spray
2. What Is The Best Homemade Degreaser?
Three of the best homemade bike chain degreaser alternatives are:
- White Vinegar
White vinegar possesses both degreasing and sanitization properties. As a degreaser, vinegar dissolves grease to help you wash it off your bike easily.
You can put white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray it on the grease. Alternatively, you can dampen a piece of cloth with vinegar and then use it to wipe off the grease.
Note, however, that you may have to mix with lime juice or baking soda when dealing with hardened grease.
- Baking Soda
Though most people combine baking soda with white vinegar or lime, you can use it alone. Besides, baking soda has grease dissolving properties, making it an effective degreaser.
You’ll need to add water to baking soda to make a paste that you’ll use to cover the grease. After a while, the baking soda paste will absorb the oil, and you can therefore go ahead to wash it off.
Borax has corrosive properties which allow it to dislodge grease from any surface. You’ll, however, need to mix it with water and laundry detergent when cleaning your bike chain.
3. Can I Use Dish Soap To Clean My Bike Chain?
Dish soap has degreasing properties. As a result, you can use it to dissolve grease. However, you may have to combine it with a strong degreaser like vinegar when dealing with stubborn grease.
4. Can I Use Vinegar To Clean A Bike Chain?
Vinegar can dissolve grease. So, yes, you can use vinegar to clean a bike chain.
Note, nevertheless, that it’s best when combined with something like lime juice or baking soda. That’s more important when dealing with stubborn grease stains.
5. What Vinegar Is Best For Rust Removal?
That will be white vinegar, commercially known as distilled vinegar. It’s powerful enough the cut through the rusty surface and dissolves it within a couple of hours.
So, consider using white vinegar to clean off the rust from metal surfaces.
6. Is White Vinegar A Degreaser?
White vinegar (or distilled vinegar) can dissolve grease, and that makes it a degreaser. You can therefore use it to get rid of oil from bike chains, clothes, and surfaces.
7. Does Vinegar Dissolve Grease?
Vinegar cuts through the surface of grease and dissolves it. The action, however, takes some time, and so it’s not immediate.
You’ll need to wash off the scrubs with soaping after the degreasing process.
8. How Often Should I Clean My Bike Chain?
If you ride your two-wheel frequently, you should clean your bike chain at least once a month. However, if you ride off-road aggressively, especially where there is a lot of dust or mud, you’ll need to clean your bike chain after every ride.
Now you know how to clean a bike chain with household products. You can thus go ahead and use my guide to keep your chain clean and in top condition.
And since I’ve shared more than one degreaser, you can go for the one you can access and are comfortable using.