How to Clean a Bicycle Chain

Each link of your bicycle chain has a small gap where metal pieces rub together. This gap needs to be clean and well-lubed so the surface can glide past one another and not "grab" in order for your work to be transmitted to the wheels efficiently. A dirty chain or poorly lubed chain also can be stiff and make your shifting skip.

What tools are needed?
  • There are several chain cleaning tools available. These are simply a mechanism with brushes that pass your chain through a cleaning solution. You can buy one from your local bike shop or from TowpathGuy's Amazon Store also has these items. This tool will last many years unless you run your car over it -- TowpathGuy did that once. Cleaning solutions are also available or you can use mineral spirits from your local hardware store.
  • A bike stand is optional. If you don't have one or don't want to buy one, you can put your bike on the bike rack of your car or you can simply have a helper hold up the back end of the bicycle.
What preparations are needed?
  • No specific preparations are needed. Cleaning your chain is an easy maintenance task. However, if your bike is old or well-used, you chain might be stretched. If you are in doubt, take your bike to your local shop and ask them if your chain needs to be replaced. If it does, then let them do it! Or, wait a while until instructions are posted here -- you probably can find them elsewhere on the web ...
What supplies are needed?
  • chain cleaning solution -- see tools above.
  • Lean your bike against a wall, put it in your bike rack.
  • Attach the machine to the chain -- easy instructions vary slightly with each one.
  • Add cleaning solution.
  • Turn your bike cranks.
  • Drain the solution and repeat until the solution is fairly clean.
  • Lube your Chain -- see How to Lubricate a Bicycle Chain
How often?
  • Once per year if you use wax type lube. More frequently if you use a non-wax lube.