How to Clean a Bike

Part of maintaining a bike in great condition is cleaning it regularly. I understand you’re here to learn a tip or two about how to clean a bike.

The good news is that tidying up a road bike, your beginner mountain bike, your 4-old-boy’s bike, or whatever bike type you have isn’t exactly a science. It’s a simple activity, one you can complete without needing specialized tools or tons of technical know-how.

At this point, you’re asking many questions about how to best take care of your bike. You’re wondering, how do I deep clean my bike? Or, can I wash my bike with dish soap? Or, can I hose down my bike? Or, how do I clean my bike like a pro?

All these are important questions. The purpose of this post is to answer all of these questions and others you may have forgotten to ask.

What You Need to Clean Your Bike Like a Pro

You want to handle your bike’s cleaning process like you know what you’re doing. Here’s what you’ll need to do a good job of tidying up that bike:

  • Water
  • 2 buckets
  • Clean rags: Old T-shirts should work just fine
  • Brushes in different sizes and shapes + an old toothbrush
  • A good general cleaner such as Pedros Green Fizz 11
  • Degreasers such as WD40
  • A good bike-specific chain lubricant
  • A bike stand

Before you start cleaning your bike, you need to understand what to clean and how to clean it. At this point, I’ll tell you why you need the items and supplies I’ve just listed.

Clean Water

Water is a natural cleaning agent. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that water is always completely harmless.

When used properly, water and some detergent should help you deep-clean your bike and get it sparkling in no time.

But water under super-high pressure can end up doing more harm than good. Using a high-pressure hose on your nice bike can easily cause degradation to bearings.

Clean Rags

You’ll need clean rags to clean various parts of your bike. You also need rags to wipe off grease and dirt. Also, when it comes to drying your bike, clean dry rags are a must-have. Look around the house and you’ll find old T-shirts and other kinds of clothes you no longer wear.

General Cleaner

You need a general cleaner for cleaning your bike’s frame. I strongly recommend that you use a pre-formulated bike cleaner for cleaning the frame. I mean, this is a bike-specific cleaner. But you can also use diluted dishwashing soap. Yes, you can wash your bike using dishwashing soap.

An Effective Degreaser

WD40 is a pretty good degreaser, perhaps the best degreaser on the market. Small wonder WD40 has become one of the most common household products in American homes. When it comes to addressing rust on metal and removing stains, nothing touches WD40.

A Good Bike Lubricant

You need to lube your bike after cleaning it. Use a high-quality bike-specific lubricant. I recommend the Pedro’s Chainj for riding through wet weather conditions. The Pedro’s Chainj is among the finest wet lubes for bike chains.

For dry weather conditions, I recommend a dry bike chain lube such as the Finish Line Dry Teflon bike chain lube.

Scrubbing Brushes and an Old Toothbrush

You can’t scrub off dirt and stains without a good bike brush. And it’d be super difficult to reach certain parts without a small brush. Which is where an old toothbrush comes in.

A Bike Stand

A bike stand is a must-have if you’re planning on treating your bike to a real deep clean regularly. This structure lets you position your bike in a way that lets you access every component with ease. And when it comes to removing the wheels, you’ll appreciate the usefulness of a bike stand.

No bike stand? No worries. You can always improvise by hooking your bike’s saddle nose over a strong, taut clothesline.

How to Deep-clean Your Bike

Follow the bike cleaning guide below to get your bike squeaky clean and shiny in no time. A clean bike looks stunning, and it rides like a dream.

Step 1: Get Your Bike in a Workstand

The most practical way to access even the hardest-to-reach parts of a bike is to get it in a workstand. So, get that bike up and have the workstand hold it firmly off the ground.

Step 2: Pour Clean Water into Two Buckets

Now, put clean water into two buckets. Then, add some dishwashing soap. You need a generous amount of soap to do a good job.

Step 3: Take off the Wheels

Now, take off your bike’s wheels. But that means removing the cassette, which reduces the drivetrain’s tension. To keep your chain up when removing the wheels, you can use a chain keeper.

Well, not every cyclist agrees you really need a chain keeper when cleaning a bike. For many bike owners out there, a chain keeper is a nice-to-have tool that offers convenience but isn’t essential.

Personally, I don’t have or use a chain keeper. And I don’t think I’ll ever need one. So, how do I hold the chain when removing my wheels or when wrenching on my bike? I just brace a screwdriver behind my bike’s seat stays. And that works well.

That said, you can find a good chain keeper at a reasonable price point. The Pedro’s Chain Keeper seems like a sensible buy.  Take a look at the pic below of the Pedro’s Chain Keeper.

Pedro's chain keep for holding bike chain
This is the Pedro’s Chain Keeper. It helps hold the chain when you’re wrenching on your bike or when removing the wheels during a deep clean.

Step 4: Clean Your Bike’s Chain

Grab that WD40 and put it to some good work. Apply this degreaser and make sure it gets distributed throughout the chain. Turning the cranks backward is an effective way of ensuring every link in the chain gets the degreaser.

Wait about 10-15 minutes and then start rinsing the chain using a bike pressure washer. Use a regular hose if you don’t have a bike-specific pressure washing machine. You need a gentle stream rather than a powerful stream, and this type of washer offers precisely that.

What if the chain still needs some work after degreasing and rinsing? In that case, squirt a couple of drops of dish soap on the chain. Then, place the rough side of a clean sponge firmly on the chain and give the cranks a few rotations.

Finally, rinse the chain. At this point, you’re done cleaning the chain. Note that you’re not using water but a worthy degreaser such as WD40 to clean your bike’s chain.

Step 5: Take Care of the Drivetrain

Use a brush with relatively stiff bristles to clean the drivetrain. Wet your brush before using it. So, dip the bristles into the soapy solution in the bucket and start scrubbing dirt and grime off the chainrings. And to clean crevices around the chainrings, chain wheel teeth, and pulleys, use an old toothbrush.

Next, rinse this part of the drivetrain with a gentle stream of water. And if you’re still seeing muck on the chainrings and the other parts, brush it off and rinse again.

Then, take the rear wheel (you removed it, right?) and squirt a couple of drops of dish soap onto the cassette. Next, use a brush with tough bristles to scrub crud off the cassette.

To reach dirt in hard-to-reach areas of the cassette, use an old toothbrush. Once you’re done brushing the cogset, give it a rinse or two.

Step 6: Clean Your Bike’s Frame

At this juncture, turn to the clean soapy solution in the second bucket. Dip a clean sponge into the water and start soaping up the frame. When washing your bike’s frame, start from the front going backward.

The next thing you should do is to clean brake pads if your bike features caliper brakes. To clean the brake shoes, use the abrasive side of your sponge.

Step 7: Clean the Tires and Rims

To clean the tires, spokes, and rims, it’s best to use a brush with longer, softer bristles. Such a brush faces little trouble when it comes to reaching even the furthest nooks and crannies.

So, dip your brush’s bristles into the second bucket, the one you used to clean the frame above. Brush the rim and tire starting where the valve sits.

Once you finish cleaning one side of the wheel, flip it so you can clean the other side. Work the hub and spokes, too.

Repeat this step for the front wheel as well.

Step 8: Reattach the Wheels and Lube Things Up

Now, mount the wheels back on. To check if the drivetrain operates properly, turn the cranks a couple of times. If everything is OK (it should be if you reassembled the bike correctly), use a soft cloth to dry the bike.

Alternatively, leave your bike to dry in the sun. But nice expensive bikes can get stolen, you know. So, keep an eye on that bike.

Can you believe that the U.S. cycling black market is a $500 million market? And did you know that roughly 2,000,000 American cyclists lose their bikes each year? Those are mind-boggling stats.

So, protect that lovely bike from theft in every possible way. You may want to join 529 Garage, an organization that helps fight off bike theft in the U.S.

Finally, lube the chain and you’re done! Make sure to use a bike-specific lube, and don’t overdo the oiling. Check the section above where I recommended the best bike chain lubes for different weather conditions.

8 Bike Cleaning FAQs

Here’s a list of 8 frequently asked questions in relation to cleaning a bike. In case there’s an important question that I left out, feel free to ask in the comments section below. I respond to everyone that leaves a biking-specific question on this outdoor recreation site.

1.How Do I Deep Clean My Bike?

To deep clean your bike, you should use every supply and equipment designed to make the job easier. It’s hard to deep clean a bike without using a high-quality bike-specific pressure washer. Such a bike pressure washer demonstrates excellence when it comes to removing mud and dirt. You also can’t deep-clean a bike without removing the wheels first.

Using a bike-specific pressure washer does the job without damaging your bike’s bearings or striking grease off. But for a real deep clean, you must combine pressure washing with hand washing. Combining machine-washing and hand-washing helps you clean reachable and not-so-reachable areas.

2.Can I Wash My Bike with Dish Soap?

Yes, you can wash your bike using diluted dishwashing soap.

3.Can I Hose Down my Bike?

Yes, you can. However, you must exercise great care as hosing down your bike with water under too much pressure can be destructive. If you can afford it, consider buying a good bike jet washer. A bike-specific washer provides noticeably less pressure than a standard pressure washer.

Why a bike-specific pressure washer? A bike-focused pressure washer’s design prevents it from striking grease off your bike’s bearings. The best options I’ve seen claim to be gentle enough that you can use them on your pup!

4.How Do I Clean My Bike Like a Pro?

Have the right supplies and then follow a proper cleaning procedure. With the right knowledge and strategy, you’ll handle the clean like a pro.

5.What’s the Best Bike Cleaner?

Many bike general cleaners are available on the market. The Pedros Green Fizz 11 is probably the best of the best. And the Fenwicks Disc Brake Cleaner is a great option for cleaning disc brakes. Look around online and you should easily find a couple of other good general bike cleaners.

6.What Household Items Can I Use to Clean My Bike?

Your dishwashing soap is one of the household items you can use to clean your bike. You can also use WD40 on your bike since WD40 is a degreaser to clean various moving parts of your bike.

But while you can use WD40 as a lubricant, that’s not a good idea. That’s because WD40 is a dirt and grime magnet. Plus the lubing powers of this household item don’t last.

Cola, lemon juice, and vinegar are other household items you can use on your bike. These gentle acidic household items can help you remove rust from a chrome frame — to some extent.

7. Is WD40 Good for Bike Chains?

No, WD40 isn’t much of a lubricant. This household item is more of a degreaser and rust remover and less of a bike lubricant.

8. How Often Should I Lube My Bike Chain?

Bike chain lubing frequency depends on how often you ride. Assume all you demand of your bike is 5-10 miles each week and you mostly ride in good weather. In that case, it could be months before your chain starts craving more lube. And if you average about 25-30 miles each week, lubing twice each month should work just fine. But if you’re a biking maniac who puts 40-50 miles on their bike each ride, better lube for each trip.

How to Give Your Bike a Deep Clean: Summary

Cleaning a bike may seem like a daunting task at first. But once you know what to do and how to to do it, it stops feeling so intimidating.

So, follow the bike cleaning procedure described above and see how easy it is to care for your bike.

Remember, caring for your bike can make it last a tiny bit longer. It can also help enhance your bike’s overall performance. Now, stop browsing around and start cleaning that bike….now.