Bicycle Beautification: How To Clean Your Bike

Hands of man cleaning the bike by yellow sponge with foam, maintenance of the bike

Key Points

  • Riding your bike frequently or intensely requires cleaning your bike more often.

  • Be sure you have the right tools to clean a bike.

  • It doesn't matter if your bike is older or new; follow the proper steps to shine and clean a bike.

  • Give your bike chain extra attention because it's susceptible to wear and tear.

Bicyclists the world over must learn how to clean a bike. People are moving away from automobiles powered by hydrocarbon-explosive-dinosaur-remains and opting for greener transportation. This is great. Bikes are good for the environment, health, and bank account.

Bikes need a good cleaning to remain in tip-top operational condition. Don't neglect your bicyclist duties by leaving your bike covered in muck. Care for it as you do with a sleeping pad. Taking time to clean a bike shows proud ownership and keeps your two-wheeled friend pedaling for years.

Frequency and Intensity Determine When To Clean Your Bike

You don't need to clean your bike if you take a 15-minute ride around the neighborhood. That's like taking a shower after power walking down the driveway — it's a bit much.

Riding often means your bike needs more maintenance. Drive your car a lot and you're going to have to fill up the tank more often. The same is true with a bike. Repeated use means repeated cleaning.

Intensity matters too. If you're taking your bike out once in a blue moon but going Mach 5 down a mountain amongst dusty trails, you need to clean it afterward.

A general rule of thumb: Clean it after every ride. If it's just dusty, wipe it down. Give it extra attention if it's covered in muck and the chain is black and greasy.

Post-use cleaning ensures your bike is always at peak performance.

The Necessary Tools for Bike Cleaning

You don't need a lot of equipment to clean a bike, but don't forget the few essential pieces you do need. Each tool serves a purpose and is crucial in the bike cleaning process.

Bike Stand

A bike stand is the only unnecessary tool in this list, though it makes the whole process easier. It keeps your bike upright, allowing you to access the chain, move the pedals, and reach every bike part comfortably.

It's annoying propping your bike against a wall while cleaning it. It's painful when the kickstand gives up, and the bike crashes on your head.

Avoid this unpleasantness by using a bike stand.

Clean Rags or a Sponge

Get some clean rags. Not the ones used in your kitchen. Those are towels. Don't use them to clean off your bike chain and then wipe down your stovetop. Buy a set of rags used only for cleaning your bike.

Use rags made from natural fibers. Synthetic materials tend to repel water. Sponges also work.

Use these to clean, dry, and grease your bike. Don't start mixing and matching rags. If you use a rag for greasing your bike, it must forever remain the grease rag.

Bicyclist rides along urban trail


Get a bucket of water to soak and rinse your bike.

A garden hose works fine, but not a high-pressure one that may damage the sensitive areas of your bike.

Bike-Specific or Homemade Cleaner

Only two household items work well if you don't have bike-specific cleaning products: dish soap or baking soda. Mix either of these with warm water to make a homemade cleaner.

If you want to show your bike how much it means to you, get some bike wash cleaner. It's specially designed to work on every component of the bike.


Use soft-bristled brushes of various sizes. They tackle the stubborn grime in a bike's spokes, chains, and frames.


Anything with moving bits needs oil and grease to keep it working properly. Bikes are no exception. Over time, oil and grease build up in the bike's drivetrain — the parts that make the bike move.

Degreaser breaks down oil and grease, making it easier to slay any excess slippery lubricants. Removing this buildup keeps your bike running smoothly and extends the drivetrain's life.

Chain Lubricant

Chain lubricant is an oil applied to a bike chain. It reduces friction between the chain and the gears.

Bikes work fine without chain lubricant — until they don't. Eventually, an unlubricated chain rusts up and doesn't function. At that point, you go from cleaning to restoring your bike. That's a whole different ball game.

There are two types of lubricant: wet and dry.

Apply wet lubricant when it's wet outside. Pretty straightforward. It's more resistant to washing away.

Wet lubricant is extra sticky and accumulates more grime, so you need to clean the chain more often.

Apply dry lubricant if you're riding in arid environments. It keeps away dirt and debris but washes away easily. You may need to apply more.

Bicycle mechanic services a rear wheel on bike stand

The Best Way To Clean a Bike

There are many ways to clean a bike, but the right way is the best.

If you cut corners, your bike doesn't get a proper cleaning. Cleanliness isn't just about your bike looking good. It also keeps it working.

Skipping any of these steps means you're likely to reduce the lifespan of your bike.

Gather Your Supplies

Gaggle up the aforementioned supplies. Keep them all close by.

You don't want to start cleaning your bike and then realize you forgot the degreaser. Having all your supplies at the ready ensures the process goes smoothly.

Set your bike on the bike stand if you're using one.


Gently rinse the entire bike with a hose or bucket of water from the top to the tires. Target any large bits of dirt or grime.

Apply the Cleaner

Apply your bike cleaner or dish soap concoction to every component of the bike. Start from the top and work your way down. Use some rags to spread the cleaner.

If your bike has disc brakes, don't use soapy water on them. Opt for rotor cleaner or rubbing alcohol.

Scrub and Degrease

Take a soft-bristled brush and get to scrubbing. Apply enough pressure to remove grimy buildup without stripping the paint off your bike.

Use a bigger brush for the bike frame. This makes it easier to get every part of it.

Whip out the smaller, finer brushes to target the drivetrain.

A drivetrain consists of a crankset, cassette, rear derailleur, front derailleur, shifters, and chain. Examine each part of the drivetrain. Look for dirty, grimy, or greasy buildup. Inspect the chain as well. If it's shifting poorly or making strange noises, it needs degreasing.

Hit every dirty part of the drivetrain with a degreaser, then scrub it down.


Take the water and rinse down the entire bike. Start at the top again and work down. Ensure no suds or cleaning products remain.

Give an extra rinse to the drivetrain. Many little parts aren't going to be thoroughly rinsed after just one pass.


Take a new batch of clean rags and start drying the bike. Be thorough. Dry every part.

An air compressor blows the water out of those hard-to-reach areas.


It's time to hit those moving parts with some lube. Coat every component, but don't drown them in lubricant. Wipe away any excess.

Three parts need extra attention: the brake and derailleur levers, cables, and assemblies.

Lubricate your bike's brake and derailleur levers. Apply no more than a drop or two of dry lube. You don't need to lubricate these parts as much as other drivetrain components.

The brake and derailleur cables need more attention than the levers. Check them frequently. Check them after every trip if you're biking in continuously wet environments. Relubricate them with dry lube if they're greaseless.

Brake and derailleur assemblies have lots of small, moving parts needing lubricant. Various arms, wheels, and pulleys need dry lube on their pivot points.

When applying lubricant, don't get any on the brake pads. This just might make it harder to stop.

The chain is the critical component of a drivetrain. Give it the extra attention it needs.

Lubricating a Bike Chain

Bike chains move the most out of any component in the drivetrain. More movement means they need more care. Proper maintenance keeps your bike chain from rusting and potentially breaking.

Remove the Chain

Shift the chain into the smallest chainring and rear cog. This puts it in the loosest position, making it easier to work with.

Get a chain tool. This tool has a rotating handle and metal pin that pushes the rivet out of your bike chain, so it comes apart. It's the easiest way to remove a chain.

It's possible to use your hands to finesse a bike chain off. They're going to get oily, and it's harder. This "hands-on" approach works just fine if you don't have a chain tool.

Apply the Degreaser

Apply the degreaser to the chain. Let it soak in for a few minutes to break down any crud.

Bike mechanic services a bicycle on stand

Scrub the Chain

Go through with a brush and scrub down the chain. Work the degreaser into the links and between the plates. Get every part of the chain, including the inside of the rollers.

Rinse the Chain

Rinse the chain with soapy water or a hose. Make sure to remove all the degreaser and buildup.

Dry the Chain

Dry the chain thoroughly with a clean rag. Everything must be bone dry. It's hard to get every part but do your best.


Apply either the wet or dry lubricant. Use whatever type best suits your future riding needs. Wipe off the excess lubricant with a dry rag.

Reinstall the Chain

Reinstall the chain. If you used a chain tool, follow the correct steps.

If you used your hands, find a way to get it back on.

Clean and lubricate the chain every few weeks or months, depending on how often you ride and the difficulty of your route. A daily five miles at turtle speed is not as taxing as a five-mile uphill ride in the boonies.

Cleaning an Old Bike

Cleaning an old bike is the same as cleaning a new bike with a few more steps. Everything in a new or well-maintained bike usually works well.

If you leave your bike unattended for years, Father Time hits it with the unavoidable spell of aging. Even bikes get old, so don't fret about liver spots and grey hairs. It's all part of the process.

Clean the Bike First

It's hard to tell typical filth from the effects of time, such as rust and corrosion.

Give it a thorough cleaning. Once the muckiness and dust are out of the picture, it's easier to see rustiness.

Examine the Frame

The frame of a bike is like your bones. Without these, the whole operation goes kaput.

Look at the frame for rust. Rust is a type of corrosion. It's a reddish-brown substance resulting from a reaction between oxygen in water and iron. A lot of surface rust is easy to get rid of. If it's deep and around vital parts of the bike like the welds, it's probably terminal. Get a new bike.

Mix a paste of vinegar, baking soda, and lime juice to deal with rust. Use a brush to scrub it on. Get a wire brush or sandpaper if the rust is more severe.

Bike rest on maintenance stand in shop

Check Out the Rubber

Tires and their inner tubes get brittle over time. Check them out to ensure they're still usable. If you see cracks or the tires don't hold air, get some new ones.

Look at other rubber parts of the bike, like the grips or rim brakes.

Don't Neglect the Drivetrain

Look at the chain first. Clean it and look for any damage. Your best bet is to get a new bike chain. You don't want it breaking when you are three miles into your ride.

Give the derailleurs and cranks a good cleaning. Test them by shifting through gears and adjusting them to work correctly. Note any looseness or wiggly parts. Replace them if necessary.

The cables are the messenger between shifters, brake levers, and derailleurs and breaks. If they're out of whack, stopping and shifting become impossible.

Cables live inside a housing — it's the barrier between the cables and the outside world. If these have cracks, the cables likely took some damage. That's a pretty tough fix, requiring an expert.

Go to a Pro

A lot of things may be wrong with an old bike. Go to a bike servicing center or store to ensure it's back in shipshape. These experts spend their careers fixing bikes. They know what's up. Go to them for advice on fixing your old bicycle.

Bringing Out the Brilliance of Your Bike

Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!

Instead of riding a bucking bronco like the Lone Ranger, you're rocking a clean, well-maintained, two-wheeled terror. All that's left is to give it an eye-catching sheen.

Buffing your bike brings out its brilliance.

Clean and Dry the Bike

Go through the whole cleaning process.

You need a clean bike before buffing it.

Dry off every part, including the frame, wheels, and handlebars

Apply Polish

Bike polish gives a shiny, polished finish to your bike. It's eye-popping and protects your bike from environmental factors like UV rays.

It makes older bikers look newer and cleaner while adding a layer between the bike and water so it doesn't rust as easily.

Polish is not a substitute for cleaning and maintenance. It's just another tool in the arsenal.

Once the bike is dry, apply small amounts of polish to a soft, clean cloth. Don't use something abrasive like iron wool. Rub the polish onto the frame using small, circular motions. Cover the entire surface of the frame and any other part you want to shine.


Grab another clean cloth and start buffing. Repeat the small, circular motions and buff until it sparkles. Microfiber cloths are best.

Wipe away excess polish.

Protect the Bike

Use bike covers, frame tape, and other bike protection products to add a defense shield to your bike.

Bicycle mechanic rubricates the chain of a bike

Bike Cleaning Services

Professional bike cleaners take care of all this if you don't want to do it yourself.

Prices range. Services differ. Every business has its process. A good service cleans the entire bike and takes care of necessary maintenance and repairs.

Services range from basic washes and maintenance to a comprehensive package with all the bells and whistles.

General prices are in a ballpark range of $50 to $150. The dirtier and more broken your bike is, the more it's going to cost.

If you don't have the expertise, time, or desire to clean your bike, a professional bike cleaning service is the way to go.

Finding a Good Bike Cleaning Service

All humanity's knowledge is at your fingertips with a smartphone. Learn String theory, watch cat videos, or study the Norman Conquest. The possibilities are endless. If you fail to find a good bike cleaning service, it's hard to blame anyone but yourself.

Do an Online Search

Look for bike cleaning services in your area. Read reviews and look at ratings to get an idea of what's out there.

Check for Certifications

Look for certifications like a bike mechanic certification. It's even better if they're affiliated with well-known cycling organizations or brands. Certifications indicate expertise and knowledge. It's a diploma for all things bike related.

Check the Offered Services

Find a place that fits your needs.

Some businesses are less extensive than others. Suppose you need a simple tune-up, then go somewhere offering basic services. If you're after a deluxe bike cleaning, look elsewhere.


Compare prices for different bike cleaning services. You want the best price possible. If two places offer the same service and one is cheaper, go there.


Pick a location closest to you. Driving three hours to get your bike cleaned is unnecessary unless you're a loyal customer of a particular business.

Bike Cleaning Kits

A bike cleaning kit provides the necessary tools to clean your bike: scrubbers, brushes, sponges — the whole shebang.

Annadson Eight Pieces Precision Bicycle Kit

The Annadson Eight Pieces Precision Bicycle Kit comes with a sprocket brush, a sprocket scraper, a tapered brush, a chain cleaning brush, a tire scrubber, a wheel brush, and a chain scrubber.

All you need to buy is a cleaning agent, degreaser, and lubricant, and you've got everything required to clean a bike.

The Best Bike Cleaning Agent, Lubricant, and Degreaser

Many companies sell high-quality bike cleaning agents, lubricants, and degreasers. Check out some of the top options below.

Bicyclist rides along a wooded trail

Muc-Off's Nanotech Bike Cleaner

The Nanotech Bike Cleaner from Muc-Off gets straight to the marrow of the issue. It breaks down dirt and grime at a molecular level, making it easier to clean your bike.

It's biodegradable and free of nasty acids, solvents, or chlorofluorocarbons.

It works on any surface, so it doesn't matter what material your bike has in it.

Dumonde Tech's Classic Bike Lubricants

Dumonde Tech's line of classic bike lubricants is for the everyday biker. They add durability and longevity to your bike without attracting dirt and grime.

They claim their lube lasts up to 400 miles — that's a lot of biking.

Finish Line Citrus Bike Degreaser

The acidity in Finish Line's Citrus Bike Degreaser packs an extra punch, making it easier to dissolve any stubborn gunk.

It's non-toxic and biodegradable while not damaging the bike's finish.

Use it on any component in the drivetrain and watch years of nasty buildup dissolve away.

Biking Brings Liberation

March is Women's Month.

Susan B. Anthony — one of the first, finest and most fearless leaders of the women's suffrage movement — saw the liberating potential of a bike.

"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling," Anthony said. "I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel."

With freedom comes responsibility. The right to vote also means the responsibility of being a good citizen. The same thing applies to bicycles.

A bike is a means to untrammeled paths and fully-realized freedom, but those liberties mean nothing if you neglect your responsibility and fail to clean your bike.

Do Miss Anthony proud. Give thanks for women's suffrage, ride a bike, and ensure both aren't just a blip in history but the foundation on which people build the future.

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