Home > Bikes > Cleaning a Bicycle Chain

Cleaning a Bicycle Chain

I ran across this link today and thought to myself, “Duh. Why don’t I do it this way?”

Cleaning a bike chain is the hands-down dirtiest task of maintaining a bike. Some bike shops will drop the dirty chains into an ultrasonic cleaner to get it nice and spiffy, but DIY’ers options are not so great. Shops sell special expensive chain cleaning tools that are expensive, prone to breaking, and don’t particularly work that well. They tend to spray dirty cleaning solution all over your bike and gears and cleaning the chain cleaner brushes is a task in itself.

Normally I would take off a bike chain (super easy with SRAM powerlink) and soak it a disposable tub, but that doesn’t get the difficult grease. This solution drops it into a large mouth bottle, where you can seal it and simulate a ultrasonic cleaner by just shaking the hell out of it. Flushing and staging with new cleaning solution will get your bike chain nice and clean.

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Categories: Bikes
  1. Salsa Matt
    October 18, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Dude! Briliant!

  2. Joey
    July 29, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Add rice, or some other easily removable particulate substance, to improve the abrasive/cleaning effect…

    • July 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      Good idea! Rice might disintegrate eventually into a sticky mess… Sand probably isn’t a great choice, since it might get stuck in the chain and wear them out prematurely… Maybe something like plastic pellets or air-rifle BB’s would work really well.

      I just recently had to clean about 25 disgustingly filthy bike chains (discards from a bike shop) to make some candle holders for a wedding. I found that dishwashing soap was superbly effective and lasted a long time. The chains got super clean quick and all we had to do was rinse them really well.

      The curious thing was that the “washing” fluid didn’t need to be changed at all. All we had to do was to just add more dish soap as it was breaking down with all the oil. We would pour the “washing” fluid, which got pretty crazy disgusting, into another bottle of equal size, extract the chains from the empty one, and repeat the process. When done, all you have to do is dispose of one bottle’s worth of oily/soapy contents.

      By comparison, our experience with the expensive bike degreaser you buy from bike stores did absolute bupkis.

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