How To Clean A Rusty Bike Chain: Here’s how to do it!

How To Clean A Rusty Bike Chain
A Biker Cleaning a Rusty Bike Chain

As a bike owner, doing regular maintenance on your bike is one of the most important things that you can do. You will need to ensure the bike is in the best operating condition, and this would enable you to keep the bike in the best riding conditions. Knowing how to clean a rusty bike chain would save you money and prevent it from breaking.

So how to clean a rusty bike chain? Many people may believe that instead of cleaning your rusty bike chain, you should consider replacing it to ensure that you don’t risk breaking it. However, some of the top methods discussed could help you keep the chain clean without spending as much.

There are numerous methods that you can use to clean your bike chain. Not all of them will be effective in the same way, but if you are dealing with stubborn rust, you could even use a combination of these methods.

This article aims to help you see what you can do to ensure your bike chain is in optimal condition.

You might also enjoy reading: Is It Harder To Ride A Mountain Bike On The Road?

How To Clean A Rusty Bike Chain: Best Method

While you might find numerous tips and tricks that some people swear by, the one method we are about to show you is the one that has worked the most wonders.

I have been able to fix and clean numerous bike chains by using this method and simply using the other methods to prevent rust on the chain.

1- Buy A Good Degreaser

One of the first things you would need to do is find a good degreaser. The degreaser loosens some of the chain’s rust, making it much easier to wipe off.

If you don’t have a degreaser, you will have to scrape off some of the rust, which would not only harm the bike chain but might not be effective.

The Muc-Off Drivetrain Degreaser is one of the best products I have used, and it helps not only remove some of the rust but also lubricates the chain and ensures that you have some protection.

How To Clean A Rusty Bike Chain
A Rusty Bike Chain

2- Apply The Degreaser

Once you have your degreaser, you want to apply it to the chain. You don’t need to apply it only to the rusty parts of the chain, and you can put it on the full bike chain to ensure that you can remove as much of the possible rust. 

Many bike chains are full of rust, and cleaning the chain on the bike could seem impossible. You can put some of the degreasers in a tub and remove the chain. Simply put the chain in the tub with the degreaser and allow it to soak. 

Those who prefer not to struggle with the chain removal process would be able to apply the degreaser with the help of a simple cloth.

Make sure to put the degreaser on the cloth and wipe the complete chain. You would need to put the bike upside down, which allows you to move the rear tire and turn the chain to reach all the nooks and crannies. 

3- Rinse And Dry The Chain

Once you have left it in the degreaser for a while, you can easily remove the chain and leave it out in the sun to dry. If you don’t want to wait, you can use a towel and wipe off some of the degreasers after rinsing them off with water. 

After the chain has been left in the degreaser, the rust should easily wipe off, which would make it much easier for you to clean the unit.

We would recommend making sure that all the rust is removed before putting the chain back on the bike. 

How To Clean A Rusty Bike Chain
Rinsing a Rusty Bike Chain

4- Follow Up With Steel Wool And Lime Juice

The degreaser has been proven to remove most of the rust. However, many of us might have skipped cycling during the winter months, which means that the rust buildup could be excessive and even make it harder for you to clean the chain effectively.

Using lime juice, lemon juice, and steel wool would allow you to scrub off some of the rust you often find on these bike chains. The citric acid found in lime and lemon juice would counteract the rust and loosen it up. However, you should be careful when scrubbing to ensure that you do not cause any damage to the chain.

Much like the degreaser, you can even leave the chain in the citric acid overnight, allowing some of the rust to dissolve. However, you should avoid adding things like vinegar, which might compromise some of the components.

Watch the video below to learn more about how to clean rust with lemon juice.

5- Adding Lubrication To The Chain

Once you have the chain fixed and most of the rust has been removed, you will have to add some lubrication to the chain, preventing the accumulation of new rust on the chain.

The Tri-Flow lubrication is one of the best products you can simply put on the chain, which will help it roll much more comfortably.

Make sure that the lubrication you choose is the correct one. Some might prefer a messy wet lubricant, whilst others would like the dry silicone-based lubricant for their bike chains. Whichever one you choose should be functional and congruent with your chain.

Preventing Future Rust On Your Bike Chain

Now that you have removed some of the rust on your bike chain, the next thing to consider would be to prevent future rust. You might not care much about the rust until you have to clean it off the chain.

Once you have cleaned the rust off the chain, you will be more focused on preventing it from ever taking hold again.

1- Allowing The Chain To Dry

The first thing we recommend is leaving your bike in the sun to dry after each ride.

Allowing the chain to dry effectively would make it much harder for rust to take a foothold, and this would ensure that you have less maintenance to do

2- Clean The Chain After Rides

While road cyclists might not need to deal with a dirty chain that often, the opposite is true for true mountain bike riders.

Mountain bike trails contain plenty of mud; the mud could become lodged in the chain, making it harder for you to use the bike effectively. You must focus on cleaning the chain after each ride.

To clean the chain, you can simply hose down the chain and the bike. You might need to scrub some of the much off the smaller chain links, which could be tedious. However, once you have it done, you will be sure that rust does not return.

3- Store The Bike Indoors

Many people leave their bikes outside at night, and this is not only a perfect opportunity for them to get stolen, but it also gives the elements like rust the chance to take a foothold on the chain and the rest of the bike.

You should consider storing your bike indoors, which would enable you to prevent the wet weather conditions from playing a role.

5- Belt Drive Bikes

Finally, many people who live near coastal areas will understand how the weather affects the bike and the bike chain. One of the top tips would be to consider a bike that uses a belt drive.

Unfortunately, these bikes are not as functional as your traditional bike. However, they would help you to prevent some rust.

When Should You Replace Your Bike Chain?

No matter how much or how often you clean the bike chain, eventually, you will have to replace the chain. It is important to know when it needs to be replaced before it ever happens, and this could be daunting for some people to understand.

I believe that after a year or two of constant riding, the chain integrity could be weakened, and replacing the chain would be a good option to consider. 

However, you should check to see if there are any stubborn rusted parts that you cannot fix or clean. This would be when you need to consider replacing your bike chain.

What to read next:

Wrapping Up

The bike chain is one of the essential components of any bike, and once you understand how to fix and repair the bike chain, you will find so much more performance and value in your bike.

Let us know in the comment section how you clean your bike chain and what you prefer to do when your bike chain does not want to work.


Hello fellow bikers, I am Altiné. I am SO excited you are here! I am the guy behind I am a biker and very passionate about reading, sports, and all things outdoors. I hope you find what you are looking for while visiting

Recent Posts