How to Clean a Bike Chain

Learn how to clean a bike chain with a degreaser or cleaner and either wet lube or dry lube from expert Jesse McDonough in this Howcast video.


Up next in Basic Bicycle Maintenance (4 videos)

Own a bicycle? Then you should know how to identify bike parts, clean a bike chain, and adjust bike brakes. And you will after watching these videos.



Hi, my name is Jesse McDonough and I'm here at Spokesman Cycles in New York City, right by Union Square. I'm a bicycle tour guide in New York and formerly a bike messenger and I'm here to tell you a bit about the bike. Keeping your bike chain clean and lubed is one of the best ways to keep the ride smooth and to keep the lifetime of the years in the chain a little bit longer. We're going to start just by showing you how to generally clean the chain itself. You wanna find just a degreaser it's referred to, or often just say a bike cleaner. Um, sometimes they're combined with lubricants but they're often not. So you wanna just start by fully saturating the chain itself with the degreaser, using a rag. And you kind of just spread it out amongst the chain uh, using this, the length of the chain here and kind of move to a different spot here and get the rest of the chain. You can also make sure you get the cassette here in the back and um, the front gears. And once you got it all fully wet with the degreaser, you kind of wipe it with a rag and you can use the brush to get in between each link here. You notice if you just take hold of the link, they bend and spin. And as you do that with the brush and the rag, the little bits and pieces of dirt will come out. Also using this little handy poker, it sticks right in between the narrow parts of the cassette here. And really does a great job. You can see this cassette here is pretty clean and you can hear some of the grits back here. It really does a great job of getting the gunk out. One thing you also want to be aware of with the derailer pulleys. If you spin backwards, you can just take your finger. You might want to put a rag on it to keep it clean and just lightly put some pressure on the derailer pulley. And all of the gunk will attach to your finger and come right off. So at that point you got the degreaser on the derailer pulleys, the cassette, and the chain itself and you're really just kind of going through a slow cleaning process. So you clean, wipe, brush, um, saturate again if you like, and then do one final wipe down. And at that point, it's time to lube. So here you take your proper lubricant and you put it at the cassette. These things are made to just do a little drip at a time. So you're not going to use too much. Spin it backwards and you're going to get every link of the chain as you go. Another thing you want to keep in mind is you do this; you want to get all the gears. So um, you got the lube on the entire chain at this point. You come up to the gears and as you switch the gears here, the lube from the chain is also going to be transferred to the cassette and each chain ring on the front. So at that point, you got all gears, the chain itself fully lubed.


  • Jesse McDonough

    Jesse McDonough is a New York City bicycle tour guide. He has worked as a bicycle messanger in San Francisco and Washington D.C.