Hope everyone is well. I need to clean and oil my chain as its getting a little clunky when I’m changing gears. I have no idea what I should be cleaning it with and then what I should oil with. Any help would be great. It’s a road bike that is used every day no matter the weather.


4 Answers 4


For the casual rider the simplest approach is to go to a bike shop and get a bottle of "chain oil". Apply the chain oil fairly liberally (drizzle it on while cranking the chain backwards, if the bike has a freewheel), then wipe the chain with a rag (while cranking backwards). If the chain is REALLY dirty, repeat.

For slightly more aggressive cleaning (on a derailleur bike), get a "chain washer" and the associated solvent. Fill the washer and clamp it on, crank backwards for 30-60 seconds. Wipe with a rag. Apply chain oil. Wipe. If you're riding daily this is probably what you should use, every week or two.

There are the obsessive types who still remove their chains and boil them in kerosene or whatnot to clean then, but that's kind of silly (and dangerous), since chain washers have become available.

Note that chain oil comes in "wet" and "dry" varieties. "Wet" is for wet weather, and helps prevent corrosion in the wet, while "dry" is for dry weather and doesn't pick up dust nearly as fast as "wet" (and hence keeps the chain cleaner). And there are "do-all" and "in-between" varieties. Just pick what seems to fit your riding conditions best.

Do note that, even if properly lubricated, chains wear out. You should get a "chain stretch gauge" to measure the wear of your chain, and replace it when worn to about 0.8. Running a worn chain damages the sprockets.

  • boiling is excessive, though occaisional soaking in chain cleaner loosens the bits of dirt from inside the chain parts better than some brushes from a chain washing device will.
    – Mark W
    Mar 13, 2013 at 12:47
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    +1 for the oil as cleaner tip. I also try to leave the oil on for at least a few minutes before cleaning. I figure that this gives the oil more time to loosten the grit for easier removal with a cloth, etc. Mar 13, 2013 at 14:39
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    The two most valuable tips to learn about chain maintenance is how to recognize the time to clean/lube, and the time to replace. While the first is debatable, the second has only one right way to do: use the Chain Gauge. +1 for the chain gauge. Mar 13, 2013 at 14:52
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    It's important to note that it's lot lack of lubrication, but presence of dirt "inside" the chain, what causes chain wear. Although it's better to ride a lubed dirty chain than a dry dirty chain, it's best to ride a clean, lubed chain as much as possible. Cleaning is important, and should be done at least once in a while. In the other hand, if it's not practical, one can only lube, but it's paramount not to ride beyond the critical chain wear, instead replacing the chain before the whole drivetrain gets permanently damaged... Mar 13, 2013 at 14:53
  • +1 for comprehensive. In your position I would buy both wet and dry lube, and use according to season. Chain Washers work well, so too does just taking the chain off and soaking it in degreaser overnight. Nobody has said so thus far, but best to avoid the ubiquitous WD40 ib favour of dedicated lube.
    – PeteH
    Mar 13, 2013 at 18:12

After some tinkering with dedicated bike products, my cleaning/lubing routine settled with very straightforward and cheap strategy:

  1. When needed (usually chain too black/stainy or too dry/squeaking) I take it off the bike, put it inside a plastic bottle, and shake violently with about 100ml kerosene, repeating as needed until the kerosene comes out reasonably clean. I let the kerosene rest so that dirt goes down, you can use a bottle of kerosene like forever this way;
  2. With the first more-or-less clean doses of kerosene coming from the chain bottle, I clean the gears, front and rear;
  3. The last rinsing is with new, pure kerosene, so that residual dirt comes off.
  4. I then reassemble everything and go out for a ride. As soon as the chain gets noisy enough, I stop and apply the oil, which I always have along.

Now for the oil, I use something that is very similar to Finish-Line "Wet" oil: gearbox oil, which you buy by the liter and also last forever. It is recommended for chain lubing of motorcycles, and the end result when compared with dedicated bike oil is, in my experience, indistinguishable. I apply it "half" drop per link, since I don't let the drop fall, but rather touch the chain roller while the drop is still forming in the oil bottle nozzle. I found out I don't have excess to wipe out if I use this "half drop" measure.

I stress the fact that "I do it like this" instead of "this is the right way to do it" because this is a somewhat religious issue amongst riders. What I can assure you is that I have tried other methods, and kept this one because it is cheap, easy, makes sense, and works (lubrication lasts a lot, chain lasts a lot).

Hope this helps!

  • Too much dirty work in my opinion. Just lube properly and accept that you have to replace it every ~3000km or so. Chains are not that expensive.
    – Michael
    Mar 26, 2017 at 11:18

I use Simple Green. Any degreaser will work. I would use Dawn if I could squirt it out of a spray bottle.

I come from an industry where cleaning dirty greasy parts is part of our daily routine. The best degreasers were Dawn and Simple Green. I think a lot of people in similar industries will tell you the same. For one thing, people who buy the little drip bottles of degreaser treat it like it is liquid gold and use it so sparingly it is ineffective.

I squirt the hell out of my chain and cassette. I have a chain cleaner that straps over the chain and allows me to run the chain through a series of brushes. Those cleaners are popular enough. When I upgrade I am going to get the one that connects to the deraileur and holds steady. I also save my old toothbrushes and finish the job right. I rinse and repeat until my drive train is oil-free. I also work the links to feel for any grit in there. BTW, perfect time to inspect everything.

I use a simple lube, Tri-Flo. All the wet and dry stuff is part of the cycling fad and gimmicks.

I clean my drive train at least weekly if not after each ride. The whole process takes me about :15 and I have to schlep the gear up and down steps. Our bikes are expensive and important to us. I don't want to just go out and buy new stuff for my bike because they were neglected. Nor do I want to get stranded on the trail over a chain that I didn't take care of.

A clean chain ( and drivetrain) is the difference between someone who loves riding and someone who says they love riding.


Well I take a soft bristal brush and some dish soap and I scrub the spokets aswell as the chain and wipe with a rag I do this several times and once clean I really lube with chain oil and for that your welcome

  • Thank you for your contribution - please have a browse through the tour and learn how SE is different to a chat forum. In short, a question gets answers and the best ones are upvoted and rise to the top. Your answer is correct, but adds nothing that the other answers haven't already covered,
    – Criggie
    Mar 26, 2017 at 8:56
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    @Criggie I think only one answer mentions dish soap, and it only talks about one specific brand. Readers might not recognize that particular brand (I happen to know what it is, but I don't think Dawn is available in the UK, for example) and might think that the recommendation is specific to that particular brand and that other brands somehow wouldn't work. Mar 26, 2017 at 9:55

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