How or where do I clean my bike in winter?

I live in Michigan, USA and winter can be very harsh, along with the added salt used for ice removal. I am not commuting or anything, just occasionally riding for fun.

Not cleaning my bike after a ride does not really seem like a good idea, so I would assume this would be a common issue.

I tried just using hot water, but it is punishingly cold and difficult. Maybe it just one of those "suck it up" type things?

Here is a somewhat related question, but more about chain cleaning.

  • 2
    Uh, what's this "clean" thing? Nov 26, 2013 at 1:20

7 Answers 7


I've found the simplest way is to get it rinsed off outside if you can, buckets of warm/hot water work well, then bring it inside and wash in the tub. If you've got a garage or laundry room, this becomes even easier by basically sponge-bathing your bike with a rag.

Another alternative, but sometimes less worth it, is to take the bike to a self-wash car wash and spray it down on the low pressure setting and scrub it down there. Some washes have doors you can close to keep it a little warmer.

  • 1
    I like the sponge bath concept. Have not seen a self-wash with a door before, that would be cool to use though. Nov 26, 2013 at 21:51
  • keep that pressure away from all bearings (bottom bracket, hubs, freewheel, headset)
    – Mark W
    Jan 31, 2014 at 13:08
  • @MarkW I agree in general about that, but I've yet to have any problems with using a low pressure spray all over the bike.
    – Aaron
    Jan 31, 2014 at 14:10

As a bicycle mechanic in the Netherlands, I always advice not to use a waterhose. Rain doesn't get into your bearings and chain, while water from a waterhose sometimes does get in nasty places. I sometimes see chains or even a bearing which is rusted because the oil/grease is 'hosed away'.

You can safely use water out of a bucket, with a sponge. But do not use a hose. Especially not a high-presure hose!

The best thing to do is clean the bicycle entirely with some cleaner without grease. Based on silicon for instance. Spray it on the bicycle, and clean the bicycle with an old cloth.

Grease your chain again. And grease all metal parts (bolts and stuff) with some thick grease such as vasaline.

  • 2
    This is rather generic advice about bike cleaning that doesn't seem to address the specific issue raised in the question: how to clean your bike when it's several degrees below freezing. Jan 27, 2017 at 15:13

I clean my bike in the winter almost the same way as in the summer. I usually just use water (add a little soap if it is really dirty) and a brush or cloth to agitate the dirt. In the winter this is going to suck no matter what you do, unless you bring your bike indoors.

The key thing that I find when washing my bike (in the summer or winter), is the preparation beforehand. Always keep all of the bearings and contact surfaces nicely greased. Cleaning and then lubing the chain before washing it will help a great deal too.

Another tip in winter washing is to choose where you ride in order to avoid riding on salt or chemicals that can be found on the roads or sidewalks. Avoiding the road and sidewalks where there is salt and chemicals will allow you to not have to wash your bike after every ride. Just brush off the snow and wet slush.

  • Are you suggesting preferring to ride on a trail system or something like that? Nov 26, 2013 at 22:02
  • If you can, sure. I know around here that they don't salt or put chemicals down on a lot of the paths. Obviously sometimes the paths are too snowy or you just have no alternative to riding on salted roads, but if you can avoid them then all the better.
    – canadmos
    Nov 27, 2013 at 5:41
  • On the other hand, in NYC the city dumps massive quantities of salt on the bike paths on the bridges. Which is nice, because wiping out descending a bridge would suck, but also a pain because it makes cleaning a pain. Feb 3, 2014 at 21:59

If there was not too much mud that day, spraying the brakes and drivetrain with the water bottle, then, once indoors, re-greasing the chain, should be enough (otherwise it rusts).

Now if things are more messy, a rag and the shower portable head, set to maximum pressure, should do it. I use cold water, to save electricity.

  • 2
    High pressure water can damage your bearings. I don't know if any shower head can get that high, but I personally wouldn't risk it.
    – jimchristie
    Nov 26, 2013 at 19:49
  • Using any hose outside when its below freezing is not really a good idea though, just seems like a cold mess. Nov 26, 2013 at 21:49
  • @jimirings, I also do not have reliable data if the practice is harmful.
    – Vorac
    Nov 27, 2013 at 9:21

I spent years in Canadian prairie winters (-40ºC not an uncommon occurrence) without access to a garage or anything, so my winter-cleaning method of choice involved bringing my bike inside and scrubbing her down in the bathtub. It's kind of double-work because you're left with a sparkling clean bike and a bathtub that looks like a garbage dump, but better than letting road salt and gravel decompose your bike into a pile of rust.


I second the sponge batch method from a bucket of warm water. It's what I do in Minnesota during the winter and it's a good idea to rinse the deicing salt off your bike if you can.

I'd also suggest that a few times during the winter you do a light service in your bike.

You should disassemble your bottom bracket and make sure water isn't trapped in there. You're definitely riding in a harsher climate and salt and water can play havoc with bearings quickly.

Make sure to clean and lube your derailleur pivot points, keep your chain well lubed and make sure that the threads of the screws used on your bike have grease on them to prevent corrosion or worse galvanic bonding.


I do not always clean my bike as often in the winter as I do in the summer. I usaully wait until its a warm day (high 30s low 40s) and clean it in my garage. I take an empty bottle of wind shield washer fluid and fill it up with very hot soapy water. I take an old kitchen sponge too. I then just pour a little bit of the soapy water onto the sponge and scrub the dirt off. I always take the front tire off, but rarely do I take the back tire off during the winter. I just scrub all the muck off. I then just slowly pour the soapy water onto the chain (like what you would do when lubing it) and all over the rest of the drivetrain. I scrub the hard to reach places down with a drive train cleaner. I then rinse out the bucket and fill it with just hot water. Wash everything down, dry, and then lube. Right it up and down the block once or twice just to make sure everything is working. and thats it. Hope that helps.

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