Pretty simple question but I think some recommendations would make my chains a bit long-lasting. So when should you do something to your salted chains? When the chains already look rusty, can you use water to clean the dirt out and then oil as a lubricant, or is it better to throw rusty chains into the dustbin? So how to maintain chains in good condition during winter? Oil every day, what about water? May water do even more damage to the chains if the metal has become very porous?


2 Answers 2


You can use water to remove the salt if it's bad enough, but immediately wipe off the water and generously re-lubricate the chain. You do not want to let the chain sit around with the salty water on it, as it will readily rust. So if you use water, just make sure the chain is completely dry afterwards, then re-oil it.

Metal doesn't really get porous, but AFAIK rust kind of does-- if the rust is that bad, you may want to consider cleaning the rust off with a toothbrush or getting a new chain altogether.

Oiling often in winter is a must. Some people use hot wax instead, but depending on your situation, that might be overkill. You may not need to oil it every day (if it still has plenty of oil visible on it, I don't bother with my chain).

  • Jason Plank: what is "hot wax"? Is it more long-lasting on the chain than oil?
    – user652
    Commented Feb 6, 2011 at 13:02
  • 2
    @HH01 By "hot wax" I mean paraffin wax (the stuff that candles are made of). You heat up the wax and then dip the chain in it. Wax is supposed to be very good at repelling dirt, but from what I read, it's not a very good lubricant. So it may last longer, but oil will make the chain run more easily. Commented Feb 6, 2011 at 19:37
  • Jason Plank: can I buy it with in big chunks or do I need to use my candles to it?
    – user652
    Commented Feb 7, 2011 at 2:16
  • Jason Plank: I use some sort of wax to skis, it looks like parafin. Could it be used by ironing it to the chain? Its purpose is to protect the ski and to speed up sliding, at least its goal seems similar (it may work).
    – user652
    Commented Feb 7, 2011 at 2:25
  • 1
    @HH01: no, ironing it to the chain wouldn't work. You need your lubricant to penetrate to the internal bearings of the chain and just rubbing a solid lubricant on the outside won't do that.
    – freiheit
    Commented Feb 7, 2011 at 5:14

I wouldn't say that you need to throw your chain or cassette away if it gets that rusty. I do some work restoring bikes and have found that you should soak stuff in Liquid Wrench maybe 20 minutes to an hour. Then take steel wool and scrape the rust off (fine steel wool works best). Works wonders. Then dry and lubricate with oil.

  • I think the thing recommended here is penetrating oil with low-viscosity. Not sure how to spot such bottles and why not just low-viscosity cooking oil. Have to test.
    – user652
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 1:31

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