This question about chain maintenance during touring raised this question.

This tip sounds unintuitive, of course, I know that the extra lube will attract dust (not good to chain) but I have paid for the lube. My biased view is that when I just ride fast enough it will just fall off because I use liquid Teflon lube but I don't want to limit this question only to Teflon lube.

Please, tell me should you really wipe extra lubricant from your chains?

How should you wipe it? Is piece of WC-paper enough?

What does the term to wipe really mean?

Do you wipe things similarly with all kind of lubes?

Please, note that there is a huge variety of lubes, more here.

  • n.b. random walkers. It can be very hard to understand what even the dirt in chain mean. There are two different kinds of dirt: inside and outside. Due to the freiheit and the suggestion [1], I finally understood the huge amount of dirt a chain can gather! Please, note that the dirt on the chain is rather meaningless but the dirt in the internals is the thing that can damage the chain, creating extra friction. The tip [1] is a cheap way to see how much dirt a chain can have. [1] bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/2903/…
    – user652
    Commented Feb 26, 2011 at 3:11

2 Answers 2


The primary purpose of chain lube is to lubricate the rollers and other internal parts of each link, not to lubricate the outside. Excess lube on the outside of the chain will get dirt stuck to it, that dirt will slowly work its way into the rollers that you're trying to protect, and dirt inside will grind away at the internal parts and wear out the chain faster.

I wouldn't use toilet-paper (WC-paper), as that's usually pretty flimsy and will leave bits of itself behind. You don't want to wipe with something that will leave anything behind. Use a lint-free rag of some sort. I either use a worn out dish towel or a worn out sock. A sturdy paper towel would probably be fine.

I interpret "to wipe" as meaning to rub an absorbent cloth against all 4 sides of the entire length of the chain, such that there's only a thin coating of lubricant left behind (no visible drops). I would usually wait a few minutes and ride the bike around to give the lube a chance to penetrate into the internal parts of the chain, then wipe off the outside of the chain.

  • are you sure that the wiping is necessary with all kind of lubes? Even with liquid ones? I am a bit suspicious whether the answer is the same to all kind of lubes. What do you think? Anyway good notices from WC-paper, appreciate it, thanks.
    – user652
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 2:37
  • can you give some example of and dirt inside will grind away at the internal parts and wear out the chain faster.? What does it look like?
    – user652
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 2:38
  • @hhh: the chain wearing out looks like stretch. You can't see the internal parts, so it doesn't look like much.
    – freiheit
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 2:49
  • 3
    This advice applies to all kinds of lubes. Lube must lubricate, but it must also have enough viscosity to cling to the surfaces of the chain. This stickiness is what makes an unwiped chain prone to collecting dirt. Once the lube has worked its way into the links, any lube on the outside is unnecessary and will collect dirt that will work its way into the chain. Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 5:21

It would be impossible to give a general answer to such a broad category of lubricants. There are bio oils, mineral oils, dry lubes, etc. The composition of the compound dictates the nature of the substance as it degrades, and as it is exposed to temperature, use, dirt, dust, water, etc.

The wiping technique I typically use with any form of lubricant is to use a cloth dedicated to that form of lubricant, and enclose a section of the chain with it as I spin the wheel through it until all visible liquid (and dirt) is removed. I've used Rock'n'Roll Absolute Dry lubricant since encountering it on a mountain bike trip riding across Vietnam and Cambodia. The cheaper "mineral oil" we were using was turning to a sticky polymer in the heat and with exposure to sun and dirt. By moving to the dry lube, we moved to the "clean chain" concept, and had no issues.

Note that this is a "wax" lubricant, the active compound of which is suspended in a carrier liquid. The wax is actually very good at binding with the metal as a dry lube, but the carrier liquid needs to be wiped away. I tend to the chain once a week if I've ridden much (daily commute or training), and both before and after downhill sessions.

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