There are many sources describing how to wash your bike but all of them are for people who live outside town with a nice garden and a lot of space. Provably most of people live in small flats in a city block making it impossible to use these guides.

How can I wash a bike properly without going outside and having really small space?

  • I'm using a bathtub - my 26 mtb fits perfectly)
    – k102
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 7:52
  • Why not just wash it on the street? Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 9:39
  • 1
    Step 1: Put down a plastic sheet. Step 2: Spray lightly from a spray bottle of "Mr Clean" or some such. Step 3: Wipe with rags or paper towels. Difficult spots can be attacked with an old toothbrush. (But I've never really understood the reasoning behind cleaning a bike in the first place.) Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 11:40
  • I've washed mine in the shower before, helps if you have a detachable head but mine did not. Worked fine for me as its not high enough pressure to really damage anything, i soaked it in simple green, let it sit and then turned on the shower. Then hand dried it once i had it clean.
    – Nate W
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 21:08
  • @NateWengert - I'm not sure I want all the dirt in my bike ending up all over my shower (even if I could get my bike into the shower).
    – Batman
    Commented Oct 23, 2016 at 22:03

6 Answers 6


I never wash any of my bikes with water. Water, specially at high pressure out of a hose may get to places it shouldn't (i.e. bearings) and thus reduces the life expectancy of your bike.

Personally, I don't have a lot of space inside, and this works perfectly fine:

  • let your bike dry completely
  • scrub off all bigger chunks of dirty with an old dry cloth
  • use a cleaning agent (ideally something like WD40) for stains that don't come off easily
  • degrease your chain, also using a bit of WD40 and some dry cloth
  • possibly remove wheels from frame if you really wanna get everything off
  • reassemble everything, grease movable parts using a little bit (!) of chain oil or thicker grease (i.e. motorex) if needed
  • most importantly: repeat regularely, so your bike never becomes too flithy

I keep a piece of thick PVC foil, about 3×1 m in size which I spread on the floor in my corridor and put my bike on it (it has a kickstand so it can stand on its own). I spread 4-5 sheets of newspaper just below the bike.

I take the chain off (which is easy since I have a master link) and clean it by shaking in a bottle of naphta. I dust off all dried dirt from the frame using a cheap paintbrush (with a wooden handle so it doesn't scratch the frame). What is left, I clean up with moist disposable paper towels. If I'm in the mood, I clean the shock absorbers in the fork with a paper towel sprayed with WD-40. After drying, I put the chain back on and lubricate it.

Most of the time, the dirt collected on the newspapers and the foil is completely dry so I can easily pour it over to the trash bin.


After a long bike tour through south east Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia totaling ~5000 km) we were flying back to NZ with our bikes. NZ customs has very stringent requirements that no dirt/bugs/diseases comes in to the country on used sports gear, so we got the bikes sparkling clean by smuggling them up to our hotel room and putting them into the shower. Nice low pressure, warm water. Good drainage for the dust/dirt. Soap and a flannel to clean up the frames. No mess to clean up afterwards.


In fact, using a cloth to wipe clean the bike dirt are quite eco-friendly. You might use less water if doing it properly. It also reduce the risk of splashing water into bearing,etc.

For heavy dirt like mud, first use gardening spray lightly spray to wet up dirt in order to remove them. Just be careful when dumping the waste water, toilet bowl is a good idea compare to bathtub drain.

For greasy part, spray grease removal/solvent and use paper towel instead of cloth. Don't feel bad about "saving the tree" on the paper towel. Though cloth are "reusable" ,you will waste water and pouring those greasy dirt into your drainage, which is more harmful to the environment.

  1. Put the bike on a bike repair stand inside of a room that doesn't have a carpet or any fancy hardwood floor covering.
  2. Put down a thick plastic sheet under the chain and cassette area. Instead of plastic, you can use a few pieces of thick cardboard.
  3. Clean the chain with 30 revolutions of the chain, back peddling, using a Park Tool cyclone or similar tool filled with Simple Green or another de-greasing product. Keep the chain and cassette over the floor protection that you put down in step 2.
  4. Flush dirty contents of cyclone down the toilet.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4.
    6a. Use small strips of cloth or "gear floss," soaked in de-greaser, to clean between the gears on the cassette. Use a small brush, soaked in de-greaser, to clean the rest of the drive train.
    6b. Fill cyclone with warm water. Repeat steps 3 and 4 using warm water instead of de-greaser. Flush dirty water down toilet. 6c. Use dry cloth to dry the chain as best you can.
  6. Mix a liberal amount of dish soap with water and use the mixture to fill up a spray bottle. Fill another spray bottle with warm water alone.
  7. Spray soap mixture onto bike to clean dirty parts of frame, rims, spokes, pedals, etc. Wipe off with clean cloth.
  8. Repeat step 8 with just the water spray.
  9. Dry off the entire bike with clean cloth.
  10. Remember to lube the chain before you ride the bike after cleaning.

I would say it's probably easier / cleaner to take your bike to a friends house who has a garden or to a petrol station or car cleaning place (but don't use the jet wash on your bike). I can't imagine trying to clean a bike in bathtub!

  • I just have a shower and have to share the space with a bide
    – kifli
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 8:22
  • 1
    @kifli - I think that's spelled "bidet". Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 11:38

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