I try and clean my chain regularly and particularly when it's wet or dirty.

Despite my chain looking pristine clean once I have finished it often looks black and oily again after just one commute of 18 miles (on dry tarmac).

When cleaning my chain I use muc-off chain cleaner on the chain and the rest of the drive train and then I use chain cleaner in one of these gadgets to get right into the chain links.

Once that is all done I rinse the chain with a garden hose and I usually let it sit in the garage for an hour or so before I then oil the chain.

I wipe excess oil off the chain with a rag when I am done.

I think that possibly I am not removing the de-greaser properly or not letting the chain dry properly before applying the oil...

Any advice much appreciated, I love it when my chain is nice and sparkly but when it gets black and oily again straight away it's pretty annoying!


  • What type of lube are you using? Wet lube is great as it stays on better in wet conditions (as the name suggests) but I find road grime and dust sticks to it a pretty bad. Your technique sounds just like mine, and I have the same issue on my fixed gear, although interestingly my MTB chain gets the same treatment but stays much cleaner! Less road grime I guess...
    – Drew
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 13:57
  • 2
    Another option: Buy a black chain to begin with (e.g. the KMC ones).
    – Batman
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 18:07
  • Those chain cleaning gadgets and solvent based cleaners do more evil than good. They remove the grease inside the chain links where it will be hard to put back. The best way to clean a chain is surface cleaning of the outside and rubbing over the top and the bottom with a brush. There will be almost no grime between pins and rollers. The grease put in at the factory won't let any in, unless it the chain has been bathed in solvent.
    – Carel
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 19:03

4 Answers 4


Wiping off excess oil with a rag is good, but there will still be extra oil hidden inside the links in-between the roller and bushings. This is what comes to the surface once you start riding. You can try spinning the drive train a bit (to bring this oil up) before wiping down a second time. Typically, you will need to wipe the chain off again even after a short ride. Personally, I prefer a thicker oil, so that after second or third wipe to get the chain really clean I don't touch it again for a couple hundred km. A lighter oil needs to be applied sooner, meaning less time running clean.

Also, when you spray with water it typically takes longer than an hour to dry the water inside the links. As such, when you are adding oil it may not penetrate as well due to water being in the system. This could further contribute to the dirty mess you are seeing. Using solvents on the chain too early also removes the factory lube (typically a type of wax), which reduces chain longevity. In terms or real world use I measured a 30% reduction in chain life if you strip the factory lube out early. As the chain gets older, less factory lube remains and cleaning with a solvent becomes a non-issue.

  • After greasing the chain with any kind of lubricant depending on the use (wet/dry weather) I always wipe the chain with a rag. There's no need for too much lubricant to be on the outside of the plates. It needs to be on the rollers, the insides of the plates and in the spaces between rollers, pins and plates.
    – Carel
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 18:56
  • @Carel - I think we all agree that excess lubrication on outside of the chain should be removed. The issue the OP was having was the chain looking black and oily despite wiping down excess lubricant after applying oil.
    – Rider_X
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 19:43

Don't "oil" your chain.

Oil lubricants will take the worn metal from your bushings (which will appear black) and transport them to the outside of the chain. This is normally a good thing but it also looks bad. The oil also attracts street grime.

If you use a dry PTFE or lithium based lubricant, then the PTFE stays inside, the carrier will evaporate and there's less movement of residue and nothing for grime to stick to.

Cleaning and oiling chains are a religious issue and there's severe factionalism. Some would argue that you want the worn metal pulled out of the bearings where it's causing more wear (thus: oil) others would say that oil attracts road grime which causes wear (thus: dry lube). I'm on the side of dry lubes as my bikes live inside my house and spousal approval requires clean appearing chains. Besides, chains are cheap.

I also should mention for completeness the availability of hot wax based lubricants. If you have time and don't mind a mess, this is also an option.

Ps. There's no reason for you to wash or rinse your chain with water. That's just asking for moisture to be trapped in the bushings where it'll cause rust. A shop rag will do just fine.

  • 2
    PTFE is of course a great lubricant, the problem with it is that it doesn't stick to anything so it is hard to keep inside the chain in-between the roller and bushing. I have never found the liquid carrier based dry lubes to work well in this regards. I do think using a hot wax (paraffin) as the PTFE carrier would work very well, but is of course a major bother to do.
    – Rider_X
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 17:23
  • Yeah, as noted I'm of the school that a chain is a wear item and so although PTFE isn't ideal, it's clean and works well enough.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 17:55
  • Personally I find that dry wax lubes such as Finish Line Krytech (not hot wax) give the best trade-off between cleanliness and protection
    – John M
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 11:25

Use a dry lubricant - oil attracts grit & dirt. Seem to recall that graphite based lubricants are good, but a bit messy.

Once that is all done I rinse the chain with a garden hose and I usually let it sit in the garage for an hour or so before I then oil the chain.

Effective degreasing + water + wait a while sounds like a recipe for corrosion.

  • 1
    Corrosion is not such a big deal on clean (without road salt) stainless chains. Besides, one should not wait for ages, just for a day, and any amount of rust that might appear under that time will be worn away at the first 10 km chain use. Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 7:54

Here is one answer. Its simple physics. It has a lot to do with fluid dynamics, and wear & tear and the drag coefficient, commonly denoted as or is a dimensionless quantity that is used to quantify the drag or resistance of an object in a fluid environment, such as air or water, fluid oil film etc. Im a cyclist, I battle to keep my chain and chainrings clean too. I do around 350 - 450 KM per week that includes racing at my clubs. So you can test this yourself. Get two, cut flat smooth bar squares of steel or stainless or hardened steel. Rub them together with a bit of force that generates lots of friction with some oil or WD40, after a time of rubbing and more rubbing, this simulated friction and rubbing motion, the oil film turns metallic silver, and then grey, then metallic black in colour. Now that added with micro crap on the ground and air, grit, like sand, salts thats on the road or gravel starts to make a black metallic paste. One ride, black like axle grease. Set length of your dirty chain over a plastic tub, and rinse it with some petrol or brake cleaner fluid or thinners some sort of hydrocarbon. You only need a small amount to see what the plastic tub has collected. Go into the sunlight, there you will see micro metal and flakes and particles etc in the solution. You can look further into this by pouring the solution you just collected into some filter paper, or toilet tissue to collect the debris particles to look at with a magnifying lens : )

  • Welcome to the site! I've downvoted your answer because I don't really see how it answers the question. There's a lot of stuff in there that isn't about how to stop your chain looking dirty after one ride. Maybe you could edit it to make it clearer how it answers the question? Unlike other sites you might be used to, we're not a discussion forum. There's more information on how Stack Exchange works in our tour and help center. Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 17:38
  • I believe the answer is suggesting that it is not possible to have a “clean” chain, due to metal on metal friction adding debris to the oil. If so stating your thesis at the start of your answer can help readability.
    – Rider_X
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 20:51

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