I use paint thinner and an old tooth brush to clean my bike chain.

Is there anything I can spray on the chain to dissolve the thinner or do I have to manually rub it off with a rag?

I am open to recommendations to anyone who actually uses one of those chain cleaners.

Thanks, Andy

  • 2
    When using a chain washer I use paper towels to remove the solvent and any remaining grime. Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 19:46

2 Answers 2


AFAIK, you are on your way to do it nicely.

You clean it up with the thinner/degreaser and a stiff brush and you finish it up with a rag while turning the pedals for a few full rotations.

Rinse with clean water and let it dry out and lubricate the chain when dry.

The way to have a clean(er) chain and drive train is to do regular maintenance and cleaning; the first few times, it will still be (or feel like) somewhat dirty, especially if it has been a long time you cleaned it.

  • After cleaning the chain, I used White Lightning Easy Lube.
    – fixit7
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 1:01

Solvents will soften oily crud, but you need some detergent to encourage the dirt to disperse within your washing fluid.

I've used chain cleaning devices by Park, MucOff and others, with specific chain-cleaning fluids from various brands. They all work about the same.

After cleaning with plain solvents, you may need to intensively relubricate the chain as the lubricants applied within the chain during manufacture may have been disolved away.

If my chain ever gets so bad that off-the-shelf chain cleaner isn't enough, I just replace the chain, since this is cheaper than replacing the chainring(s) or cassette/sprocket.

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