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With a wax lubricant like paraffin or molten speed wax, what parts should have wax applied to them, and what is the recommended re-application process? I've heard some pretty different procedures being used by waxers out there:

Most information I've seen only mentions dipping the chains, and some only re-dip the dirty chain into the molten wax without any other cleaning first, as long as any oil-based lubricants have already been stripped from the drivetrain.

A mechanic I spoke to had concerns that the contact between the chain and other components wouldn't be adequately lubricated if only wax was applied to the chain.

Some people I've spoken with say that they clean the dirty wax off their chain before re-applying wax, in order not to contaminate the pot of clean wax. Solvents, ultrasonic cleaners, and hot water have all been mentioned.

Is there a general consensus on what components of the drive train need to have wax applied to them, and what the re-application process should involve?

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    The wax is for lubricating the inside of the roller bearing (where there is movement), and not the contact between the outside of the roller and the chainring/cogs (where there is no relative moment except settling-on and lifting-off). Same as for all other chain lubricants. – Useless Feb 13 at 9:17
  • Thanks for the comment @Useless , that's what I've read. I thought the mechanic at LBS who told me otherwise might know something that I don't. I'm not sure about this but either the paint is just coming off my largest chainring, or there's a bit of wear specifically on that chainring that isn't on the sprockets or smaller chainring. I was wondering if it might be due to lack of lubrication. The wear on the chain measures fine. – Scottmeup Feb 13 at 10:07
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    @Scottmeup even with oil based lube, anodizing will come off the chain rings, this is normal wear associated with shifts, cross chaining and just the process of engaging and releasing the chain. – Rider_X Feb 14 at 20:51
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The wax needs to be applied to the chain and specifically its rollers/pins. Nothing else needs waxing on your bike. (ball bearings need grease or oil, not wax)

The reapplication process is to remove chain from bike, and degrease it with a can of degreaser. I use two rinses, first gets very dirty and the second less so. Then the chain is hung to dry.

I use an old electric frypan to melt my wax. I lay the chain in it back-and-forth so there are no overlaps. Then melt the wax, using an IR gauge to read its temp. Around 150 degrees C is good IMO, where the wax is liquid but not super-dangerous. It should be clear too and have lost all the white.

With the chain submersed in the liquid wax, I look to see the streams of bubbles coming off the chain. This indicates something is cooking off. Once those bubble streams drop off, power down the pan and let it start to harden. You want to get the chain out without the wet wax running out of the roller, but you don't want the wax to be too hard on the outside.

Let the chain cool so you can handle it. The wax on the outside will flake off easily, making a bit of a mess so do this somewhere you can sweep.

While the chain is cooling, clean your chainrings, jockey wheels, and cassette. Use gear floss or something to get in between cogs and make it shiny and pretty. Also clean road grime from your frame and from within the derailleur cages.

Once its all cool, refit the chain, and test ride. No additional lube is needed, though you might choose to oil or grease jockey wheels while the chain is off.


Some boilers have a "low spot" where contaminants collect. Or you could peel the hardened wax from your pot and simply cut off the bottom centimetre or so, whatever thickness looks extra dirty. Then dispose of that bit properly (area dependent)

Another option is to melt the wax so the dirt sinks, and decant the top clean layers to a temporary vessel. Then tip the bottom layer into a scrap container, scrape the pan out, and throw the wax when it has set.

The cool thing about wax is that it melts back together so easily, and its relatively cheap, so that I could throw the whole pot full out without qualms. 5 kg of paraffin wax cost me around $35NZ, and I used less than 800g in a cooker and after two chain cleans its barely dirty at all.

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  • I could give distances for my chains, but its around 400 links long so not a good comparison with a "normal" bike chain. – Criggie Feb 13 at 10:08
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    The reason you're waxing your chain is to lubricate the roller bearings, so the comment about bearings not needing wax feels a little odd. Obviously none of the other bearings on the bike want waxing though. – Useless Feb 13 at 10:15
  • @Useless you are correct - I'd not think of the rollers as a type of bearing but in many respects they are. Edited to clarify. – Criggie Feb 13 at 18:47
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    @Criggie, yes the rollers are bearings plain bearings in fact – Argenti Apparatus Feb 13 at 23:07
  • @ArgentiApparatus excellent point - personally I would have called them a bushing rather than a bearing, but thinking about it they slide like a loose Babbitt bearing, which is a "bearing surface" Interesting how names come about. – Criggie Feb 14 at 3:27
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Understand that the point of using wax is that it's a lubricant which isn't "wet", and hence it does not attract and hold dirt/contaminants (at least not to the extent that oil or mechanic's grease does). And it sticks to components better than most oils.

As to which components need it, it is those components which do not have a natural ability to hold lubricants (eg, unlike enclosed ball bearing assemblies), and those components which are most exposed to dirt and spray from the tires (ie, like the chain stretching several feet from crank to rear cluster and back, with no effective shield).

As to what surfaces need lubrication from wax, consider the rubbing that occurs when a chain peels off a sprocket, or when a derailer pushes it sideways against a sprocket. And consider the fact that the chain does not have ball bearings between the pins and the tubes that hold the pins, but instead the pins rub against the inside of the tubes. So there's more rubbing going on with chain and its sprockets than pretty much any other component in a bicycle.

As to the best cleaning/application procedure, that's covered elsewhere, and there are a number of opinions. You can start by simply considering a good chain oil, chosen "wet" or "dry" depending on conditions. Not as durable as wax, and generally not as good in wet/dusty conditions. After that there are a number of wax-based liquid lubes, those which are applied wet but which dry out, leaving a wax-like residue. And of course there is the full out melt-it-and-dump-the-chain-in-it wax.

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