I was cleaning my chainring, chain and cassette with vinegar, to remove unwanted grease but suddenly after a few minutes it suddenly turned slightly orange. It spread all over my rear gears.

I got worried so I put light oil; it worked but still has some light rust on it.

What should I do?

  • To remove rust go to a paint store and get some "wood bleach" containing oxalic acid. Paint this onto the rusted surfaces and wait a minute or two, then wipe off. Dec 30, 2020 at 3:32

4 Answers 4


Hey I would not worry too much about it at this point. Chains, cassettes, and chain rings are wear and tear components so let the rest of the rust come off with wear/tear and proper cleaning in the future. If it really bugs you, you can use some steel wool, but I would not.

In the future it is much better to use a proper degreaser like Finish Line.

There are posts around about how to clean a chain and drive train.

Below is an excerpt from one of those answers I wrote:

Here is video from my YouTube channel of a quick drive service that I do every 100-200 miles depending on the conditions and lube used.

The steps I use when cleaning components are summarized as:

  1. Shift Into the Big Chain Ring and Small Gear in the back
  2. Degrease - Chain clean tools made by Park or Finish Line make things easier here.
  3. Water Rinse Chain - Chain clean tools made by Park or Finish Line make things easier here.
  4. Wipe Chain With Rag
  5. Clean Drive Components (i.e. Cassette, Chain Ring, and Derailleur)
  6. Clean Cassette (See Above) - Something like a rag wrapped around something thin and solid like a CD works well for me and is inexpensive. A example is shown here in this clip:
  7. Wipe Chain With Rag
  8. Lube Chain - Only 1 small drop of lube per link. Find the masterlink/quicklink on the chain and use that as a reference to make sure you only lube a link 1 time. Less is more here as unnecessary lube just flings off the chain onto your wheel or braking surfaces and attracts more dust. Some people like to wipe their chain after lubing it, but I have had good luck just sparingly applying the lube to begin with so that after the next step there is not much need to wipe any excess. However, again each person may have their own opinion or preference on the matter. I have had good experience with WD40 Wet Lube (Not regular WD40) and Finish Line Ceramic Wet Lube. I am sure each person will have their own preferences like people do when it comes to motor oil.
  9. Shift through all gears and chainrings to spread the lube around.

You can spend more time cleaning components, by removing the wheel & cassette, but usually what is shown outlined above is sufficient to keep things clean for most people.

Hope that helps

  • I have added a clarifying comment that the video is on the poster's channel and have moved this extended conversation to chat.
    – Gary.Ray
    Jan 5, 2021 at 13:31
  • 1
    I would recommend against steel wool. It leaves steel dust in the chain/drivetrain that causes friction and wear (and itself rusts). The way to remove rust efficiently from the drivetrain is chemically (eg dilute phosphoric acid). If the rust is new and light, then WD-40 will help ensure it falls off and does not propagate.
    – 52d6c6af
    Jan 5, 2021 at 14:09

The rust is only cosmetic surface rust. I would ignore it.

In future, don not use vinegar as it is quite acidic. A proper degreaser will clean the chain and running gear without causing rust.

Oiling the chain is essential after cleaning, mainly to provide lubrication, but also the oil prevents rust. It is best to use a proper bicycle chain lube, as (what I think of ) a light oil is too light to provide the lubrication needed (much better than nothing if its all you have available).

  • 1
    Vinegar is so efficient in removing grease that even the exposure to humidity will start the formation of rust. Surface rust is not the major problem but vinegar has also removed grease between the plates and the rollers where rust remains invisible and affects the efficiency of the drive-train.
    – Carel
    Dec 30, 2020 at 14:47
  • Light oil is not too light to provide the lubrication. It may fall off easier than heavier oil but it will lubricate. In fact, bicycle chains can be lubricated by a substance as common as water! If you ride a bicycle in the rain, you note the squeaking starts when the rain stops, but during the rain the chain is squeak-free. The problem of water-lubricated chains is that the water won't stay there. Otherwise it is a good enough lubricant.
    – juhist
    Jan 5, 2021 at 20:19
  • A part of 'lubrication needed" is longevity and rain resistance (along with aspects like not too messy, cost, power loss and if it actually stops the chain wearing), but that is an answer to a different question which is why I only touched on it lightly.
    – mattnz
    Jan 6, 2021 at 0:53

Just oil the chain & cassette , it has rusted the surface.If you really want to, you can just degrease the cassette and chain rings and sand/paint them again with some paint for a surface protectant/cosmetic finish.Any exposure to moisture/caustic agent/acid on bare metal will cause rust.

  • Sanding the chain will leave aluminium oxide dust from the sandpaper inside the chain, which will continue to abrade your drivetrain while you ride. Aluminium oxide is just below diamond in hardness.
    – 52d6c6af
    Jan 5, 2021 at 15:57

You don’t want rust on your drivetrain. And rust, in my experience, has an “infective” property, whereby it can seed more rust if moved from one area to another. If it were my bike, I’d buy some phosphoric acid rust remover (or similar) and clean the drivetrain (take the chain and cogs off) with it to remove all traces of rust. I hear vinegar can also work.

Once everything is shiny again, you can lubricate the drivetrain in the normal way. If you keep your drivetrain lubricated then rust should not continue to appear, as the lubricant will prevent the exposure of the bare metal to moisture and the oxygen in the air.

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