LAST UPDATED: November 5, 2019
Best Bike Chain Cleaners: Break Down Dirt and Grease
Remove old grease and other contaminants with these bike chain cleaners
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON November 5, 2019
A buildup of dirt on your bike’s chain system can make it perform significantly slower. You need a cleaner that can get rid of the grime so that the chain can keep the gears spinning and wheels turning faster. Below are some of the best chain cleaners that you should consider for your tool kit.
Bio-based—made with natural compounds. Removes grime and grease easily. Environmentally safe.
A powerful yet natural solvent that removes grease, dirt, and grime from your drive train components. Dissolves contamination and grease buildup. Sprayer goes deep into greasy parts.
One complaint that it does not work as a degreaser. Check packaging for leaks.
An affordable four-ounce chain cleaner that easily flashes contaminants and lubricates in one application.
Offers all-weather protection. It offers maximum rust protection. Flushes out the old lubricant. Keeps your chain free of dirt, dust, and grime. Reduces friction and chain wear.
It doesn’t work too well on off-roading mountain bikes. Feels sticky. Messy application.
A biodegradable and solvent-free formula that cleans and degreases the chain system.
Removes dirt, oil, grime, and other stubborn stains. It doesn’t damage bike finishes. Has a convenient spray applicator. Reduces wear and damage to the chain and gear components. Prevents corrosion.
Needs to be rubbed in to remove tough stains. The spray nozzle may easily fall off.
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Benefits of a Bike Chain Cleaner
- Smooth gear changes. Dirt buildup may cause a lot of friction in the chain system, and that could interfere with gear changes. Use a cleaner to remove all the dirt and grime clogging the chain system for faster and easier gear changes.
- Easy to use. You don’t have to take your bike to a professional to clean your chain. With a good chain cleaner fluid and a chain scrubber, you can clean it easily at your home or garage.
- Improve your bike’s performance. Excess grit on the chain grinds the metal and the gears. It gradually slows down your bike, reduces its efficiency, and eventually, the chain won’t be able to latch on to the gears. A clean chain makes your bike ride faster and makes your chain last longer.
- Keep your chain in the best condition. A dirty chain is susceptible to wear, rust, and damage. You need to put in more effort to pedal, and that can stretch out the chain. Use a cleaner to get rid of the dirt, and some products can also lubricate the chain system to prevent rust or friction damage.
- Protect other parts of your bike. Using a detergent to clean the chain may corrode the metal and other parts of your bike. It may also remove the paint finish. Chain cleaners are a better alternative, since they are formulated to be gentle on the chain, paint, and other metal or plastic parts.
This company originated as a father and son duo in Whistler, BC, Canada. The father is a chemist and the son is a downhill racer. The company started because the duo recognized the need for bike maintenance products that could be a benefit for both the environment and the rider. Try the Dry Bicycle Chain Lube and ForkBoost Fork Seal, Lubricant and Sealer.
Finish Line was started in 1988 by Jenry Krause and is headquartered in Hauppauge, New York. It’s a global producer of bicycle lubricants, chain degreasers, cleaners, and other maintenance products for professional cyclists, mechanics, and specialty bike shops. Some of its top-rated bike chain lubricants and cleaners are the Finish Line 1-Step Bicycle Chain Cleaner and Finish Line DRY Teflon Bicycle Chain Lube.
Pedro’s has had over 30 years of experience in making high-performance and safe bike care products. Some of its products include chain cleaners, lubricants, degreasers, bike repair tools, and accessories. One of its plant-based bike cleaners is the Pedro’s Pig Juice Chain Cleaner.
WD-40 is a New Jersey-based manufacturer of multipurpose cleaners, degreasers, rust-prevention solvents, and lubricants. Its products can be used on a wide range of equipment, including vehicle, bicycle, marine, and home equipment. Some of its best-selling degreasers are the WD-40 Bike All-Conditions Chain Degreaser and WD-40 Company Gray Aerosol Degreaser.
From its headquarters in Branksome, United Kingdom, Muc Off makes some of the best motorcycle and bicycle maintenance products and accessories for the global market. Some of its products include cleaners, lubricants, bike chains, pressure washers, and tubeless valves. You can try out the Muc Off Black Bicycle Ultimate Kit, which is an effective bike cleaning kit from Muc Off.
Bike Chain Cleaner Pricing
- Under $20: Expect to find up to 16-ounce chain cleaners within this price range as well as paste cleaners that come in small four-ounce tubes. Most of the products need to be rubbed in with a toothbrush or a special chain scrubber. The more expensive options have spray applicators for ease of application.
- Over $20: Most products within this price range come as cleaning kits that include the chain cleaner, a cleaning towel, a brush, and any other special bike chain cleaning tools. You can also expect to find chain cleaner bottles that come as a set of three or more. If you only get a single cleaner bottle that’s priced this much, it most likely offers many other protection properties besides cleaning the chain.
Look at the ingredients that make up the cleaner fluid. The product should be nontoxic and offer fast action in getting rid of stains. Also, ensure that it’s safe for your bike parts. Some products clean the chain but may also remove the paint finish on the frame.
Consider the mode of application of the cleaner, since it will determine how fast you can get the job done and the penetrative power. Cleaners that feature a spray nozzle are the best, since you can get the cleaner to spread to a wide surface area with a single blast. Also, the liquid is typically less viscous and can effectively penetrate the tight spaces in the chain rivets and sprockets.
Having a fast-drying cleaner means that you won’t have to wait long before you apply the lubricant and get on the road. If you ride with a wet chain, you may waste the cleaner, since it will be flung out of the chain every time you pedal.
- Size: The size you choose depends on how often you ride your bike. If you use your bike for races or daily commutes, then you should purchase the largest bottle you can get so that it will last a long time. However, if you take your bike out only once in a few months, then a small four-ounce tube will do.
- Ease of Use: The best cleaners are easy to use. You will have an easy time using a spray can cleaner with a fast-acting formula. It can effectively flush out dirt, and you may not have to waste time rubbing in the cleaning solution.
- Riding Conditions: If you only use your bike for road commutes or recreational rides, any cleaner will do, since you only need one that can degrease and remove light dirt. Most cleaners can achieve that function. However, if you go mountain biking or off-road cycling, you are going to need something with more degreasing power to get rid of the road grime.
- Eco-Friendly: Look for a biodegradable formula that’s good for the environment. It makes it safe to clean your bike on grass, and it won’t harm the plants and animals in your environment. Also, it’s easy to flush it away with water.
- Additional Features: Prioritize a product that can perform other protective functions apart from cleaning your chain. You should look for a product that can also degrease, lubricate, remove rust, and prevent corrosion.
Best Bike Chain Cleaner Reviews & Recommendations 2021
If you’re looking for a chain cleaner that does the job, does it well, and does not harm the environment, this is it. The formula of this bio-solvent is made from natural ingredients, so there’s no worries about contributing to pollution or planet problems.
While the formula is natural, it is also powerful. It easily breaks down grime, grease, and dirt so you can wipe them off your chain and other drivetrain parts. A stubborn buildup of grease and grime comes off easily and quickly. The dispenser has an easy-spray trigger that allows the cleaner to deeply penetrate moving parts. Using this cleaner is safe for home mechanics as well as professionals.
However, you should note that some users say it did not remove grease. Also, you’ll want to check the packaging for leaks when the product arrives.
The Finish Line 1-Step Bicycle Chain Cleaner is designed to clean and lubricate the chain system. Upon application, the cleaner pushes out dirt, grime, oil, and grease and leaves behind a lubricating film to minimize pedaling friction. It also protects against rust. What’s more, it’s water resistant and offers all-weather protection to your chain.
It’s a multipurpose cleaner that also protects your chain against corrosion caused by salt and rain. You can also use it to loosen stiff cables and old gear shifters. The fluid has low surface tension and can rigorously penetrate all parts of your bike gear system. It’s available in a drip and aerosol can and works quickly to flush out contaminants.
The product is ideal for recreational riders but may be a bit underpowered for off-roading mountain bikes or bikes that are frequently used on dusty terrain. It also feels sticky and may mess up your hands and the surrounding area.
Pedro’s Pig Juice Chain Cleaner is an Eco-friendly cleaning solution that flows easily through the tight link connections on your bike chain and crannies in the gear system. It takes minutes to break down dirt particles. You can use it to remove dirt, oil, and grime from the chain system without worrying about damaging the carbon crank arms or the bike finish.
The product is a fast acting, solvent-free formula that offers a shiny clean on the chain. It’s also safe on plastic and rubber parts. You shouldn't add water to the solution since it’s a pre-activated formula that comes ready to use. Since it's a biodegradable product, you don’t have to worry when it drains into your garden.
However, the product drips off just as easily as it flows in, and you may have to reapply it after a long ride. Also, it only washes off mild stains, and you have to rub it in if you want to remove old grease and oil.
No matter what type of bike you ride, the Muc Off Bio Drivetrain Cleaner will provide a deep clean, even if your bike is filthy. You can spray it directly on the chain rings, rear cassettes, and derailleurs or use it in a chain cleaner device.
It's safe for use on metal, plastic, rubber, seals, and disc brakes. It takes just seconds to use and features an alkaline-based formula that is 100-percent biodegradable and environmentally friendly. The cleaner has a fast-acting formula that removes grease and grime effectively and efficiently. Users like how easy it is to apply with minimal effort required. Plus, you don't need to use a lot of it to clean your entire drive train, so one bottle will last a long time.
There have been some complaints, however, that the spray bottle has a tendency to leak and drip, which makes the process very messy. Some users have also had issues with the spray nozzle, which may break.
The White Lightning Clean Ride is a self-cleaning, wax-based lubricant designed for use on chains, cables, and derailleurs. It's available in eight and 32-ounce containers.
The product starts as a dry wax finish that removes dirt and grime when you ride in order to keep the bike in good running condition. Eventually, the outer wax flakes off along with the dirt, grime, and grit, which is where it gets its "self-cleaning" reputation. The formula does not contain any abrasive elements, so your bike's chain and gears will last longer and perform better. Users report that it dries to the touch in a few minutes, and it's not as messy as oil-based lubricants.
One drawback is that you have to apply this product more often than oil-based chain lubes. Also, it can wash off in the rain, so you'll have to reapply it.
- Before applying the cleaner, remove the wheel to make sure that the cleaner stays off your disc brake. Use a plastic bag to seal the brake caliper.
- Change the gears to make the chain loose so that the cleaner can flow through freely. If the chain is too tight, you won't get the dirt out of the internal parts.
- Follow up with warm, soapy water to wash off any grit left behind by the chain cleaner. Do not use non-soapy water, which can rust the chain.
- After you clean your chain, lubricate it with a wet or dry lube, depending on the weather in your region and cycling conditions.
Q: How often should I clean my bike chain?
A: Clean the bike every time it gets filthy or at least once a week. There's no harm in cleaning the bike after every ride, as long as you have the right cleaning tools. Give the chain and gears a deep clean at least once a month.
Q: What's the best way to clean a bike chain?
A: The best and easiest way to clean your bike chain is to clamp it on a bike stand or flip it on the handlebars and saddle. Apply the cleaner on the chain and let it soak in for a few minutes. Then rotate the pedals with your hand while scrubbing out the dirt.
Q: Should I remove a bike chain to clean it?
A: If your chain has connection rivets, typically featured on 11- and 10-speed bikes, such chains click in place, and removing them may weaken the link. It's possible to upgrade to an aftermarket quick link chain, which typically comes with tools that allow you to snap the chain in place after removing it.
Our top pick is the WPL Bio-Solvent Degreaser and Cleaner. It is made from natural, biodegradable ingredients yet it is a powerful solvent.
If you are looking for a pocket-friendly bike chain cleaner, consider the Finish Line 1-Step Bicycle Chain Cleaner.