You look after yourself by showering and brushing your teeth every day. Your bike requires almost as much attention. They are fine pieces of equipment so you want to look after them almost as if they are your child.
One simple thing you can do to keep your bike running smoothly is to clean the chain. Neglecting to look after your chain will cause metal-on-metal friction which will wear down your chain a lot quicker.
Cleaning your chain will also significantly improve your riding efficiency so If going faster for longer with no extra energy is something you’re into then that’s just another incentive to keep your chain clean.
This is a really simple task that’ll clear up your drivetrain of dirt and grit and allow your bike to ride and sound a lot smoother. It should be something you do on a regular basis to keep your bike functioning properly.
It is a very cheap, and quick process that will even save you money down the line due to unnecessary repairs because something got clogged up with gunk.
Quick Top 3 Bike Cleaners
In the following paragraphs I’m going to explain how to clean your chain, what are bike chain cleaners and how they help you. Then we’ll list 8 chain cleaners we think are absolutely worth the money.
If you’re in a rush here is a quick list of the top 3 bike chain cleaners:
- Most recommended: Park Tool CG-2.4 Bicycle Chain and Drivetrain Cleaning Kit
- Runner-up: Pedro’s pig II chain cleaner
- Most affordable: Bike chain cleaning tool by Ozzy outdoors
Some other great options can be found below if none of these fit your needs.
How To Clean Your Chain
There are lots of different options when it comes to cleaning your chain. For a super quick clean, you can simply get a lint-free cloth, wrap it around your chain and backpedal. Then apply whatever type of lube you prefer and backpedal your chain for a few rotations to get it all mixed in and lubricated.
For a slightly deeper clean, you can get a brush and some degreaser. Lots of people use an old toothbrush or one of those stiff ones from after the dentist’s and use them to scrub the chain.
Apply a bit of degreaser to the brush and mix it in. From here essentially repeat as if you had a cloth but with a brush.
This allows you to get in a bit deeper into the chain and really get some grit out of there. You will also want to brush over the cassette, chainrings, and derailleur pulley wheels.
From here you can spray it down with a bit of water and now you can go ahead and apply your lube remembering to backpedal for a few rotations making sure to change gears to get the whole drivetrain lubricated.
For a very deep clean, you can pretty much take your whole drivetrain apart and scrub everything individually. You don’t need to do this regularly but if it’s the middle of winter and you’re looking for something to do then this can be a great way to pass time and give your bike some much-needed attention. I won’t go too deep into this as it’s not something you’ll be doing regularly and if you are then you probably already know what you’re doing.
Using a bike chain cleaner
Another great option for doing a medium clean in the shortest time without much effort is a bike chain cleaner. These are basically a tool that you clip onto your chain and it cleans it while you cycle the chain.
First, pour a special solvent into it then you hold it in place with one hand and cycle the chain with the other. It automatically de-greases your chain while getting into each chain link and rivet that would require a lot of scrubbing manually to achieve the same result.
After a few cycles of the chain, you can pour the solvent out of the cleaner and mix in warm water and soap. Put the chain cleaner back on and cycle the chain for a few more revolutions or until it looks nice and sparkly clean.
Now you can go ahead and apply your lube of choice to the chain and with a clean cloth wipe it over the chain to spread out the lube and get rid of the excess. Since the chain cleaners only clean the chain you will also have to manually clean the cassette, chainring, and derailleur pulleys.
Pros and Cons of bike chain cleaners:
- Nice sparkly clean chain
- Doesn’t clean the cassette, chainring, and derailleur pulleys.
- Uses excess grease than it does manually
- Some find it a hassle
- Doesn’t lube the chain
8 Best bike chain cleaners
Below I have put together a list and short description of some of the best bike chain cleaners out there.
Park Tool CG-2.4 Bicycle Chain and Drivetrain Cleaning Kit
Perhaps the most well-known of the bike chain cleaners is the CG-2.4 by Park Tool. This is also also a kit including a chain scrubber, gear brush, and degreaser. This is a bit more pricey than some of the other options but you know it’s going to be a good product since it’s from a very reputable company.
Pedro’s pig II chain cleaner
Another bike chain cleaner that is popular among the community. A simple and effective design for maximum efficiency. Made in red in case you wanted something different from the standard blue that seems to be the industry standard nowadays.
Bike chain cleaning tool by Ozzy outdoors
Cheaper than most of the other options on the spectrum but it comes with a lifetime warranty should you ever break it. Given as they are made of plastic and can be a bit brittle then this could be a great choice. Also included are a bristle brush and a notched scraper.
Muc off X-3
Includes a 75ml bottle of muc-off bio drivetrain cleaner. In the middle of the price range but from a reputable company so no need to worry about quality. Clear plastic design so you can see the inner working of the product in action.
Muc off ultimate bicycle cleaning kit
This is an all-in-one kit that would be great for anyone without any cleaning equipment already or as a gift to that one friend who loves their bike more than anything else.
Included in it there’s their famous pink nano tech bike cleaner, a bottle of advanced bio drivetrain cleaner, post-wash bike protect, and a bottle of wet chain lube.
This kit will allow you to learn how to properly take care of your bike with the right stuff. Also stated that It’s available for any type or size of bike giving you the peace of mind that it will work on yours!
In case you’re looking for an all-in-one kit then this will have everything you need.
Anndason 8 pieces precision bicycle cleaning brush
This package by Anndason includes 8 pieces of cleaning equipment including a chain scrubber, chain cleaning brush, tire scrubber, tapered detail brush, wheel brush, socket scraper, socket brush, and bike cleaning mitt. Functional on all types of bikes for basic maintenance.
If you want something slightly cheaper and including all the little tools then this options will be great.
Pedro’s pig pen II drivetrain maintenance kit
The all-in-one kit by Pedro’s including their pig II chain cleaner as well as a bottle of degreaser + cleaner, and a bottle of premium lubricant.
Park Tool cm-5.3 Cyclone Bicycle Chain Scrubber
This is essentially the same as the CG-2.4 except it only includes the bike chain cleaner. This would be a great option if you already have all the little tools and degreaser and are just looking for something to help you clean your chain a bit quicker.
How often should I clean the chain?
How often you clean your chain comes down to the quality of components, mileage put on, riding conditions, and how aggressive of a rider you are.
If you only cruise around on dry pavement for a few kilometers a week then it’s safe to say you won’t have to clean your chain that often.
However, if you’re a pro rider that’s constantly shredding through mud and pushing your gear to their limits then you will be having to clean your chain a lot more often.
How do I know if I should buy a bike chain cleaner?
If you’re someone that’s a moderate ride that takes your bike through rough conditions and gets lots of little bits of dirt and grime wedged into your chain on a regular basis and you can’t be bothered to take a lot of time to clean your chain then this would be a great tool for you!
However, if you’re someone who only rides on the pavement and you hardly get any grime on your bike then you can probably get by without one although you will still want to wipe it down and apply some lubricant to keep things running smoothly.
Can I use WD40 on my bike chain?
The short answer to this is no. There is a lot of controversy in the community about whether WD-40 is something you should lube your chain with. I won’t tell you what to do or what not to do but I’ll give you the facts and let you make a decision for yourself.
First off WD-40 stands for: Water Displacement-40th attempt – The 40 was the 40th formula they tried. Essentially it is a degreaser/solvent to get things that are stuck moving again. In the process, it leaves behind a light lubricant. After using any degreaser you want to wash it with soap and water before applying lubricant.
For lots of people, I’m sure they can get away with using WD-40 just fine but I wouldn’t recommend it. I personally could see using it to get off all the grime on my chain but I would make sure to apply proper lubricant afterward.
WD-40 has also recently released a bike-specific bottle of lubricant which would state that they didn’t intend their regular WD-40 to be used on bikes. While you could probably get away with using WD-40 I would recommend staying on the safe side and spending the few extra dollars for proper bike lubricants.
A bike chain cleaner is a very useful tool that has its uses but it’s definitely not mandatory in your collection of bike tools however it is nice to have and can save you some time whenever you clean your chain.
Plus, it makes your chain look nice and sparkly clean so If that’s something you care about then I would recommend picking one up.
Hi, my name is Noah Dalton. I am an avid, young rider from Canada that loves mountain biking primarily Enduro and Downhill.
“I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life, I ride a bike to add life to my days!”