How to clean a bike

Whenever and wherever you ride your bike, it’s going to get dirty. Grease, grime dust and dirt are just some of the things that make your beautiful bike look tired and worn. If your bike hasn’t been cleaned properly for a while, perhaps it’s time to restore the showroom shine and show it some love.

Cleaning your bike is simple and straightforward. At Halfords, we’ve got everything you need to keep your bike in top condition, including the UK’s biggest selection of bike cleaning products and accessories.

Sponges at the ready, let’s begin.

How often should you clean your bike?

Before you get started, make sure you’ve got all the right tools, you will need:

What you’ll need

A bucket of warm water and a soap isn’t going to cut through the grease and grime here, what you need is specialist bike cleaning products. At the most basic level, you’ll need:

  • A bucket
  • Bike cleaner
  • Bike de-greaser
  • Brushes and cloths
  • Lubricant
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You can mix and match bike cleaning products, but the simplest thing is to buy is a bike cleaning kit. If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Halfords Bikehut Mini Cleaning Kit. For just £10 you get a bike cleaner, de-greaser, lube and sponge. Spend a little more, and you can get the Muc-Off All You Need Kit which contains all the cloths and cleaners you’ll need to get your bike looking factory-fresh.

If you’ve got disc brakes, you’ll also need a specialist disc brake cleaner such as the Halfords Bikehut Disc Brake Cleaner or Muc-Off Disc Brake Cleaner. These specially designed cleaners will remove brake dust, oil, dirt and grime from your disc brakes, restoring their stopping power and overall performance.

Step by step guide

1. Rinse your bike

Start by rinsing off your bike, preferably with warm water. You can use a bucket and a sponge or even a garden hose.

Any loose mud, dust or dirt should come off easily. Avoid using a high-pressure hose, and don’t spray water directly at areas where there are bearings that water could find its way into. Avoid targeting water at the hub (the centre) of your wheels, the headset and the cranks and bottom bracket. If water enters these areas, it could spell disaster for these crucial components.

If you’re cleaning an electric bike, avoid spraying water into the battery, motor or controls. While they’re designed to be water-resistant, it’s not worth taking the risk.

2. Clean your drivetrain

beautiful motion. To keep this system working, you must keep the drivetrain clean and free of grease and grime.

We recommend you use a chain cleaning machine and some citrus de-greaser or drivetrain cleaner to scrub your chain, then spray or brush some more onto the other oily parts of your bike like the cassette and derailleurs. 

Electric bike owners should invest in a specialist chain cleaner such as the Muc-Off eBike Dry Chain Cleaner that will eliminate grease and grime without the need to add water.

Use a brush to get into those tight spots and work away troublesome grease and grime. As well as the chain, clean the little wheels in your rear derailleur (if you have one), using a brush, pad or even a screwdriver to get rid of compacted dirt and debris.

Once the dirt has gone, rinse your chain and making sure you’ve gotten rid of all the de-greaser. Don’t scrimp on this stage – the cleaner your drive train, the smoother your bike will be to ride.

3. Now clean the rest

Once the drivetrain is clean, you can focus on the non-oily parts of your bike. Start from the top and work downwards. Gravity will pull water to the floor, and by starting at the top you’ll also ensure that you’re using a clean sponge on the parts you come into contact with the most – namely the handlebars, brake levers, gear shifters and saddle.

Either use a bike cleaning spray to cover your bike and then work away the dirt or use a sponge and some hot water to remove as much as you can. If you have rim brakes, make sure you clean your brake pads and rims thoroughly. Once you’re done, give everything another good rinse with fresh water.

If you’ve got disc brakes, now is the time to clean them with disc brake cleaner for the pads and rotors. Most disc cleaners are aerosols that you spray on to the surfaces, which you then wipe away with a clean rag. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and avoid getting disc cleaner on the other parts of your (now hopefully) beautiful, clean bike.

4. Dry your bike

Once you’ve cleaned your bike, dry it with a clean rag or microfiber cloth. This will keep water from sitting in areas and causing rust. Don’t just focus on the frame, get into all those areas where water could lurk and dry it out. Focus on trouble areas like bolt heads where it could lead to rust.

Finally, make sure that your drivetrain is clean, dry, and ready for fresh lube.

5. Re-lube

It’s essential that you re-lubricate your bike before riding or storage. Without it, your drivetrain could quickly seize up and rust, leaving you with nowhere to go but your nearest Halfords for a replacement.

You can choose a wet lube or dry lube, depending on the season or personal preference.

To lube the chain, with the bike stood upright, turn the pedals backwards with one hand while using the other to drip the lube into the inside of your chain’s rollers. Be sure to add a drop to the pivot points on your derailleur (the parts that move).

To finish, use a rag to wipe up any excess lubricant. Any extra lube on the outside of your drivetrain provides a surface for muck to stick to, which can affect performance and make it more time-consuming to clean next time.

Be careful not to get any lube onto your braking surfaces.

Some extra bike cleaning tips

  • Once you’ve cleaned your bike, applying a specialist polish can help stop dirt sticking and make your bike easier to wash next time. Don’t use a household polish!
  • While cleaning your bike, inspect it too. Look out for any worn components that may need replacing. Things to check are the chain, brake pads, wheels and tyres. If you spot any issues or want an expert opinion on the health of your bike, book it in for a Free Bike Health Check at your nearest Halfords store.
  • A work stand can make life much easier by saving your back and keeping your bike from falling over while you’re cleaning it.
  • You’ll achieve the best finish in the shortest possible time by using specially designed bike cleaning products.
  • Want to see how it’s done? Check out our video on how to clean a bike.(NOTE - THIS IS YOUTUBE AND SHOULD IDEALLY BE ON SITE - DE)
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