This post may contain affiliate links, which help to keep Discerning Cyclist rolling. Learn more.
Ever wondered why you’re bothering to clean or lubricate your bike chain, whether it’s dry or coated with mud? Simply unsure of how you clean a dirty bike chain in the quickest and most efficient way? And is there a bike chain lube for all seasons or are you stuck with alternating between wet and dry lubes?
If any of this applies to you, then don’t fret – we’ll address each of these points here as we run through the importance of a clean bike chain, the most simple method behind it, and recommend eight different tools including brushes, degreasers and lubes.
Let’s take a look:
Why a Clean Bike Chain is Important
A clean bike chain will work effortlessly no matter how the treacherous the conditions may be. The best bike chain oil will help enormously in this regard, but they are also superb at extending a chain’s shelf life, too.
Why? Because they prevent metal-on-metal friction between different components of the bike which, along with dirt itself, causes metal to wear much quicker. So, regular lubing will also mean you’ll get the best out of your bicycle for longer.
There’s also a fair amount of science behind it. A test by Friction Facts found that not cleaning and lubing your chain after a muddy ride cost 12 watts for a rider with a 250 watt output, and six watts after a ride in the rain. That’s a fair amount of unnecessary energy expended on just keeping going, when a clean chain could make life far easier in that respect.
Bike lubes are also widely protected from corrosion and don’t attract contaminants, and will eradicate that ear-splitting ‘squeaking’ noise from a dirty chain. All in all, they’re a really essential investment – and don’t cost a fortune, either.
How to Clean a Bike Chain in 3 Steps
- Degrease – clean the chain (while still fitted to the bike) using a degreaser and something small and pointed, like a toothbrush.
- Chain Scrub – while holding it still, clean the chain thoroughly, rotating the cranks repeatedly to make sure they’re free of dirt or grime.
- Lube Chain – once suitably scrubbed, rinse it with bike lube before drying.
Discerning Cyclist’s expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing cycling products so you don’t have to.
Testing stylish gear since 2012
Hundreds of hands-on product tests
Unfiltered opinions from experienced cyclists
Best Bike Chain Cleaning Tools
If you’re looking for a quick, easy and efficient way to clean your chain without having to remove it, the Park Tool Cyclone is a safe bet.
It boasts a large amount of solvent and hundreds of rotating bristles, and the two-step process to clean it will both improve shifting performance and help your chain last much longer.
- Works with all multi-speed bikes (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12-speed)
- Sturdy handle makes the Cyclone easy to use and control
- Special wicking sponge draws solvent from the chain as it exits, minimizing drips and mess
Or if you fancy a bit of everything, this tool set is perfect for all types of bicycles – namely mountain, road and bikes – and is as lightweight as it is useful in helping your chain look good as new.
And at just £11.99, it’s a fantastic bargain.
- 8Pcs Bicycle Cleaning Tools: Tire Scrubber, Sprocket Brush, Tapered Detail Brush, Sprocket Scrapper,Chain Cleaning Brushes,Universal Brush,Chain Washer and Bike Clean Mitt.
- These bike tools are made of Plastic+ Coral velvet.
- Ergonomically designed handle,economize labour and definitely helps with hard to reach areas cassette and derailleur,or other hygienic dead corners.
And how about this Muc-Off chain cleaner brush, which comes with three heads and nylon bristles and costs less than a fiver?
Perfect for chain-cleaning, its bristles are tough, durable and built to last, while again, don’t worry if it fits your type of bike, as this Muc-Off brush can cater for all sorts.
- ULTIMATE CLEANING COMPANION: The Muc-Off Claw bicycle cleaning brush is a must-have for keeping your bike factory fresh after a gnarly ride.
- IDEAL FOR CHAIN & SPROCKETS: Our Claw Brush features three brush heads and an internal scraper for mud de-clogging so it’s perfect to reaching hard to shift dirt in and around your chain, cassette,...
- RUBBERISED HANDLE: Muc-Off brushes are designed with ergonomic handles for ease of use that have rubberised impact zones to prevent any damage to your bicycle during maintenance.
Best Bike Chain Degreasers
There’s no spray with this model, but with a whole litre of liquid, it’s the best bike degreaser if you’re looking to buy in bulk.
Being entirely water-soluble and extremely quick to rinse, your bike chain will only be lovely and clean again in a matter of minutes.
This is extremely proficient at removing grease without leaving a damaging or corrosive effect on your bike frame, cables, brake pads or rotors.
- ✅ Cuts through oil & grease - powerful natural based bike degreaser is engineered for effective oil and grime removal
- ✅ Leaves your bike chain spotless - non-aerosol, environmentally friendly chain degreaser removes the grease in front of your eyes. Non-flammable
- ✅ Perfect for cleaning gears - Keep your expensive gear mechanisms in pristine condition through regular degreasing
But if you do prefer a handy spray, this design from Muc-Off is the way to head.
It’s suitable for all bikes, is fully biodegradable so won’t damage the environment, and can also come with a claw brush for about double the original price if you so wish.
- FAST-ACTING High-performance bike chain degreaser that quickly gets to work so that you can be back out riding before you can say ‘OMG!’
- TOUGH ON GREASE: Easily cuts through the most stubborn of grime, including waterproof grease and lube residue, to leave your bike chain running smooth.
- EASY RINSE: Our water-soluble formula is super easy to rinse off so that you can clean up and saddle up again in no time at all.
Best Bicycle Chain Lube (for Different Conditions)
If you’re unsure as to whether it’s a wet or dry lube you need, remember: dry lube for dry conditions, wet lube for wet conditions.
In terms of the difference between dry and wet chain lubes, the former typically offer a cleaner finish but needs more frequent use, while the latter are usually more water-resistant.
Dry lubes use a volatile carrier to fill your chain with waxy lubricant, causing the carrier to leave a solid lubricant as it evaporates. Wet lubes are sticky and can find their way into every crevice of your chain to lubricate it, and flow back in when pressure gives way.
Now, let’s go through the best bike chain lube for both dry and wet weather:
Best Dry Bike Lube:
Also available as a bottle of either 120ml or one litre, this dry lube from Muc-Off is fully biodegradable and suitable for all types of bike, too.
It’s a versatile durable lubricant which will cut deep into your chain, leaving no nook or cranny untouched thanks to its state-of-the-art penetrative qualities.
- ULTRA-DURABLE: Muc-Off Bio Dry Lube is an ultra-durable bike chain lube that penetrates deep to provide long-lasting lubrication
- REDUCES FRICTION: Advanced formula reduces friction and energy consumption to ensure silky-smooth gear shifts
- Ideal for Dry Weather: Our Bio Dry Chain Lube uses a wax-based formula to protect against contaminants in dry and dusty conditions
Best Wet Bike Lube:
But if it’s a wet lube you need, Muc-Off can also cater for that, either with this 120ml bottle or, likewise, with 50ml or one litre.
Again, it’s completely biodegradable, and again, it suits all bikes; it’s an extremely resilient long-distance bike chain lubricant designed to permeate your bike chain in wet or muddy weather.
- ULTRA-DURABLE: Muc-Off Bio Wet Lube is an ultra-durable bike chain lube that penetrates deep to provide long-lasting lubrication.
- REDUCES FRICTION: Advanced formula reduces friction and energy consumption to ensure silky-smooth gear shifts.
- IDEAL FOR WET WEATHER: Our Bio Wet Chain Lube repels water to protect against contaminants in wet and muddy conditions.
Best All-in-One Bike Chain Cleaning Kits
But if you’re prepared to splash out (and have the budget to do so, of course), Muc-Off also offers an all-in-one service thanks to their fantastic Ultimate Bicycle Cleaning Kit.
The box contains: a one-litre Muc-Off biodegradable bike cleaner, a 500ml bike spray, a detailing brush, a soft washing brush, a two-prong, a claw brush, a microcell sponge and a ‘parts washer’.
It’s great for all bikes, and also comes with a bottle of their own Wet Chain Lube to lubricate adequately at the end of cleaning your chain.
- THE ULTIMATE GIFT: The Muc-Off Ultimate Bicycle Cleaning Kit is the perfect gift for any bike fanatic. We’ve bundled together a selection of our best products to cover all bases when cleaning your...
- CLEAN YOUR BIKE: Step One in our three-step bicycle care program is Clean and we’ve got you covered with this kit that includes our infamous pink Nano Tech Bike Cleaner and a bottle of our advanced...
- PROTECT YOUR BIKE: Often overlooked, Step Two is not one that you should be skipping. Protect your ride post-wash with Muc-Off Bike Protect – the ultimate liquid bike protection!