How to clean a rusty bike chain

How to Clean a Rusty Bike Chain – 6 Easy Steps

If you haven’t ridden your bike for some time, or simply you didn’t have anywhere to put him besides outside – a rusty chain might be your new problem.

However, a rusty chain might look bad, but don’t think it’s the end of the world. It’s possible to clean the rust and use the same bike chain again.

That’s why I am creating this post to tell you how to clean a rusty bike chain the easiest way by just following the simple steps.

What Do You Need?

Chain breaker tool

For doing a basic bike maintenance, you will need some tools, and here is the list of the things you will need. Most likely you have most of them, but if you don’t, they aren’t expensive so you can simply get them.

Materials you will need:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Screw driver
  • Bicycle degreaser
  • Chain tool
  • Bicycle chain lubricant
  • Towel or clothes
  • Gasoline

When your bike chain is rusty, the normal motion needed to transfer power from pedals to the bike chain and then the wheels aren’t  possible. It doesn’t take much effort to fix it but is a better option than replacing it, in an economical way.

Rubber gloves are recommended so you don’t get your hands all dirty and rusty from the bike chain. I always recommend them, no matter what kind of bike maintenance or repairs are you doing.

Screw driver is needed to remove the chain from the bike if possible, popping the master link in the chain so it easily comes off.

Bicycle degreaser is known to be used in usual bike chain cleaning, but in this case, it will help us with getting the rust off the bike chain.

Chain tool will make things easier but is not necessary to have one. If you don’t know what the bike chain tool is – check out my Park Tool Review.

Bicycle chain lubricant is there to finish the job after we have cleaned all the rust from the chain.

Towel or clothes which we could get dirty and stained will help us along the process.

Gasoline will help you start breaking any debris or gunk, and will start to slowly break down some rust.

== Click Here To Find Out How To Clean Bike Chain Under 5 Minutes Routine ==

So now when we have everything we are ready to deal with the rusty bike chain.

How To Clean Rust Off The Bike Chain

How to clean a rusty bike chain

If the bicycle chain isn’t damaged too much, we can save him.

Rust doesn’t mean that it’s ready to replace the bike chain, but it’s the details which we should pay attention to in order to see if the chain needs replacement.

Assess the damage

As I have mentioned earlier, a rust doesn’t mean that the chain needs to be replaced immediately.

Surface rust outside of the links and stiffness are just some of the minor problems which can be solved easily. However, if there is structural integrity to the chain, I would strongly advise to replace it.

You could clean rust off but the chain with structural integrity would get weak over time.

Remove the chain

That’s when the flat screwdriver comes in handy.

Most of the bikes have a master link which is made for an easier way to remove the chain from the bike. It’s usually different color and that’s how you will spot it.

However, if you have a bike with gears, you will need a tool called chain breaker which is there to pop out one of the pins out safely so you can take the chain from the bike.

Chain breaker tool

I would suggest if you are using chain breaker tool, not to let the pin comes completely out.

Soaking the chain

I would recommend placing the chain in a mason jar if you have any, without the lid, and fill it with either kerosene or gasoline.

This will start the process of breaking some of the accumulated rust off. It would be the best to let the chain soak in for 24 hours at least.

Scrubbing time

Scrubbing bike chain

I should mention that this is a messy process, so I hope you will wear some old clothes which can get stained on.

Carefully without splattering any chemicals on yourself, you should start scrubbing the chain. You can do this manually by using an old towel, or you can use a specially designed tool for this called chain cleaner.

You should get to the point where the chain is flexible and can easily bend which means all the links are clean. So don’t just scrub the chain from the outside, but also pay attention to the links in between.

If the chain isn’t flexible and the links can’t bend like on any other normal bicycle, you should repeat the last step and let the chain soak in for another 24 hours.

Reattach the chain and use degreaser

Reattach the chain to the bike either by using a master link or inserting the center pin if you have used chain breaker tool.

This is when a degreaser comes in. You should use degreaser and spray it on the chain. Then work the pedals and run the chain through the cassette and front cog.


Clean bike cassette

After that, I would recommend you to grab the old towel once again, hold it in between the front cog and rear derailleur while working the pedals. That way you will get off all the unnecessary gunk away.

Also, pay attention to the cogs, so you don’t get them all messy by the splatters.

Finally, apply lube

I would recommend using dry bicycle lube.

Once the chain is cleaned up and is back on a bike it’s time to lubricate it for the smooth movement and to cut down any resistance.

Apply one or two drops of bike chain on each chain link while rotating it. Make sure to run the bike through all the gears if you have a bike with gears. That way the cassette will get lubricated as well.

At last, after running the chain a few times, wipe off the excess lubricant and you are ready to go!


Cleaning a bike chain isn’t complicated process but it can get messy.

All you need is some bike tools, and a day or two since the chain needs to get soaked in for at least 24 hours.

After your chain is all cleaned up, back on the bike and lubed – make sure you clean it every month to prevent it from the dirt and the rust again.

Check out this article which explains how to clean a bike chain just under 5 minutes!

Also, make sure you give your bike a nice wash. With this bike cleaning kit, you won’t need to spend too much time since you will have everything needed to do a proper bike cleaning.

Doing all of the repairing and cleaning is much easier when using a bike stand, so keep that in mind.

Stay safe on the road and have fun! 🙂


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