How To Remove Rust From Bike Chain? [Step Guide 2022]

rusty bike chain

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A dirty bike chain will affect the bike’s performance and lifespan. To ensure that your bike is accelerating and shifting properly, you have to frequently clean and lube the bike chain.

However, there’s no need to take your bicycle to a professional. You only need to know how to remove rust from bike chain, and your bike will be as good as new. With a few household items, you can deal with a rusty bike chain at the comfort of your home and learn how to get rust off a bike chain.

Rust Removal vs. Buying a New Chain:

Rust on the chain creates extra friction and places wear on the other drivetrain parts. But whether you should remove rust from bike chain or buy a new one depends on how severe the problem is. If you’re dealing with a severely rusted chain, replacing it with a new one is a better option. Just make sure that your new bike chain matches your drivetrain.

For bikes with surface rust, you can restore the chain with lime juice. After removing rust from bicycle chain, you have to reattach and lubricate it before using it again. A high-quality bike chain lubricant will prevent grime and rust buildup.

How Often Should I Lube My Bike Chain?

The chain is one of the dirtiest components of your bike. And as mentioned earlier, dirt can affect the bike’s performance and longevity. It causes added wear on the drivetrain cogs, chain and derailleur assemblies, impairs the bike’s shifting performance, and reduces the chain links’ flexibility. That’s why it’s important to lube your bike chain, but how often should you do it?

For mountain bike owners, you need to lube your bike chain after tough or long rides. But for regular bikes, you don’t need to lube the bike chain from time to time. Lubricating the chain once or twice a month will do, and using the right lube will ensure that your bike chain is in great shape all the time.

Best Bike Lubes – Wet vs. Dry:

Dry lubes have a waxy and thin consistency, preventing dirt, dust, and sand from sticking to the bike chain. Thus, it’s ideal for dry conditions. Dry lubes are perfect for bikers who prefer riding in dry weather conditions and cleaning their bikes regularly. Since it washes off easily, you need to apply it frequently to protect your bike.

If you enjoy riding long distances, you should go for wet lubes. It works well in wet conditions and lasts longer than dry lubes, so you don’t need to re-apply it now and then. Since web lubes can collect grime and dirt, you should clean your bicycle after using it.

Why is My Bike Chain Rusting?

Corrosion is common in bikes that are not appropriately maintained. Moisture causes a new chemical reaction to occur through oxidation, which transforms the metal into iron oxide or rust. Aside from humidity, exposure to mud and road salt can also speed up rust formation.

That’s why it is essential to learn some practical tips on how to clean rust off bike chain. The best way to prevent rust buildup is to keep the bike chain dry and clean at all times. So after using your bike, wipe off any dirt and mud and then dry the bike chain with a towel or washcloth to prevent rust and grime buildup.

Step-by-Step on How to Remove Rust From Bike Chain:

Before we proceed to the actual process, you need to prepare the cleaning materials required for this job. So get a pair of rubber gloves, scouring pad or steel wool, bristles or toothbrush, chain lubricant, degreaser, and lime juice. We have seven easy tips on how to clean a rusty bike chain.

  • Inspect The Bike Chain:

Attach your bicycle to a bike rack or turn it upside down. Now, check the chain for any sign of dirt and rust. You have to inspect the bike chain thoroughly to pinpoint the part that needs scrubbing and careful cleaning. Check the severity of rust formation. If it’s too severe, you can go ahead and replace the chain with a new one. But if there’s only crustiness and surface rust, you only need to clean the chain to restore it.

  • Remove The Bike Chain:

Find the master link so that you can remove the bike chain easily. Take a photo before removing the chain so that you won’t forget the original assembly. After disconnecting the master link from the bike chain, take off the entire chain from the bike. By removing the whole chain, you can inspect it more closely and determine the severity of the problem.

  • Clean The Bike Chain:

Wiggle the bike chain first to get rid of unnecessary particles and dirt. Wipe off the surface rust with a clean rag, then use a degreaser and scouring pad to scrub the chain. Apply some force when washing the chain, and if it’s not enough, you can start using stiff bristles or a toothbrush to remove stubborn rust from your bike chain.

  • Soak The Bike Chain:

To break the stubborn rust particles, you need to soak the bike chain in a degreaser for 20 minutes. While soaking, wiggle the bike chain to remove some of the unwanted rust particles. After 20 minutes, rinse the bike chain thoroughly with hot water.

There will be some stubborn rust left, so continue cleaning and scrubbing the bike chain with stiff bristles or steel wool. To make it more effective, soak the steel wool in lime juice and scrub the rusted area.

If rust builds up on the steel wool, rinse it thoroughly with hot water, then soak it in lime juice again. Continue scrubbing until the rust fades. Afterward, use a dry paper towel or cloth to wipe off the remaining dirt and rust.

  • Use WD-40 To Break Up Tough Rust:

Apply WD-40 to the rusted surfaces of the chain and leave it for a few minutes. Afterward, use a wire brush to scrub the rusted surfaces. Wipe it off with a paper towel or clean rag to remove dirt and rust residue.

  • Reattach The Chain:

Once the chain is dry, you can begin the reassembly process. Refer to the photo you took earlier or watch video tutorials on how to reattach a bike chain. Test your bicycle to make sure that everything is in its proper place. If there are unusual noises from the bike chain such as grinding, groaning and scraping, it means that you have reinstalled it incorrectly.

  • Lubricate The Chain:

Now that you have removed the rust and reattached the chain, you need to lubricate it. A high-quality lube will protect the bike from rust and grime and ensure that it runs smoothly. To start, hold the lube bottle above the bike chain’s midpoint and squeeze it. Continue pressing the bottle while spinning the wheels to rotate the bike chain.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

By removing rust from the bike chain, you can keep your bike in excellent condition for many years to come. We have already given some tips on how to remove rust from bicycle chain. So now, we are going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this topic.

  • Why do you have to learn how to clean a rusty chain?

Cleaning the bike chain improves its longevity and affects how smoothly the bicycle works. A dirty bike chain can produce unsolicited noise and get stuck, so you should know how to get rid of rust on bike and keep your bike chain clean at all times.

  • Is there another way to clean the bike chain?

Yes, there is. You can get a bike cleaning kit to automate the process, and the kit comes with a bicycle chain cleaning tool. Thus, you only need lubricate the bike chain. You don’t need to do anything else.

  • What if you don’t have a degreaser or chain cleaner?

You can clean the bike chain with some items that you can find in your pantry. Just mix lemon juice and baking soda with hot water, and you already have a DIY degreaser. It may not be as good as a branded degreaser, but it’s strong enough to get rid of grease.

  • When shoud you replace the bike chain?

The internal bushings of each link gradually lengthen as the chain ages. The longer chain places extra pressure on the chainring teeth and cassette cogs. To prevent this from happening, it’s a good idea to replace the chain about every 2000 miles.


You want to keep your bike chain rust-free at all times. The best way to do this is by preventing rust from forming in the first place. Aside from knowing how to clean rusty bike chain, you should also wipe and re-lube the chain after every ride. Another option is to get a bike that has a belt drive instead of a chain. That way, you don’t need to worry about maintaining the bike chain.

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