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5 Proven Steps to Clean Your Rusty Bike Chain

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Your bike chain is a vital part that most cyclists take for granted. While they are very functional, they can also get rusty and dirty quite easily.

If your chain has rusted or is full of dirt, then you should know how to clean it properly without damaging it in any way. 

Rusty Bike chain

No matter how much rust your bike chain has accumulated, the below-listed methods are a sure-shot shortcut to the rust removal process. Keep reading to learn more about them! 

What is Rusty Bike Chain

When a chain comes in contact with moisture, it produces a series of new chemical reactions. This whole thing is known as the oxidation process, which transforms a part of metal into an entirely new metal called iron oxide (also known as rust).

Removing Rust vs. New Bike Chain 

Removing Bike Chain Rust

If you’re like most people, you probably think of rust as a pesky enemy that needs to be fought tooth and nail. In fact, it’s estimated that Rust accounts for up to 50% of metal failures in bicycles.

But the reality is that Rust can be removed without resorting to labor-intensive techniques. There are many safe and effective methods available, and most of them are affordable.

For example, you can use Potassium Nitrate (KNO3) to remove rust from bike metal surfaces. KNO3 is a white and granular substance, so it’s easy to find and store. You can also use a combination of KNO3 and water to clean rust off surfaces. 

Just make sure to protect your skin and eyes from the harmful chemical rust remover by wearing protective gear such as goggles and gloves.

This means there is no need for a new chain until and unless your whole chain is covered in severe rust, which is not possible to treat at all.

Tools to Deep Clean Rusty Bike Chains 

If your bike is rusty and the chains are dirty, then there are a lot of quick and easy solutions. You can use a chain cleaner to deep clean the chains and get them looking like new again. 

Clean rusty bike chain

There are also special tools for cleaning bike chains that are made specifically for this purpose. By using these tools, you can make sure that your bike is free of rust and ready for another ride. 

Tools to Deep Clean Rusty Bike Chains 

The following are some of the most important ones:

1. Chain Saw

A chain saw is great for cutting through rust and dried-on gunk on chains. Just be careful not to get too close to the chainrings, or you could end up with a nasty cut. 

2. Jars of Rust Converter 

A Rust converter is a solution of water, liquid soap, and lubricant that helps remove rust and corrosion from metal surfaces. Use a small amount on a rag to wipe away the grunge. 

3. Rusty Bike Wrench 

A rusty bike wrench can help loosen and remove rusty bolts on bikes. Be sure to use gloves and eye protection when using this tool, as it can be dangerous if mishandled. 

4. Rubber Mallet 

A rubber mallet can be used to gently tap stubborn bolts loose so they can be cleaned with an old toothbrush or rust converter solution. Keep your arms safe by wearing protective gloves and glasses when pounding on rusty bike parts.

5. Steel Wool   

Rusty bike chains can be cleaned with a ball of steel wool soaked in lime juice. This de-rusting technique is safe to use and will help remove light rust.

Wear latex gloves before beginning to avoid getting the lime juice on your hands. Steel wool can be abrasive, so proceed with caution if you are not experienced with cleaning rusty bike chains.

6. Wire Brush 

cleaning the bike chain with wire brush

Whether you’re deep cleaning a chain or just making it look new again, a wire brush is a perfect tool for the job.

They’re used on a bike chain that’s been widely exposed to rust and corrosion, to quickly remove the mess. This is especially important because angle grinders, bench grinders, and drills can damage delicate parts if they’re not clean. 

Wire brushes are available in different sizes, so you can find one that’s appropriate for the task at hand. They also come with multiple bristles so you can scrub away even the most stubborn contaminants. 

7. Bike Rust Cleaning Kit 

If you’re like most cyclists, you love your bike. But don’t love the way it looks when it’s covered in rust and tarnish. That’s where a bike cleaning kit comes in handy. These kits include everything you need to deep clean your rusty bike chains. 

Particularly the A3 brush with three bristles pointing into the center. This brush is spectacular for cleaning chains, plus it saves you a lot of time.

Overall the whole process of using this kit is sure to restore your chain’s shine and make it look brand new again.

8. Bike Rack  

Bike racks have an articulated arm that allows you to stand your bike upside down in a still position so you can get to all the nooks and crannies. This promotes better rust removal. This wonderful tool can be easily found at any local bike shop near you or can be purchased online. 

9. Bike Chain Breaker 

Bike Chain Breaker

Chain breakers make it easy to remove rusty bike chains, freeing up your hands to do other tasks. Plus, they’re very exciting tools to have in your toolbox.

10. Air Compressor 

Air compressors are the best way to remove rust dust without using water. The most common type of air compressor is the hand-held unit. These units are small and portable, making them easy to use.

Additionally, make sure you have the proper safety gear before working with one.

11. Bike Chain Lube 

To clean rust from chain surfaces, apply a small amount of bicycle chain lube to a cloth or paper towel. Work the lube into the rusted area. Wipe off after some time. Repeat if necessary.

12. Master Chain Links Plier

Master Chain Link Pliers

Master Chain Link Pliers make removing and replacing master links in chains quick and easy. Simply insert the jaws of the pliers into the link, and they will grip it securely. Then, pull out the link without any hassle. 

You can also use the pliers to remove links from chains without having to break the connection. This is especially helpful if you want to replace a broken link or if you want to add a new one without affecting any of the old ones.

Steps to remove rust from the entire chain 

Rust is a metal oxide that forms on iron when it is exposed to the elements. It can cause corrosion and damage to metal surfaces and can be hard to remove. However, there are steps you can take to remove rust from your entire chain.

Come on, let’s take a look at them one by one…

1. Examine the Bicycle Chain 

examine bike chain

The first step is to identify where rust is forming in the chain. Look for areas where the metal is oxidizing or where water and air are seeping in.

Once you have identified the areas, move to the second step.

2. Unlink the Chain from the Bike 

Unlink Chain From Bike

Rust can be a major pain to remove, but using an unlink chain tool can make the job much easier.

First, you’ll need to remove the bolts that hold the bike frame together. Be sure to mark which bolt goes where so you don’t lose it later. Once the bolts are removed, loosen the frame joints until the bike is able to move freely.

Next, use an unlink chain tool to detach the master link in chains from the gears and derailleurs. Make sure not to pinch any cables in between the link plates and spokes.

Once all of the chains are detached, it’s time to move to the third step. 

3. Surface Rust Cleaning

Surface rust cleaning is one of the most important steps in restoring a vehicle’s finish. There are several ways to clean rust off of metal surfaces. 

One popular method is to use a chemical stripper. This involves using a strong acid or alkali to dissolve the rust and remove it with water.

Another option is to use a non-toxic rust removal solution. This consists of an acid and a surfactant that work together to break down the rust and loosen it from the surface.

Once rust has been removed, it’s important to clean the area thoroughly so that the same problem doesn’t reoccur. It’s also important to protect the metal surface from future corrosion by coating it with a sealer or wax.

4. Some Proven Methods for Rust-free Bike

Removing Rust From Bike Chain

There is no doubt that this is the most crucial step in rust removal. Here are several options for removing severe rust from your bike chain. Pick the one that sounds more methodologically correct to you. 

You can also try and test a 2-3 methods combo if you have to deal with too much rust.

Dedicated Degreaser 

Bicycle chains are one of the most common parts of a bike that can quickly deteriorate. While chain grease can help to prevent rust, over time, it can also lead to the chain becoming brittle and prone to breaking.

Degreasers basically work by breaking down the corrosion products so that they can be removed without damaging the underlying metal. In addition, degreasers also have anti-corrosive properties, which help protect the bike against further damage.

If you’re looking for a way to take care of your bike’s stubborn and tough rust problems, a degreaser process is definitely an option worth considering.

To remove the rust from bicycle chains, you will need some degreaser and a cloth or pad. You will also want to be careful not to let the degreaser get on any of the moving parts of the bike. 

Start by wetting down the chain with the degreaser and then wiping it clean with the cloth. Be sure to work in a circular motion to ensure that all of the rust is removed.

Once you have finished cleaning the chain, be sure to dry it off completely before re-greasing it. 

Lime Juice Soaked Steel Wool 

If you’re like most people, you probably keep your bicycle in good condition by cleaning and lubricating the chain every few rides. But what if you don’t have access to a bike mechanic? Or what if you just don’t feel like getting your hands dirty? 

One solution is to soak steel wool in lime juice. This will remove rust from the chain, making it ready for another ride. 

To do this, you’ll need:

  • Steel wool (any kind will do- either wire or ball-shaped)
  • Lime juice (or any citrus-based juice)
  • Container with a lid
  • Water

Simply fill your container halfway with water and add enough lime juice to cover the steel wool. Place the steel wool on top of the liquid and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to several hours. 

After 30 minutes have passed, turn on the water and let it run over the steel Wool for about 5 minutes. Remove the steel wool and rinse off all of the lime juice residues.

This method is particularly effective when dealing with rusty spots. By removing the rust layer one piece at a time, it’s easier to avoid damaging the underlying metal.

And since this process is reversible, you can always restore your bike’s chain hygiene when necessary.

Oxalic Acid 

To use oxalic acid, you’ll need to dissolve it in water for some time. Then pour the solution onto the rusted area and let it work its magic.

Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection when working with acid because it can be dangerous if it gets into your eyes or skin. 

Also make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions before using oxalic acid, as there are some precautions that you should take if you have never used this type of product before.

Baking Soda

If you are looking for a solution that removes rust from your chain without resorting to harsh chemicals or expensive replacement parts then baking soda is your way to go.

Simply mix one cup of soda with four cups of water, and spray the solution onto the rusted area. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off with water.

Repeat this process as necessary until the chain rust is gone.

Protective Lubricant 

There is never a bad time to invest in a quality protective lubricant. Especially when it comes to your bike, which can easily become rusty from the regular wear and tear of cycling.

Lubricant actually provides a layer of protection between the chain and the rest of your bike.

There are many types of lubricants available on the market, each with its own unique properties. Some are designed to be water-based, while others are oil-based.

It’s important to choose the right one for your bike and your particular needs, as not all lubricants are compatible with all types of chains. 

5. Reattach Chain Altogether

This is the last step in restoring your bike to its former glory. There are a few different methods that you can use to reconnect the chain, and each one will depend on the type of bike and its particular design.

One option is to use a wire binder. This tool uses metal wires to connect the chain links together, and it is often used for repairing bicycles. You can use a wire binder by placing it over the broken link and then tightening it using a wrench. Make sure that you do not tighten it too much, or you could damage the bike’s frame.

Another option is to use a cable tie. These ties are made from strong, flexible materials, and they are often used in construction work. To use a cable tie, first, make a small loop out of the tie material. Then, insert the loop into the gap between two links on the chain, and twist it tightly.

Approach to prevent future rusting problems 

There are several things that can cause rust to form on metal surfaces. Moisture, exposure to air and UV light, corrosion products from the metal, and the list still goes on.

The most common source of moisture is water droplets that get trapped on the surface of the metal.

However, not an issue anymore because this section is all about bike maintenance tips that keep the power to prevent future rusting problems.

1. Frequently Lubricating 

Lubricating reduces friction, which will keep the chain from becoming rusty.

Additionally, using an oil that is specifically designed for chainsaws can also protect the chain from wear and tear. It’s a great way to keep your bike running smoothly.

2. Storing in Shed

By keeping your bike stored in a shed, you’re essentially eliminating one potential source of chain corrosion. This not only prevents future issues with chain rusting but also keeps your bike in good condition overall. 

3. Drying Bike after Rainy Day

Rain can cause the chain to become wet, and as it dries, it forms little droplets of water which then sit on the chain’s surface. These tiny droplets of water are especially conducive to rust because they provide an environment for corrosion to take place slowly over time. 

You should always dry your bike well to prevent this from happening. Use tools available in the market to simplify your work. 

4. Timely Cleaning

Did you know that cleanliness is key to preventing future chain rusting problems? By keeping your chains clean and free of debris, you’ll prevent them from forming in the first place.

Not only will this keep your bike running smoothly and looking great, but it could also save you money in the long run. 

Conclusion — Rusty Bike Chain

By now, you surely would have got a great idea about what are rusty bike chains, tools that can be used to remove them, and most importantly the very bold steps for getting desired results in no time. Put them to work, and you’ll have a rust-free ride.

Empowered with this knowledge you can restore the shine of your rusty bike back again.

So, I am confident it will work great for you too. If you have any suggestions or doubts, feel free to drop us a comment below. We will be more than happy to assist you with your query. Please like, share, and follow our Facebook Page for more guides like this.

Have fun riding!

Frequently Asked Questions — Rusty Bike Chain

Can you use a bike with a rusted chain?

Rusted chains can cause your bike to malfunction and can even lead to injury. If you think your bike has a rusted chain, clean it before your next use.

Why is my bike chain rusting?

There are many reasons for bike chain rusting, but the most common ones are lack of lubrication, wearing out chain, using low quality, not cleaning regularly, and humidity.



I am a passionate, adventurous cyclist and my biking philosophy is to have fun, I felt the need to share my knowledge and learn more about bikes. I always ensure I adhere to all road rules. I hope that you will give biking a try. It’s a great way to get fit and have fun.

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