How To Remove Rust From A Bike Chain

How To Remove Rust From A Bike Chain

A rusty bike chain is just plain bad news. If you ride your bike during the winter, or when it rains, if you ride muddy trails, or if you’ve stored your bike over the winter, chances are that your bike chain is going to get rusty.

They can be expensive to replace, with some high-end chains costing upwards of $200.00 or more. A rusty and dirty chain can also consume several extra watts of power when you’re riding, sometimes more, especially in really dirty conditions such as cyclocross or MTB.
There’s good news though, as this post will show you how to get rust off a bike chain, easily and also how to easily protect it.

We’ll cover a few methods and options:

Light Rust-
For light rust, it can be as simple as firmly rubbing the chain with a scotchbrite pad a few times- you know the pads that you use to scour pots and pans? Yup, those can also remove light rust from metal. You can also use a stiff bristled brush, or even a wire brush. Spritz the chain with a light product such as WD-40 while doing so with either of these methods, as that will help keep dust from going everywhere and will also help loosen the rust.
Additionally, a common household product such as CLR will greatly help in removing light rust.
When you’ve got the rust cleaned off, either rinse the chain with WD40, or varsol(Mineral spirits) Then, lube and protect it as detailed later in this blog.

scotchbrite padsCLRScotchbrite pads and CLR for cleaning light rust.

Heavy Rust
For heavy, scaly, flaky rust, you’re going to need some chemical assistance. Simply go you your local Hardware store and get a product such as Krud Cutter ‘The must for rust’ liquid, or Evapo-rust.
Or, you can also use high strength vinegar. You’ll also need some protective gloves and eye protection. After putting on your protective gear, pour some of the rust remover into a flat bottomed container, til it’s about 1-2” deep. Then remove the chain from your bike, roll it into a loose coil and lay it flat in the solution of choice and cover the container.
Now you wait. These products chemically react with the rust to remove it, so all you need to do is let them work and check in every ½ hour or so. Once all the rust has been removed, you can remove the chain and rinse with water. Then, immediately dry it with a towel and spray with WD40 or similar to displace any remaining water and provide mild rust protection.

Krud Kutter Rust RemoverEvapo-Rust
Other Options
Here is still another option; if you or a friend has access to an ultrasonic cleaner; fill the tank with some vinegar, or one of the rust remover products. Then insert the chain the same way as detailed earlier, turn the machine on and set it for 20-30 minutes and see how much rust is cleaned off when the cycle is finished. Repeat if necessary. When done, rinse with water, treat with WD40 then lube with a good chain lube. Make sure to clean out the cleaner tank when done and dispose of used chemicals to a proper disposal site.  

Ultrasonic cleaner
You can also use an ultrasonic cleaner to do a thorough cleaning of your chain for normal maintenance purposes. Mix some ZOOM Concentrated Cleaner with water at a 10-15:1 ratio and fill the tank with that. Insert the chain and let it run thru a cycle. This will really do a deep clean on your chain.

Regular Cleaning, lube and protection:
Going forward, you can avoid having to remove rust from a bike chain by just doing a couple of simple things; Clean your bike after each ride where it gets muddy, and/or wet and keeping it lubed and protected with a good quality lube. After each wash and/or wet ride, you should spritz the chain, sprockets, as well as all other pivot points with WD40 to remove any water that may be present. Be careful not to get any on the brake disks or pads.

WD 40

Then, your chain should be lubed with a good chain wax, oil or combo product.
Another method is to heat up paraffin wax, or a specialty Paraffin wax blend, such as Molten Speed wax in a slow cooker, or double boiler until it’s fully melted.

Waxing a chain in a double boiler Waxing a chain in a double boiler setup using a pot, some water and a soup can.

Soak your chain in that for 15 mins or so, then remove and hang over the pot of melted wax to let it drip til the wax sets up.
A waxed chain greatly reduces attracted dirt and greatly helps prevent rust. It also provides lube for the chain and sprockets.

Alternatively, you can spray your cleaned chain with Waxoyl Powershield, or Waxoyl Hardwax plus. This will provide protection against water/salt and rust. 
There are many good products available which provide both lubrication for the chain and sprockets and also stick to the chain well, providing good protection against rust. If you have a steel bicycle frame, it can make a lot of sense to fog the inside of the frame with Waxoyl Powershield to prevent rust from forming inside the frame cavities.

Here's a video that shows you the easiest, most effective and most affordable way to clean your bike. Yes the video shows washing a dirtbike, but the process is exactly the same for washing a bicycle.This method is the quickest, easiest, most effective and also, if you use ZOOM Concentrate, the most affordable!

Are you overpaying for your bike cleaner?


None of our blog posts are AI generated. They are all created by a real person sharing real world knowledge.

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