Why would anyone ever want to know how to remove rust from bike chains? Surely there are more entertaining things to do?!
Well, riding a bike is all fun and games until it’s not, and a biker comes across a corroded part on their bike, usually the oh-so-vulnerable chain.
Generally, looking after a bicycle isn’t much effort, a few frequent washes, and your bike is good to go. However, sometimes even with the most fastidious upkeep, your dear bike can develop rusty patches, especially on the chain.
Whether you are a world-class cyclist or a hobbyist biker, you will encounter a rusted chain at some point in your biking life.
And while dealing with the unsightly crimson patches is not too complicated, it can be pretty irksome, especially when you have been taking outstanding care of your ride.
But the belief that meticulous maintenance will keep your bike rust-free is a flawed idea to begin with because proper upkeep cannot keep a cycle free of rust; it can only somewhat reduce the chances of corrosion.
You see, rust surfaces on a bike chain as a result of a chemical reaction between the elements in the bike and the air, which means there’s not much you can do to prevent that because whenever the volatile substances come in contact, they will leave behind the repugnant rust.
In simple words, you can’t stop rust from taking abode over your bike’s chain, but you can clean it spotless easily.
That said, many newbie bike owners assume that a rusty bike chain means getting a new chain because the old one is rendered useless. But that’s not always the case.
Imagine you got a brand new bike and kept it in the garage for a while when you took it out there was rust on the chain. So, does that mean you should replace the chain?
But you didn’t even use the bike; the chain on it is essentially unused. Don’t let the rusty blotches trick you into believing that your bike’s chain is has become unserviceable just because the appearance has changed.
Unless you try every single remedy in the book to treat the rust buildup on a bike chain, don’t deem it unusable. Once you have tried every possible solution to get rid of the rust on your bike chain and nothing worked, only then consider buying a new one.
We know rust is a common occurrence on bike chains because of the reaction between compounds in the metal and the air. But let’s look a little deeper and learn all about the chemistry of rust on bikes.
- 1 Why Does the Chain Rust Over Time?
- 2 How to Remove Rust From Your Bike Chain?
- 2.1 Homemade Remedies for Removing Rust on Bike Chains
- 3 Keeping Your Chain in Top Shape with Chain Lube
Why Does the Chain Rust Over Time?
To understand the process behind the formation of rust, let’s go back to the basics of high school chemistry and go over the following concepts.
Oxidation is a chemical process in which a compound reacts with oxygen and forms an oxide. In other words, a chemical compound gains oxygen through the process of oxidation.
When a refined metal natural converts into a much more stable compound after reacting with oxygen (or any other element such as hydrogen), corrosion is said to have taken place. Corrosion typically occurs when a metallic element reacts with oxygen, but it can happen with a different ion as well.
Rust and Bike Chains
When iron reacts with the oxygen in the air, it is corroded, and the resulted compound is called rust, aka iron oxide. Since most bike chains are made of iron, steel, or alloys containing iron, they develop rust when exposed to the surrounding chemical compounds.
Although rust surfaces when oxygen reacts with iron, the process is accelerated if some other elements such as water, salt, or mud are involved.
Keeping a bike free of rust means keeping it away from all the damaging environmental factors. While you can protect your cycle from water, salt, dirt, and mud, you cannot keep it safe from the air.
It will be exposed to the oxygen in the air at some point in time. Therefore, instead of losing your mind over the splotches of rust on your bike’s chain, focus on the remedies you can do to save the chain.
How to Remove Rust From Your Bike Chain?
Before you get to cleaning the rust off your bike chain, you need to inspect the damage and assess the amount of rust.
If there is substantial rust on your bike chain, remove it to clean it thoroughly; otherwise, you will miss some spots. And if your bike chain is completely covered in rust, consider replacing it because scrubbing the ugly patches won’t make much difference.
Once you have assessed the extent of rust damage on your bike chain, you can get to cleaning.
Homemade Remedies for Removing Rust on Bike Chains
Wipe the chain using a dry rag or old toothbrush to slough off all the visible funk and dirt from your bike.
After that, dampen a steel scouring pad with lemon juice and scrub the rusty areas in your chain. If the rust in some places doesn’t budge, use a more potent citric solution like lime juice to tackle it. You can also soak the chain in lime or lemon juice for up to 2 hours after removing it from the bike.
If you don’t have lemons available, you can use a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to deal with the rust on your bike chain. Use a brush to apply the paste over the rusted areas and scrub it off with a steel pad.
Once the rust is gone, dry the chain thoroughly, making sure no wet spot is left. You should also wash the chain using a mild soap and water to get rid of any remnants of acid because those can weaken the metal.
After cleaning the chain, put it back on the bike and gear up for your next ride.
Synthetic Degreasers for Removing Rust on Bike Chains
Degreasers are chemical compounds that are used to remove rust from metallic surfaces. You can get a high-quality degreaser from any hardware store.
There is a wide variety of degreasers available in the market, and all of them are effective against rust on bike chains. But if you are a beginner biker and need us to name a few high-quality synthetic rust solutions, here’s a shortlist.
Finish Line Speed Bike Chain Degreaser
This finish line product is one of the best degreasers on the market. It dries off quickly and doesn’t require any special tools for application.
It doesn’t leave behind any residue that would weaken the chain. For someone who doesn’t have much experience with bikes and bike maintenance, the Finish Line Speed Bike Chain Degreaser is the best product to start their journey as bike owners.
Park Tool CB-4 Bio Bike Chain Degreaser
The Park Tool CB-4 Bio Bike Chain Degreaser is another excellent rust solution for beginners and experts alike.
It’s a hundred percent biodegradable, so it doesn’t damage the materials on your bike. You can also use it to remove rust from any other surfaces in your home.
WB-40 Bike All Conditions Chain Degreaser
Although WB-40 is popularly known as a bike lube, it also works well as a degreaser. When bikers clean the chain on their bikes, they need to lubricate it too in order to keep the rust away for at least a little while.
And for that, they typically use a lube that’s different from the degreaser. But if you want to use a two-in-one solution for your bike chain, one that cleans rust and keeps the chain nicely oiled, WB-40 is for you. With this product, you will clean and protect your bike simultaneously.
Finish Line 1-Step Bicycle Chain Degreaser
This is another two-in-one rust solution. It cleans and lubricates a bike chain without much effort. If you want a quick fix for your bike’s chain, go for the Finish Line 1-Step Bicycle Chain Degreaser.
Once you’re done removing rust from your bike chain, don’t forget to lubricate it to keep rust at bay for a while.
Keeping Your Chain in Top Shape with Chain Lube
To lubricate your bike’s chain, you can use any of the following lubricants.
- Dry lubricants: Based on wax or Teflon, dry lubes stick on to the chain and dry in place, leaving a layer over the chain. They are ideal for bikes that face dry and dusty riding conditions as they don’t attract dirt particles.
- Wet lubricants: Based on oil, wet lubricants are denser than their dry counterparts and are designed for muddy conditions. They form a damp layer over the moving parts of a bike and stay in place even if sprayed on with another liquid.
- All-round lubricants: As the name suggests, all-round lubes work well in all weather conditions, whether wet or dry. If you want a comprehensive solution for your bike, choose an all-around lube.
When it comes to general bike maintenance, there’s not much one needs to do. However, the chain on your bike does require special attention to keep moving. If you want to enjoy carefree, smooth bike rides, you need to regularly take care of your bike chain.
Keep it clean, and whenever you wash your bike, be sure to wipe the chain dry using a fluff-free cloth as moisture can accelerate the process of rusting.
If you clean your bike chain every so often and lubricate it copiously, you will not have to spend money on a new chain soon.
Last Updated on May 7, 2021 by Matthew Carpenter