This article will discuss the proper procedure for cleaning a chain without having to remove it from the bicycle. This procedure is especially useful for those bicycles equipped with SHIMANO type chains, which require a special tool for removal and installation. Chain cleaning should be conducted after a ride and NEVER just before setting off on a ride. The night before a big ride is the ideal time for this quick and easy maintenance.

Required Tools and Supplies:
Degreasing Solvent
Chain Scrubber
Cotton Rag(s)
Chain Lube

Recommended Tools and Supplies:
Stiff Bristled Brush
Rubber Gloves
Repair Stand


Dirt and grit on the chain will eventually cause wear on the chain rivets, inner plates, and rear cogs. Chains and chain lubricants tend to attract dirt, which may contain small pieces of hard material such as quartz. These hard materials are what expedite chain wear.

To begin any cleaning operation, start by finding an area to work. Chain cleaning by its nature is messy. Use a bicycle repair stand if available. If you do not have access to a repair stand simply stabilize your bicycle so that it stands on its own and allows for the pedals to be rotated without hindrance. It is unadvisable to turn your bicycle upside-down for this procedure. Hooking the nose of your saddle over the top of a rail also works quite effectively. Shift the bike to the smallest cog in the rear and the middle chain ring in the front. Test for smooth backpedaling.

STEP 1 – Place Chain Scrubber under lower section of chain. Push chain down into the Chain Scrubber.

NOTE: It is easier to insert a chain into an empty Chain Scrubber. For this reason, do not fill the Chain Scrubber with the degreasing solvent until after the following step.

STEP 2 – Insert the chain into the Chain Scrubber, close the lid, and perform a dry run. Spin the pedals backwards with your right hand while holding the Chain Scrubber with your left hand.

STEP 3 – Fill the Chain Scrubber with the degreasing solvent to the recommended “Fill Line.” Yellow arrow indicates manufacturer recommended fill line on this particular make/model. Your Chain Scrubber may differ.

STEP 4 – Hold Chain Scrubber and backpedal for a count of at least 30 revolutions of the pedal. Red arrow indicates direction of chain.

STEP 5 – Remove the Chain Scrubber and dispose of soiled degreasing solvent.

STEP 6 – Clean the sprockets and the derailleur jockey wheels. Use a stiff bristled brush to clean and scrape these areas. Use a minimal amount of degreasing solvent on the bristles of the brush to help with the cleaning.

STEP 7 – Use a cotton rag between the sprockets to help “floss” the teeth of the rear sprocket.

STEP 8 – Wash the Chain Scrubber out and clamp again onto the chain as in STEP 1.

STEP 9 – Fill Chain Scrubber with soapy water to the recommended “Fill Line.” Back pedal to flush chain.

STEP 10 – Remove Chain Scrubber and wipe chain dry with cotton rag.

STEP 11 – Allow sufficient time for the chain and sprockets to dry before applying lubrication. After the chain is dry, lubricate chain with your preferred lubricant. Place a drop of lubricant at each roller and rivet. Never apply lubricant directly to chainrings or sprockets. ONLY the chain needs lubricant. After applying lubricant to the chain allow it to soak for a short period of time (10-15 minutes) before wiping excess lubricant from the exterior of the chain with a clean cotton rag.