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How to Remove Rust from Bike Chain in 10 Easy Steps

Written by Gary Johnson / Fact checked by Henry Speciale

how to remove rust from bike chain

Biking is never without a challenge. As an avid biker, you are used to greasing and oiling your bike chain every now and then. It is a regular bike maintenance routine that you need to perform to keep your bike running smoothly.

But how about removing rust off of your bike? This may seem unusual, especially when you fastidiously take care of your bike well. It can be equally frustrating, particularly that no matter how you wipe the rust off the chain, the chemicals never seem to be fading away.

So, how to remove rust from bike chain properly? Well, we have gathered tested and proven ways to make your bike chain clean and rust-free. All you need to do is inspect your bike chain, use an excellent degreaser, scrub the chain with steel wool and scouring pad, then lubricate.

To know the steps completely, continue reading this guide.


Why is My Bike Chain Rusting?


Rust in your bike chain is normal, especially if you own an older bike. You will often encounter the building up of chemicals in your bike chain-forming into rust. If you constantly use your bike during rainy days, and challenging terrains with saltwater – expect rust to form around the surface of your bike chain.

If you notice that any form of chemicals gradually appears in the chain, you should immediately take action before it worsens. For example, rust or iron oxide can form on your bike when it is regularly exposed to moisture and oxygen.

When the metal is exposed to moisture and oxygen, the oxidation process will take place and transform moisture into rust. You may not seem to notice it at first, but if you fail to maintain your bike chain consistently, you will be surprised by how much rust was built up over time.

The rust formed around the chain will be harder to remove, especially when you fail to grease and maintain your bike chain consistently. Good thing, there are proven ways to remove rust from your bike chain properly. All you need to do is follow the steps below:

  • Inspecting your bike chain
  • Check the condition of the chain
  • Remove the chain before cleaning
  • Cleaning the surface rust
  • Use scouring pad and degreaser
  • Soak the chain with heavy grime and degreaser for a few minutes
  • Continue scrubbing the chain with steel wool and hard bristles
  • Break up stubborn and tough rust using WD-40
  • Lubricate the bike chain
  • Reattaching the chain

Step-by-Step on How to Remove Rust from Bike Chain

Of course, before you dive into the process, you have to prepare the tools needed for this maintenance activity. Here are the tools you need in removing rust from the bike chain:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Degreaser/heavy grime
  • Steel wool or scouring pad
  • Lime juice or WD-40
  • Toothbrush or bristles
  • Oil or chain lubricant

(Pro tip: To remove the rust easily, always make sure to use high-quality products available on the market. Most steel wools come with robust material that can significantly remove dust fast)

Once you already prepared the tools, you can now proceed to the following:

Step 1: Inspecting your bike chain

Of course, you need to inspect your bike chain thoroughly to know where the rust build-up occurs. The rust does not eat your whole bike chain but a portion of it. Hence, you need to identify the area where the rust appears.

To be able to get a better view of your bike chain, it is recommended to turn your bike upside down, or attach it to a bike stand or bike rack. If you do not have a bike stand, you can hang your bike onto the wall. It is crucial that your bike is leaning on a sturdy surface while you are inspecting the bike chain.

Now, you can check the entire chain for any occurrence of rust and dirt. You need to inspect the chain thoroughly, so you can determine which part needs careful cleaning and rust brushing.

Step 2: Check the condition of the chain

Next, you need to evaluate the overall condition of the chain. It will help you identify how much work and cleaning you need to remove the rust from the chain. By the amount of rust that formed, you will decide whether you need to change your chain or it just requires cleaning and lubrication.

You have to look at the chain up close to know how much color it changed. It will give you a better view of the whole chain’s condition. If you observe that there is warping, imperfections, color inconsistencies, and metal deterioration – getting a new chain is the best option.

On the other hand, if there is only surface rust and crustiness, then a property cleaning and oiling are required to make the chain look new again.

Step 3: Remove the chain before cleaning


For you to clean the chain properly, you need to detach the chain from the bike. First, you have to locate the master link to remove the chain from the bike easily. The master link looks different from the rest of the chain links.

Once you identify the master link, disconnect the link from the rest of the chain. Then take off the whole chain from your bike.

(Pro tip: Always ensure that the chain is completely detached from the bike. It will give you a good look at the extent of the rust built. Moreover, you will be able to clean the bike on every side)

Step 4: Cleaning the surface rust


Once the chain is completely removed from your bike, you now have a better view of the bike chain. At this point, you can see the rust up close and determine which area you can start cleaning.

You can wiggle the chain first to remove dirt and unnecessary particles from it. Then, use a piece of cloth to wipe the rust initially. By this time, you have taken off the rust on the surface of your chain.

Step 5: Use scouring pad and degreaser

After the initial cleaning, you can both use a scouring pad and degreaser to remove another layer of rust that builds on the chain. You can dampen a clean rag/scouring pad with a degreaser, and use some force when wiping the rust off of the chain.

At this point, you will now see stubborn rust that was not removed from the initial cleaning. Hence, you need to change tactics. Start using a toothbrush and hard bristles this time. Also, apply vigorous scrubbing or buffing when removing stubborn rust.

Step 6: Soak the chain with heavy grime and degreaser for a few minutes

Of course, there will still be rust left on the chain. To be able to remove it and break the particles making the rust, you have to soak the chain with a degreaser or heavy grime. Allow the chain to sit in the degreaser for about 20 minutes.

After that, you can now rinse the chain with hot water. The water will significantly remove the degreaser off the chain.

(Pro tip: While soaking, you can wiggle the chain to shake off some of the unnecessary particles. Make sure you are wearing protective gloves when doing this step)

Step 7: Continue scrubbing the chain with steel wool and hard bristles

Use steel wool and lime juice, scrub the chain thoroughly, especially the rusted part. In this step, you need to use gloves to protect your hand from harmful substances. To make this step more effective, you can wet the steel wool with lime juice and scrub it forcefully to the rusted parts.

After that, you can use a dry cloth or paper towel to clean the rest of the rust and dirt. Continue to repeat this process until the rust is fading away.

Step 8: Break up stubborn and tough rust using WD-40


At this point, your bike chain is now getting back to its original form. However, you might notice tough and stubborn rust left on the chain. You will be able to break this up using a WD-40 spray. Use the substance directly to the rusted part, let the chemical sit for a few minutes before wiping it out.

Then, you can now wipe the chain again, and apply more force to the rusted area. Finally, clean the entire chain with a dry cloth.

Step 9: Lubricate the bike chain


Now that you thoroughly removed the rust from the bike chain, so you can attach it again to the bike. Before doing so, it is important to lubricate the whole chain first by using the right lubricant in this step.

Step 10: Reattaching the chain

To reattach the bike chain again, you need to refasten the master link. Identify both ends of the chain, slide the master link, and join the link again. Once you hear a click, you are now certain that both ends of the chain are joined together.

Test your bike whether the chain is completely attached to the bike. If it runs smoothly, the chain is already sitting in its original position.


Removing rust from your bike chain can be very frustrating, especially when it keeps coming back, disrupting your smooth bike ride. However, if you know how to maintain your bike properly, you need not encounter too much rust build-up.

May this guide provide you helpful tips in cleaning and maintaining your bike. We ensure that the steps are thorough, easy to understand, and effective in getting rust off your bike.

Next, if you have something in mind, we love to hear your thoughts. So, do not hesitate to comment below for additional insights and suggestions. Also, if you find this article helpful, you are very much welcome to like and share.

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