How to remove rust from bike chain?

Seeing rust on a bike chain can be the most irritating thing faced by any bike owner, especially if you have recently purchased or replaced it. Now, to make matters worse, a rusted bike chain can render your bike completely useless, or even cost you money. As such, learning how to get rid of rust from a bicycle chain is a must.

However, before learning how to clean a rusty bike chain or even starting the process, you should first inspect your chain and decide whether to just replace it with a new one or proceed with cleaning it.


A few days ago, I found myself scrubbing off those unwanted layers of rust from my bike chain quite often. Especially during the rainy and colder days, even if I leave my bike untreated and unused for a week, rust formation is inevitable. And this is mainly because of the constant exposure to moisture.

Now, I clean and lubricate my bike chain after every use to keep it in top shape and performance. Doing this after each ride has gone a long way in maintaining my bike chain and bike's overall health and durability. As a result, rust formation on my bike is something I deal with rarely. Check out this guide on how to properly lubricate a bike chain.

But since you are here, I assume you have already noticed some rust formation on your bike chain. So, let us directly jump into what you can do to clean a rusty bike chain.

Guide on How To remove rust from bike chain?

Off the bat, you can easily remove rust from your bike chain with any of these three ingredients – Lime juice, WD-40, or Vinegar. All these three items are readily available in any local or grocery store. However, for removing rust using these three ingredients, you need to remove the chain from your bike first, which might be tricky for most persons.

With this guide, I'll go over everything you need to know and exactly how you can start removing the rust from your bike chain at home.

Cleaning a Rusty Bicycle Chain

Safety first! So, make sure to put your latex gloves on during the entire process.

Removing the bike chain

First, upturn the bike or carefully place it in a bike stand. If you don't own a bike stand, you can just lay it on its handle or against a wall.

A Word of Caution:

You might want to place it on top of a cloth to avoid any scratches that can damage the bike's saddle.

Using a suitable link removal tool and carefully take the chain off by following the steps below.

Most bike chains include a master link. If your bike chain has one, you can easily remove the chain by unplugging the pins. For that, you need to inspect your bike chain to locate the master link carefully.

Once you find the master link, simply insert the link pliers between the ends and push the pliers in. This way, the pins of the master link come out of the chain.

Just a quick tip! If you notice your bike chain doesn't include a master link. You can add one the next time you visit a local bike shop.

Checking the chain carefully.

Once you remove the chain, carefully examine it. If the rust is heavy and you notice that the chain is worn out, it is better to replace it with a new one. However, if the chain is new, but the rust has accumulated due to other factors, you can continue with these steps.

Using a degreaser

If you've been lubricating your chain often, you may notice some grease and dirt on the chain. To fix this, use a good quality degreaser.

Put on a sufficient amount of degreaser on a clean cloth and wipe off the chain. Rub vigorously for stubborn stains.

If the grease is too much, you can soak the entire chain in the degreaser for about 20 minutes. For this, fill a bucket with a degreaser and soak the chain. After a good 20 minutes, wash off the chain with hot water. Soaking it will remove any remaining grease.

Now that the chain is grease-free, we can move on to removing rust with one of the three solutions mentioned earlier.

Getting the rust Off a Bike Chain with Lime Juice

Soak steel wool or any kind of abrasive in lime juice. Then, scrub the rusty chain with the abrasive. Rub vigorously on areas where the rust build-up is heavy.

While rubbing off the chain, the rust may accumulate in the abrasive or steel wool. So, you can wash off the abrasive in hot water to remove the rust build-ups. Soak it in lime juice or similar solution again. Then continue rubbing the chain. Once you are done removing rust from a particular area, make sure to rinse it off then wipe it off with a clean cloth or paper towel.

After removing the rust from the entire chain, make sure to wash it at least once with hot water mixed with a small amount of dish soap. Then, rinse it off with clean water.

Removing rust with WD-40 spray

This method is excellent for removing stubborn and heavy rust formation. Spray the solution directly on the chain. Spray more on the rusted areas. Wait for some minutes to let the solution soak in. Now, all you have to do is take a wire brush and brush off all the rust.

Once you have removed all the rust, wipe the chain with a clean cloth or rinse it.

Removing rust From Bicycle Chain with Vinegar

Using Vinegar is another fairly easy way to remove rust from your bike chain. All you have to do is get a clean toothbrush. Soak it in a solution of white vinegar. Then start brushing off the rust from the chain.

For getting rid of tough rust, you can pour the Vinegar directly on the affected area and brush it. Once you are done, just go ahead and rinse it off with clean water.

That's it, with any solution you choose, you should be able to get a rust-free bike chain. Once you are done with the entire process, carefully put the chain back on using the same tools. And don't forget to add some good lubricating oil onto the chain.


Is rust on a bike bad?

Yes. Rust on any material is bad. It can weaken and damage your bike.

What causes rust on a bike?

If your bike is exposed to extreme moisture or humidity constantly, it may corrode easily. So make sure to take proper care of your bike after every use. Also, use an anti-corrosion spray on your bike.


Overall, the process of cleaning rusty bike chains is pretty straightforward. However, constant accumulation and removal of rust can weaken your chain. So, make sure to take proper care of your bike chain. The most effective and simplest way of taking care of your bike chain is by regularly lubricating the chain. This will go a long way in maintaining the chain's durability.