how to remove rust from bike chain

Tired Of Rust Ridden Rides? Here’s How To Remove Rust From Bike Chain

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Everybody loves mountain biking for its thrill and excitement unless it comes to maintenance which is one of the less enjoyable aspects of any adventure. To keep mountain bikes operational, they demand a significant amount of care, fine-tuning, and regular maintenance. One common issue that significantly affects bike performance is rust on the chain. No one enjoys riding a bike that becomes harder to pedal and move forward due to rust. However, since metal naturally rusts over time, it’s a challenge you can’t entirely avoid. Well, don’t worry as we know that you are tired of rust ridden rides. Here’s how to remove rust from a bike chain. But let’s first look at the how and why of the situation.

What causes bike chains to rust?

Since mountain bikes are used for off-roading, the chain is exposed to a variety of factors such as moisture, salt, and water, etc which can be found in air or dirt. Rust is produced when these substances interact with the metal chain. As metal is the only material that can be used for bike chains and is susceptible to corrosion upon contact with these elements. This inevitable chemical reaction makes life for bikers harder than it needs to be.

There can be many reasons for rust on your bike chain. It can be due to not using oil or lubricant on the chain and leaving it unprotected. Or it might be because you’re not applying the right kind of chain lubricant or oil. For example, if you use dry lubricant and ride your bike in the rain, the lubrication will wash away, leaving your bike with a lot of moisture, which will lead to rust. Keeping your bike outside might also contribute to rust. It’s crucial to keep your bike’s chain lubricated or oiled, but sometimes leaving your bike outside for a long time can introduce substances into the chain that lead to corrosion.

Lets now discuss the main subject:

How to remove rust from bike chains?

Step 1

Wear a set of latex gloves. You should never skip this step because it is very necessary. It takes a lot of scrubbing and cleaning to get rid of rust on a bike, and the materials you use could hurt your skin if they come into touch with it.

Step 2

Now, how much rust has built up on your chain will determine this. If there is only a little of it, you could leave your chain on the drivetrain, or you can also remove the chain from the drivetrain and work on it if you believe there is a lot of rust on it.
In either scenario, it is preferable to remove the chain because the products you will be using to remove the rust may prove to be detrimental for other components of your bike. Additionally, having it on the drivetrain makes it impossible for you to access all of its nooks.

Step 3

Pick up some chain degreaser. The main function of these is to remove any extra grease that may have built up on your chain’s already rusty surface, allowing you to access the rusted area.
In the long term, degreasers are particularly helpful because if you keep lubricating a chain without removing the rust beneath the surface, the chain weakens over time and runs the risk of rupturing, which could result in injuries.

This crucial step makes sure that your chain is prepared for de-rusting. Now, to remove all of the rust from the chain, you may either let it soak in the degreaser for approximately a day or use a washcloth dipped in it. If you decide to soak the chain, make sure to wipe it down with a dry cloth once you take it out of the degreaser.

Step 4

Grab a pair of steel wool scrubs and some lemon juice after you have successfully degreased your chain. Any liquid with acidic qualities could be substituted for the lemon juice. If you prefer, you can mix some salt with the lemon juice to create a paste, or you can use the lemon juice on its own; both methods are equally effective.

Lemon juice contains citric acid, which aids in removing rust from metal. Simply immerse the steel wool in the lemon juice and proceed to scrub the chain. As you do this, all the rust on the chain will be lifted and transferred onto the steel wool. If needed, replace the steel wool with a fresh piece and continue scrubbing until no traces of rust remain.

While this process may require some time and effort, if you dedicate yourself to it, your bike chain will ultimately be restored to a like-new condition.

Step 5

Once you’re happy with the results and have removed all of the rust, use a sponge and some soap to clean your bike chain. This step is crucial because it gets rid of any remaining degreaser or lemon juice that can cause the chain to rust once more.

It might begin to rust on its own if even a small amount of lemon juice or degreaser is left on the surface. Therefore, it’s important to get rid of everything.

Before proceeding to the next step, wipe the chain with a dry cloth to remove moisture from it.

Step 6

After removing all of the rust, lubricate the chain to make sure that it’s smooth and doesn’t make any squeaky sounds.

Reattach the chain to the drivetrain and put a bit of lubricant on it, a little at a time. While turning the pedals, keep applying the lubricant until your chain can move smoothly without any problems.
If you do all these steps correctly, your chain will be just as good as when you first got your bike. You can thank me later. But once you’ve removed all the rust, you might be wondering how to stop it from coming back.

Here are some things you can do to stop or slow the rusting process.

What can I do to avoid rusting?

Rusting or corrosion is something that happens naturally when you ride a mountain bike. No matter how careful you are, the chain will always touch things like dirt, water, and air, which can make it rust. So, there’s not a lot you can do to stop it from happening.

But there are a few things you can remember and do to make rusting happen more slowly, so you won’t have to worry as much.

Keep it dry

Mountain bikes are essential for enjoying mountain biking, so you cannot be expected to keep your bike locked away forever – that defeats the purpose, right? But, you can try to keep it reasonably clean. You don’t have to clean it constantly, but a quick clean after a ride won’t hurt.

What you can do is when you’re finished biking for the day and ready to put your bike away, grab two washcloths, one wet and one dry. First, use the wet one to remove any dirt from your bike. Then, use the dry one to wipe away any leftover moisture. This ensures there are no leftover substances that could make your bike rust faster.

Also, when you’re not riding your bike, you should store it somewhere dry and protected from dampness or rain, preferably indoors (inside a building or a covered area). This helps shield your bike chain from the damaging effects of water and weather conditions, which can lead to rust and other issues if the bike is left outdoors and exposed to the elements.

Use a lot of lube

Using lubricant on your bike’s chain can help slow down wear and make your rides smoother. Here’s a simple way to do it:

To ensure efficiency, lube your bike’s chain at least once every two weeks or once a week. This not only prevents rust but also makes your rides comfortable and jerk-free.

Anytime you sense that your chain needs an extra boost, use some lubrication. You can use various things like oil, grease, or store-bought bike chain lubricant. Apply a small amount, making sure to cover all the crevices for the best results.

Avoid going OVERBOARD since a surface that has too much lubrication will be sticky. Sticky surfaces readily accept dirt and filth, making them harder to clean later.

When should I replace the chain instead of fixing it?

You should be able to identify when to hold onto a chain and fix it and when to replace it with a new one. A quick way to know this is to touch the chain. If there is not much rust and the chain is flexible then the rust can be removed and the chain is reusable. But if there is a lot of rust and your bike’s chain is harder and not flexible then it’s time to replace it. We don’t want you face planting in the dirt because you overused this method and your chain eventually snapped off.

While this process of removing rust from your bike’s chain is very effective, it does in the long run, slowly damages the metal on your bike’s chain.

If the chain is rusted a lot, you may end up scrubbing off layers of metal used in chain’ construction without noticing it. Make sure that you’re keeping an eye on your chain’s condition.


Your experience with mountain biking will be a lot easier if you follow all the above instructions and your bike chain will last you a longer time.

As the maintenance of bike chains is pretty difficult but if you have ‘step to step’ guidance on how to keep your chain clean and treat the rusted ones, you will be fine. If after all that you still need a new chain check out our other articles on the best chains.