Can You Use WD40 On A Bike Chain? Cleaning Tips for You

WD40 must have been familiar to millions of citizens now – a high-reputation lubricant recognized for scrubbing dirt and grime off almost anything. 

There’s no doubt about their performance and efficiency, but things are a bit complicated when it comes to bicycle chains. Some claim that WD40 helps preserve these chains better, while others express concerns about the possible harm these light lubricants can inflict on your bicycle.

So what is the truth? Is WD40 good for bike chains or not? This article will explore the issue in-depth and discover the truth for you.

Can I Put WD40 on My Bike Chain?

Yes, BUT with caution to wash the leftover oil clean.

We cannot deny that WD40 has numerous great usages for bicycles, but the chains are something a bit different.

The Benefits

As we already know, WD40 is designed to be a solvent-degreaser that eliminates contaminants and toxic substances from objects, protecting them from corrosion and rust. 

So there’s no doubt that the same also applies to bicycle chains: WD40 can degrease and clean them effectively, removing rust, gunk, and debris often stuck at the chain links and allowing them to move again.

Things to Be Weary About

Most WD40 advertisements promote the product as “lubricants.” However, those who have purchased it claim WD40 does not contain sufficient lubricant for the chain’s smooth run – and the very little amount it has is not in good quality, either. 

Hence, once your bikes are caught in heavy rain (which is inevitable no matter how you try to avoid it), WD-40 will wash off in seconds, leaving your chains in worse conditions. 

Furthermore, dry chains have lots of friction that wears them down faster than usual and causes corrosion/rust. When the derailleur and gear shifting deteriorates, they often react poorly with chain lubes and might even snap if you apply them in the wrong way. 

On another note – though no study has yet confirmed this conclusion – WD40’s solution is only temporary, and using them too much will actually cause the grime and dirt to stick to the chains even more frequently due to excess oil. 

As the coefficient friction in your bike drivetrain surges abnormally, it will shorten your chain’s lifespan and result in severe power loss.

The Main Takeaway

While WD40 products are still a wonderful option for chain degreasing and cleaning, you should perform the task cautiously and wash lingering oils away with soapy water until nothing is left. 

Also, please note that WD40 is all-purpose (meaning you can use it for everything aside from bikes), so do not expect the product to perform a spectacular job. All-purpose products are known to do everything decently – but rarely excel in one specific aspect.

See also: Bike Chain Slipping When Pedaling Hard

How to Use WD-40 On Bicycle Chains Properly? Tips for Clean Chains

How to Use WD-40 On Bicycle Chains

Wrong applications of WD40 will prevent you from having a smooth ride. If having the chains cleaned by a bike shop is too bothersome and costly for you, follow the do-it-yourself guidelines below to ensure a smooth cleaning experience: 

Step 1. Degrease the chain

The first step is to degrease your bicycle chain, freeing it from grease and gunk. 

First, rinse the chain to eliminate thick dirt and mud. Once done, spray WD-40 Degreaser on its surface and wait a few minutes for the content to sink in fully. While waiting, you can also use WD40 to degrease other bicycle parts – if desired. 

Step 2. Scrub the chain

After 10-15 minutes of waiting to allow WD-40 some time to yield its miracle, it’s time to pick up your brush to scrub the grime, grease, and dirt off the chain. 

If you have followed Step 1 carefully, then be confident that Step 2 will take you very little time. WD40 has successfully loosened the grim, making them come off faster. 

Step 3. Wash the chain

Once your bike has been spotlessly scrubbed, let’s wash it with buckets of water (100% clean, obviously) and a sponge. 

Why do we have to rinse our chain? The answer is simple: your scrubbing task above, while incredibly meticulous, might still overlook some brazen grime and grease. They will keep lingering on the chain, so washing them with water is your best bet.

When you have used up all the water, the dirt will likely disappear at this point.

Step 4. Lubricate the chain

WD40 once again enters the scene! It’s time to add a final touch to your hard work by using WD40 to lubricate the entire chain. 

Since there are numerous products in the WD40 Degreaser lines, feel free to choose one that you think will work best; there’s no need to count on the same one you have used in Step 1.

Step 5. Check your chain frequently

Do not wait until signs of tear and wear show up. Keep inspecting the chain every day to prevent unwanted damage.

How Often Should I Lubricate My Bicycle Chain?

In most cases, experts suggest every 100 (or 150) miles. If you want to count on time measurements, then we dare say at least once per week. This tip is especially important if you use your bicycle almost every day. 

Note: road cyclists who ride on extremely dry pavements or under dry conditions do not have to clean their chains every time after lubing.

FAQs

1. Oil vs. Grease: Which One Is Better for My Chain?

They are both alright, but oil is a slightly better option. Grease is amazing on threads and bearings; however, it cannot penetrate gaps between pins or rollers due to its dense texture.

2. Is It Possible to Apply Car Oils on Bike Chains? 

Technically, yes, but we do not recommend it. Car oils often have high viscosity that prevents them from penetrating inner bike chains. Its thickness also causes premature wear and stretch on the bicycle. 

Conclusion

These guidelines have discussed the potential positive and negative impacts that a dash of WD40 can inflict on the bike chain  – and the entire bike’s performance as a result – in general. 

While these chain lubricants are not exactly too dangerous, there are still precautions and tips you must remember to clean the bike chain by WD40 correctly at the appropriate time. And we have lent a helping hand in this regard with the extremely inclusive instruction above!

Though the FAQ section has covered other common inquiries, we understand if our readers still have questions or need further clarification on proper chain maintenance. Feel free to write to us in that case.


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Nathan Bergmann

Nathan Bergmann

Cycling Instructor at BikeDenver

I've been a semi-professional cyclist for 7 years and currently coach classes at BikeDenver. I want to share my passion and experience with those who love cycling, let me make your journey better.


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