After a certain amount of use, your bike can be in need of cleaning, but we don’t always have bike cleaners on hand. Can you use dish soap to wash your bike?
Dish soap is safe to use for cleaning your bike, but make sure to wash it off properly once you’re done. It is best to use bike cleaners instead of dish soap, since repetitive use of dish soap can harm your bike in the long-run.
While dish soap isn’t outright harmful for your bike, it does have some concerns around it that bike owners have spent quite a while discussing.
Fortunately for you, bike owners have tried and tested the effects of washing your bike with dish soap, and we have put this information together in this article.
Is Dish Soap Safe for Washing My Bike?
Washing the dirt off your bike as soon as possible is a good way to keep spots from staining the metal or plastic parts of your bike. Sometimes, especially after a ride in the mud, dirt collects in certain places that can cause the bike to start rusting over some time. It may not seem like an issue at the time, but if you don’t wash it off, your bike may suffer.
Spraying it down with water is a good idea for a quick wash, but some types of dirt are stubborn and need to be cleaned down with soap.
Dirt is usually of two types. It can be dust or soil, which is water soluble, and can be washed with a bit of water and scrubbing, or it can be greasy, oily or tar-based, which you can’t get rid of with just water.
If your bike has fallen victim to gross, sticky stuff like bird droppings, dead bugs or tar splatters, water isn’t enough, and you’ll need to use some kind of soap.
For many people, dish soap seems like an obvious solution, since it is designed to remove greasy, oily substances, and it is also easily available at home.
The Concerns Around Dish Soap
For many bike owners, the concern was that dish soap contains salts that can cause corrosion, which can harm the wax or paint of your bike. However, when you look into it, the salts in dish soap are actually the non-corrosive type, and are area-active ingredients that have a special method of washing away the grease – they trap oil and grease droplets in a film of water that doesn’t break and then washes them away.
In fact, if you research on the topic a bit more, you’d find that the corrosiveness of regular salts comes from the chloride component, which is not present in dish soap. While we’ve become used to thinking of ‘salt’ as table salt – sodium chloride – in chemistry, salts are complex substances that can consist of a variety of molecules and compounds.
If dish soap contained chlorides, it would leave deposits on your dishes, and would break down the oxide layer on the surface of metals which would result in corrosion.
However, fortunately, dish soap does not contain chlorides, so it is safe to use to wash your bike.
However, this only works if you are using it sometimes. Make sure you’re not making a habit out of using dish soap because even though it is not outright harmful, using it very frequently can cause the paint and gloss to dull.
It is best to use car wash liquids or bike cleaners to keep your bike shiny and clean.
Regardless of what substance you use, make sure that if you use water on your bike, you dry it off thoroughly. Since bike frames are most often made of steel, the moisture left behind after a wash – if not dried thoroughly – can result in a reaction with oxygen in the air and make the frame rust.
This is particularly true for your bike chain, which is usually made of iron, and is more prone to rusting. While you can clean your bike chain with dish soap and water, it is best to use a bike cleaner or chain oil to do so.
After cleaning your bike with any kind of dish soap, make sure to lubricate it properly.
Does Dish Soap Remove the Wax Off My Bike?
While dish soap is not corrosive, remember that it is designed to remove grease from the material it is being used to clean.
Since the protective wax layer of your bike is grease-based, using soap too often to clean your bike can strip this layer and leave your bike’s paint exposed and vulnerable.
This gets worse when you consider how bad it can be for the paint if non-water-soluble dirt like tar or tree sap comes in contact with it. Worst case scenario, you may have to get the entire bike repainted.
The wax layer also keeps your bike protected against the harmful UV rays of the sun which can cause the color to fade, especially if your bike stays out in the sun all day.
While dish soap does harm the wax layer, the truth is that most bike cleaners will also do the same thing over time, since they’re all designed to get rid of grease and oil. Bike cleaners are made specifically for the purpose of cleaning though, so they are not quite as fast in causing this problem as dish soap is.
The problem is easily solved by reapplying the wax on your bike frequently so that the paint job underneath stays safe and you can keep using it for longer.
How To Clean A Bike With Dish Soap
Washing a bike can be messy, so make sure you’re wearing clothes suited to the task.
Ideally, you’d use hot water for the washing. Just like with dishes, warm water cleans better. This is because the enzymes within the dish soap that react with the dirt to get rid of it are activated faster at higher temperatures, so while it will work with cold water, it’ll take you much longer to clean the same amount of dirt than it would with warm water.
It’s best to remove the wheels from the frame, if possible, because this will help you clean both the wheels and the frame more efficiently.
Start with the dirtiest parts first. This would usually be the chain and the drivetrain. If you are using water on metal parts, be sure to wipe them dry thoroughly because even the slightest bit of moisture can trigger rusting and leave your bike unusable until you get rid of it.
Avoid using high pressure water blasters to clean your bike. The pressure from these is suitable for cars, which are bigger and sturdier, but can damage your bike which has more fragile parts.
Once you’re done washing, make sure to dry each part out and lube them up (except the tires!) before putting them back together.
How Often Should You Clean Your Bike?
Knowing when to clean your bike is just as important as knowing how to do so. As mentioned earlier, dirt can collect in some places and cause rust or other problems later on.
Most bike manuals will tell you when you should clean it, and how often. Generally, though, you should be cleaning your bike after every long and hard ride, if the bike has been exposed to water or grit, or at least after you’ve ridden it for about 100 miles, even if this did not expose your bike to any visible dirt.
About THE AUTHOR
Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.Read More About Danny Lawson