Keeping your bike chain lubed and clean is necessary to make sure your bike’s performance. Can you use WD-40 to lube and clean a bike chain?
Most of us probably have a can of WD-40 lying around at home, but is it suitable for use as a chain lubricant? If you don’t have anything else on hand, would WD-40 be a good replacement?
You can use WD-40 to clean your bike chain, since it has degreasing qualities which are great for cleaning. It can also work as a light lubricant in extremely dry conditions, but for the most part, it is not a suitable replacement for bike lube and should not be used as such.
You should be aware of the potential risks of using WD-40 as a bike chain lubricant before you make any decisions around it.
Though we read up on the topic in quite a lot of detail, we also tried out WD-40 on our bike chains to test how well it works and how it compares to other lubricant replacements.
What is WD-40?
Before we go into its usage and how it works, what is WD-40?
It stands for Water Displacement-40th Attempt. This doesn’t mean much – all it says is that it was the 40th formula the creators tried that they found useful. It was created in 1953 by the Rocket Chemical Company in California as part of a line of rust-prevention solvents. It was meant to be used in the aerospace industry, and was originally used as a rust-preventative solvent and degreaser for missiles.
By 1969, the company was renamed to WD-40 Company because the product was now their only one.
From this we get two things – one, that WD-40 was created to prevent rusting, and two, that it was used as a degreaser.
Can You Use WD-40 for Cleaning and Lubing?
The term ‘water displacement’ means that any molecules of water on the surface it is applied to is removed. Since metals have to come in contact with moisture to trigger the process of oxidation, the displacement of water meant that you could prevent your metal items from rusting by applying WD-40 on them.
However, WD-40 is mainly a solvent. This means that it dissolves any substances that could be contaminating the surface, and this cleans the item you’re applying it to. Being a solvent, WD-40 will make sure that any dirt or grime stuck on your bike chain gets removed, and your chain gets cleaned thoroughly.
However, as a degreaser, WD-40 will also remove any of the lubricant that was already on the chain in the process and this leaves your bike chain even dryer than it was before you used WD-40 on it.
That means that using WD-40 as a chain lubricant is even worse than having used no lubricant at all.
However, this depends on the conditions you apply it in.
If you live in an area that has very humid conditions, WD-40 will cause your bike chain to become dryer than the surrounding conditions and can cause it to deteriorate. However, many cyclists do actually use WD-40 as a lubricant and claim that it works just fine. In fact, many bike repairers say the same!
So, what is the truth?
WD-40 is not outright harmful for your bike, even though it is true that it removes the existing lubricant from the chain during cleaning. In dry conditions, because WD-40 does have light lubricating qualities, it can actually work as a decent lube. In fact, in such conditions, it may even work better than other lubricants because it will also keep the chain clean.
However, it will not actually last long as a bike lubricant, even in dry conditions. At most, WD-40 will last up to 8-12 hours of use, after which you’d have to apply it again.
However, it is true that WD-40 works as an excellent cleaner for your bike chain. After using for a long time, your bike chain can get greasy and dirty. Being a degreaser and solvent, WD-40 can remove all the dirt and grime.
It will also keep your bike chain from rusting. However, this is just a temporary solution. Repeated use of your bike will eventually lead to the chain picking up more dirt and grime, and you will have to clean it all again after some time.
Because it is such a light lubricant, many experts suggest that to protect your bike chain, you should apply another dedicated lubricant after you’re done.
Using WD-40 on Your Bike Chain
If you do intend to use WD-40 on your bike chain as maintenance, here’s how you should go about it.
First, you should degrease the chain. First, you should rinse it to remove any dirt or dry mud that can be removed by water. Then you should dry it and apply WD-40. It will take some time for it to dissolve the dirt and grease, so you’ll have to wait for a while. You can also use WD-40 to degrease and remove dirt from other moving parts on your bike.
Scrubbing off the Dirt
Once all the junk has been dissolved, you want to get rid of it or it’ll stay stuck to the chain. The degreaser loosens the grime to make it come off easily, but you will need to wipe it away. With a soap and scrubber, removing the dirt can damage your chain, but the degreaser makes it easy and keeps your chain from getting damaged.
You can easily scrub off the loosened grime using a cloth.
You can also remove any rust that has collected on the chain using WD-40. All you have to do is spray it on the area that has rust. Again, you’ll have to wait for a while to let the solution work. After this, you can scrub it off. While a cloth is fine for scrubbing off dirt, rust is a bit more stubborn, so you may need to use a wire brush or sandpaper to get rid of the rust.
Once you’ve scrubbed the chain and wiped the grime off, you need to wash it. This process is important to get rid of any leftover residue that may be stuck on the chain. Scrubbing too much can be damaging, so it’s best to opt for soap and water. You can use a sponge to wash your chain.
This step is also important because, as a degreaser, WD-40 will get rid of any lubricant you apply over it. This is why you need to make sure you remove the WD-40 before applying any other kind of lube. After you wash the chain, you should let it dry under the sun so you can move on to the next step.
Once you’re done cleaning, you have to lubricate the chain again before you use it. There are plenty of bike lubricants and their replacements available that can work. WD-40 also has a chain of lubricants that you can use.
So, can you use WD-40 for cleaning and lubing your bike chain?
WD-40 is excellent for cleaning off dirt, grime and rust and can also help with preventing any rust. However, it is not the best idea for lubricant. While it can work in some conditions, most times, you’d have to use a dedicated lubricant once you’re done cleaning your bike with WD-40.
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