Can You Use Kerosene To Clean Bike Chain? | PedalChef

Eventually, every bike owner will need to clean their bike's chain. But what are the best ways to do this, and can you use kerosene to clean a bike chain?

Having a dirty bike chain is a common problem that every biking enthusiast will have to deal with at some point, and cleaning a dirty bike chain can oftentimes be harder than it looks. Though there are devices you can buy to clean your bike chain, it is unlikely you have one of these lying around your house. But what about that bit of leftover kerosene you have sitting in your garage. Can you clean your bike chain with kerosene?

Not only can kerosene be used to clean a bike chain, but it is also one of the simplest and easiest ways to do so. If you don’t have time to go out and buy something that is specifically designed to clean your chain, washing your chain with kerosene is easily the best option on the fly.

Though it might not be immediately obvious to the user, a dirty chain can slow you down and make it harder for you to pedal, not to mention the increased wear and tear your chain will experience over time. So, what happens when your chain gets dirty and is it possible for the chain to be too clean? Is there a superior technique to use when cleaning your bike chain with kerosene, and are there any other easy ways to do it?

All of these questions have simple answers, and through my many years taking care of my bikes, I’ve had plenty of time to figure them out for myself.  There’s no doubt that by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll never have to worry about cleaning your bike chain again.



Why Should You Clean Your Bike Chain?

Though it might be hard to notice, if your chain is too dirty, it could be holding you back and potentially damage your chain. Over time, your bike’s chain will get covered with all sorts of grit, dust, and dirt from simply taking the occasional ride around town.

When particles get lodged inside the links of your bike’s chain, they grind away at the metal, increasing the amount of wear on your chain. This can cause your chain to break prematurely, rendering your bike useless until you can shell the money out for another one.

This grit that gets stuck inside your bike’s chain also increases the amount of friction acting against you. The dirtier the chain, the more difficult it will be to move, so if left unchecked, your chain may end up slowing you down and making you work harder than you should need to.

Can Your Bike Chain Be Too Clean?

After stressing the importance of maintaining a clean bike chain, one might wonder if there is such a thing as a chain that’s too clean. Having a sufficiently lubricated chain is just as important as having a clean one, and many believe that obsessively cleaning your bike’s chain with harsh chemicals and cleaners can remove the ever-so-important factory grease on the rollers inside the chain. However, this is simply untrue.

While it is essential to maintain the level of lubrication on your chain, as long as you apply more lubricant to the chain after each cleaning, this won’t be a problem for you. However, once clean, it is important that you lubricate the chain as soon as you have finished cleaning, as the bare metal of the dry chain will be much more prone to oxidation and the formation of rust than it otherwise would.

How Can You Clean Your Bike’s Chain With Kerosene?

To clean your chain effectively with kerosene, you’ll need a few different items. The Kerosene itself can be found in most hardware or department stores, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it. Just be sure that what you are buying is indeed kerosene, as there are similar products sold for starting campfires that come in similar packaging but are much more flammable. Just know that you won’t need much, so even the smallest amount of kerosene you can buy will likely last you years.

Once you’ve acquired the kerosene, all you’ll need are a cloth or rag, preferably lint-free, and a toothbrush. Simply put some kerosene on the rag and run it across the whole length of the chain, ensuring that you are wiping down all sides of the chain as well as you can.

Once you’ve wiped down the whole length of the chain a few times, you’ll want to switch to the toothbrush so that you can really scrub at some of the more hard-to-reach places inside and in between the chain links. If you really want to get creative, putting some kerosene into a squirt bottle and using it to squirt the kerosene directly into these tiny spaces in the chain is another great technique to use.

Just remember that you can’t forget to lubricate your bike chain after cleaning it. Kerosene, while great for cleaning the chain, is a terrible lubricant. If you don’t lubricate your chain afterward, you will be left to deal with all of the same problems of increased friction and extra wear and tear as you would have if you left your chain to be dirty.

Also, don’t forget that kerosene is still a harmful chemical, and extended exposure to its fumes can cause any number of problems from nausea and headaches to permanent organ damage. Because of this, to avoid any harm to yourself, it’s very important to make sure that the place in which you choose to clean your bike chain in is well ventilated.

Other Ways To Clean Your Bike Chain

Though cleaning your bike’s chain with kerosene is simple, easy, and requires only a few other common household items, there are other methods that may get you a more thorough clean.

If you are unable to remove the chain from your bike, there are dedicated bike chain cleaning tools like the Park Tool Cyclone Chain Scrubber that can be attached to the chain on your bike and clean it in a much more thorough manner than you might be able to with a kerosene-soaked rag.

If you are able to remove the chain, using an ultrasonic cleaning machine is most definitely the best way to get your bike chain back to being as clean as it was brand new. Ultrasonic cleaners, like the Vevor Professional, vibrate the chain in a way that allows it to remove the most stubborn of dirt and grit stuck inside your chain.  There is really no doubt that if you’re able to remove your chain and are willing to shell out the extra cash for one of these machines, this is the best option. However, if you don’t want to spend the money, the chain can be coated in cleaner, put inside of an enclosed container, and shaken to achieve a similar effect.