This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
Can you use vaseline on a bike chain as a cheaper alternative to oil? While it does work, it isn't a good idea, especially not in the long run.
If you are only going for a short ride, vaseline might make a perfectly good lube for a bike chain. It prevents rusting, it works as a lubricant, and it makes your bike chain quieter. Vaseline is a multi-purpose product with countless uses.
While vaseline does work as a bike chain lube, it will attract too much dirt and dust to be useful in the long run. It is also difficult to clean off your bike chain. Only use it as a substitute for oil if you don't have any, and remember that it doesn't last as long as a real lubricant.
Vaseline does not make a terrible alternative to bike chain oil and even has some advantages. However, it is worse than regular bike chain oil in most ways. Lubricants designed specifically for bike chains are better than general-purpose products.
I have been riding and maintaining bikes my whole life, and I know that inadequate lubrication can snap your chain or worse. If you frequently put good quality oil on your chain, you will prevent damage to your bike parts. Your chain will attract too much dirt and dust if you only use vaseline.
Not Lubricating Your Chain Will Make it Snap
Neglecting to put oil on your chain is not something you can get away with. Your chain will snap if you let it get too dirty or dry. You need to put oil on your chain at least monthly.
If you are using vaseline, you should apply vaseline daily, certainly not weekly or monthly. It doesn't last long. A single long ride may make your chain snap if all you are using is vaseline.
However, even though vaseline doesn't last for long, it does work. Your chain will not snap if you coat it with vaseline adequately and then ride around for an hour or two. If you don't have any engine oil and can't buy any right now, vaseline is good enough.
Vaseline Has Many Uses
- A skin care product that can smooth and soften your skin
- To act as grease for hinges, stuck lids, rings, and many other things
- Making shoes shiny, making wood surfaces look better, or adding shine to leather
- Removing stains
There is no exact list of what vaseline is supposed to be used for or not be used for. While it is not marketed as something to help lubricate mechanical parts, it works somewhat well for that purpose.
Bring Vaseline With You on Long Rides
While vaseline doesn't last for very long, it does last for a few hours. If you are going on a long ride, you might have to bring vaseline with you and re-apply it. However, it doesn’t wear out so quickly that you have to do this on shorter rides.
Vaseline is Convenient
Vaseline is easy to find, cheap, and lasts a long time. People often have a large jar of vaseline that they don't use much of and rarely have to replace.
If it is a holiday and everything is closed, you might not be able to buy oil. Many of the things you might try as a substitute will perform poorly. Vaseline is a better substitute than something like vegetable oil.
Vaseline Will Keep Your Chain From Rusting
Another major benefit of vaseline is that it prevents rust. Many people use vaseline on tools to prevent them from rusting.
Vaseline works to prevent rust because it prevents water and oxygen from getting through. If you want to use vaseline to guard against rust, add a bit of camphor to the mix.
Vaseline Won't Damage the Metal in Any Way
Don't worry about vaseline corroding, rusting, or damaging the metal in any way. It won't wear out the parts; it will protect them.
Vaseline is chemically neutral and won't damage the materials people commonly use it on. Vaseline helps lubricate metal in many situations. For example, people use vaseline to help install PVC parts.
Vaseline is Anti-Corrosive
Vaseline Makes Your Chain Quieter
One last advantage is that vaseline makes your bike quieter. If you don't like the sound of metal parts scratching against each other, a small amount of vaseline or a very similar product can prevent this.
How is Vaseline Different from Petroleum Jelly?
Both are the same - vaseline only contains petroleum jelly and no other ingredients. Possibly, brand-name vaseline is of higher quality than most no-name brands. Some of the cheaper stuff might not be manufactured in the same way.
Disadvantages of Vaseline for Bike Chains
Vaseline has several disadvantages which make it a bad choice except in an exceptional case where you need to use a substitue for oil. The disavantages are:
- More than anything else, vaseline wears out fast, much faster than bike chain oil does.
- Vaseline attracts dirt and grease; this is particularly bad if you use too much vaseline. Be careful not to use too much.
- Vaseline can start fires in rare cases. Bike parts create friction, friction creates heat, and this can start a fire. To avoid this, don't let vaseline get on your brakes or wheels.
- Vaseline is a hassle to clean off your chain. You may have to buy the right kind of paint thinner to clean your chain properly after you use it.
How Do You Remove it From Your Bike Chain?
I find that an alcohol-based paint thinner works better than anything else. Water won't mix with vaseline (it repels water), so it won't work to clean your bike chain. Since paint thinner is a type of alcohol, and vaseline dissolves in alcohol easily, you can use alcohol-based paint thinner to remove it.
You can also use a mix of baking soda, lemon juice, and water to remove grease (of any kind, not just vaseline) from your bike chain. This is important because by removing grease, you will remove dust and debris.
If you don't remove dust and debris in time, it may eventually damage the drivetrain. The point of maintenance is to save you time and money later on. If you don't bother with maintenance or small repairs, you will damage your bike and need more expensive repairs later on.
Why is Real Bike Chain Oil Better?
Real bike chain oil is designed specifically for bikes; vaseline is a general-purpose product that people mostly use for skin care. You might only have to put oil on your chain once a month, compared to before every ride with vaseline. The convenience of not having to re-apply oil every day is more than enough to make oil worth the price.
Real bike chain oils are also better than WD40 (also a multi-purpose product) and car engine oil. Car engine oil is too thick, so it won't get into the small parts of your bike. WD40 is too light, so it will wash away quickly if you use it outdoors.