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Buyer's guide to bike cleaning products

By Tom Marvin | Saturday, September 21, 2013 7.00am

Keeping your bike clean is an effective way of ensuring it works correctly and safely, while making sure it stays looking good. Clean components wear out less quickly than dirty ones – so a well-kept bike will also perform better than a grubby one, and won't require as much maintenance.

There's a vast arsenal of filth-fighting weaponry available for removing grime, cleaning drivetrains and adding the finishing touches to a bike, but choosing what products to use can be time consuming. We've put together this guide to give you an idea of some essential cleaning products – what they are, why you'd want to use them and some examples of what we've been using.

For more, see our workshop guide: How to clean and lube your bike

Brushes and bike cleaning solutions

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Halfords

A tried and tested starting point to a thorough clean is often a bucket of water and washing up liquid. But a dedicated cleaning solution is more effective than Fairy liquid at removing the worst of the nasty stuff.

We've been filling our bucket with Fenwick's FS-1 Bike Cleaner Concentrate (1litre, £9.99). It needs to be diluted to a ratio of 1:10, then you can get to work with a sponge or better still, a set of brushes – invaluable for cleaning frames, wheels and drivetrains.

Fenwick's bike cleaner concentrate is free from caustics, can be used on metal and carbon and won't leave a residue: fenwick's bike cleaner concentrate is free from caustics, can be used on metal and carbon and won't leave a residue

Fenwick's Bike Cleaner Concentrate is caustics-free, is safe for use on both metal and carbon, and washes away without leaving a residue

Soft-bristled brushes are useful for removing softened mud and road grime, while ones with stiffer bristles should make easier work of lifting stubborn dirt. We’ve been getting on well with Pedro’s Pro Brush Kit (£17.99).

Pedro's contains brushes of varying shapes and bristle stiffness. There's a large, soft-bristled frame and wheel brush, a cone-shaped brush for hard-to-reach areas, a toothbrush with stiff curved bristles (designed for cassettes and mechs), and a brush to use when applying degreasers.

Bike cleaning spray

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Purple Harry

There are lots of cleaning sprays available, and they should speed up the purging process by eating into whatever grime is on your bike. They're useful for lifting any dirt that refuses to let go, and are an effective way of washing your bike if there's not enough time available for a more comprehensive clean.

We've been using Purple Harry’s Cleaner and Degreaser (1litre, £7.99). After being applied, it can be left to work for a few minutes, before being rinsed or wiped off. Most mud and grime should lift off with a good cleaning spray, and brushes can be used to tackle the worst areas.

Purple harry's cleaner and degreaser is reasonably priced and does the job of two products: purple harry's cleaner and degreaser is reasonably priced and does the job of two products

Purple Harry's cleaner and degreaser – a two-in-one winner

Chain degreaser

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Cycle Surgery

Even if your bike isn’t caked in crud, keeping the drivechain clean is vital. If ignored, dirt will speed up wear throughout the transmission, impact on shifting performance and reduce efficiency. It’s possible to get really vicious with removing every molecule of muck from a chain by dunking it in petrol, although that risks removing all the lubrication from inside the rollers and pins.

Degreasers are ideal here because they break down grease and grime without brute force. We've been using an eco-degreaser from Weldtite's Pure range (250ml, £5.99). Its ingredients come from natural sources and while some fully-synthetic degreasers may pack a stronger punch, we found the Pure spray to be a good match for the dirt on our bikes, especially when used with brushes or sponges such as the Fenwick's Chain Cleaning Sponge (£1.99). It's a simple sponge with a groove cut into the top – cleaning the chain is as easy as grabbing it in this groove and turning the cranks. There are also lots of drivetrain-specific brushes available for cleaning chainrings, cassettes and chains. (such as Finish Line's Shop Quality Chain Cleaner Kit)

Brake cleaner

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  Halfords |

Cycle Surgery

Muc-Off's disc brake cleaner removes the debris and dust from callipers, and it's even claimed to rehydrate brake pads, reducing brake squeal: muc-off's disc brake cleaner removes the debris and dust from callipers, and it's even claimed to rehydrate brake pads, reducing brake squeal

Muc-Off's Disc Brake Cleaner

Disc brakes benefit from a decent clean, and we've been using Muc-Off's Disc Brake Cleaner (400ml, £9) to blast away the grit and grime that builds up in a calliper and on pads. A good brake cleaner should remove oil, grit, grease and brake fluid, without affecting brake performance. Muc-Off even claim their brake cleaner rehydrates brake pads to prolong life and reduce squeal.

Bike polish

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Wiggle |

Cycle Surgery

This spray acts as a water dispersant, corrosion inhibitor and makes it harder for dirt to cling to treated surfaces: this spray acts as a water dispersant, corrosion inhibitor and makes it harder for dirt to cling to treated surfaces

Related links

Muc-Off's Bike Spray

Once your bike is free from dirt, the last job is to add a protective polish to the frame and components. We've been using Muc-Off's Bike Spray (500ml, £10), which contains a moisture dispersant and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene, which is what Teflon is).

The dispersant expels water from the bike, protecting it against corrosion, while the PTFE creates a shiny finish where applied. The advantage of using a product such as this is that dirt finds it harder to stick to the PTFE, making your bike easier to clean next time round.

We recommend removing wheels before applying a spray polish, also taking care not to get spray on any of the braking components. If any polish, oil or substance designed to reduce friction gets on to your brake pads, discs or brake track, it'll contaminate your brake system. Contaminated brakes will severely reduce your ability to slow down, making your bike unsafe. In this case it's likely you'll need to strip and clean your brakes.

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