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 and what to use them for.
For more, see our workshop guide: How to clean and lube your bike
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.
Choose a kit that contains brushes of varying shapes and bristle stiffness. A large, soft-bristled brush or sponge is good the frame and wheels and a cone-shaped brush is better for hard-to-reach areas. A toothbrush-type brush with stiff curved bristles can be used for cassettes and mechs, and you'll also want a brush to use when applying degreasers.
Bike cleaning solutions
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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.
Make sure the cleaner you choose is safe for use on both metal and carbon. Many are concentrared, so need to be diluted before use.
Bike cleaning spray
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There are also 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.
After being applied, a cleaning spray 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.
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Degreaser is used to clean your chain and other moving parts. 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. There are eco-friendly options available too, such as the Weldtite Pure degreaser shown above. Some products, such as Purple Harry’s Cleaner and Degreaser (also shown above), combine cleaning and degreasing in one.
A chain cleaning sponge (essentially a sponge with a groove cut into the top) makes cleaning a chain easy - just grab the chain in the sponge's groove and turn the cranks. There are also lots of drivetrain-specific brushes available for cleaning chainrings, cassettes and chains.
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Disc brakes benefit from a decent clean, 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 claims its brake cleaner rehydrates brake pads to prolong life and reduce squeal.
Once your bike is free from dirt, the last job is to add a protective polish to the frame and components. Sprays that contains a moisture dispersant and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene, which is what Teflon is), are good choices. 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.