How to pressure wash a bike safely

How to jet wash your road or mountain bike safely, plus dos and dont's

How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide

A dirty bike is not a happy bike – riding about with your beloved bicycle entombed in filth will end up costing you precious watts on the road, as well as hard-earned cash through increased maintenance costs.

Advertisement

Cleaning your bike with a pressure washer can save you a great deal of time and effort over the traditional bucket and sponge, provided you do it safely.

In this step-by-step guide, we talk you through how to jet wash your road or mountain bike, and dispel some myths about pressure washing safety.

Is it safe to use a pressure washer on my bike?

At every professional bike race up and down the land, there will be mechanics frantically cleaning the bikes of exhausted racers. 

Despite having pro budgets, these mechanics aren’t going to be doing anything that would damage expensive components, jeopardising their riders’ chances on race day. 

Simply put, it is safe to pressure wash your bike, but like pro mechanics, you should follow some basic guidelines so as not to do any damage.

Pressure washing dos and don’ts 

  • Unless you’re using a lower power pressure washer, avoid spraying directly at any components that contain grease (headset, bottom bracket, hubs etc.)
  • Spray from a safe distance and slowly get closer
  • Remove any delicate componentry
  • Protect leather or other absorbent saddles from getting soaked
  • Thoroughly wash off any degreaser before applying lubricant
  • Protect disc rotors from contamination

How to jet wash your bike – a step-by-step guide

Step 1: Remove and protect

How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide
Remove all vulnerable items before washing.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Before you even turn the pressure washer on, remove anything you consider to be vulnerable from your bike.

This could include your cycle computer, luggage you don’t want getting soggy, and any lights.

How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide
A cover or plastic bag will protect leather saddles.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

If you have a leather saddle, a protective cover or plastic bag will prevent it from absorbing any water.

Step 2: First pass

How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide
Get everything soaked from a safe distance.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Turn your pressure washer on and soak the bike all over, starting from a safe distance.

Gradually get closer until you can safely remove the majority of the muck and no further.

How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide
It may be tempting, but keep the jet away from your headset.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Unless you are using a lower power pressure washer, avoid directing the jet of water into any areas that contain grease; stick to the main tubes and the tyres and rims.

Your bike’s headset, bottom bracket, hubs and rear derailleur are all particularly vulnerable, as are pedal axles and any electronic componentry. Likewise, avoid seals on suspension components.

If you’ve ridden through any animal excrement, be particularly careful when spraying this off your bike and seriously consider wearing eye protection because some can carry parasites that can cause blindness.

Step 3: Degrease

A dirty drivetrain will slow you down and cost you money.
A dirty drivetrain will slow you down and cost you money.

Now you have the lion’s share of the grime removed, apply degreaser to the crankset, chain, derailleurs and cassette.

How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide
A stiff brush will loosen stubborn muck.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Use a stiff brush to release stubborn grease and a chain cleaner to get those rollers running smoothly again.

If you’re using a spray degreaser, be mindful not to get any on your disc rotors or braking surface.

Step 4: Cleaning products

If there is any degreaser left on your drivetrain, it will degrade and remove any chain lube you add on afterwards.

Liberally apply cleaning products to the whole bike, especially the drivetrain.

How to safely How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide
Protect your disc rotors from any overspray.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Use a dirty sponge for the drivetrain and a clean one for the frame, seatpost, saddle and bar. Again, be careful to avoid flicking any greasy suds onto the disc rotors.

Step 5: Second pass

How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide
Use a final rinse to get all the soap off.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Use the pressure washer again to remove any soapy residue from the whole bike, this time at a slightly greater distance than before.

Any dirt should be loose and flow off easily by this point, so there’s no need to be close.

Step 6: Dry

How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide
Finish the bike off with a microfibre towel or old (clean) rag.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Using a clean rag, give the chain a quick dry before leaving the bike to dry fully.

If you’re in a rush, an old towel will do the trick, but laying the bike driveside up in a sunny spot is just as effective if it’s not too cold.

Step 7: Lubricate and protect

Lubing chain with Muc-Off Wet Lube.
Once absolutely clean, add your preferred lube to your chain following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Zetland Cycles / Immediate Media

Nobody likes the sound of a dry chain (and it’s less efficient), so don’t forget to apply your favourite lubricant and wipe off any residue following the manufacturer’s instructions.

It’s important you wipe off excess lube because it helps to stop your chain from getting contaminated with road grime or mud, which will put you straight back to square one.

How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide
A protector spray will mean less dirt clings to your bike.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

As for the frame, prevention is better than cure.

Applying a coat of protective compound before your next ride can save you precious washing time afterwards. It can also help keep your paint looking fresh.

How to safely pressure wash a road or mountain bike – step-by-step guide
Clean enough to eat your dinner off.
Will Jones / Immediate Media
Advertisement

Some protective compounds are aerosol-based (others are applied as a liquid with a microfibre cloth), which can contaminate your brake pads, so keep it away from your discs,