It doesn't matter if you are obsessive about cleaning your bike or if you believe a well-loved bike is a bike caked with mud and dust, chains get dirty. While it can be easy to ignore, pretty soon your whole drivetrain is a mess and the rear derailleur has chunks of material dropping off. Sooner or later, you are going to have spend some time and make sure everything is clean.
The importance of drivetrain maintenance isn't a secret and without the best bike chain degreaser, the most you can hope to do is push the grime around. That's why we've spent the time gathering together a collection of great options. Keep reading if you want to find products that help you get your chain, and the rest of the drivetrain, clean and sparkly. Or, to find out how to choose the best bike chain degreaser jump down to the bottom to see some of our suggestions.
The best bike chain degreasers for cleaning your drivetrain
Muc-Off is a neon yellow, fully biodegradable, degreaser that only requires a quick spray and then a rinse. If you can access the parts from all sides then the spray bottle head that comes with the 500ml version will do the trick on its own. If you are cleaning some stubborn grime on the bike let it sit for a minute or two before working it with a brush and washing it off. The formula is and safe for metal, plastic, rubber and seals so however you apply it there's nothing to worry about.
One of the first things you'll learn when you start riding bikes is that WD-40 is not a chain lube option. That's because it's not designed for that application but there is another product from the same brand designed for bikes. The simply named WD-40 Bike Degreaser is safe for cleaning and degreasing bikes. Not only does it work quickly and effectively but because it's in a pressurized can it's even more effective on its own. Just spray the part needing to be cleaned from close up and you'll probably get all the dirt off without more work.
Most drivetrain cleaners need a rinse-off, even those that are highly effective and don't require much scrubbing still need to be completely rinsed. Finish Line Speed Bike Degreaser uses a different design. The contents are under pressure and there are solvents aimed at tackling the grease and grime and other solvents to handle organic matter such as dust or mud. All you have to do is spray the drivetrain and it handles everything then dries quickly and without residue. If you ever find yourself needing to quickly get a drivetrain looking good again in a situation where a full wash isn't possible this is a great option.
Sometimes it's nice to allow a good cleaner a bit of time to work. Spray it on and let it sit there to penetrate all the nooks and crannies of the drivetrain, all while you watch it mostly drip off. Peaty's Foaming Drivetrain degreaser has a formulation that uses foam to solve this problem. A simple mesh cover creates the foam as it comes out of the spray head. This keeps them from needing a pressurized can and means you can pour it if needed. When using the foam, just spray it and reverse the drivetrain to further agitate it. Let everything sit then rinse it off, it's that easy.
Pedro's makes a whole range of products including some of the best bike tools on the market and along with that, they have the Chain Pig bike chain cleaner. So-called because it looks like a pig and doesn't mind getting dirty. To go with that tool, it only makes sense that they also develop a cleaner, it also only makes sense to call it Pig Juice. It just so happens that the cleaner ended up with an even bigger reputation than the tool. It's meant to be a part of a full cleaning process so you will need to get out your brushes and hose but there's no color, no solvents, no VOCs and it works really well. It won't even kill your grass either.
Smoove is a wax-based lubricant that has a dedicated following. Not every bike degreasing formula does a great job with wax-based lubricants so Smoove developed its own option called Smoove Prep Chain-Cleaner. It's a bit harsher than some of the options on the market but it can handle wax-based lubes just as well as oil-based lubes and it gets your drivetrain ultra clean. Just take care in the application as each bottle gives you ten cleanings and has its own marks for how much to use. If you are using a chain cleaning tool you aren't going to fill it up to the fill line.
CeramicSpeed is famous for oversized jockey wheels that look to exploit every last bit of speed from a drivetrain. That research led them to a UFO chain coating as well as an applicable at-home chain lube both designed, again, to exploit every last bit of speed. Developing a special low friction chain and lube means obsessively cleaning chains for experiment after experiment. That kind of need tends to bring forward the best products to do the job and so the UFO clean drivetrain formula came into the world. Initially, CeramicSpeed kept it for themselves but it's now available to the public.
How to choose the best bike chain degreaser
Can you use any degreaser on a bike?
There's any number of choices for products designed to get grease off of metal. They might even be a bit less expensive. There's a push and pull though. The most effective products for getting grease off a chain will not be friendly to the rest of your bike. Things like rubber seals, high-quality paint, and carbon fiber with a whole host of finishes need special care. Products designed specifically for a bike do extensive testing to make sure they are safe in the context of a bike.
Bikes are a smaller market, and there's more testing, so that might mean a more expensive product. The best bike chain degreaser products aren't used every ride though. Even a relatively expensive cleaner is only used on occasion and is it really worth a small savings to use a product that's not friendly to your bike?
Which degreaser is the most environmentally friendly?
There's a lot grey area when it comes to claiming a product is environmentally friendly. We are only recommending products from reputable companies but sometimes a term like biodegradable has a specific meaning. It might be biodegradable under certain circumstances and not others. We don't all have the time to be material scientists and investigate every claim.
Even without getting into the specifics of how marketing copy comes to be it's worth being careful. If a product effectively strips the gunk off a dirty chain, it's probably a good idea to treat it with some caution. That means considering how it's disposed of and thinking about what is being washed away along with the cleaner. Just because a company is environmentally conscious and the cleaner is technically safe doesn't mean you should wash your bike in your vegetable bed.
Tip: keep it off your disc brakes
If you have contamination on your disc brake rotors you will have a bad time. It's a common reason for squealing disc brakes and it can also cause stopping problems. Chain degreasers are not always designed to leave the metal surface completely free of any residue. The seals on disc brake calipers are also not designed with solvents in mind. To make sure you don't have an issue you are going to want to make sure to keep whatever cleaner you use off any part of the disc brake system.
What about combination lubes and cleaners?
Many of the best bike chain lube options claim to clean and lube at the same time. It's an excellent feature, and it works to a certain extent, but it's not the same as what the best bike chain degreasers do. Those claims are all about cleaning dirt off the chain as the lubrication is being added. From time to time, you'll want to completely clean the drivetrain. Getting all the old grease off along with the dirt and grime that's caked into it. For that, you want a true degreaser, not just a combination cleaner.
Don’t let your degreaser dry on any part of the bike
This is one of those things that seems to have come from a long-forgotten corner of the internet. At the same time though, it carries with it no risk of repeating and might help save some expensive parts. Given that there's no downside, it's probably a good idea not to let your parts sit and dry with the degreaser on them. It's possible that in certain situations a specific interaction between a degreaser and the finish on some parts will cause discoloration. Not immediately but if allowed to sit and dry on the part.
There could be a million reasons the whole scenario is completely made up. Specific formulations of cleaners will change over time and bike parts are always evolving. On the other hand, it makes sense not to allow chemical cleaners to sit on parts long term. It only takes a few minutes for a good cleaner to do its job. After that, thoroughly rinse everything.
Do I need to clean the degreaser off?
Allowing degreaser to dry on a part is a bit extreme. For most people that scenario is never to going to come up. A more realistic scenario is rinsing things off and just not doing a great job. In this scenario there's no long-term damage done but it could mean a lack of lubrication.
Degreaser is specifically designed to break down the lubrication your bike uses. The whole point of this article is to help you find the right product to get your chain lube off the chain. If you haven't done a great job rinsing it off, the new chain lube won't be able to properly adhere. Just make sure you do a good job getting the cleaner off before applying new chain lube.