How To Remove Rust From A Bike Chain: 3 Dead Easy Methods!

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By Robbie Ferri, Cyclist, Personal Trainer, and Group Exercise Instructor.

Cycling is an epic sport, and there’s nothing like going out on your bike and embracing nature and getting some exercise in. One thing many cyclists tend to need to learn is basic bike maintenance. Keeping your chain oiled, tight bolts, and everything working smoothly is a useful skill.

When it comes to bike maintenance, we are often asked how to remove rust from a bike chain. Having rust on your chain isn’t ideal, and it is a very common issue that many cyclists face again and again. In this article, we’ll tell you why your chain gets rusty, how to clean it, and how to avoid it happening in the future.

Want to See it in Action? Check My Video!

How to Remove Rust from your Bike Chain Video

Why do Bike Chains Rust?

Rust occurs when iron or its own alloys such as steel basically corrode. Rust forms in the presence of oxygen and water or can even be caused by moisture in the air. The official term for rust is Iron Oxide FE203. An interesting fact about rust is that it is not always brown like many people assume. It can come in colors such as green when chlorine is present. 

Bike Chains are prone to rust, which can happen very quickly, as quickly as overnight. A lot of people find bike chains rusting for a few different reasons. Here are the most common causes;

Not using Oil

Chains need oil to protect them. Unlike the rest of the bike covered in paint, it is a moving object requiring lubrication. If you don’t oil your chain, there’s nothing to protect it from moisture. 

rust in bike chain

Not using the correct Oil

Oil for bike chains comes in many different forms. You have dry lube, wet lube, ceramic lube, and even chain wax. Using the wrong lube for the riding you’re doing can actually cause your chain to rust. A great example is if you use dry lube and it rains on your ride, it will wash off, leaving you with a rusty chain if you don’t action it after your ride.

Not using your bike for a long time

Like with anything metal, if it doesn’t get used much, then it can eventually get rusty. The oil on the chain removes itself, and moisture finds its way in and starts attacking your chain. Bikes are designed to be ridden, not to be left for years without use.

Leaving your bike outside

how to remove rust from a bike chain main image

If you store your bike outside, then you can expect to get a rusty chain. No matter how hard you work on keeping it protected, moisture can get in, and it will start to destroy your chain. Storing your bike inside will actually not just prolong your chain but everything else on your bike.

How much Rust is too much Rust?

Some chains aren’t worth trying to save. If your chain has a bit of light surface rust, then you will be fine at cleaning it up and using it again. If the chain has lost the ability to move and is absolutely covered in rust, then it is probably past the point of no return, and you will require a new chain, or it will fall apart when you first use it.

rust in bike drive

My 3 Easy Methods to Remove Rust from your Bike Chain

There are many ways to remove rust from a bike chain, and in this article, we thought we would run through our three favorite and most effective ways of removing rust, which can be done with things you will find around the house. Enjoy our Step by Step guides.

1. Lime or Lemon Juice and Elbow Grease

Required Parts

  • Lime or Lemon Juice 
  • Degreaser
  • Steel Wool Pad
  • Lube or Oil
product to remove rust from bike chain 1
Lemon Juice & Elbow Grease Method

Step One

The first step in this process is to get your bike into a stand, preferably in a place you can clean the bike. You’ll first need to use a degreaser and start by degreasing the chain and giving the bike a clean.

clean bike from rust

Step Two

Get a bowl and pour lime juice in. Some people even use lemon juice. Providing it has a good acidic content, then it will help dissolve the rust. You can either have the chain on or remove the chain for this job. Having the chain off does make it much easier. 

clean rust with lemon juice

You are going to want to scrub the rust spots with a wool steel wool pad after dipping it in the lime. You will be able to see it dissolve as you scrub it, and this method will be highly effective. Don’t worry about scrubbing too hard. It will take a lot to cause any issues.

Step Three

After you have finished scrubbing and the chain is looking much better, it’s time to start thinking about how to protect it. You will need to get the chain back on the bike and start getting some oil or lube on it to ensure it doesn’t start getting rusty again. Done!

2. Coke and Soak

Required Parts

  • Bottle of Coke
  • Tub
  • Cloth
  • Lube or Oil
  • Chain Tool
products to remove rust from bike chain - coke
Coke and Soak Method

Step One

The first step in the Coke and Soak process is to again clean the bike and ensure that any oil or dirt is off the chain. Once it is clean, you are going to want to remove the chain and pop it into the tub.

Step Two

Fill the tub with coke ensuring the chain is fully under and then leave it for a minimum of 24 hours. The coke will break down the rust overnight and cause it to disappear. 

tub with coke and chain fully under

Step Three

Once left for 24 hours, you’re going to want to remove the chain and clean it with water and wipe off any excess dirt with a cloth. You will notice a huge change in the color of the chain, and also, the color of the leftover coke will be brown and murky. We recommend getting this straight down the drain.

Step Four

Now you’ll want to reattach the chain, and once attached, it’s time to get some lube or oil on it. Ensure you have enough to stop any rust but not too much that it will pick up a huge amount of dirt. Done!

3. WD-40 and Chain Drive

Required Parts

  • Degreaser
  • WD40
  • Chain Cleaner Tool
  • Cleaning Cloth
product to remove rust from bike chain - wd40
WD-40 and Chain Drive Method

Step One

The first step is to get the chain degreased. If you get the bike in a stand, this job will be much easier. Clean the bike and get all the grease and muck off the chain before you start.

Step Two

Once the bike is clean and sitting in the stand, it’s time to get some WD-40 on the chain. You are going to want to be very careful when doing this, as you are not going to want to get any WD-40 on your brakes or any braking surface. Apply it to the chain, and now you are going to want to leave it to soak in for about 10 to 20 minutes.

Step Three

Once the WD-40 has soaked in, you’re now going to want to start prepping the chain cleaner. I would start by cleaning it out to ensure there’s no dirt that you will add to the chain. After cleaning, spray some WD-40 onto the rollers in the chain cleaner and put it onto the chain. 

chain cleaner

Step Four

Run the chain cleaner through the whole chain for a minute or two and then remove the chain cleaner and wash off all the WD-40 making sure that none of the residues from cleaning it goes anywhere near your brakes. Use a cloth to make sure no dirt is left on. 

Step Five

Now you are going to need to lube or oil the chain and ensure it’s not going to get rusty again. Clean all the things you used and then put them away.

How to avoid your Chain getting Rusty

rust in bike chain and drive zoom out

To avoid having to go through these cleaning processes, you can actually take many steps to stop your chain from getting rusty in the first place. Here are our top tips on keeping your chain from rusting.

Don’t leave it in places with moisture

The first thing you can do to stop rust is to store your bike in a dry environment such as a garage or indoors. This stops the reaction happening on your chain and prevents rust. If you do need to store it outside, then we recommend keeping it covered and also using extra lube to ensure you have the biggest defense possible.

Use correct oil or lube for the job

It’s worth taking a bit of time to learn about different types of lube and oil for your bike. Dry lube will be excellent for dry conditions. Wet lube is great for wet and muddy conditions. Ceramic lube is great for racing but tends not to last as long. It’s vital to use the right lube for the riding that you’re doing and ensure there’s plenty on to protect it.

Clean and re-lube after every ride

Although after a ride typically, all you want to do is sit down and eat ominous amounts of food, it’s not always the best idea. Getting into a habit of washing the dirt off your bike and re-lubing means you’re going to stop rust from getting on your chain, and it also means your bike will be ready for the next ride straight away. 


Nobody wants a rusty chain, but it does happen. It’s very easy to avoid, and if it does happen, using any of our methods above is a great solution to fixing that rusty chain. Thanks for reading. 

clean bike with water
Robbie Ferri CPT

Robbie from “Riding with Robbie” is a Personal Trainer living in in Norfolk, UK. He has bikepacked all over the World, and also raced ultra distance at a top-level. He has worked closely with industry leaders such as Shimano.

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