How to Wash Your Bike
This guide is about washing your bike, especially the frame and fork. Not only will your bike look better, it will work better and you will be safer. Do this after every wet or dirty ride.
- Hose or garden sprayer
- Dawn dish soap
- Bucket of water
- Sponges and brushes
- Repair stand (optional, but preferred)
- Spray-on furniture wax
- Soft cloth (e.g. old cotton T-shirt)
Before you start washing your bike, make sure everything is in place: Get your hose or sprayer and bucket full of water, plus cleaning supplies. Put the bike in a repair stand or lean it against something.
And make sure to remove accessories (like the seatbag) from your bike. Those don't need soaked with water!
2. The initial rinse.
Start by spraying your bike with water to get most of the crud off and wet everything down.
You want a fairly strong spray of water to rinse mud off the bike, but you don't need a pressure washer! A regular garden sprayer is fine. If you use too powerful a sprayer, you can spray water past seals and into bearings - not good!
As long as you use a regular garden sprayer or garden hose, and don't spray too hard directly into the bearings for too long, you'll be fine.
3. Soap it up.
Once your bike is wet, coat it with soapy water. I like Dawn dish soap for everything because it's cheap and easy to find, and it cuts through dirt and grease.
Just soak a sponge in the bucket of soapy water (water + Dawn) and then lather it all over your bike, specifically the frame, fork, handlebar, and seatpost.
The sponge will fall apart if used on the drivetrain, so get your brushes out for that. You can use the same soapy water, as Dawn will cut through most grease, or you can use a high-strength degreaser such as Simple Green, if the drivetrain is nasty.
(Just don't use harsh chemicals like paint thinner anywhere on your bike!)
Some parts (e.g. chainrings, cassette, tires) can be cleaned with a scrubbing brush. Other little parts (derailleurs) and tight spaces can be cleaned with long, skinny "beaker brushes" or a cone-shaped brush designed for fancy car wheels.
Note: natural fiber brushes are much better and last longer than cheaper, plastic bristled brushes.
Once everything is soaped and brushed, rinse off the bike. It should look pretty clean. (Repeat step 3 if you missed a spot.)
I start by shaking the bike a little and bouncing it up and down to get a lot of water off, then I dry the bike with a soft cloth. You can let it air dry, but I don't like the standing water in bolt heads and other locations.
Use separate rags on the frame and drivetrain, as you don't want drivetrain grease or lube getting on the frame.
The final step to a good looking bike - spray some polish on a rag and wipe it around the frame and fork to achieve a high shine.
I use regular spray-on furniture polish, but you can use special polishes such as Pedro's Bike Lust. Whatever you use, don't get it on the rims or brake pads!
Admire your shiny bike!