How to Clean a Motorcycle Chain?

How to Clean a Motorcycle Chain

Motorcycle chains get grimy and dirty if they are not cleaned. This does not bode well, since a well-maintained chain is necessary for the functionality, safety, and longevity of your motorbike.

It is upon you therefore as a motorcycle owner to prioritize chain cleaning. You don’t know where or how to start? Just keep on reading – we have broken it down.

What You’ll Need:

1. Figure Out What Type of Chain You Have

The type of chain will determine the cleaning method.

Plain motorcycle chains are basically metal-on-metal links that have no seal in between. Such chains can handle more aggressive cleaning than sealed motorcycle chains.

Sealed motorcycle chains (X-ring, O-ring, or Z-ring chains) contain a rubber seal between the inner link and outer links. This helps keep grease within the pin and bushing cavity. It also keeps road grime out. This design makes the chain more long-lasting, but it also means you have to be gentler with it when cleaning.

2. Get Bike into Position

If your bike has a center stand or a paddock stand, use it, so that the rear wheel (and the chain) can spin freely.

Alternatively, you can use your kickstand. You can also take off the entire chain and work on it while it is off.

3. Inspect the Chain and Sprockets

Examine the current state and wellbeing of the motorcycle chain and sprockets.

A sprocket in good condition features a flat top evenly worn on the leading as well as trailing edges of each tooth.

Check if the chain is in good working order. Does the chain allow much side-to-side wiggle room? When put under tension, do the links slide back and forth? A chain in good condition allows for minimal variances in each.

Another way is to check the length of the links. The shop manual provides a given maximum length for a certain number of links in the chain. When the number of links is longer, it means the chain is worn.

4. Spray with Chain Cleaner

While chain cleaner is the best option, kerosene will also do the work. The cleaner or kerosene should dissolve existing lubricant and dirt particles built up on the motorcycle chain.

Work your wear around the chain, soaking it liberally in the kerosene.

5. Scrub the Chain

Use a grunge brush to scrub the chain. It will help you get out the caked on gunk.

With a grunge brush, you can clean three or four sides of the chain simultaneously. Be thorough. A clean chain ensures better adhesion of the chain lube.

6. Re-spray the Chain

Re-soak the chain in a cleaning agent (kerosene or chain cleaner). This is to utterly obliterate the last vestiges of chain grime on the chain.

Gunk ruins motorcycle chains – so be thorough!

7. Dry the Chain

Before you apply the lubricant, you have to let the chain dry completely. Lube should only be applied on a dry surface – otherwise, it will not adhere.

A dry cloth will help wipe away the excess chain cleaner dripping off the chain.

8. Chain Lubrication

Once the chain is clean and dry, lubricate evenly on all sides of the chain and sprocket.

The method of lubricating a plain chain is different from that of lubricating a sealed chain.

When lubricating a plain chain, slather the lube on the chain and wipe off the excess lubricant. The best way to maintain a plain chain in good functioning condition is to keep it continually coated in clean lubricant.

As for sealed chains, the grease within the O-rings is responsible for lubrication, and the chain lubricant you apply is solely for protecting the chain’s exterior from rust.

This means you use more lubricant on a plain chain than on a sealed chain.

9. Ride

The job is complete. Take the motorcycle out on a test-ride.


Motorcycle chain maintenance, as you can see, is not a difficult task.

Check the manual to find out how often you are supposed to clean your motorcycle chain.

Of course if you are riding in wet or dirty conditions, you will have to do it more often.

Avatar for Joshua D. Mattie

    Joshua D. Mattie

    My motorbike addiction began with 50cc at 5 years old. I rode motocross as a teenager & into my 20's when I worked as a mechanic. This helped me to see the light—sportbikes & cruisers became a passion. Now I'm building BikersRights to be the #1 resource for everything on 2 wheels!

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