Best Motorcycle Chain Cleaners – 2021 Guide

Troy
| Last Updated: February 6, 2021

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Cleaning your motorcycle chain can be messy. But, it needs to be done and done well. The right motorcycle chain cleaner will get the job done fast and thoroughly.

This article contains information to help you choose the right chain cleaner for your motorcycle. It covers the purpose of chain cleaners, key features of a good motorcycle cleaner, reviews of the best motorcycle chain cleaners, and answers to the top motorcycle chain cleaning FAQs.

Our Top Picks for Motorcycle Chain Cleaners

  • Keep chain clean
  • Easy to use
  • Safe to use
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  • Versatile cleaner
  • Easy cleaning
  • Chain lasts longer
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  • Best for the Money
  • Keep chain clean
  • Easy cleaning
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Comparison of the Best Motorcycle Chain Cleaners

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Easily remove dirt, oil, and grease
  • Very easy spray-on application
  • No harmful chemicals used in this formula
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  • Can be used with O-ring chains as well as X chains
  • Will easily clean dirt from all drive chains
  • With regular use of the formula it will prolong lifetime of chain
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  • Best for the Money
  • Will easily remove all dirt build-up from the chain
  • Quick and easy application and rinsing for cleaning chains
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  • Safe to use on rubber, metal, and carbon fiber parts
  • Can be used onX and Z-chains as well as O-ring chains
  • The formula smells like watermelon to improve useability
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  • Will easily cut through even the toughest dirt
  • Use on chains as well as gears for easy cleaning
  • Will also work on waterproof grease and chain wax
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What to Look For When Buying a Chain Cleaner For Motorcycle

Below are some features to look out for in a motorcycle chain cleaner.

Biodegradable

While biodegradable does not mean that the chain cleaner is not harmful at all, it means that the product will have less impact on the environment.

Degreasing Effect

The chain cleaner you choose should have an excellent degreasing effect to break down the excess grease and lube that may have accumulated on the chain. Heavy-duty cleaners can dissolve even highly dense lube and wax.

Water vs. Solvent-Based Cleaners

Water-based cleaners foam up when sprayed on the chain and require to be rinsed after scrubbing. Solvent-based cleaners are highly potent and evaporate shortly after being sprayed on the chain. Both are effective at cleaning.

Chain Compatibility

Certain chain cleaners may work well with plain chains and be damaging to sealed chains. Confirm that the chain cleaner you are considering is compatible with your motorcycle’s chain.

Easy Application

Chain cleaners are available in different forms, including sprays, aerosols, and cans. Sprays and aerosols provide an easy method of application as long as the nozzle is working well.

Mild Odor

Some chain cleaners have such a strong odor that you might need to wear a mask. Generally, it is good practice to apply the chain cleaner in open space, especially if it is an aerosol, to avoid inhaling the fumes.

Quick Take - Best Motorcycle Chain Cleaners

Hoping to cut to the chase? Below are the three best motorcycle chain cleaners:

  1. Motul Chain Clean
  2. Motorex Chain Clean
  3. Maxima Clean Up

Review of the Best Motorcycle Chain Cleaners

There are so many motorcycle cleaner options in the market that you are spoilt for choice. However, so many options can make it overwhelming for you to choose only one. To help you choose the right one, we hand-picked and reviewed the best currently on the market for your consideration.

Best Overall:
Motul Chain Clean

PROS

  • Easy to apply with a spray nozzle
  • Degreases oil and lube effectively
  • Can be used on a wide range of motorcycles
  • Cleans out even encrusted deposits of sand and dirt

CONS

  • Has a mild odor
  • Slightly flammable

What Recent Buyers Report

The Motul chain cleaner effectively cleans out both dirt and grease from the chain and sprockets. However, one has to be quick to scrub with a brush after spraying it on the chain as it evaporates quickly. For most bikes, one can only get up to two cleanings per container of the product.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Motul solvent-based chain cleaner mostly stands out for how effectively it cleans even stubborn and clustered dirt. It is easy to apply on the chain via a spray nozzle.

The cleaner is chlorine-free making it ideal for use on sealed O-ring, X-ring, and Z-ring chains. It can be used on most motorcycles, including off-road, on-road, sports, and hybrid bikes.

It has a mild odor; therefore, it should be used in the open air. Like most other chain cleaners, it is flammable and hazardous if ingested.

Bottom Line

This is an excellent option for motorcycle chain cleaning. It is easy to apply and can be used on a wide range of motorcycles, including those with sealed chains. It has a mild odor, but it can be safely used in the open air.

PROS

  • Removes dirt and oil effectively
  • Tested and proven to work well on sealed chains
  • Sprays out with adequate pressure to get rid of loose dirt

CONS

  • Limited suppliers and retailers in the US

What Recent Buyers Report

The Motorex degreaser works well to remove both loose dirt and caked out oil and lube residue on the drive chain. You may not need to scrub on a mildly dirty chain as the cleaner sprays out with pressure, which cleans out loose dirt.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Motorex chain degreaser effectively cleans out dirt, grease, and oil from a motorcycle’s chain. This solvent-based cleaner has been tested and proven to work well on X-rings and O-rings.

It is ideal for z-rings and plain chains too. Once sprayed on the chain, grease begins to melt off almost immediately, and caked dirt begins to loosen up. A gentle scrub with a soft brush will get rid of any stubborn grime. It has a mild detergent-ish smell.

Bottom Line

This chain cleaner is ideal for all types of chains, including O-rings and X-rings. It cleans and degreases effectively. It is necessary to rinse it off with sufficient amounts of water to avoid residues. The product is popular in Europe, with a few stores stocking it up in the US.

Best for the Money:
Maxima Clean Up

PROS

  • Easy to spray on the chain
  • Eliminates even built-up dirt and tough stains
  • Can be used on different types of motorcycles
  • Ideal for cleaning aluminum and steel surfaces
  • Cleans both sealed and plain chains thoroughly

CONS

  • May cause discoloration on painted surfaces
  • Not recommended for use on plastic surfaces

What Recent Buyers Report

This aerosol, emulsion-based cleaner effectively removes grease and dirt from motorcycle chains with a simple spray, leave and rinse process. However, some buyers complain that it takes off paint from the sprockets. It also has a strong smell when sprayed; therefore, it should be sprayed in the open air while wearing a mask.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Maxima clean up chain cleaner is an emulsion type cleaner designed to clean all types of chains, including O-rings, without causing damage. It offers outstanding efficiency in cleaning aluminum surfaces.

Once it has been sprayed on the chain, it quickly dissolves and eliminates dirt and oil. It works well on built-up oil and hard to clean dirt. For best results, rinse the chain with water after applying the chain cleaner and scrubbing off the dirt.

The manufacturer recommends against using this cleaner on plastic surfaces or Lexan windshields as it could damage them.

Bottom Line

The Maxima Clean Up chain cleaner cleans effectively. Initially, when you spray it on the chain and then scrub it, you may not see any difference. However, once you apply water, all the dirt falls off. Caution should be taken when using this aerosol as it produces strong fumes, damages plastic, and causes paint to chip off.

Editor's Pick:
Muc-Off Chain Cleaner

PROS

  • Water-soluble formula
  • Compatible with O-rings and X-rings
  • Has a pleasant watermelon fragrance
  • Environmentally friendly as it is biodegradable
  • Safe on rubber, metal, and carbon fiber surfaces
  • Removes dirt and grease from motorcycle chains rapidly

CONS

  • Should be rinsed out thoroughly after cleaning

What Recent Buyers Report

This cleaner works excellently to remove dirt and is safe for use indoors. It smells good and applies well on the chain. For best results, apply the Muc Off Chain Cleaner on the chain and leave it for about 15 minutes. The dirt will fall off on its own. It is easy to rinse with water.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Muc Off Chain clean particularly stands out for its water-based, biodegradable formula. It quickly and effectively cleans out dirt and accumulated grease. It is safe to use on most surfaces, including plastics, anodizing aluminum, metal, carbon fiber, and rubber seals.

It is completely safe to use on sealed chains such as O-rings, X-rings, and Z-rings. Since it is water-based with a mild watermelon fragrance, it is safer to use indoors than most other cleaners with a strong fume smell.

Bottom Line

The Muc-Off Chain cleaner is safe to use and effectively cleans out the dirt from your bike’s chain. It is biodegradable and water-soluble. It works well on most surfaces and is safe to use on sealed types of chains. This cleaner is suitable for all types of motorcycles and motorcycle chains.

Honorable Mention:
Muc-Off Dry Chain Degreaser

PROS

  • Leaves no residue
  • Quick-drying with no need to rinse
  • Effectively cleans even the tough stains
  • Heavy-duty cleaner that removes waterproof grease and chain wax

CONS

  • Gets used up fast
  • Need to use a lot to clean properly

What Recent Buyers Report

The Muc-Off dry chain degreaser is easy to work with as it does not leave any mess, and it dries out quickly. However, you have to use a generous amount to remove dirt and accumulated grime, which results in the product getting used up fast.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This degreaser stands out because it is fast-acting, quick-drying, and leaves no residue. Its heavy-duty formula is designed to remove even the toughest grease, including accumulated waterproof chain wax and grease.

Since it is fast-acting and quick-drying, you can clean your motorcycle’s chain, lube it, and get on the road immediately. It does not drip off or leave a mess behind. This degreaser is suitable for most motorcycles and chains.

Bottom Line

The Muc-Off dry chain degreaser is unlike most other cleaners on the market because it dries off quickly; therefore, you do not have to rinse it. It removes dirt and grease effectively. It is suitable for different types of motorcycles and motorcycle chains.

What Does a Motorcycle Chain Cleaner Do?

As you ride your bike, whether, on pristine paved tracks or off-road terrains, your motorcycle’s chain picks up dust and moisture. Besides, lube and oil accumulate on the drivetrain.

The dust, lube, and oil can eventually cause the chains to clog, while too much moisture can lead to rusting. Dirt build-up and rusting can lower the performance of your motorcycle and reduce its lifetime.

A motorcycle chain cleaner is a chemical formula that helps to breakdown oil and grease, leaving the chain clean. It also has a cleaning effect to remove dust and accumulated grime for your bike’s drivetrain's optimal operation.

How Often Should I Use a Chain Cleaner? 

Ideally, you should clean your motorcycle’s chain before lubricating. Most manufacturers provide a clear guideline of how often you should lubricate and consequently how often to clean your chain.

However, depending on how frequently you ride, the weather, and the terrain, you may need to clean sooner than the manufacturer’s provided period. Regularly inspect the chain and sprocket for dirt deposit and clean as regularly as need be.

How to Clean a Motorcycle Chain

Below is a step-by-step process for cleaning your motorcycle chain:

1. Mount your motorcycle on a stand

The elevated position gives you easy access to the motorcycle’s drive train and sprockets. It also helps to spin the rear wheel freely.

2. Study your motorcycle’s chain type

There are two main types of chains: plain chains and sealed motorcycle chains. Plain chains have a metal-on-metal link and can withstand more aggressive brushing. In contrast, sealed motorcycle chains have a rubber seal connecting the inner and outer links, which require gentler brushing.

3. Inspect the drivetrain for any damages

If the drivetrain is broken or damaged, there is no point in cleaning it. You would rather replace it.

4. Spray the chain cleaner on the chain

Spray the chain cleaner on the entire chain. Soak it up completely so that every part of the chain has a sufficient amount. Rotate the rear wheel to ensure that the cleaner is distributed throughout the chain. If you are keen to prevent spillage of the cleaner on the bike’s wheels, place a piece of cardboard directly beneath the lower rung of the chain.

5. Allow the cleaner to soak for at least 5 minutes

This ensures that grime loosens up and the cleaner has enough time to breakdown grease.

6. Scrub the chain

With a soft nylon brush or an old toothbrush, gently but thoroughly scrub the chain, bit by bit. Scrub the sprockets too. Keep rotating the rear wheel to get access to the entire chain. There are three-sided chain-cleaning brushes available on the market that make scrubbing the chain much easier.

7. Clean the motorcycle chain with water and detergent

This gets rid of any remaining grime and dirt.

8. Dry and lubricate the chain

Wipe the entire chain and sprocket with a dry piece of cloth, then apply lube.

Be sure to refer to the video below for a full overview of what was just described.

Conclusion

Whichever motorcycle chain cleaner you choose should effectively remove accumulated dirt and grease. The product should be packaged such that it easily applies to the chain; aerosols and spray apply easily. Adhere to your bike’s manufacturer’s guidelines on the frequency of cleaning and lubricating.

People Also Ask

Below are answers to the most common motorcycle chain cleaning questions. If you are still unclear on the best product to use, this should clear some things up.

Is it Ok to Clean Motorcycle Chains With Kerosene?

The jury is still out on whether it is ok to clean motorcycle chains with kerosene. While some people have effectively cleaned their motorcycle chains with kerosene, others say that it causes the chain to wear out.

Some people opt for kerosene because it is cheaper and effectively cleaning out the chain. It is best to use a good quality motorcycle chain cleaner.

How Often Should I Lubricate My Motorcycle Chain?

You should lubricate your chain as often as is recommended in the owner’s manual of the specific model of your motorcycle. However, conditions such as riding in the rain, water puddles, or loose gravel may often require lubrication of the chains. Continued exposure to water washes away the lube while dirt may clog up the chain.

How Long Do Motorcycle Chains Last?

A motorcycle chain's lifetime depends on a wide range of factors, including chain maintenance, quality of the chain and sprockets, how the motorcycle is ridden, weather conditions, and terrain.

While a well-maintained chain can last up to 30,000 miles, others wear out before 10,000 miles. Generally, properly maintained sealed chains last longer than plain chains. Signs that a chain needs to be replaced include rust, overstretching, noise when riding, and stuck links, among others.

Can I Use Petrol to Clean My Chain?

While petrol can adequately clean the chains, it is not recommended. In the case of O-ring chains, petrol wears out the rubber between the inner and outer links. Furthermore, petrol is hazardous – the fumes can knock you off or have a chemical reaction on your skin.

Will a Chain Brush Damage the Chain?

It depends on the type of brush and the type of chain. Soft-toothed nylon brushes work well for sealed chains, while a wire brush can damage the seals. Even with a soft brush, ensure that you scrub gently. On the other hand, plain chains can withstand wire brushes and firmer scrubbing better.

Can You Use a Microfiber Cloth to Clean Your Chain?

Yes. A microfiber cloth works well, especially for wiping off a little dust that has accumulated on the drivetrain. However, if there are dirt and grime accumulated deep between the links, you will need a brush to scrub it off.

Do I Really Need to Clean My Chain Before Lubing?

In most cases, yes. Cleaning gets rid of dirt for better absorption of the lube. However, the degree of cleaning varies depending on how much dirt has accumulated. For a thin layer of dust, wiping with a dry cloth will suffice before lubing.

Should I Wipe the Chain After Cleaning?

Yes. The chain should be dry before applying lube to it. Dry each part with a dry cloth or microfiber cloth. Dry the sprockets too.

Where is the Best Place to Spray the Lube on the Chain?

If you want to lube your motorcycle chain correctly, then spray the lube on top of the chain below the swingarm. Kick your bike into neutral and then rotate the rear tire and then spray the lube on the rollers and plates.

Can I Use Bicycle Chain Lube on a Motorcycle?

Yes, you can use bicycle chain lube on a motorcycle, but it is not recommended. The motorcycle chain lube products are thicker than chain lubricants specifically made for bikes. This means that the outside of the chain stays wet.

How Do You Know When Your Motorcycle Chain is Worn Out?

A motorcycle chain typically lasts between 500 miles and 5000 miles, depending on its quality, the sprockets, and how the bike is ridden. It also largely depends on the level of maintenance you follow through with as well. If the chain is worn out, you might find excessive rust, binding, or kinked links. The sprocket teeth may also be hooked, pointed, or chipped.

Is it Dangerous to Ride Motorcycles With a Loose Chain?

A loose chain and even a tight chain can cause problems for a motorcycle and its rider. There needs to be a precise tension with the chain so that it doesn't get knocked off while riding or create more wear and tear for the sprockets.

Troy

Hi, my name’s Troy. I started riding motorcycles with Clay mid-2020 and soaking up his vast knowledge of bikes. I have been writing for a few years and decided it was a good time to start writing about what I’m passionate about - motorcycles. No matter how bad your day is, a bike will always make you feel better, that’s my motto.