Can You Use WD40 on a Bike Chain? | What You Need To Know


There are a number of ways that a bike chain can become seized in the gears or damaged, leading to a frustrating ride. Luckily, products like WD40 and other lubricants make servicing your bike chain a no-brainer. 

You can use WD40 on a bike chain to remove rust and grime and keep the chain moving smoothly. There are many different types of WD40 on the market, so it’s important to use one that’s suitable for your environment.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to use WD40 on a bike chain, the process of cleaning a bike chain, different types of lubricant, how often to oil a chain, and what to do if your bike chain seizes up. Read on to learn more.

Can You Use WD40 on a Rusty Bike Chain?

WD40 is an effective way to erode rust or grime on a bike chain. It removes rust by eroding the chemical bonds and also loosens dirt and grease. Allow 5 to 10 minutes for the WD40 to settle to remove more rust from the chain. Afterward, you can use a wire brush to scrub away the rust and dirt.

Rust and wear on a bike chain not only hinder a bike’s performance but create the conditions for an unsafe ride. Knowing the basics of chain lubrication and bike maintenance will help give you a smooth and easy ride. 

WD40 is a brand with a wide range of lubricating products. Most of these products are safe and effective for regular maintenance on bike chains.

There are several WD40 products from Amazon.com with specialized uses for each stage of the lubrication and maintenance process.

  • WD40 Bike Degreaser: Loosen’s dirt, grime, and grease before chain cleaning. 
  • WD40 Dry Lube: Keeps chains lubricated in dry environments. It needs to be applied to the chain frequently. 
  • WD40 Wet Lube: Keep chains lubricated in settings with heavy rainfall. Typically long-lasting once applied. 
  • WD40 All Conditions Lube: Used for bike chains in a mixed climate zone. Medium-term efficacy. 

Having all of these products handy will make maintaining your bike chain a lot easier and more straightforward.

How Do You Clean and Lubricate a Bike Chain?

Cleaning and lubricating your bike chain is a guaranteed way to make sure that your bike performs at optimum capacity. A rusty or dirty chain has the potential to seize or break, both of which could send you flying off your bike. 

There are two major classes of lubricants for bike chains: lubricants and waxes.

We’ll first cover the method of bike chain maintenance using lubricant, then cover the process of chain waxing.

You can clean a bike chain using a degreaser, a cleaning brush, and soapy water. After cleaning the bike chain, lubricate it with a suitable WD40 using an old rag.

Servicing a Chain With Lubricant

To start, make sure that you have everything that you need. Cleaning and lubricating a bike chain will require you to gather all of the following items: 

  • A degreaser 
  • A cleaning brush
  • Soapy water
  • WD40 lubricant
  • A good old rag! 

Once you’ve gathered the requisite supplies, you’re ready to begin! Here are the steps:

  1. Apply your degreaser of choice to the bike chain. Allow a few minutes for it to settle into the chain.
  2. Use your brush of choice to loosen grease and particles. Specific brushes are made for bike cleaning, but a toothbrush or dish brush will work if you don’t have one. You can either scrub gently along the chain or keep the brush in one place, slowly moving the chain along it by pushing the pedals.  
  3. Using soapy water and a rag, rinse off your bike chain thoroughly. By the end of the wash, there shouldn’t be any excess degreaser left of the chain. 
  4. Apply the WD40 suitable for your environment to the chain—wet lube for areas with heavy rainfall, dry lube for arid regions. Apply the lube directly to the center of the chain. Lube that doesn’t come in direct contact with the gears will only collect more dust and grime. 
  5. Use the rag to remove excess lube.
  6. Ride! 

If the process isn’t straightforward, here’s a how-to video that you can follow along with at home:

Servicing a Chain With Wax

In addition to dry and wet lubes, another sub-category of chain lube is known as wax lube. 

Wax lube has the benefit of drying onto the chain. It’s applied the same as dry or wet wax, with the difference of drying into a thin layer on your chain. This layer is excellent for arid or dusty environments, as it keeps dust off your chain and out of your gears. 

Waxing a chain is a little more complicated than using oil or lubricant, but the effects can be long-lasting and effective. What you’ll need:

  • Degreaser (liquid) 
  • Two liquid containers with lids (i.e., glass jars)
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Rags
  • Chain wax
  • A slow cooker (i.e., cheap crockpot)
  • Gloves
  • Something to pull the chain out of the wax with (wire or coat hanger)

Once you’ve gathered these supplies, you’re ready to start the process of waxing your bike chain. Unlike when lubricating a bike chain with lube, waxing requires that you remove your bike chain from your bike. 

Follow these steps:

  1. Turn on your slow cooker. It would be best if you had a slow cooker that’s used only for this. Cooking food in your cooker after this may lead to a very wax-flavored meal. Dump enough wax in the cooker to submerge your chain. Wait until the wax has melted completely to begin the next steps. 
  2. Fill your glass jar with a liquid degreaser and let the chain sit inside it for 10 minutes. Occasionally shake the jar to dislodge grease and dirt on the chain. Repeat this step twice before moving on to the next step. 
  3. Fill your second jar with isopropyl alcohol, and submerge the degreased chain in it for 10 minutes. Occasionally shake the jar to remove any residual particles. The alcohol will dry out the chain, allowing for the wax to settle better. 
  4. Remove the chain from alcohol and lay it down on a dry rag. Allow five or 10 minutes for the alcohol to evaporate.
  5. Drop your chain into the melted wax inside the slow cooker. Leave it for 20 to 30 minutes. 
  6. Using a wire or coat hanger, remove the chain from the wax. Be careful not to burn yourself! 
  7. Allow the wax to cool and dry out. Once it has settled, move the chain around in your hand to release the stiffness of the wax. Put the chain on your bike, and you’re ready to ride!

A video demonstrating waxing your bike chain step by step can be found below:

What Can I Use To Lubricate My Bike Chain?

You can use a number of lubricants, waxes, and oils to lubricate your bike chain. Which lubricant will be best for your bike depends on the environment where you’re cycling, though typically, you’ll need a dry lube or a wet lube. 

As mentioned earlier, not all lubricants are the same. The type of lubricant you use to service your chain will depend on the environment that you cycle in. 

Using the wrong type of lubricant could lead to your bike chain collecting grease and dust quicker. This could send you back to reading an article like this far sooner than you hoped. So, it’s essential to know your chain and know your rain! 

Wet Lube Pro

Wet lube is far thicker and longer-lasting than dry lube. It has the benefit of keeping your bike chain lubricated in an environment where the chain is prone to rust. In an environment where there’s heavy rainfall, bike chains are likely to develop rust. 

Using wet lube will increase the smoothness of your ride while keeping the rust out. If your bike frequently flys through puddles, this is the lube for you! 

Wet Lube Con

Since wet lube is thicker, it collects and traps more dirt and dust. Therefore, it’s essential not to use it in an arid environment with high dust volume in the air. You’ll have to monitor it more to ensure that the lube isn’t accumulating particles that will damage the chain. 

Dry Lube Pro

Dry lube is excellent for arid environments. It’s typically sprayed onto the chain, allowing for a thin layer of lubrication. The thin layer doesn’t clump and is less likely to draw in dirt and dust. In addition to this, dry lube is quick and easy to apply. 

Dry Lube Con

Dry lube is terrible for keeping the chain free of rust in wet environments. Since it’s thinner, it won’t protect the chain from rainfall and rust as wet lube does. It also needs to be applied more frequently. The increased frequency with which dry lube needs to be used means that you’ll have to purchase it more often. 

What Is the Best Oil to Use on a Bike Chain?

Several companies produce dry and wet chain lubricants. Some companies even make bio-friendly chain lubricants derived from organic ingredients, such as Green Oil Wet Chain Lube

According to CyclingNews, the best chain lubricants and oils are the following: 

How Do You Unseize a Bike Chain?

If you forget to give your loving bike chains the attention they deserve, you can run into problems. 

Rust, dust, and grime collect in the gears. Before you know it, you’re hurled off your bike as the gears and chains freeze together in a codified union. On the long walk home, you think about how to unfreeze your gears. Luckily for you, we got the solution for you here! 

To unseize a bike chain, you can easily fix it by spraying WD40 on the chain. Let the WD40 settle for 10 to 15 minutes before turning the pedals. If individual links are seized, remove the chain, spray it with WD40 and move the links with your hands until motion is restored. 

The easy solution to a fully seized chain is to buy a new bike chain. If you can afford it, they tend to cost around 20 dollars, and it might be less time-consuming than their alternatives. 

However, if you’d prefer to keep the chain you have, remove it and consider the following options:

  • Soak the chain overnight in WD40. 
  • Soak chain overnight in Coca-Cola.
  • Use a degreaser and chain brush to scrub off dirt and rust.

These steps can, of course, be prevented if you begin lubricating or waxing your bike chain monthly. Below is a how-to video demonstrating the process of unseating stuck chain links: 

How Often Should You Oil Your Bike Chain?

How often you should lubricate your bike chain depends on how often you ride and in what conditions. If you ride frequently, it’s recommended by the experts at LiveStrong that you lubricate and clean your chain once a month. 

In cycling sports such as mountain biking, consider lubricating or waxing your chain more frequently. 

Any time you’re biking in an environment where dirt and water are coming in contact with the gears, it’s essential to lubricate the chain more frequently to prevent the chain from seizing. 

It may be essential to consider how serious your cycling is. If you’re looking into bike maintenance for part-time biking, it’s not as important to drain your bank account on high-end bike lube. 

For the casual cyclist, lubing the chain every few months will be enough to keep your bike running smoothly for a long time.

If you aim to be a professional cyclist, take care of your bike chain like a professional. Competitive cycling requires a bike that’s continually operating at peak performance. 

If you’re training like the Tour De’ France is right around the corner, consider lubricating your bike chain a few times a month. 

Final Thoughts

Bike chain maintenance seems more complicated than it is. The most important thing to remember is that you need a lubricant that best matches your environment if you don’t want to run into problems.

WD40 is an excellent choice. The right lube will give your bike the best performance, allowing you to perform at your best, too.

Remember that maintenance protects the body, wallet, and bike. A bike that runs smoothly won’t get jacked up gears, and it won’t launch you off of it. A well-oiled chain will keep you cycling at maximum capacity and make your ride smooth and enjoyable.

For more, check out 6 Handy Alternatives to WD40.

Disclaimer/Warning: There is anecdotal evidence that using WD40 on a bike chain improperly can cause grime and dirt to build up, potentially causing the chain to seize. Use at your own risk, we will not be held responsible for any damage to your bike or bodily harm caused by using WD40 on a bike chain.

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

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