Washing And Waxing Your Bike

06 Jul

When I’m riding on off-road trails I enjoy getting my bikes as filthy as possible—the more mud the bigger the smile. However, I never put a dirty bike back on the storage racks. When a bike is in my garage I want it looking like new, even if it is ten years old. A reader to this blog suggested I write an article on how to wash and wax your bike. I am going to describe the process I use at the moment, but please be aware that I am always trying out new products and the one suggested in this article are “subject to change without notice.”

Products for washing, cleaning and waxing your bike

Products You Need To Wash And Wax Your Bike

Before you can wax your bike you have to clean it first. While there are many good products you can use to wash your bike at the moment I am using Dawn dishwashing liquid—the same stuff many of your use to wash your dishes. Dawn does a great job of cutting through grease and grime. I just squirt a small amount of Dawn into a bucket before I add the water and then as I fill the bucket the suds form. Using a soft brush I gently scrub the frame, rims and tires of my bike. With a gentle rinse the dirt should fall of your bike (don’t ever use a high-pressure washer on your bike or you will drive dirt and water into places that will cause you trouble in the future). Now dry the bike off with a cotton cloth (an old T-shirt will do). If your drivetrain still looks grimy it might be a good time to clean your chain with White Lighting Clean Streak Dry-Degreaser. After your chain is clean apply a layer of White Lightning Clean Ride self-cleaning wax lube.

I use Dawn to clean the bike, but it does absolutely nothing to make a bike shine. If your bike is several years old I would suggest you use Turtle Wax Premium Grade Rubbing Compound on the frame to remove scratches in the paint and smooth out the finish. If you have any chrome on your bike you can use a bit of Brasso Multi Purpose Metal Polish to make it shine (even though Brasso changed their formula a few years ago I still use their product, but the old formula was a lot better). After everything is clean apply a coat of Turtle Wax Super Hard Shell Paste Wax and your frame should look like new.

If you apply a good paste wax to your bike every year you will find it is a lot easier to keep it clean. When I get home from a ride I usually wipe the bike off with a Grease Monkey Wipe to remove dust and road grime. If the bike is really dirty I use a Veloshine Bike Wipe—a large, heavy-duty cleaning cloth that quickly takes mud and sand off a bike and leaves it with a decent shine. If your bike needs “brightening up” you can always spray on a bit of Sunlite Bicycle Pro Polish (available at your local bike shop). This polish leaves a slick film that helps prevent dirt build-up on frame and is safe for metal, carbon fiber, plastic, rubber, and vinyl. However, you need to keep it away from disc brake rotors.

One other quick tip: If some of the paint has chipped off the frame your local bike shop can sometimes find a bottle of touch-up paint to match. If they can’t match your paint a good alternative is to use acrylic fingernail polish (if you need help matching the color you should ask your wife or significant for assistance). Give the acrylic nail polish several days to set and then seal it with a coat of paste wax.


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30 responses to “Washing And Waxing Your Bike

  1. billgncs

    July 6, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    thanks! I will use this right away!

  2. James

    July 6, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Big fan of the White Lightening products myself. Their chain oil is magic. Runs very clean.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 6, 2012 at 9:40 AM

      I’ve been using their products for about 10 years — Clean Ride is the only thing I will use on my road bikes.

  3. aleksledocteur

    July 6, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    Useful post.

    Thanks 🙂

  4. timscyclingblog

    July 7, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    I nearly thought about cleaning my bike for a second then, heart is racing… calming down now… phew!

  5. Madoqua

    July 8, 2012 at 3:13 AM

    I appreciated this article, having been variously advised that I should keep my bike immaculately clean, but never wash it??? 🙂

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 8, 2012 at 8:24 AM

      Madoqua — it is possible to keep your bike immaculately clean, but SELDOM wash it. I’ve not had to ever wash my Trek Madone road bike with water, but my Surly Necromancer Pugsley is sometimes covered with such a thick layer of mud that you can’t even tell the color of the bike (seriously). My other three bikes fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

  6. Anna

    July 8, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    Thanks for the great tips! Since I generally stick to the roads my bike stays pretty clean (except for powerade spillages on the crossbar!) however, I do use Dawn (as recommended by my local bike store) to degrease my chain now and then after riding on gravelly trails. Do you think I should switch to a proper degreaser or do you think Dawn is unlikely to cause issues on the chain? Thanks….I’m fairly new to this!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 8, 2012 at 4:36 PM

      Anna — Dawn is really good at removing surface dust, grease and grime. If your local bike shop is happy with the job you are doing in cleaning your bike (and chain) then you are probably OK. Road bikes don’t usually get near as dirty as mountain bikes. However, if you want to strip the chain down to look like new I’d use White Lightning Clean Streak, and then lube it with White Lightning Clean Ride (this is what I use on my bikes).

  7. Zhen Huang

    July 8, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    Thanks for the tip. I need to fix my the flat tire of my bike and clean it.

  8. amckimmey

    July 12, 2012 at 4:45 AM

    People think I weird when I tell them they should was their bikes.

    I uses to use Simoniz Paint Protectent, it’s something like $300 to have a car done with it, but that came with a warrenty for the paint after it was used. I worked at a car dealership so we just used the leftovers on our cars, shop lawn mover, my bike and anything else we could think of in the shop.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 12, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      Simoniz Paint Protection on a bike sounds pretty cool — it would probably last a lot longer than the frame itself would.

  9. Papi

    July 23, 2012 at 2:28 AM

    Thank you! Just when I could stand the gunk that was my bike no more, I get all the information I need in a single blog. But it gets better..all performed as promised. The White Lightning did an incredible job on my chain and gears. Looked new by the end. Excellent! Thanks again. Another great blog.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 23, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      White Lightning also makes an excellent cleaner and polish for bikes called “Wash and Shine”. I will be reviewing it next week — I did not have it available when I wrote this article, but I think you will love it — it saves a step or two in the cleaning process.

      • Papi

        July 23, 2012 at 7:41 PM

        Excellent! Looking forward to it.

  10. Shonnie

    March 7, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    how do you get oil/greese off your bike. I can’t seem to get the over excited application that my hubby put on there and didn’t wipe any excess off. We were both bike maintance virgins and didn’t fully understand what all that would do. Help??

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 7, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      Read the article again and I think you will find some help there! Bottom line: if you just want to do a quick job of removing the grease and road grime you can wipe the bike down with either Grease Monkey Wipes or Cat’s Tongue Heavy Duty Cleaning Towels — both product will take the grease right off and leave the frame with a bit of shine!

  11. the drunken cyclist

    May 9, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    You can also get touch up paint from car dealers or body shops….

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 12, 2013 at 10:02 PM

      You know, I never even thought of that! I am sure they could do a lot better job of color matching.

  12. rantsrulesandrecipes

    March 26, 2015 at 12:45 PM

    Ive often wondered the best approach. Thx

    I’m told cleaning and lubricating are the keys to bike longevity and function!

  13. Terrance Williams

    July 29, 2015 at 12:24 PM

    Thanks for the tips. I have used Dawn dish soap to clean my bikes for years. Nice to know I’ve made the right choice. I do also like the Grease Monkey Wipes.

  14. Richard

    August 19, 2016 at 8:51 AM

    What would you recommend for a carbon matte finish for after washing…turtle wax still?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 25, 2016 at 3:11 PM

      After much though I honestly don’t know the answer to that question! My newest road bike is a carbon fiber 2015 Trek Domane and it is flat black—I am not sure what I will eventually put on it (if anything).

  15. Roger

    January 25, 2017 at 2:34 PM

    I need someone to wax and polish my motorcyles (2) every few months

    • Roger

      January 25, 2017 at 2:36 PM



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