mehanic spaying WD40 from a can

Can You Use WD40 On A Bike Chain?

Cycling is one of the most popular forms of exercise. Moreover, it is increasingly becoming one of the most preferred ways of commuting. After the novel coronavirus pandemic, people are more than ever inclined to ride a bicycle to their work.

However, with regular use comes the responsibility of regularly maintaining the bike. In this article, we will explore the answer to the question – can you clean your bike chain with WD40? Indeed, it is one of the most intriguing questions that come up in a cyclist’s mind.

A crucial part of that maintenance is cleaning the bike chain regularly. Yet, people often are confused about which things they should use to clean the bike chain. If not careful and by using the wrong lubricant, you can cause damage to your bicycle.

Can You Use WD40 on Your Bike Chain?

WD40 can be used on bike chains due to it being an excellent cleaner. WD40 will clean better than cleaning oils. Just make sure after using the WD40, you wipe down the bike chain and apply a fresh coating of different lubrication oil as WD40 will dry up the chain.

A Little Background on WD40

It may come as a shock to you, but WD40 was invented due to the cold war. People at the time were struggling with skin issues of the atlas missile of the United States armed forces.

To make sure the skin does not peel off, on his 40th attempt, Iver Norman Lawson created the now-famous lubricant in 1953.

The original formula remains a secret. It’s a mixture of different hydrocarbons. It became for mass people in 1958. Since then, the oil has become a household name as it is used for various purposes such as rust prevention agent, cleaner, gear oil, lubricant, gun oil, and much more. It’s also used to remove stains from the car’s vinyl.

Related reading: Can You Use WD40 On Bike Brakes?

What Does WD40 Manufacturer Say?

The website reiterates that WD40 is not a grease product as it does not act as an oil. Instead, it is a formulation of many hydrocarbons and other organic/ inorganic compounds. It says that you can use it for bike maintenance with no confusion.

It further adds that WD40 does not attract any dirt or undesirables to the bike chain’s surface. It just cautions to wipe off any excess WD40 oil.

The Case Against It

Many cyclists opt not to use the WD40 to clean their bike chains. From our experience, we have to emphasize the fact that WD40 is not a lubricant.

Read more: How To Clean Bike Chain?

From a scientific point of view, the chromatography examination reveals that even though WD40 is made up of different lubricants, it does not act like one. Neither has the chemical ability like other hydrocarbons. It works more like a degreaser. One way you can sum up it ideally is WD40 is an after-market degreaser on steroids.

Does It Act Like a Regular Hydrocarbon?

It does not gel well with drive shifters or gear paddles due to it not being any regular hydrocarbon. The gear’s rapid movements in mountain and track bikes mean that the degreaser such as WD40 is rendered completely ineffective in such situations. WD40’s primary function is that it’s a rust-preventive agent for metal surfaces.

WD40 is a solvent. As a solvent, it can dissolve undesirable pollutants, contaminants, and other dirt. This means surface will get cleaner and glossy; however, there’s a downside to this as well.

What Happens When We Use WD40?

Applying the WD40 will wash away any existing lubricant that you have used before. As a result, your chain will be much drier and exposing it to malfunction and other types of problems.

Some even think it’s best to use no lubricants rather than use WD40. In their words, it creates more troubles than solves them. The cons far outweigh the pros.

What Do the Mechanics Think About WD 40?

Some mechanics in their service stations all over the United States of America use WD40 but not as a lubricant but instead as a degreaser in the first step of the rust prevention process.

However, they say the soap water or any simple lime green is often the most simple and best way for de-greasing. Previously, they want you to apply a fresh coat of lubricant to the bike chain.

In their opinion editorials, mechanics say that if you are using a WD40 as a solvent or a degreaser, it’s probably fine; however, leaving your bike chain clean, glossy, shiny, and nice-looking comes with a cost.

Repeated use of WD40 will make your bike chain attract all kinds of undesirable’s specks of dirt and waste. It will break down your bike chain. The gear transition will not be as smooth. The chains will not sync as they used to. There will be an increase in friction coefficient in the gear chain.

WD40 as a Short Time Solution and Other Alternatives

The mechanics approve the WD40 as a short time solution, but they don’t recommend it as a permanent feature in your bike maintenance. WD40 company does have a product purpose-built for the bikes. But it has not gained much traction with the people due to it being largely ineffective in cleaning the bike chain.

3-in-1 Multipurpose Oil From WD40

However, there is a product called 3-in-1 multipurpose oil from WD40. The WD40 will provide enough suitable friction between the chains of your bike. It will protect against any wear and tear too. Moreover, it will keep the bike chain shiny, glossy and new.

The product was first brought into the market in 1894. But 101 years later, the WD40 company bought the formula and started marketing it. Still, some professional cyclists and MTBers are hesitant to use the 3 in 1 multipurpose oil.

However, experts in the field of power loss and friction say that the lubricant is shown better accolades than any average lubricant and can even outperform special lubricants for the bikes.

The Case For It

On the contrary, we have seen instances where using the WD40 on their bike chains brings good results. On our trips to the garage, we have also been told that the WD40 does not benefit the bike chain. Some have said to him that the WD40 is not an actual lubricant. And worst of them all that putting WD40 will damage his bike chain.

All of these claims are not always true. Many bikers who use WD40 on their bike chain have managed to increase the life span of their bike chain. We have anecdotal evidence to back up the claim.

How Does WD40 Stack Up as a Cleaner?

A point to be noted is that a regular bike chain oil will not clean the chains as a WD40 would. From our reseach results, we can say the cleaning abilities of the WD40 are unmatched. A chain that has been cleaned with the WD40 runs and functions much smoother than a chain cleaned with a regular oil bike.

From comparing both chains, we have concluded that a dried clean chain will outperform a dirty, oily black chain on any given day.

Additionally, the chain will not always dry up when using the WD40, depending upon the components of the chain. We can reassure you of the fact that WD40 can be used to clean your chain if you use it wisely.

How Many Times Do I Have to Use it?

We have found that WD40 can provide smooth performance for 8-12 seamless hours of mountain biking on your voyages. Therefore, you have to re-apply it only after four rides approximately. If you are a pro-biker sound of the dry chain is instantly recognizable.

When this does happen, spray it properly, wipe the chain with a rag, and again you good to go.

The Ingredients of the WD40

If you check the ingredients listen in the can, you will see that the components are mostly oil. You can check that by spraying some WD40 on your fingers and try to rub them between the fingers to take a more hands-on approach. You shall see that it feels slippery.

Things to Keep Track Off

However, everything is not all rosy. There are two things you should keep in mind. They are-

  • Never apply the WD40 in or near the brakes, caliper, hub, rim, or rotor bearings. The WD40 will do significant damage to those parts. You don’t have to go all gloves off mode with the spray on your bike. Just use it in limited cycles and adequately. Do not try to be trigger happy and let the spray trickle down to the other chain parts after applying.
  • We advise against the use of WD40 in the rear pulleys if they are sealed off with bearings. If you do so, the mechanism of the rear pulley will not function. As a result, your bike will be unfit to ride.

How to Apply the WD40 To Clean Your Bike Chain

First thing is first, you need to wear nitryl rubber gloves for your safety. With the following method, you can use the WD40 to clean your bicycle’s chain. Also, with this method, you would be able to increase your bike’s chains, derailer, and gear life span.

Trying a Regular Paper Towel

Flip the bicycles over with the chains and the cranks facing your way. Grab a regular paper towel for a simple illustration.

Rotate the paddle manually with your hands. As you are moving the paddle, the chain also moves. Simultaneously, the chain is moving, hold the towel and bringing it in contact with your chain.

You will see that dirt is coming off, but it is nowhere near enough. Very little will come off when you clean it with a simple paper towel.

Trying it Now with WD40

Now put the WD40 on the paper towel. Spray just a little bit on the towel. Don’t blow it out of proportion, or else it will not be as effective as you want it to be.

After you sweep through the paper, slowly rotate the chain and use your hands to rub the chain simultaneously. You will see the difference. The WD40 will drive out the oil, but it will also clean the chain. It will remove all the junk. You will see the difference when you used the towel soaked with WD40.

Finishing Touch

Keep doing the clean pass for about 5 minutes. After you are done with this part, use a dry patch of towel to remove everything from WD40 and all the rest of the specks of dirt.

For finishing a wet weather thick oil. Lube the chain with a few drops at specific points and keep rotating the gears. The goal here is that you don’t want to hear any squawky sounds and other disturbing elements. You have to make sure you don’t hear any grinding noise.

Why Do I Need Weather Oil?

The oil will make the gears run and switch well and make the chain free of noise. It will also not let the chain dry up. Remember not to use too much. Too much oil will attract dirt germs and all other kinds of undesirables. It will gather up all the dust causing abrasion. It will wear down and tear the chain mechanism; however, just clean or wipe your chain if you do.

Things You Should Follow While Applying the Oil

Make sure while cleaning, the best way is to shake the can. Slowly apply it the all the links of the chain. Go around a couple of times. That should be more than enough. Try to mark a link to keep track of how many rounds you have applied. After applying the WD40 and the finishing touch, let it sit for a single night. It will penetrate the links.


This was our complete guide on cleaning your bike chain with the infamous WD40. We have noted both parties’ arguments as to whether you should or should not use it.

However, if you wish to use it, you can improve and clean your bike chain in the most effective way possible by following our method. Here are some links which give you are a hands-on approach to bike chain cleaning with WD40.

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