How To Remove Mountain Bike Chain Rust: In-Depth Guide (2023)

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Rusting mountain bike chain is the last thing you would want on your bike.

Here I have put together some information on how to remove mountain bike chain rust without breaking the bank.

A mountain bike chain with rust is detrimental to not only your bike riding experience but also to the drivetrain of your MTB.

So, let’s dive in!

Why Do Mountain Bike Chains Rust?

Rusty Mountain Bike Chain
Rusty Mountain Bike Chain

When your mountain bike chain is exposed to humidity and wetness, it becomes prone to oxidization.

Humid and wet conditions lead to the metal reacting with oxygen and water, which leads to rust.

Riding your bike in water when your mountain bike chain is not sufficiently lubed or leaving your bike in a garage for a long time could fuel chain rusting.

However, proper chain lubing, cleaning and maintenance will help in preventing rust on your mountain bike.

Tools For Removing Rust Off The MTB Chain

How To Clean Your Mountain Bike Chain Featured Image
Cleaning Rust Off MTB Chain

First of all, let me warn you!

Cleaning rust off your mountain bike chain is going to be a messy process.

Hence, in my opinion, consider performing this task outdoors.

Below mentioned is the list of tools you need for manually cleaning the rust off your bike’s chain:

  1. Safety Glasses: You are working with a metal alloy and oxidation. So, it is recommended to protect your eyes with safety glasses.
  2. Rubber Gloves: I’m talking about the ones used by mechanics. Get hold of a pair to prevent your hands from all the mess.
  3. Dust Mask: Wear a dust mask so that you don’t breathe in rusty air.
  4. Steel Wool: Steel wool is a great tool that helps in getting rid of the rust from MTB chains. Good quality steel wools are more sturdier, diminishing the chance for the strands to get stuck in the chain.
  5. Wire Brush: The bristles of a wire brush are adept at getting in between the link plates and are just the right tool to remove the rust and dust particles that the steel wool fails to get hold of.
  6. Plastic Tub: It would be great if you could remove your chain and place it in a plastic tub that consists of a rust-removal solution. Another tub, if you have one, can be used to do all the messy work to clean the chain.
  7. Bike Chain Cleaner: Kits that consist of bike chain cleaning tools are available online. Check for something that could make your cleaning process easier.
  8. Chemical Rust Remover: You can soak the removed chain in a chemical rust remover to ensure that even the inner parts of the chain are immersed in it. When you use a chemical remover, the effort is much lesser.
  9. Lemon: It helps significantly in removing rust from your bike’s chain.
  10. Bicycle Stand: A bike stand would help make your cleaning process a breeze.
  11. Cleaning Rags: It prevents the floor from getting dirty and to wipe the chain whenever required.
  12. Chain Link Remover: Get a chain link remover to remove your chain from the bike prior to cleaning.
  13. Master Link Pliers: If your chain consists of a link that connects the master link, you may need a pair of master link pliers.

Pro Tip: When using steel wool, you have to be careful not to leave any strands of the steel wool inside the chain parts.

How To Remove Mountain Bike Chain Rust Without Removing The Chain

Cleaning Rust From MTB Chain
Rust Removal Process

Here are the steps on how to remove mountain bike chain rust without removing the chain from your mountain bike:

  • Hang your mountain bike on a stand.
  • Spray a degreaser over your bike’s chain.
  • Wipe off your MTB chain with a cleaning rag.
  • Apply the chain rust removing solution to your bike’s chain.
  • Scrub your MTB chain with a wire brush and wipe it with a cleaning rag.
  • Repeat the process until your bike’s chain appear to be completely clean.

While this process may be sufficient to clean the meagerly rusted MTB chain, you may need to remove the chain and give it an excellent cleaning if it has rusted a little too much.

How To Remove MTB Chain Rust By Removing The Chain

How To Apply MTB Chain Lube
Rust Removal By Cleaning MTB Chain Separately

Follow the steps mentioned below on how to remove mountain bike chain rust by cleaning the MTB chain separately:

  • Place your bike on the stand, or keep your bike upside down if you don’t have a stand.
  • Find the master link, if your chain has one, and slowly remove the chain. If you don’t have a master link, break the chain using a link breaker.
  • In a plastic tub, pour the chain cleaning solution or degreaser and immerse the chain completely.
  • Let it sit for about 30 minutes, after which you can clean the chain thoroughly using warm water.
  • Next, apply some lime juice to the steel wool and scrub vigorously until all the rust dissolves.
  • Use warm water and dishwashing soap to clean the chain off any remaining dirt.
  • Wipe off the water using a cleaning rag.
  • Make sure no moisture remains on the chain to avoid future rusting.
  • Now, lube the MTB chain thoroughly.
  • Re-assemble the cleaned and rust-free chain onto the mountain bike.

How To Remove MTB Chain Rust With A Cleaning Device

Rust Cleaning Device For Mountain Bike Chains
Rust Cleaning Device For Mountain Bike Chains

Today, chain-cleaning devices are available to make the rust-cleaning process much more manageable.

The process of removing rust by using a chain cleaning device is as follows:

  • First, clamp the device to the lower run of your mountain bike chain in front of the derailleur.
  • Next, turn the cranks slowly, backward, using your hand.
  • When you do this, the chain undergoes a degreaser bath, wherein a series of brushes clean up the interiors.
  • Once the process completes, wash off the degreaser completely from your bike’s chain using water.
  • Dry your MTB chain using a cleaning rag, and leave it for some time to air dry as well.
  • Once your MTB chain has completely dried, you can apply the MTB chain lube that is most suitable for your future riding conditions.

How To Prevent Mountain Bike Chains From Rusting

Dry Lube Vs Wet Lube For MTB Featured Image
Rust Free Mountain Bike Chains

Nobody wants a rusted mountain bike chain, but unfortunately, it happens.

So, in order to prevent your MTB chain from rusting, you can follow the steps mentioned given below:

  • Lubrication is critical. Before you ride in dry conditions, apply dry lube. Similarly, before you ride in wet conditions, use wet lube.
  • Applying dry lube to your bike chain helps in keeping the chain smooth and protected from rust.
  • Always keep your MTB chain and the drivetrain clean. Make sure that there is no dirt buildup on the chain.
  • During a ride, if you happen to splash water on your dry-lubed MTB chain, make sure that it is adequately degreased, dried, and re-lubed as soon after the ride.
  • Make sure that the amount of lube you apply to your bike’s chain is just sufficient, excess chain lubing would attract dirt, leading to the formation of gunk on the chain.
  • You can consider using WD-40 as a degreaser, as it also helps in dispersing water.

Easy Way To Remove Rust From Mountain Bike Chain (Video Tutorial)

Video on how to remove mountain bike chain rust

Common FAQs On How To Remove MTB Chain Rust

1. Is rust on a mountain bike chain bad?

It is not favorable to have rust on a mountain bike chain.

A rusty bike chain could not only lead to a chain-breakage but also cause squeaky noise and wearing of the chain.

When the chain wears, it eventually leads to the wearing of drivetrain parts, which could lead to poor performance.

Moreover, the expense that you would incur in replacing the drivetrain would be much higher than the expense and effort required to ward off the rust from your mountain bike.

2. Is it bad to ride a bike with a rusty chain?

I would never recommend riding your bike with a rusty chain.

Rust could also possibly break your bike’s chain while in the middle of a ride.

Even worse, a rusty MTB chain could be detrimental to your drivetrain and your gears. It would also reduce your pedaling efficiency.

3. Does dry lube prevent rust on your bike chain?

When used while riding in dry conditions, dry lube helps extensively in preventing rust.

In fact, cleaning and applying lube is the primary solution to rust prevention.

However, dry lube washes off once it comes in contact with water.

Hence, degreasing and re-applying lube is essential if you happen to ride in wet conditions.

After every ride, it would be ideal to check if your bike chain requires re-lubing.

4. Is a bicycle chain rusting a chemical or physical change?

Bicycle chain rusting, which is the process of the formation of iron oxide, is a chemical change.

Here, new metal is formed when the chain comes in contact with moisture or air. This process is called oxidation.

5. Will WD-40 Remove rust from the bike chain?

WD-40 is basically a cleaner and hence, can be used to clean rust from a mountain bike chain.

It is also a water dispersant, which removes the excess water from the chain, aiding rust prevention.

However, it cannot be substituted for dry lube.

6. How long does it take vinegar to remove rust from your bike’s chain?

Ideally, it could take up to three days for vinegar to remove rust from your mountain bike’s chain.

7. What removes rust instantly from the mountain bike chain?

Apply lime juice or WD-40 and use scrub/steel wool and wire brushes to remove rust almost instantly from a mountain bike chain.

8. How to keep the mountain bike chain clean and dry?

Do these basic cleaning steps to keep your bike chain clean and dry:

  • Always wipe off the dirt from your mountain bike chain after each ride.
  • Use a wash-cloth to dry away any moisture.
  • If there’s a lot of dirt built-up on your bike, you may have to do a thorough cleaning and degreasing.

9. Does the quality of the chain have an effect on rusting?

Lower-quality mountain bike chains that are made using cheap, low-quality steel are prone to rust quickly.

So, always invest in a good quality MTB chain, as we are also talking about your drivetrain’s durability here.

That Is All For Now!

I hope this article on how to remove mountain bike chain rust has helped you understand the different processes that can be followed to remove rust and other important aspects related to the topic.

P.S. If you found this article useful, do review similar resources we have on how to remove, clean and oil your mountain bike chain like a pro.

Also, check out our guide on comparison between dry and wet lubes needed for your MTB chain.

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Team Biking KnowHow

Rohan runs Biking KnowHow along with his team. Rohan has been a mountain biker since 2005. His mission is to simplify mountain biking for everyone. All Biking KnowHow content piece is thoroughly fact-checked. Our content is backed up with leading research and inputs from expert cyclists.