Homemade Degreasers: 5 Best DIY Degreasers For Bikes

Former mechanic and experienced ultra-racer Robbie Ferri rates the best homemade degreasers for your bike

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reviewed by Rory McAllister
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When it comes to cycling and working on bikes, it can be a messy task.

Usually, your best option when it comes to degreasers for bikes will be to use a product designed specifically for the job. General-purpose degreasers such as WD40 can also be very effective – just keep them away from brake pads or rotors!

While I was working as a bike mechanic we always had these products handy – but in my experience as an ultra-endurance racer (as well as just weekend riding and taking care of my own bikes!) there’s been no shortage of occasions when I’ve needed to get creative and research the best homemade degreasers for bikes.

Whether I was mid-race and hundreds of miles from the nearest bike shop, I ran out of degreaser at a time-critical moment, or it was simply a Sunday and the shops were closed, there has been any number of reasons I’ve needed a homemade degreaser.

Now, I want to share the lessons I’ve learned along the way with you!

A clean cassette and chain on a gravel bike.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

The Challenge Of Finding An Effective Homemade Degreaser

Oil and grease are very challenging to remove.

Not only are they very water resistant, but they also attract dirt, protecting it further. Instead of just wiping it from one surface to another, it needs to be broken down with a solution so it can be washed away.

The biggest challenge is finding something powerful enough to break down the grease but not so abrasive that it will damage the bike in any way.

We highly recommend using gloves and being cautious when using any bike cleaners and substances. It’s also a good idea to be in a clear area outside where you can make some mess.

My 5 Best Homemade Degreasers for Bikes

Now for the exciting part. Let’s start by telling you about some great home degreasers to help get that bike in tip-top condition. For pro degreasers check out our top chain cleaners.

#1. Dishwasher Soap And Water

A bowl of water and dishsoap.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

The first – and most obvious – DIY solution that can help you degrease your bike is dishwasher soap and water.

I typically go for a ratio of about 1:10 of soap to water and ensure it’s well mixed before using. This solution is effective, but is not particularly powerful and is going to take a good bit of elbow grease while scrubbing to get it to work properly. 

I highly recommend dishwasher soap and water, but you do need to be cautious when it comes to getting the solution on your brake discs and pads. Although it’s unlikely to damage them permanently, it can cause them to squeak and reduce performance.
My Homemade Degreaser Rating: Dishwasher Soap & Water

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

#2. Baking Soda And White Vinegar

White vinegar and baking soda.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Baking soda and white vinegar is an incredible solution I use regularly when it comes to grease removal.

Mixed at a ratio of 1 part baking soda to 3 parts vinegar, it’s incredibly effective when added to a cloth and used to wipe down components. 

When rebuilding a bike, I fill a small tub with this solution and leave the removed components to soak in it overnight to get an excellent clean and strip off all the grease, ready to put back on the bike.

The results when components are left to soak in this mixture are exceptional.

We highly recommend that the bike be washed down with water once used to remove any excess baking soda and white vinegar that might still be on the bike. It isn’t known for being a great-smelling substance, and if left on too long could start to create problems.

My Homemade Degreaser Rating: Baking Soda & White Vinegar

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

#3. Sugar And Liquid Soap

Sugar and liquid soap.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

This is definitely one of the more unusual options, but mixing sugar and liquid soap as a thick liquid and then scrubbing it in is a well-known way to eliminate grease.

I found this solution fairly effective, but it’s vital that you get it all off after use, as it can leave components such as the chain prone to rusting afterward. It’s not the cheapest solution and does require some scrubbing, but it works well.

My Homemade Degreaser Rating: Sugar & Liquid Soap

Rating: 4 out of 5.

#4. Cornstarch Paste

Corn starch powder in a bag.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

The cornstarch paste is the strangest degreaser on this list.

Mix 1 part cornstarch and 2 parts water, and put it onto bike components so it picks up the grease and you can remove it all easily. 

It is best used by letting it set and soak in for a bit of time. I have had an excellent time using this with singular components already removed from the bike.

I wouldn’t recommend applying it to components while they’re fitted to your bike, as it’s very messy. Any left behind on the bike isn’t going to do you any favors and can really set in.

My Homemade Degreaser Rating: Cornstarch Paste

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

#5. Lemon Juice And White Vinegar

Lemon juice and white vinegar.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Another great solution for removing grease is lemon juice and vinegar.

This highly acidic blend goes straight to the grease and instantly starts breaking it down, making it very easy to remove. I go with equal parts lemon juice and white vinegar for the best results. 

When applying this, letting it soak in for a few minutes makes the solution really effective and much easier when scrubbing the grease off. The best thing about this degreaser is that it washes off easily and is great when working with delicate paint.

My Homemade Degreaser Rating: Lemon Juice & White Vinegar

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

How To Properly Use A DIY Bike Degreaser

The supplies required for degreasing. Brushes, oil, soap, gloves, and a cloth.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

To get the most out of the DIY bike degreaser, you are going to need to apply it and use it properly.

I have worked with many homemade degreasers, and with them all, especially the less abrasive ones, I have found they need to be applied correctly for a good result. 

In this next section, we will be telling you how to apply the degreaser properly and work safely with it. Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • Hosepipe
  • Degreaser Solution
  • Gloves
  • Brushes
  • Old Cloth
  • Oil Or Lube

We also advise working in a place where you can make some mess and don’t risk ruining anything with the grease you are taking off.

Note that this is the process for degreasing components while they’re still fitted to the bike. Some of the DIY degreasers I tested, such as the cornstarch paste, are better if you remove the components from the bike before degreasing.

Step #1. Rinse

A Yoeleo G21 gravel bike being rinsed.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

The first step is to get the bike well-soaked.

Not only does this help us apply the degreaser, but we do this to remove any large pieces of dirt. This is so when we brush the bike down, we don’t run the risk of scratching it or damaging it with small stones and rocks. 

Step #2. Apply Degreaser And Scrub

Scrubbing a cassette.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Next, we are going to apply the homemade degreaser.

I like to start by soaking the area and leaving it for a few minutes. This seems to really help the process and makes it much easier when it comes to scrubbing the dirt off. 

Next, we will take the brush and give the greasy area a good scrub. This will help break down all the grease particles and help it loosen from what it’s on. Make sure you get to all the places where there’s dirt and grease. 

Step #3. Rinse And Wipe Down

Cleaning a chain through a cloth.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

The next step is to rinse the bike off with water.

The grease should just run straight off. If there are any dirty areas that you might have missed, apply more degreaser and rinse again for the best finish, don’t be shy when repeating the process. 

Next, add some DIY degreaser to the cloth and then use that on the parts that you’ve just cleaned. I like to run the chain through the cloth and also “floss” the cloth between each cog on the cassette.

You’ll be surprised at how much extra grease will come off you couldn’t see!

Step #4. Apply Oil Or Lube

Oiling a bike chain.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Finally, we need to apply some lube to the chain to ensure we don’t get rust and keep everything running smoothly.

It’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be a huge amount. Just enough to get into the links and keep it running smoothly.

Then, use a cloth to run the chain through to remove any excess from the outside after applying.

Now you know how to use homemade degreasers on your bike!

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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