How To Use WD40 On Bike Chains [With Video Guide]

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WD40 is invaluable to cyclists.

It has a number of uses, but one question crops up time after time in cycling circles: Can you use WD40 on bike chains?

Over the years, there has been some confusion over the correct uses for WD40 on bike chains. In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • What Is WD40?
  • What Ways Can You Use WD40 On Bike Chains (And More)?
  • How Not To Use WD40 On Bike Chains
  • When Is WD40 Not WD40?
  • Robbie’s Video Walk-Through: How To Use WD40 On Bike Chains

Let’s dive in!

Can You Use WD40 On Bike Chains: Titile Image

What is WD40?

WD40 is the name of a brand of penetrating oil that acts as a lubricant, rust preventative, penetrant, and water displacer.

Alternative brands offering similar penetrating oils include Jenolite and RP-90.

The WD40 formula was invented by Iver Norman Lawson in 1953 for the Rocket Chemical Company. It was originally only made for their own use and for a long time, and wasn’t even patented. It was a trade secret that very few people knew about. 

When 1961 came around, they decided it was too good for just them to use, and the company was renamed WD-40 before they started to release the product for public use. It was a big success and since has been a household item for many people. 

The WD40 name refers to the fact this formula was the 40th attempt at making a Water Displacer – i.e. WD40.

What is WD40 made of?

The exact formula is a trade secret, but we know WD40 includes roughly:

  • 50-60% Petroleum, Hydrotreated Heavy
  • 25% (or less) Petroleum Base Oils
  • 10% (or less) Petroleum Hydrodesulfurized Heavy
  • 2-4% Carbon Dioxide
A can of WD40 is held in front of a black road bike.
Credit: Robbie Ferri

What Ways Can You Use WD40 On Bike Chains (And More)?

WD40 has many uses when it comes to a bike chain, and it’s good to have in your cycling maintenance kits.

However, it’s not a complete jack-of-all-trades, and there are certain applications you should leave for other more specialized products.

Here’s what you can use WD40 on bike chains for:

#1. General Cleaning And Degreasing

Cleaning a bike chain using WD40 and a rag.
Credit: Robbie Ferri

WD40 can be used to clean your chain.

It can pull dirt and grease off easily and gives it the shine you might be missing. You have to use it correctly though, or it can cause you a lot more issues. 

You shouldn’t just spray the chain with WD40. There’s a particular way you have to do it. Start by washing the chain down with water and soap. Then get a cloth, spray it with a small amount of WD40, and run the chain through it. 

You’ll see how quickly it can release dirt and transfer it across to the cloth. Keep repeating the process, and the chain will be sparkling before you know it. You can also do the same with other components on the drivetrain, such as the jockey wheels. 

#2. Removing Rust

Removing rust from a bike chain using WD40.
Credit: Robbie Ferri

The next use WD40 has when it comes to your bike chain is to remove rust.

WD40 is incredible at getting rid of surface rust and helps prepare it ready for lubrication. It doesn’t take long to do, and you only require a steel wool cloth. 

You can do this with the chain on or off the bike. We recommend getting the chain off the bike so you don’t end up soaking your brakes. Brakes soaked in WD40 are not good, and we highly recommend avoiding WD40 anywhere near them.

Once the chain is removed, pop it into a tub and spray lightly with WD40. Once sprayed, you are going to want to get a steel wool cloth and scrub it down. The rust will fall off, and you will see it all in the bottom of the tub. 

After doing this, you must clean all the WD40 off the chain with soapy water and return it to the bike. After it has dried, you will want to lubricate the chain with proper bike oil, and then you’re good to go.

#3. Help The Chain line Run More Smoothly

Using WD40 on the rear derailleur.
Credit: Robbie Ferri

Another great use for WD40 that can help your bike chain is lubricating the components around the chain. A chain can only move as smoothly as the components around it let it.

We highly recommend using WD40 to clean and lubricate the derailleurs. You also clean the internal components of these, such as the jockey wheels and the springs, to give you quicker, more precise shifting. 

WD40 will not only help the components work better, but it will also help protect them from rust. 

How Not To Use WD40 On Bike Chains

So now you know how to use WD40 on bike chains, it’s important also to know how not to.

Here are a couple of common mistakes we see often:

#1. Using WD40 As Chain Lubricant Isn’t A Good Idea

Applying WD40 directly to the chain as lubricant.
Credit: Robbie Ferri

We have seen so many videos online of people using WD40 to lubricate chains when they go out for a ride. In certain conditions, it can work – and some riders swear by it – but generally, it’s not a good idea. 

WD40 can easily remove dirt and grease, and the residue it leaves behind on the chain can work as a lubricant. Although this sounds like a bike hack, it isn’t. The WD40 soon washes off, and you will get limited use before your chain starts making crunchy noises. 

Say you had limited oil on your bike chain and where to put some WD40 on to help lubricate it. It would just strip the remaining oil and then dry up quickly, making it even worse than it was before.

#2. On Your Brakes

Squirting WD40 onto the disc brake rotors.
Credit: Robbie Ferri

When using WD40 to clean your chain, you have to be really careful not to use it on your brakes.

As a lubricant, it not only stops the brakes from working, but it will also contaminate the pads.

We have seen plenty of cyclists try to shine up their wheels and disc rotors to get them looking as clean as possible, only to leave the house and find the bike won’t stop properly and makes a lot of noise. 

If you do make this mistake, you will need to use disc brake cleaner on the brakes and rotors, and you will more than likely need new pads.

It’s a time-consuming, expensive mistake!

Close-up of a bike drivetrain that's been cleaned with WD40.
Credit: Robbie Ferri

When is WD40 not WD40?

What a lot of people don’t know is WD40 as a company does much more than WD40 alone. They have a huge range of products and ones designed especially for cycling.

Here are some of the bike products they make and what they are designed to do:

WD40 Bike Chain Lube

WD40 actually makes bike chain lube.

It’s under WD40’s specialist range. You should use this when it comes to lubricating your chain and not the regular WD40 we all know and love. They don’t just make one type. They make three types of chain lubricants

You get a dry squirty lube, a wet squirty lube, and a spray-on lube which can work in all conditions. Our favorite is the spray-on lube because it’s not often you see these spray-on versions on the maintenance market. 

WD40 Bike Cleaner

WD40 has also made a bike cleaner.

It is designed to be used on the whole bike, but they say it works best on the chain and gearing. It’s a biodegradable foam wash and has been heavily tested by bike manufacturers and third-party specialists.

They’ve made this cleaner to be used on multiple surfaces. You don’t need to worry about it going onto carbon fiber, titanium, steel, rubber, or even cork bar tape. WD40 even states on its website that many users use it on household products such as furniture.

WD40 Bike Degreaser

Not only does WD40 offer lubrication but a degreaser to remove it too.

The WD40 Bike degreaser is a spray-on foam that, when applied, interferes with the grease and dirt, then removes it with a bit of brushing and a clean down. 

Not only do people say it is a highly effective product, but many users have also said it works on removing grease from certain carpets and can work on other vehicles, such as motorbikes.

Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Use WD40 On Bike Chains

Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!

Found this WD40 on bike chains guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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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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