It is not only aesthetically appealing to show off a spotless bicycle chain but ensuring its cleanliness also ensures improved performance and longevity of the bicycle. Additionally, it also protects the bicycle from grease stains.

Why Do Bicycle Chains Turn Black?  The main reason for this is that the oil/lubricant in the chain attracts dust/dirt, which is responsible for turning the oil into black color. This dust/dirt is picked up when a lubricant-applied bicycle is in use. It is normal for such a thing to happen, and if it doesn’t there is either no oil/lubricant on the bicycle or it (the oil) is not working. 

Why Does This Happen? How Does It Affect The Bicycle?

A big reason why the rollers of a bicycle get dirty is because of the oil/lubricant type used on it, and the way it gets applied. That is why excess oil or dearth of oil are both harmful when it comes to a bicycle’s performance. 

The accumulation of dust/dirt on the drivetrain and the chain of a bicycle negatively impacts the performance and durability of the bicycle. Some particular adverse effects on this bicycle part include:

  1. It wears out more easily
  2. Its links are less flexible 
  3. There is an impairment in the shifting performance
  4. The drivetrain cogs and derailleur assemblies also wear out faster

Cleaning bicycle chains is not difficult, but it’s important to do it correctly to avoid damaging your bicycle. Here are some tips on how to clean your bicycle chain :

You will need:

  1. A clean rag or paper towel
  2. A toothbrush (optional)
  3. A bicycle chain cleaning tool
  4. A bicycle chain lube

Now, let’s go into the steps needed to make this all happen!

7 things to clean your chain when it goes black

If you have run into your chain becoming black, and need cleaning it back to its old self, here are some methods to make that happen.


First, it is crucial to check the rollers. To do this lift the bicycle’s rear wheel while standing on one side of the bicycle. Using the freehand rotate the pedal in proximity) slowly to check for rust, dirt/dust, tight links.

Also, inspect if there is sufficient lubrication on it by observing if the bicycle produces a squeaking sound at the time of riding. Spot-cleaning is a must if any of these conditions are found on the bicycle.

  1. Keeping all the parts intact, first brush the links out using a proper brush (a used toothbrush can also be used)
  2. Next, apply lubrication (usingchain oil/lubricant) on the links periodically 
  3. Finally, using a dry and clean rag wipe the excess oil/lubricant off.


If there is the time at hand, then opting for a deep clean will be more beneficial for the bicycle.

It is important to remember that extreme cleaning can strip the rollers of factory lubricant, which in turn, can shorten the longevity of this bicycle part by at least a thousand miles. 

Cassette Cleaning

Start with shifting the gears for the chain to move to an end of the bicycle’s cassette.

Using ample degreaser or soap thoroughly brush and scrub each cog, except the one containing the chain. After this, shift the chain to the end where the clean cogs are. Now, clean the rest of the cogs. 

Chainring Cleaning

After the cassette is cleaned, the next part to be cleaned with degreaser/soap is the chainring. Scrub and brush thoroughly.  Use a toothbrush for the tight spaces. Rinse off all the parts and dry them with a cloth.

Jockey Wheels Cleaning

The jockey wheels that are positioned on the rear derailleur can also accumulate gunk with time. Thoroughly rinse and scrub them to get rid of the filth. It is also recommended to lubricate this part occasionally. 

Chain Cleaning

If there are multiple chainrings in the bicycle, the chain has to be shifted onto the one that is the largest. Next, use ample degreaser/soap scrub and brush all the chain sides until it is completely clean. Use the chainring for support while cleaning. 

Water Rinse

After scrubbing all the parts, rinse the drivetrain using water (gentle stream). It is best to not use the high-pressure hose for rinsing. This is because such a high amount of pressure can cause water to reach places in the bicycle where it should not. 

Finally, allow the bicycle to dry completely. Once it is dry, reapply the oil/lubricant on this bicycle part. Allow the oil to sit for some time and then wipe off any excess lubricant. Oil or lubricant should be applied in between rollers and plates instead of the exterior part which automatically attracts grime and dirt. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use dish soap to degrease the bike chain?

Yes, dish soap is a type of degreaser. You can use it to clean your bicycle chain. However, dish soap can do such a great job at removing the buildup of grease and gunk, that you need to make sure that you add the needed lubricants back onto the chain.

Can I use WD-40 on the bike chain ?

Much like other degreasers (and dish soap), WD-40 can be used and is quite effective to remove grime and grease on your chain. Always re-add a lubricant to the chain, otherwise, you will make your bicycle more difficult to pedal, and can shorten the lifespan of your chain and other drivetrain components.

How often should I oil my bike chain ?

It is typically recommended that you oil your bicycle chain every 200 miles. This will help to keep your bicycle running smoothly, and prevent rusting and other wear and tear on the chain.


Hopefully, this solves the issue of bicycle chains turning black. Individuals who ride their bicycles frequently should opt for regular drive chain cleaning as well as lubrication. Much like everything else on your bicycle, it is important to maintain your bike. If you do, it will result in years of getting to enjoy your bicycle to the fullest extent.

Negligence in this case can lead to several bicycle problems later on. It is always best to be proactive and not reactive when it comes to bicycle maintenance.