How To Remove Rust From Bikes

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Oh, rust. Something that we all have experience with and I’m sure that none of us like it. Whatever you do, you’re bound to get rust on your bike, especially if it’s made out of metals like iron or steel.

Rust is one of the most annoying things that I really hate to happen to my bike and I bet you’re feeling the same way with me. Luckily, there’s good news for you: you can actually clean the rust yourself!

In this article, you will learn about some of the most popular ways to clean the rust off your bike with simple steps that you can actually try.

Let’s Remove The Rust From The Bike Chain

Onto the first method on the list of removing rust from your bike, we’ll start from the most important part, the chain.

Before we get to the actual steps-by-steps guide, you will need these tools to help you on your work:

  • Dry rags
  • Degreaser
  • Scouring pad
  • Link removal tool
  • Toothbrushes/ bristle brushes
  • Lime juice
  • Deep bowl
  • Lubricant

The Steps

To begin this method, you might want to put your bike on the bike stand or lay it upside down on its saddle to access the chain easier. Also, don’t forget to wear gloves to protect your hands.

After you got your bike into the repair position, examine the whole length of your chain to see if you can spot any dirt or grime or, of course, rust. Examine it thoroughly by turning your crank counter-clockwise SLOWLY so you can see every inch of it, even on the chain link. 

Next step is to wipe all the dirt from the chain by using your rag then brush every inch of the gaps with your choice of brush. When you cleaned up all the dirt, you will be able to see the rust hidden behind them more clearly.

Now that your chain is dirt-free, soak your scouring pad in a degreaser solution then hold it on a point of the chain like pinching it. Then, you can turn the crank counter-clockwise to run it over the chain.

If the build up of the rust is too high, you can use your link removal tool to take off your chain from your bike then soak it in a degreaser or lime juice inside a bowl. Let it sit there for a couple of hours to a whole day to give the solution to act on the rust.

Take the chain off the solution then clean it with your scouring pad and clean it up with the rag. Repeat this process until you are satisfied with the result then wash it with soap water.

Let it dry then attach it back to the bike then apply some good amount of lubricant on to your chain and let it spin so the lube is applied evenly. This will make your chain runs smoothly.

Removing Rust From the Bike Frame

Getting rust on your beloved bike’s frame would really be annoying because not only it’s making the bike look ugly, it’s also uncomfortable. If possible, you might want to get rid of the rust as soon as possible.

So, like the previous method, here’s the tools you will need in the process:

  • Baking soda/vinegar
  • Brush/sponge
  • Bowl
  • Plastic/steel scrub pad
  • Dry rag

The Steps

Well, for this method you might really need baking soda to scrub off the rust. With 1:1 ratio of water and baking soda, mix them until they form a paste inside a bucket. You can also add some vinegar or lemon juice to enhance the rust-removal property of your mixture.

You’ve got the paste now, use a scoop or sponge and scoop a good amount of them to cover the areas of your frame that are affected by the rust. Make sure that they are covered adequately and let them sit there for a good 10 to 15 minutes of time.

The solution will break down the rust during those 10 to 15 minutes.

Grab your scrub pad of choice and scrape the baking soda paste off your bike frame. You will see that the rust will easily come off with the paste. You will also see some flaking of the metal of the frame.

Repeat the process until the rust is all off and you are satisfied with the result.  If there are some areas that you still find hard to clean, add more paste and repeat the process altogether.

Let the frame rest for around 10 minutes then wipe all the paste using a clean dry rag. Clean it until the frame is completely dry then store your bike in a cool place to prevent rusting.  

Removing Rust From The Handlebars

To clean your handlebar, you will need these following stuff to assist you in getting rid of the rust:

  • Table salt
  • Cup
  • Tablespoon
  • Toothbrush
  • Dry rag
  • Lime juice

The Steps

Now that you have all the necessary materials, time to put them to work. Ready a cup and mix 6 tablespoons of salt and 2 tablespoons of lime juice until you have a thick paste-like consistency. If you have extra budget, you can get a rust removal from the market.

Apply the paste mixture onto your handlebar and let it sit for 10-20 minutes. Make sure that the paste is thick enough that it won’t drip from the handlebar. Check if all areas are covered evenly so that you can clean all the rust.

After the time passed, you can now brush the paste using your toothbrush. I would recommend you to try different motions and directions. Keep it up until you see the rust stains are breaking down and fading off. You can also use clean cloth if you feel uncomfortable using the toothbrush or it’s not really working for you.

When you are done brushing the handlebar, rinse it with clean water and dry it off with a dry rag. 

To protect your handlebar from rust in the future, you might want to frequently apply some wax on it to polish it or you can coat it with varnish.

Removing Rust From The Bike Spokes

Removing rust from spokes might be a lot more challenging than most of the other parts of the bike. So you might really want to do it carefully and not forget to wear gloves when you work on this.

But if your spokes are made from stainless steel, you might not need to worry about getting some rust on them.

For this, you will need these following tools to help you out:

  • Steel/brass wool
  • Elbow grease
  • Wax
  • Dry cloth

The Steps

Let’s get down to work.

In order to do this thoroughly, you will need to do the spokes one by one. Sounds like a hassle? Well it is, but it’s worth all the effort to make your bike clean.

You will need a steel wool with a very fine grain to scrub the rust. Now, take a pinch of it and run it up and down on each spoke. You can also rotate it while you’re rubbing the spokes as well as when you reached the difficult spots. To speed up the process, apply some elbow grease to your steel wool.

Keep rubbing the spokes until you can visibly see the rust breaking down. If there are some stubborn spots, increase the force. Also, you need to remember to use a fresher part of your steel wool to keep it strong to remove all the rusts.

When you are done and the spokes now rust-free, wipe them up with a dry cloth until they are all cleaned from any stains or even pieces of steel wool. To conclude it, rub some wax along the spokes to protect them.

Getting Rid Of The Rust From Bike Rims

As you have probably realized, your rims are the most susceptible part to rust since it’s always getting exposed to water and any kind dirt. To clean it, you will need the following materials:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Degreaser
  • Dry rag

The Steps

First thing you need to do is to inspect the rims and check if there is any damage on them or if it’s bent.

You need full access to the rim to make sure that you can clean every spot without anything in the way. So take your wheel off the bike frame then separate the tire, inner tube, and spokes until you are now left with only the rim to work on.

Take up the aluminium foil that you have, and dip it into a bowl that is already filled with degreaser. Let it soak for a few seconds.

Use the now wet aluminum foil to continuously scrub your rim until you can see the rust breaking down and fall off the rim. Be sure that you’re doing it carefully not to miss any spot.

If the rust is affecting more than just the surface area, you might want to opt to soak the rim into the degreaser solution or some lime juice mixture.

Dunk your rim into the solution of your choice, make sure all ports are submerged, and let it soak for a few hours. 

After you done all these processes, wipe the rim with a clean and dry rag from any stain. Same with the spokes, you will need to apply wax after it’s cleaned to protect it.

Causes of Rusting

At some point you might be wondering why your bike catches the rust. What happened behind it is actually nothing more than a natural phenomenon.

When you have a bike that is built with metals, you have to be aware that they are capable of a phenomenon called oxidation. Now, if these metals get in contact with water and air, rust happens. And it can be worse if they also get in contact with salt.

If you spend yourself riding your bike in the open, your bike is bound to rust at some point. But if you store your bike in a damp and humid place, it can also rust.

Getting rust on your bike might signify that your bike is already old and has become a piece of artifact and it’s time to change into a new one. But now that you are here, you should’ve already known that it’s not always the case. You can clean the rust by doing a few DIY steps that are in this post.  

When Will You Know It’s Time To Let It Go?

  • Discuss that some conditions of the rusty bike can be fixed, but some aren’t, especially if it’s too rusty and even they can be removed, it’d take so much time and energy and they won’t be able to work for much longer
  • Also discuss the fixable one in this section

So here comes the crucial part. How do you know if your bike is really worth all of the efforts of cleaning it from rust?

You need to be aware that even though some rust can be cleaned and some need to go for good. 

If you find your bike is covered with rust from end to end, I would suggest to just give up the thought of doing all the methods we’ve discussed here and get a new bike.

But if the bike has special meaning for you, you can always leave it to the pros to restore it back and this process won’t be cheap at all. 

Let’s Rust Proof Your Bike

We’ve discussed some things you can try to clean your bike from rust, but can we protect it from rusting? Yes, we can!

You need to apply rust proofing materials like grease, wax, varnish, or primer. But it’s not a solution that fits all. Each material only fits certain parts that it can protect.

Another thing you can try is painting. This can add more layers to your bike so that it won’t be directly exposed to dirt and water.

Remember to always clean your bike, especially after a wet ride, and store it in a dry and safe place.

Photo of author
Hello, my names Perry and I've been a freelance writer for the past 5 years and a cycling enthusiastic since I can remember. I love the road, but my main passion is mountain biking.

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