Cleaning Your Bicycle With a Pressure Washer: The Definitive Guide

Just so you know, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made via bold green links, buttons or images.

If you’ve ever had to deal with a muddy mountain bike or a filthy road bike after a day ride, you’ve probably fantasized about using a power washer instead of a bucket of soapy water and elbow grease. Using pressure washers might make the bike cleaning process faster, but can it damage your bike?

You can use pressurized water to clean your bike, but there are special precautions you have to take when pressure washing bikes: use a lower-pressure spray, hit the bike indirectly, and avoid spraying sealed bearings to prevent water ingress.

We’ll explain how you can safely pressure wash your bike.

How Often Should You Pressure Wash Your Bike?

Pressurized water will certainly get your bike cleaned faster and save you a great deal of time, but don’t be tempted to reach for the power washer every single time your bike is a little bit dirty. Even with all of the precautions in the world, large quantities of pressurized water will damage your bike by stripping away valuable grease and paint.

Only pressure wash your bike when it is exceptionally filthy or if you are in a rush (for example, during a race). Try to limit this to once every few months.

Which Pressure Washers Are Best for Cleaning Your Bike?

The best power washers for your bike are smaller, lighter ones with lower water pressure. A mobile pressure washing kit or even a specialized washer for bikes is your best option. Lower-end models of regular pressure washers work well because they tend to have lower water pressure than advertised.

Portable pressure washer ready to clean a bike
If you can fork out for a portable pressure washer like the Ryobi sold at Home Depot, it will be useful for cleaning your bike and a host of other household chores. (© Pedal Street)

If you’re using a regular pressure washer, turn the water pressure down before spraying your mountain bike. A good rule of thumb is to keep it at 20 bar or lower and use a fan sprayer to prevent the water from bearing down on one concentrated area.

Closeup of the low pressure attachment which is best for pressure washing a bicycle
If you have the option, try to use a low pressure spray attachment. (© Pedal Street)

Tips for Safely Cleaning Your Bike With a Pressure Washer

Before turning on the water, remove any bike accessories that could get damaged. If your seat is made of leather or another sensitive material, cover it with a plastic bag. Some smart people and bike aficionados recommend removing your wheels as well to ensure you properly wash the chain and frame.

When cleaning your bike, whether it’s an expensive road bike or a commuter bike, start from far away and slowly get closer. You don’t want to stand too close to the bike because the power of the water might damage it. You also don’t want to get hit by splash-back, especially if you’ve got muck or excrement on your bike.

Man washing bike with a pressure washer from a distance
The safest way to wash your bike with a pressure washer is from a bit of distance, at an angle, with the lowest pressure nozzle. (© Pedal Street)

Try to spray the frame of your bike indirectly. You can hit it from the front, back, top, or bottom, but don’t spray the sides directly. That’s because most of the bike components that could get severely damaged by the water, such as sealed bearings, are on the side of the frame. Avoid doing a direct spray on the hubs, bracket, suspension, or links.

Which Bike Parts Could Get Damaged From Pressure Washing?

One of the most common problems when pressure washing bikes is water ingress: when the water gets in where it shouldn’t be. This is most common with hubs and sealed bearings. A little bit of water won’t damage them, since most bikes are made to withstand going out in the rain, but getting water in these sensitive parts over time will cause them to break down.

Crank hub on a bike in need of some gentle pressure washing

Rear wheel hub of a bike in need of some cleaning with a pressure washer
The crank hub (top) and rear wheel hub (above) are two areas where you’ll want to be gentle to avoid water ingress, because they contain bearings. (© Pedal Street)

The best way to prevent damage to your bike through water ingress is to avoid directly spraying hubs and bearings that will get damaged by water. Clean those with soapy water and a small brush instead.

What To Do After Pressure Washing Your Bike

The process of bike cleaning isn’t over once you spray your frame. There are a few steps you need to take after pressure washing to protect your bike.

Pressure washing won’t get all of the dirt off your bike, especially since you can’t directly spray some of the most sensitive parts of the bike. Instead, you’ll have to use a degreaser to clean the crankset, derailleurs, and chain. Be sure to clean the degreaser off with soapy water afterward as it could cause your chain to seize up.

Make sure your bike is thoroughly dry before you ride it again. Wipe it down with a rag or towel and let the bike dry via air drying. Sometimes water gets stuck in the seat tube, so turn it upside down to let the seat dry completely.

Also, you need to grease your bike down before riding it again. The trouble with pressure washing is that it thoroughly strips your bike of any grease, including necessary lubricant that helps keep your bike running. After cleaning, thoroughly lube your chain with chain lube or chain oil, and lube your jockey wheels (of course, you should be doing this every time you wash your bike, even if you only use a bucket and a sponge). If you notice the bike squeaking or creaking when you ride it after washing, that means you didn’t lubricate it enough.

Pressure Washing a Bike: Worth It or Not?

Most pro mechanics advise against pressure washing a bike because direct streams of powerful pressured water can damage parts of your bike, such as the hubs and headsets. However, if you use a lower setting on your pressure cleaner, and you’re careful not to spray water directly on sensitive parts, and you lubricate afterward, you can use a pressure washer to clean a dirty bike after a muddy ride or messy day on the road.

Enjoy your clean bike!