How to Remove Bike Grease from Clothes

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It’s nice to ride to work or school, but it is frustrating to have bike grease on your clothes when you’re done riding the bicycle.

Grease fixes those squeaks and helps keep a bicycle’s moving parts moving, but it comes with some hazards.

A man showing his greasy hands after working on a bike
© Richard Masoner | Creative Commons

In this article, we’ll tell you how to remove bike grease from clothes—and how to avoid getting it on you in the first place.

What you’ll need to remove bike grease from clothes

Before we get into the substances you can use for your cleaning, we have a few recommendations for tools. They include:

  • toothbrush
  • washing machine
  • rag
  • towel
  • your hands

A toothbrush helps especially when you use vinegar. It is a very effective way to remove grease.

A rag or towel is great for applying the detergent or chemical to the grease stain.

Your hands might be the best bet for a pre-wash, or just to scrub the garment if you don’t have a toothbrush.

No matter which method you use, giving your clothes a regular cycle in the washing machine afterward is an important finishing touch.

7 ways to remove bike grease from clothes

Dishwashing liquid

Dawn Platinum Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap (3x24oz) + Non-Scratch Sponge (2 Count), Refreshing Rain, 1 Set

The best way to get rid of bike grease from your clothes would be dishwashing liquid. Just apply a small amount on the stain, scrub it gently with a toothbrush, and rinse it with cold water before throwing it in the washing machine.

Laundry detergent

Another way to remove it is to use laundry detergent. Pre-treating the grease would be the most efficient way. First, you should apply a small amount of laundry detergent on the stain and rub it in. Let it sit for 5-15 minutes depending on how large or strong the stain is. Then, rinse it with cold water. After doing so, throw it in the washing machine and let it air dry when it’s finished.

Shampoo or soap

The first step is covering the stain and letting it sit in the soap or shampoo detergent. The second step is to dip the garment in a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water and scrub it with a toothbrush. The final step is to wash it in the machine and let it air dry.

Baking soda

The first thing you should do is to sprinkle a tiny bit of baking soda on the grease stains. Then let it sit overnight and brush it off in the morning. Finally, wash the clothes and allow the washing machine to do its magic.

Spot remover

Shout Spray and Wash Advanced Action Stain Remover for Clothes, 22 oz

Spray the spot remover on the stain while using a toothbrush to gently scrub the stain. Repeat the first step with all the bike chain grease stains. Finally, wash the clothing in the washing machine.

Lemon juice and vinegar

This is another great option to use for getting rid of those stains. The first thing you want to do is mix the lemon juice and vinegar together in about equal parts. Apply it to the stain, then wash it in the machine.

Borax

Borax 20 Mule Team Detergent Booster, 65 Ounces

Borax is another option you can mix with lemon juice. The first step is to make a paste with borax and lemon juice. Then, apply it to the stain. After applying it, put it in the washing machine. You can find borax in the laundry detergent aisle in the store.

Tips for cleaning bike grease

Act fast!

It’s important to act quickly, because you don’t want the grease stain on there too long. It might become part of the shirt or pants you were wearing when you brushed up against your bike. The faster you target the stain, the better of a chance the stain will be removed.

Try again

Keep in mind that whichever cleaning method you think will work the best might not work on the first try. It might take several times to clean it.

It’s also worthwhile to test the different cleaning methods. If the stain is big, try something on a small piece of it and see if it helps. If not, try something else or repeat the process.

Pay attention to labels

Another tip is to check the labels of your clothes. Are they made out of cotton or synthetic fibers? Each type of fabric reacts differently to stains, and each has a wash cycle that suits it best. Cotton, for example, can handle more rigorous cleaning than synthetic material can.

Be gentle

Finally, always be gentle when working on a stain. If you are too rigorous you might further embed the grease and cause the stain to become worse.

How to avoid getting bike grease on your clothes

The most common way cyclists get grease on their clothes is from greasing their bike. There are several parts of a bike that need to be greased—chain, brakes, gears, pedals—and that can lead to stains on your clothing.

Closeup image of a greasy bicycle chain
The chain and the parts it comes into contact with are the most likely to spread grease to your clothes. (Modified image © R. Nial Bradshaw | Creative Commons)

Although no one likes to get dirty or stain their clothes while cleaning a bike, it is vital to take good care of your bike so it doesn’t break down and require a replacement.

Keep the chain clean

The chain is what keeps the bike going, but when it gets loaded up with grease it is the chief culprit for staining clothes. It helps to keep it clean.

Clean chain on a bicycle
Keeping your bike chain clean is a good start.

To clean it, you can use a toothbrush and a degreaser such as WD-40. First, you spray the degreaser on the toothbrush. While backpedaling with your hand and the bike on its stand, gently brush the chain while it’s in motion. You can also use a special chain-cleaning tool for this, which clamps around the chain and brushes it as the chain runs through.

Rinse the chain using another brush soaked in water (or put water in your chain-cleaning tool). This helps get the degreaser off.

After that, dry your chain with a rag and add some bike lubricant. Just small drops as you run the pedals to move the chain around the rings, but try to get a drop on every link. Use a rag to wipe off any excess lube when you’re done.

Try a chain guard

One final thing that can help is a chain guard, also known as a gearcase. This helps prevent you from getting soiled by the chainrings.

Side view of a bicycle with a chain guard, leaning against a stone wall
A chain guard covers the outside of the chain and can help you keep your pants from brushing against the greasy chain.

Now you know how to go about removing grease stains from your clothing. Unfortunately, it may take more than one try to treat the stain. By utilizing some combination of the seven different ways we’ve described above, you should get what you’re after once you’ve washed your clothes in the machine.

By using the proper methods to clean the bike, and treating your fabrics quickly after getting bike chain grease or any other kind of stain on them, your clothes and your bike should be in good shape.

Featured image: © pjmorse | Creative Commons

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