How To Get Rust Off A Bike, Bike Chain, And Handlebars the Right Way

Drying a wet bike with an absorbent dry cloth (e.g., a small towel) and lubricating all metal parts with bike oil and grease is one way to prevent rust formation during bike maintenance.

However, every bike owner knows that prevention isn’t always possible. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you may find yourself in situations where your bike already has rust and want to get rid of it. 

So, how exactly do you set about doing this? Well, there are several methods you could use to remove bike rust.

How To Clean Rust Off Your MTB Or Road Bike

Baking Soda Paste And A Scrub Pad

Baking soda paste and a scrub pad help you get rid of rust on the metal parts of your MTB or road bike. This is because baking soda and water mixture forms an alkaline paste that can dissolve rust. 

The scrub pad helps scrub away both the dissolved rust and other rust spots, which may be more challenging to remove through mere contact with baking soda paste. 

After you’ve gotten all the rust out, wash the bike and dry it with a piece of absorbent clean cloth (e.g., a dry towel). Finally, lubricate the metal parts of the bicycle with bike oil and grease to prevent the subsequent buildup of rust.

Related: How To Raise Handlebars Of Your MTB

The Vinegar Method

To remove bike rust with vinegar, you need to pour vinegar over the affected parts of the rusty bike and let it sit for about 30 minutes. This resting period allows the vinegar to dissolve the rust as its highly acidic. That’s because vinegar contains acetic acid.

White vinegar is usually preferred for rust removal because it contains higher concentrations of acetic acid than most of the other types of vinegar. When enough time has passed and the rust has dissolved sufficiently, scrub it away using a scrub pad, steel wool, bristle brushes, or wire brushes. 

Sometimes, you may have to use more than one type of brush to remove the rust adequately. Once done with this process, you can wash the bike, rinse off the rust and soap with clean water and proceed with drying it off with a clean, absorbent cloth. 

After doing this, lubricate the metal parts of your bicycle with bike oil and grease (i.e., to keep them shiny and prevent the subsequent formation of rust).

Using WD-40 And Citric Acid

This method helps get rid of stubborn rust spots or excessive rust formation. It also works perfectly for the removal of surface rust. However, be careful when using a citric acid solution.

A citric acid solution is an acidic compound that dissolves rust by oxidizing it to form iron chloride. However, a citric acid solution can be hazardous because it can also get through the rust and damage the actual metal.

It can also be harmful to the human skin. Therefore, you should always wear protective gloves whenever using this method.

You can obtain citric acid over the counter in quantities that are adequate for carrying out this method. And as soon as you get it, you need to assemble all the other materials required for this process, such as your WD-40, scrub pad, steel wool, bristle brushes, and wire brushes. 

WD-40 is a lubricating and cleaning agent that helps clean metal parts and prevent rust. But before you use WD-40, you first have to separate the rust-affected metal parts from the rest of the bike. 

It would be best to unscrew or unbolt all the rusty metal parts from the rest of the bike beforehand. That’s because this rust removal process is more effective when done separately on each cycle part. 

Why?

It makes them easier to submerge in the citric acid solution. 

After you’ve cleaned them sufficiently, you should set about preparing your citric acid solution. Before you begin, remember to put on your protective gloves to protect 

To prepare the citric acid solution, you’ll need a vat of a large container of hot water. Add in the amount of citric acid powder specified on the label of your citric acid. 

However, in the absence of these instructions, you may add a quarter or half a cup of citric acid to the hot water (you may have to add more citric acid powder if this quantity is not enough). Mix it well and place your cleaned metal parts into the citric acid solution. 

After some minutes (usually about 30 minutes), you may start noticing tiny bubbles forming on the rusty metals as the acidic citric acid eats away the rust. If there are no bubbles, it means that the amount of citric acid powder in the solution is not enough, and you probably should add more). 

After a short while, you should start scrubbing the rust off the bike’s rusty metal parts using your scrub pad, bristle brushes, or wire brushes (you may need to use more than one to scrub off all the rust sufficiently). 

While scrubbing, you can periodically rinse with the citric acid solution to remove stubborn rust spots, which may be much harder to eliminate than surface rust that comes off relatively easily.

However, you have to be very careful to limit the rusty parts’ exposure time to the citric acid solution as much as possible. The acidic solution will not dissolve and damage the actual metal underneath the rust.

After removing the rust sufficiently, you can rinse off the bike’s disassembled metal parts with clean water and dry them off with a clean, absorbent cloth. After this, you should lubricate the metal parts with bike oil and fix them back onto the bicycle. Frequently lubricating the bike’s metal parts will prevent more rust over time.

How To Get The Rust Off Bike Handlebars

If your bike’s handlebars have tape wrapped on them, it’s hard to see the rust below. But if your bike is old, we’d advice removing and wrapping the handlebar tape again so you can check and get rid of the rust so your bike looks nice and feels smooth again.

You can clean rusty handlebars with several methods (some of which we discussed earlier in the article. However, if your bike handlebars are chromium plated, here is another way that would be perfect for you; the aluminum foil method.

Aluminum foil is a light form of metal ideal for removing rust from rusty chromium-plated metal handlebars. It preserves the metal’s glossy look without leaving any marks indicative of some other types of rust removal methods (particularly those involving steel wool and wire brushes). 

This method is straightforward, and it involves only a few easy steps: first, obtain your aluminum foil. Then, roll it into a light ball and dip it inside clean water. After this, use the moistened ball of aluminum foil to scrub away surface rust from your handlebars.

Another thing about this method is that it helps remove some stubborn rust spots without leaving a mark on the mirror-like surface of your chromium-plated handlebars. To achieve this, you only have to scrub for longer. 

While doing this, you should wipe down the handlebars at intervals, using a piece of clean, absorbent cloth (e.g., a towel) to make the rust removal process more effective.

How To Get The Rust Off The Bike Chain

The bike chain is one of the essential parts of a bicycle composed entirely of metal; this makes it quite susceptible to rust. 

Using a rusty bike chain is one of the most dangerous things a biker can ever do because the purpose of the bike chain is to transmit locomotion and power generated from the movement of the pedals to the bike’s drive wheel; thereby enabling the bike’s motion. 

When a bike chain is rusty, its movement isn’t as smooth as it is supposed to be, making a smooth ride impossible for the biker. Also, because rust is a sign of degradation, a rusty bike chain is more likely to break than one free of rust. 

The only way to fix your bike’s chain is to remove rust from your bike chain as soon as you notice it. To do so, you may use the WD-40 method, which involves only two things: your trusty WD-40 your bristle brushes.

First, clean your bike chain to remove oil and grease (as these will reduce the effectiveness of the WD-40). Next, you need to spray WD-40 all over the bike chain’s rusty parts. Leave it alone for about 10 to 20 minutes. After this, get to scrubbing away the rust with your bristle brushes. 

Once you’ve suitably achieved this, you can clean the bike chain with a piece of dry absorbent cloth (e.g., a towel). Afterward, you don’t necessarily need to apply bike oil or lube onto the formerly rusty bike chain – to prevent the subsequent formation of rust – because WD-40 itself is a type of lubricant.

If you do not have lube, don’t worry. There are numerous chain lube alternatives you can use once in a while. These include olive oil/cooking oil, chainsaw oil, silicone oil and so on.

How To Get The rust Off A Bike Chain Without WD-40

If you’re thinking of removing rust from your bike chain without using WD-40, there is something you should know: it is possible. 

You may use any methods stated earlier in this article, i.e., baking soda paste, vinegar, citric acid solution method. Or even others, such as the lemon juice and bristle brush method (which involves adding lemon juice to the rusted parts of the bike chain. 

Before using a bristle brush to scrub away the rust after 10 to 15 minutes), the baking powder solution method and baking soda solution method (which are pretty similar to the baking soda paste method). 

Additionally, you may decide to use other chemical removers like Evapo-Rust, Whink Rust Remover, Iron Out Spray Rust Stain Remover, and Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter Metal Primer.

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Written By Robert Gibbons
From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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