bike wash

How to wash a bicycle, which soap is best for bicycles ?

You have to wash your bicycle time to time, question is how frequently: there are more tips and tricks to make your life easier. Your bike will look shinier, operates as it should, and obviously, will last longer. Some chemicals like wax, soap or degreasing agents can be very helpful on your task, or be very harmful. As always, I’ll try to cover all details regardng bike wash.

I’m not too keen to wash my bike(s), for 2 reasons: one, I’m lazy, and I’d better devote the time and effort to ride it, rather than to wash it. Second, we live in a world where water is scarce, and with such levels of breeding, consumption and waste, we won’t survive long.

Damned with both being lazy and freaky with attention to detail, there may be some perks in learning some stuff from me.

sonax autoshampoo 2 l
Car shampoos are better alternatives to dish soap – not just because they’re pH neutral, they also contain additives to protect and shine your paint. Do not get dubious ones though; use good quality, pH neutral dish soap, rather than a god-knows-who-made-it-with-what auto shampoo.

What type of paint do bikes have ?

Since I’ve seen off-the-shelf bikes powder-coated in the factory, it’s getting scarce each day, which is somewhat good, depending on your choices. Powdercoat is thicker, and more durable, especially against scratches, but looks somewhat ugly with limited color choices.

Frame makers possibly use automotive paint, which is generally acrylic-based – its cheaper than epoxy-based paints, less toxic, has the infinite color choice advantage, and dries very quickly. Even with amateur applications, an acrylic-based auto paint can set as quickly as 5 mins depending on the hardener and temperature. I know they used lacquer-based paints in the past, which sets very quickly, but never looks shiny as acrylic-based paints.

So, if you bought your bike in the last one or decade, you’ll probably have the acrylic-based car paint on your bike – this is a huge advantage when cleaning your bike because now you know how to treat it: use automotive products! They are cheaper than “bike-specific” products, and probably much better.

I highly suggest waxing your painted parts – not only they’ll look perfect, but also they will last much longer, and you’ll need much less effort to clean your bike. Keep your paint well maintained, as painting a bike properly is no easy task!

Powerwashing not allowed – except…

Do not ever use power washers to clean your bike, for 2 reasons: almost every crevice, including bottom brackets, hubs and headsets will be soaked in water, causing rusted, then pitted bearings.

Another pitfall is, power washers are immensely strong: it can cut your flesh in 30-40cm’s, or even more: paint on bikes are generally too thin. I’ve seen many frames not properly primed. Almost never saw a bike with clear coat. So, it’s fragile.

If you are restoring a bike, or rebuilding a bike from scratch, you may use a power washer on a bike that is fully taken apart. Especially, when you want to clean the innards of tubes filled with nasty stuff. But that’s it.Power washers can destroy your paint and decals otherwise.

Picking up the correct soap to wash your bicycle

Many will say, dish soap is good with bikes. Is it? It depends.

One little story about shiny glasses at restaurants: I’ ve had many friends who are restaurant owners. Their tip for shiny glasses? If they’re not washed in dishwasher, leave them a bit soapy! If rinsed, they become dull, they say. Same thing with your car, or bike.

If I have, I use carwash soap. It makes my bike(s) super shiny, with an added benefit: good brands have some paint protectors and various

3m clay bar
3M clay bar – this is the exact stuff I use, which is crazy expensive. Some people say Playdough does a better job! Never tried that, or did not bother about 3M’s price, because a single pack lasts for a year for me.

chemicals in them, they just not make it super shiny, but also attract less dust, and much better, they’ re easy on wax, if you wax your frames – here is why you should wax your frames, my fellow riders…

Stuff needed – or better to have – to wash your bikes properly

Here is what to have, to wash your precious bicycle, in an ideal world:

  • A spray head with trigger, a garden type is perfect for the task.
  • Sponge. Do not use green, abrasive type sponge. A car type sponge works best, and its cheap.
  • A proper soap, automotive type preferred. If you don’t have, or can’t afford it, buy a proper, neutral pH, good quality dish soap.
  • Clay bar. More on that later.
  • Automotive wax. It will protect your paint like Swiss Guard.
  • Microfiber towels.
  • 2x gallon, or 5 liter containers. 2 is preferred, but you can get away with one.
  • Old tooth brushes

Proper wash method

2 buckets preferred. Fill one container. Get your sponge, soak it, and add wash soap directly on sponge. Put the sponge in the empty container, and

turtle wax carnauba wax
Turtle Wax Carnauba Wax. When in doubt or out of money, I go Turtle Wax; though generally use Meguiars, which is 2x to 3x expensive. Does it worth it? Probably no. Get a small bottle Turtle Wax, you’ll be good. They expire in 5 years after production date, and half liter bottles will last that long for even multiple bikes. Get the smallest package you can.

direct your spray head onto it while filling the container. This method is best for getting the most amount of foam possible 🙂

Then, wet your bike. But before that, remove all fabric stuff, like bags of all sorts – if you have a real leather saddle like Brooks, obviously, you need to remove it too – but for lesser saddles, I suggest removing them, too. Water is not good for them, especially if gets into spongy parts. It will cause mildew at best.

Dip an old toothbrush in soapy water first, then clean the chainrings, cassette, derailleurs, and chain. You don’t want to wash your bike with oily water, so don’t re-dip the toothbrush in any container. Instead, rinse it with water and reapply soap as needed.
Even if you have auto soap, use dish soap on these parts because it is cheaper and a better degreaser.

Wash your frame with a sponge after cleaning the greasy and oily parts, then dip the sponge into other container to clean it. When you’re finished, rinse with a spray head or hose and wipe dry with microfiber towels.This will keep scale marks and mineral deposits at bay.

You could now use a clay bar. Clay bar is a marvel: it can remove mineral deposits such as iron particles from brake pads, scale, and even very persistent deposits such as sap.Rub it over the paint while it’s slightly wet and you’ll be surprised at how much debris it collects. Change sides or bend it over from time to time to avoid scratching your frame.

Extra step #2: Once the clay is barred, it’s time to wax. Wax, particularly Carnauba-based waxes, is an excellent paint protector.
I prefer to use premium Meguiars products or well-known brands such as Turtle Wax, which is significantly less expensive than Meguiars or Auto Glym but still does a great job.

Can I use rubbing compound?

In an ideal world, where you wax your bike on a regular basis and keep it out of the sun and rain, you won’t need rubbing compound.
Rubbing compound is used to remove a thin layer of paint or clearcoat so that your paint looks new and shiny.
It’s similar to very fine sandpaper. It is, in fact, liquid sandpaper!

It’s not even suitable for car paint, which is orders of magnitude thicker than the paint layer on a bike.The paint on bikes is very thin. Mostly to save money, but thinner paint also means less weight! Don’t underestimate it: to make a bike look like a supercar, you’ll need two rattle cans of 350ml or more, each with about 100ml of paint (excluding clearcoat). That is approximately 200gr, not including primer and clearcoat. Some high-end road bikes have been purposefully painted too thin.

If you are obsessed with shiny bikes, you can apply at least two coats of clear coat while your bike is brand new; however, I have never seen anyone do this. NEVER EVER USE 1K clearcoat sold in rattle cans. They are unable to withstand UV light and become dull and yellow in a very short period of time, resulting in a very bad appearance, worse than weathered paint – then they flake off.

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