Clean chain for lubricant

I’ve been reading a lot about chain lubrication. And for next season I want to start fresh with a new lube. My problem is everybody says to start over the chain should be completely clean/stripped. I don’t have the time , equipment or inclination to take my chain off and try to get it completely stripped. So I thought I would just buy a new chain. But it seems like all the new chains come with factory grease, which leads me in the same predicament. Has anybody found a way to buy a chain that’s completely clean?

There are lots of ways to do this…but a few basic tips / ideas:

  • install the chain with a quick link. This makes fir future removal / cleaning much easier.

  • drop the chain in a jar of mineral spirits (or an old water bottle), let soak and then shake vigorously. Wipe down with a clean rag and then let it dry. Multiple cleanings may be required.

  • get an ultrasonic cleaner. Cheap on Amazon and will get your drivetrain parts sparkling clean with a minimum amount of fuss.

There are a lot of threads on here abiut waxing chains, which will give you other ideas about cleaning them since waxing requires a full stripping of the chains.

The factory grease that chains come packaged in will definitely call for multiple cleanings / strippings. The purpose of that grease is to prevent rusting of the chain, not lubrication and it is some thick schitt.

Good luck…once you do your first chain or two, it is a piece of cake (and even your first one isn’t that hard).


Thanks for the info, but my question wasn’t how to do it. It’s how to avoid doing it. Is it possible to buy a chain that’s already been stripped?

Most are lubricated to stop rusting in the time between manufacture and customer purchase.

Why not buy through your local bike shop and ask them to degrease it for you first?


If you aren’t into spending time on cleaning and lubricating your chain, I’d recommend using chain-L if you want to minimize the amount of time spent faffing around with chain lube… it’s lasts so damn long it’s ridiculous. I just finished my first bottle of the stuff and it took over 20,000km to do it. Since I do audax rides I need chain lube that’ll last for rainy 600km rides.

I’ve never stripped the factory lube off a chain, there’s no reason to. It’s just a thick oil so it works well as a lubricant in my experience and I get hundreds of km out of it before the chain starts squeaking. The only thing I do with a new chain is wipe the excess off the outside of the chain so it doesn’t get dirty (you can do that with a rag dampened with mineral spirits), really any wet lubed chain should be wiped to appear almost dry after applying the lube and letting it soak into the rollers.

Unfortunately, no…as noted, the factory grease is to prevent rust.


The factory grease is horrifically inefficient. Sure, it lasts a long time and never squeaks, but if you care at all about performance, you should strip it down. It will literally rob you of more than a handful of watts.

Now, if you aren’t concerned about performance (and plenty of people aren’t…nothing wrong with that!), then there is nothing wring with just putting on the new chain, logging your miles and enjoying your ride!


You aren’t going to find a new chain that’s been stripped of it grease because that grease is there to prevent rusting during storage and shipping. So you can either have your bike shop do it, have a friend do it for you, or do it yourself. Honestly, to get it ‘good enough’ it shouldn’t take more than 5 min extra.

Just get a Gatorade bottle, put Simple Green or Mineral Spirits in the bottle with the chain, then shake it for a couple min. You may want to repeat it again to get it all off but once would probably be fine. Then install the chain.

If you scroll down on this page Josh Portner from Silca details it in the “on the bike” video. If you don’t know who he is, he has a long history with Zipp and of consulting with pro cycling teams so he knows a thing or two.


Taking a chain off and installing one is quite simple (and quick!) once you’ve done it a few times. Plus if you brought a new chain, you would have to do that anyway?

The way to do it is to not use a wax lube that requires full stripping. I’ve had many years of great luck with Rock N Roll Gold. It’s a “cleaner lube” which means a lube in a solvent base. You put it on the dirty chain and then wipe it off. Do this 2-3-4 times until the chain is clean and you’ll have a clean, quiet chain ready for another week or two of work. I would just use paper towels and toss them after cleaning. Wearing some disposable gloves helps keep your hands clean.

Every two or three months give your bike a full wash. Wash the chain with soap and water. After drying, put the cleaner lube back on and wipe off. It works brilliantly.

Every six months or three thousand miles or so, I’d just toss the chain and start fresh. I’d never physically remove the chain between cleanings which is what you have to do with a wax lube.

The only downside is that a Rock n Roll chain gets dirty between cleanings and will leave chain marks on your leg if you touch it. But this is the same with any wet lube. Rock n Roll is also not a great wet weather lube or mountain bike lube. They do make a thicker lube called Extreme.

In one of the marginal gains podcasts, josh portner from silca explained one way to do it that he said was virtually the same as doing it untrasonically. I have used this method ever since, and it makes the cleanest chain I have ever seen.

you need 4 wide mouth bottles or jars

3 filled with mineral spirits, 1 with alcohol.

wipe the chain clean much as possible

put the chain into the first jar of mineral spirits and shake it for a while

take it out, wipe it down, put into the second jar, shake it

take it out, wipe it down, put it into third jar, shake it

take it out, wipe it down, put into the alcohol and shake it

After these 4 steps, my chain has always come out absolutely pristine

store the jars in order of filth for the next time

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It’s oil, not grease in the true sense of that word… grease has thickeners like soap in it. Looking again at the chain-L instructions they do say to lube over the factory lube but nothing about stripping the factory lube so I guess I will do that since that stuff works well for me.

I do care a bit about performance (otherwise why be on a forum about training lol) but I don’t think the cost for me (in terms of time and money) is worth the 10W (or whatever difference) the ideal lube would get me I’d rather just spend my time riding and money on replacing chains a bit earlier, especially since I ride 10 speed still and can buy good chains for 20 or 30$ online.

I’ve had the same thought - after going through the process of stripping ~10 new chains ahead of waxing, I’m kind of over the whole mineral spirits 3x, alcohol 2x and about 30 minutes of wiping/shaking/cleanup each time then figuring out how to properly dispose of the used spirits and alcohol… Despite all that I think waxing is totally worth it

Anyways, I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m wondering if the guy who runs this site would sell a chain stripped but not waxed. Seems like it’s worth an ask, but I haven’t bothered to yet.