Can You Use WD40 on a Bike Chain (What to Know First)

WD40 has many uses, and it’s extremely handy for maintenance and repairs on a variety of machines and products.

But, can you use WD40 on a bike chain? 

You can effectively use the original WD40 formula to clean and degrease your dirty bike chain. However, you’ll need to apply a different lubricant on the chain after using WD40, because WD40 is a degreaser and rust solvent. So, using WD40 by itself will actually remove lubricant and leave your chain dry. 

This article will talk about the difference between the original WD40 and the new WD40 bike chain products. We’ll discuss if you can clean and lubricate your bike chain with these products and give you a few alternatives to lubricate your chain, as well. Let’s get started!

Original WD40 vs. New WD40 Bike Chain Products

Original WD40 

The original WD40 stands for Water Displacement 40th attempt. Supposedly, it took 40 tries to get the formula right! This product is not a lubricant, it is a solvent. It will eat away at rust, dirt, and other contaminants that can make things get stuck. It might seem like it lubricates, but it technically degreases. 

For example, you might use WD40 if you find a nut and bolt have rusted together. The WD40 would loosen the rust enough that you could probably get them apart. 

However, if you were to spray Original WD40 on your bike chain, it would remove all of the lubricants that are already there. Your chain would be dry. A dry chain can be noisy and might cause damage to the drive train. 

New WD40 Bike Chain Products

With that said, the makers of WD40 have also released a line of products specifically for bike chains.

You’ll find WD40 Specialist Bike Degreaser, a Wet Lube, and a Dry Lube, as well as WD40 Specialist Bike Chain Lube. The bike chain degreaser has a foaming action that is designed to stick to your chain while it penetrates grease and grime. It is said to be safe for your other bike components as well, including carbon fiber and your bike’s paint finish.

You can safely use this product knowing it won’t damage your bike. 

The WD40 Specialist Bike Chain Lube is made for both wet and dry conditions. The easy spray formula is designed to protect your chain from wear and tear and prevent squeaks. It does not contain any wax, which can build up in the bike’s components. 

WD40 Wet Lube works better in wet conditions, such as when you might be riding in the rainy season. The WD40 Dry Lube is specifically made for more dry conditions. Just imagine you are biking through a dry dusty desert – that’s when you’ll want to use the dry lube. 

Now that you know the difference between Original WD40 and its bike-specific components, you might want to know more about whether you can use the original version on your bike. 

Should You Use WD40 to Clean a Bike Chain?

You can use WD40 (the original formula) to clean your bike chain. It is a strong degreaser that will cut through tough grime and grease that may have accumulated on your chain. Since it comes in an aerosol spray with a small straw, you can pinpoint exactly where you want the solvent to go. However, you should take care not to get this strong product on other parts of your bicycle.

If you do use the original WD40 to clean your bike chain, make sure you thoroughly rinse away the product and dry the chain before applying your lubricant. Any WD40 that is left behind will eat away the fresh lubricant that you use on your chain. 

For best results, though, choose a specifically designed product to clean bike chains, such as WD40 Specialist Bike Degreaser, which is considerably more gentle on your bike. 

Should You Use WD40 to Lubricate a Bike Chain?

You should not use the original WD40 to lubricate your bike chain. Original WD40 is a degreaser, not a lubricant. It will remove dirt and debris from your chain, but it will also remove any lubricant. WD40 will leave your chain dry and squeaky, which could eventually damage your drive train. It might seem like it works at first, but the effect won’t last and you’ll be putting excessive wear and tear on your chain and drivetrain. 

4 Bike Chain Lube Alternatives

You should always keep a spare bottle of bicycle chain lubricant on hand to keep your drive train working its best. A dirty or dry chain is harder to pedal, and not only will you waste your power, but you also risk damaging your bike. 

But, you might find yourself in a desperate place, where you have no reasonable way of getting more bike lube before your next ride. If that’s you, then below are some options you could consider. Just keep in mind that most lubricants are designed for use in closed systems where they won’t come in contact with as much dirt and grime as a bicycle chain.

With that said, there are a few bike chain lubricant alternatives that work better than others, which you could use as a last resort until you can get the appropriate bike chain lube. 

  • Olive Oil. Olive oil is the best form of vegetable oil to use in a pinch, with canola oil coming in at a close second. Since it isn’t too thick, it will penetrate the workings of the chain well. However, any kind of vegetable oil can pick up dirt easily. It also breaks down more quickly than typical bike chain lube so it won’t last as long, but it definitely will work in a pinch. When you apply any olive or canola oil to sure, just be sure to wipe off any excess.
  • Canning Wax. If you can vegetables, you may have some spare paraffin wax laying around. Believe it or not, this makes an excellent lubricant for your chain. You need to remove the chain from your bike and clean it well. Melt the wax in a double boiler or crockpot, and dip the chain into the hot wax, being careful not to get burned in the process. Hang up the chain to cool, and then put it back on your bike. For more detailed directions, see this instructable.
  • Chainsaw or bar oil. Chainsaw oil can also be used as a bike chain lubricant. However, it is designed for much higher RPMs than a bike chain would put out. For this reason, the oil is much thicker and stickier than typical bike lube. However, if you are riding in very wet or inclement weather, this can be beneficial. 
  • Motor Oil. You may have seen videos of Tour de France mechanics borrowing a little motor oil from their car’s dipstick. Motor oil can work to lubricate your bike chain. However, it is a thicker oil and will take a little bit longer to soak into the tiny parts of a chain. It tends to be stickier than bike chain lube and a little harder to remove when you are ready to go back to bike chain lubricant. Plus, you really shouldn’t get this stuff on your skin, so I ultimately wouldn’t recommend this method.

If you want to learn more chain about lubricant alternatives, read my article 9 Bike Chain Lube Alternatives (And If You Should Use Them).

Can You Use WD40 on a Rusty Bike Chain?

Now, let’s touch on one more subject. Does WD40 work on a rusty bike chain?

Surface rust can be easily removed from a bike chain with a thorough application of the original WD40 product. If possible, remove the chain from the bike. Spray the entire chain with WD40, then allow it to penetrate the rust for about 20 minutes.

You may need to scrub away the rust with a gentle brush and then wash the chain. Make sure you remove all of the WD40 before you apply any more lubricant to the chain. Then you can put the chain back on the bike and lubricate it as normal.

Considering that bike chains are not expensive, you might be better off purchasing a new one if the rust is severe. 


JJ here - I've spent a lot of time on a bike, including completing the 3,000+ mile Southern Tier Route (CA to FL). I started Cycling Beast to "demystify" cycling topics, and to help people overcome roadblocks and level-up their skills.

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