ASK RIDE…Am I damaging my chain cleaning it this way?

When my chain gets really dirty (which I realise it shouldn’t) I’ve taken to removing it from the bike and cleaning it using a heavy-duty degreaser from an Auto-Supply store.  The aerosole ones are solvent based (I think) and you can also get containers full of some thick pink fluid (alkaline I think) which I soak the chain in, then shake it all about in an old juice bottle.

They do a terriffic job of getting all the grease off the chain, but I am wondering – are they damaging for it?  I know on the instructions that come with Shimano chains it says not to use Alkaline products.  Are their components of a chain what would be degraded by solvent based/alkaline products?  Once I’ve cleaned it up good with the soapy pink stuff I rinse thoroughly and sometimes even then soak again in Methylated Spirits.

The chains come up to a mirror finish, with very little by way of scrubbing with an old toothbrush or whatever.  Lube up and back on the bike.

I just want to know if this process would somehow damage the chain.



Hi Patrick,

Thanks for your inquiry about chain cleaning.  This is a good one that we get asked quite a lot.

I’ll quote from the service instructions which are included with Shimano chains…

“Clean regularly with an appropriate chain cleaner.  Never use alkali based or acid based solvents such as rust cleaners.  If those solvents are used the chain might break or cause serious injury.”

By “appropriate chain cleaner” the instructions are referring to products which have been developed specifically for bicycle usage.  These are usually citrus based degreasers which are less caustic than automobile or industrial grade products.  Citrus-based cleaners might require a bit more elbow grease to thoroughly clean chains, but they remove the possibility of premature chain fatigue due to acidic cleaning agents.  Citrus based cleaners also provide a more Earth-friendly option.

Hope this info is helpful.

Best regards,


Greg Chalberg has been working for Shimano since 1994 and has seen groupsets move from 7 to 10 and now electronic gear shifting with Shimano Di2

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