How To Clean Your Motorcycle In 5 Easy Steps

We all love a clean and shiny motorcycle but knowing which cleaning products to buy can sometimes be a little daunting, and so too can be the method to clean your motorcycle.

When I first started riding in my teenage years, I cleaned my bike with a sponge bucket and a squirt of dishwashing liquid, and it did the job, well, kind of! 

Since then, I’ve tried different products and techniques and have perfected a method that will leave your pride and joy looking like it rolled off the dealership floor and protect it for years.

Let me show you how to transform your bike to look as good as new.

So my bike isn’t looking too bad as lockdown hasn’t allowed me to ride, but it’s still due a thorough clean. 

At this stage, it’s worth me pointing out that my bike has a coating of ACF 50 already on it. 

What is ACF 50? in brief, it protects your bike from road salts and all the grime that makes it rust. 

Rust isn’t good unless you have a rat rod, in which case the patina look is awesome.

How To Clean Your Bike

1 Clean Your Chain

My chain is ready for a thorough clean so that I will remove all the grime, dirt, and old chain lube. You can buy a purpose-made chain cleanerOpens in a new tab. that does the job, but you can also use white spirit, which is a perfect degreaser and is a fraction of the cost.

Give the chain a thorough soak in white spirit to dislodge the dirt. Then, I spin the wheel and scrub the chain clean on three sides using a purpose-made chain cleaning brushOpens in a new tab..

When I’m happy it’s clean, I turn the brush over and scrub the top of the chain. You need to remove all the old lube and dirt as that can damage the chain, or more precisely, the O-rings within the chain.

The O-rings are rubber seals to keep grease inside the chain so the chain operates correctly. Please don’t confuse this with lubricating the outside of your chain, which we will cover later.

Once you have cleaned the chain, it must be thoroughly dry before lubricating it. That’s it! 

So we’ve cleaned the chain and dried it off with a clean cloth, and normally I would lubricate the chain, but because we’re going to give the bike a very deep clean, I’m going to return to that part later.

2 Pre-Wash Your Motorcycle

Any exposed electrical connections like my Sat Nav will need to be wrapped in a plastic bag or use cling film. 

Next, you should give the worst of the areas a squirt of pre-wash, which agitates the stubborn dirt and makes it easier to wash away.

Please ensure you get into all the hard-to-reach places, too, where the dirt and grease can build up.

Leave it to work its magic for about five to ten minutes before rinsing it off. Now, I’m a relatively new convert to snow foam. But, I’ve seen some of my friends on Instagram using it. 

3 Foam Wash Your Bike 

Foaming washOpens in a new tab. is like a bubble bath for your bike. But, unlike bubble bath, there’s no need to light candles, play relaxing music, or even have a glass of Prosecco while soaking. 

It’s a thick, dense cleaning fluid. The lather works to gently remove dirt and grime, including stubborn marks like bird poo, grease, and even oil.

I like to start at the top and work along and down to the bottom of the bike. Bikes are made to withstand heavy rain, and although you don’t want to remove the seat and soak your electrical system, you’ll be fine covering the entire bike.

Make sure you turn the wheels a couple of times too. I’m using Pedro’s MTB Green Fizz Foaming Wash, and they recommend applying it to the entire vehicle and allowing it to dwell until the foam begins to break, but don’t allow it to dry. 

Some say you can use a hand mitt or sponge to work the stubborn dirt off, but I don’t like to. I don’t because dirt can scratch your paint and leave tiny swirl marks where you’ve rubbed it. A pre-wash removes the majority of dirt and leaves your paint undamaged. 

Once we’ve rinsed off the snow foam, we can move on to the next stage.

4 Wash And Wax Shampoo

I’m using Motul Wash and WaxOpens in a new tab., which gives a level of protection and shine as you wash. It’s much more effective than using dishwashing liquid.

If you don’t use snow foam, you can do this, but I would say use a hose to rinse the dirt off your bike first, as you always want to give your bike a pre-wash so as not to damage the paint.

I would encourage you to use a two-bucket method. One bucket contains your shampoo and the other plain water for rinsing.

After wiping the shampoo over your tank, wash the mitt in the rinsing water. This will ensure you don’t wipe dirt into your paintwork. 

I’ve seen videos and witnessed them for myself, and this is one thing you MUST NOT do. I have seen people putting a sponge on the floor, then picking it up and wiping it over their paintwork. That’s the worst thing you can do as it will leave scratches all over the paint.

When you have finished the entire bike, rinse it off with a hose. I will also use the tire scrub and water to clean and rinse any products off of my tires. Okay, that’s it! 

We’ve rinsed the bike off, and the final stage is to dry the bike. 

5 Dry Your Motorcycle

I use microfiber drying towelsOpens in a new tab. which are fantastic for laying on top of the paintwork to soak up and absorb the water. The other thing you’ll find is that the water sits in all these nooks and crannies, so it can be difficult to get to with the towel.

I have been known to sneak into the house and borrow my wife’s hairdryer, but that’s a bit of a slow process. You can buy a motorcycle dryer or even a pet dryer which is a similar thing. Some people use a leaf blower. 

I’ve been known to take the bike around the block and blow the water off, but in the winter months, you can’t do this because your bike instantly gets covered in dirt.

To towel dry your bike, start at the top and gently pat down the paint letting the towel absorb the water. I think it’s worth me pointing out at this stage that it is February, so a couple more months and the temperature would be a lot warmer, and it would dry off by itself.

This time of year, the bike doesn’t want to dry by itself, so I use the hair dryer and the drying towel.

I think, in time, I would like to buy a proper motorcycle dryer because it’s a lot smaller and easier to use, but it helps, and the hairdryer certainly does the job.

As I’m drying the bike, I use this time to check the bike over carefully. I again use a squirt of Pedro’s MTB Green Fizz Foaming Wash and a detailing brush in any areas that I may have missed or require a little more work to get them spotless.

Don’t forget to rinse off the areas you’ve washed, and return and dry them again. Take special care to check your brake pads, cables, fork seals, and coolant hoses. Don’t forget your brake fluid and coolant levels.

Don’t worry about your engine oil for the moment; we’ll return to that soon. That’s it for this stage.

In my next article, I’ll show you how to apply ACF50 to your bike. And believe me, I’m pretty confident you’ll use it forever after you’ve used it.

Cleaning Products

Chain CleanerFrom $7Opens in a new tab.
Chain BrushFrom $15Opens in a new tab.
Wash And WaxFrom $12Opens in a new tab.
Foam WashFrom $10Opens in a new tab.
Microfiber TowelFrom $6Opens in a new tab.


Keith Mallinson has been a motorcycle enthusiast for the past 20 years. He has owned a variety of bikes during this time, ranging from sport bikes to cruisers. Keith has a passion for all things motorcycle related, including riding, maintaining, and customizing his bikes. In addition to his personal experience with motorcycles, Keith has also kept up to date with industry news and trends. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and insights with others through his motorcycle blog. When he's not out on the open road, Keith can be found tinkering in his garage, planning his next road trip, or spending time with his family.