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How to clean a motorcycle

It's important to ensure your motorcycle is safe & running smoothly, and that it looks great too, of course! Read our guide for cleaning tips & advice.


how to clean a motorcycle

There are two very good reasons why motorcycle cleaning should be a priority for all bike owners: not only does regular maintenance ensure that the motorcycle or moped continues to run smoothly and reduces the risk of damage, but it also keeps the bike looking its best.

Motorcycle cleaning does take a bit of time and effort, but you can really cut down the amount of time it takes by doing small amounts of cleaning on a regular basis, as part of your normal cleaning schedule. It’s much easier than tackling months worth of caked-on dirt and grime all in one go.

To ensure your motorcycle is safe to ride and running smoothly, clean it on a regular basis. For example, your motorcycle chain can get caught on dirt and grime if you allow it to build up. Use a commercial cleaning degreaser to remove build-ups and oily residues on chains.

What Motorcycle Cleaner Should I Use?

It’s so tempting to simply get the pressure washer out and blast all the dirt and dust off your motorcycle, or to mix up some washing-up liquid with warm water and give a quick sponge down, but neither of these actually make for a very good motorcycle cleaner. Pressure washers are too powerful to deal with the delicate parts of the bike, especially areas such as the radiators and coolers, chains, and wheel bearings.

Dishwashing soap, or regular laundry detergent, often contain salts that can damage the paintwork and contribute to corrosion of the metal frame. It’s always best to use a dedicated motorcycle cleaner that can be purchased from any automotive store.

You’ll also want a good degreaser to act as a motorcycle chain cleaner. A good quality degreaser can be used to get rid of build-ups and oily residues on chains, allowing them to move more freely without getting caught on dirt and grime. After degreasing chains, use a lubricant to re-oil them, so they can continue to move smoothly.


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clean a motorcycle

Do I Use a Brush or Sponge for Motorcycle Cleaning?

One of the big questions in terms of motorcycle cleaning is how motorcycle cleaner should be applied: brush or sponge? Of course, everyone has their own preferred method as to how to clean a motorcycle, but the best way is to actually use both of these items. Each is appropriate for a different part of the motorcycle or moped that you’re cleaning. Here’s how to clean a motorcycle using both a brush and sponge:


Sponges should be used for the large areas of the motorcycle that aren’t particularly vulnerable to caked-in dirt and that are especially hard wearing.

  • On the main bodywork and frame of the motorcycle or moped, but not anywhere else, apply a soapy solution (made with special motorcycle cleaner) either from front to back, or from top to bottom. This is all down to personal preference.
  • For stubborn stains and dried-on bugs, you may need to hold your sponge over the dirt for a minute or two to soften it.
  • Once your sponge becomes soiled, or has absorbed any amount of caked-on dirt, switch to a clean sponge – dirty sponges can scratch the paint and metal. Some bike owners also find that a soft tea towel is a good alternative to a sponge.
  • Rinse with clean water, but remember to do so gently, and if you plan on using a hose, don’t aim the spray directly at any vulnerable areas.


Brushes should be used in all other areas of the motorcycle or moped. Not only do they make motorcycle cleaning easier, as they can get into nooks and crannies, brushes can also protect the delicate parts of the bike from vigorous scrubbing.

  • Shocks and brake calipers can be cleaned using a brush.
  • Use a dedicated motorcycle cleaning brush, or any other type of medium-hard bristled brush, such as an old toothbrush, a washing up brush, or even a small paintbrush.
  • Brushes can also be used to clean parts of the exhaust – like the pipes – and the engine, but as these places get hot, you’ll want to remember two things: allow the bike to cool completely after a ride before cleaning, and expect to spend more time and effort on these areas, as heat dries dirt out and makes it harder to lift off.
  • Use a brush to apply a degreaser to the chains to make your motorcycle chain cleaner, and a lubricant, too. Once you’ve applied the lubricant between all the chain links, use a microfibre cloth to massage the oil into the chain for optimal results.
  • Don’t forget areas such as the mudguards, number plate, and pivots, but be careful cleaning around any seals. You’ll want to avoid brushing seals, if possible, to prevent them from becoming loose.

3 Final Touches for Motorcycle Cleaning

Once the motorcycle has been cleaned, allow it to dry completely before giving it a few finishing touches:

  • Use a chamois leather cloth to gently buff the main body of the motorcycle. This will get rid of any watermarks that have been left from the rinse, and will add a shine and sparkle to dull paintwork.
  • Use an ordinary household polish to bring a shine to the wheels and help them move more freely. Never spray polish directly onto the wheels – spray onto the cloth instead – and be careful to avoid touching the brakes.
  • Apply a lubricant to any moving parts, like the chain, as this will ensure that any oils that were washed out from the rinse are reapplied to the bike.

There you have it: now you know which products and methods to use to clean your motorcycle quickly and effectively, you’re ready to get your vehicle gleaming in no time.

  • Specialized motorcycle cleaner
  • Bike degreaser and lubricant
  • Polish
  • Chamois leather cloth
  • Medium-hard bristle brush
  • Sponges
  • Originally published