How to Remove Rust From Your Bike and Keep it Off

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rusty bike

What is rust and why do we hate it?

Even if you don’t have anger issues, it’s okay to develop a healthy hatred of rust. The reasons are evident. Not only do you not want to be seen riding a bike that looks as though you just retrieved it from a scrap metal site, but your investment deserves more respect.

Let your bike components rust, and you’re inviting disaster. It won’t operate properly. It could let you down when you can least afford to have it out of commission, and what kind of rider are you if you let your pride and joy turn into a disgraceful relic?

Of course, the bike you choose will determine the amount of deterioration you can anticipate. Steel is more durable, but it rusts after coming into contact with water and oxygen (salt water is the worst), and while aluminum won’t rust, it will corrode.

Titanium may appear to be the ideal metal, but the “passive oxide” film used to make bikes is susceptible to pitting at high temperatures and crevice fissures. Think you’re safe with carbon fiber? Not precisely.

The bottom line is that it is highly unlikely that you can ever wholly dodge the rust bullet, no matter how much you spend on your ride. There’s only one solution. Remove the rust fast. Here’s how to do it.


What parts of your bike are most vulnerable?

  • Bearings
  • Bolts
  • Brake levers
  • Cables
  • Chains
  • Crossbar
  • Down tube
  • Drive chain
  • Fenders
  • Fork
  • Spokes
  • Frame
  • Handlebars
  • Pedals
  • Rim


Cleaning method #1: 6 steps using baking soda and water

1. Mix a paste in a small bowl using this ratio of ingredients: 1 Tbsp. Baking soda per 1 tsp. Water.
2. Use a spoon to dissolve the water until the mix becomes a thick paste.
3. Utilize a clean, damp rag to apply the paste to the rust-stained surface.
4. Create an abrasive tool by compacting aluminum foil to create a ball.
5. Use the foil ball as you would a scouring pad.
6. Wipe the surplus paste off with a paper towel. Repeat all steps if the rust isn’t gone.


Cleaning method #2: 5 steps using vinegar

1. Load a plastic spray dispenser with either cleaning vinegar or white vinegar and spray liberally on all rusted areas.
2. Allow the vinegar to remain on the surfaces for at least 30 minutes.
3. Keep checking on the rust removal progress. It could take hours to see results.
4. Use a scrub brush, toothbrush or nailbrush to loosen and remove the rust.
5. Rinse all areas with clear water and dry with a clean rag. Repeat if necessary.


Cleaning method #3: 3 steps using Coca-Cola

1. Open a bottle or can of Coke or another cola product and fill a spray bottle with the citric acid-based drink.
2. Spray all of the rusted areas on the bike and allow them to soak for 24 hours.
3. Spray the bike down with clear water to remove the soft drink’s stickiness and thoroughly dry all surfaces.


Cleaning method #4: 4 steps using a potato and Dawn dish soap

1. Cut a large potato in half and place both ends, cut side down, into a dish of undiluted Dawn dish soap.
2. Allow the potato interior (oxalic acid) to absorb the dish soap for a few minutes.
3. Rub the rusted area with the soap-saturated potato to break up the rust.
4. Thoroughly rinse and dry all surfaces. Repeat if necessary.


Cleaning method #5: 4 steps to choosing a commercial rust removal product


1. Evaluate your options to see which product and in what quantities suit your needs.
2. Visit or call a local bike shop to get a consult on which product they recommend.
3. Alternately, visit Amazon.com’s best-seller rust removals.
4. Always follow instructions printed on the label or packaging of the product you choose.


How to avoid getting rust on your bike in the first place

The best way to make sure your bike doesn’t attract rust is to keep it dry. That means thoroughly wiping it down as soon as possible after it gets wet. Pay particular attention to small parts that have the potential to hide moisture because they’re hard to reach.

Keep your bike – and especially smaller components – well-oiled, so if it is exposed to rain, a WD-40 or chain lube oil product will protect those parts. Don’t be afraid to lavish nuts, bolts, derailleur, brakes, and handlebars with oil to protect your valuable asset. Yes, you do risk spoiling your clothing, but what is your priority?

Photo by Oliver Ulerich on Unsplash

Invest in a bike cover designed to protect as much surface as possible. Draping the bike with a waterproof tarp is a good start, but if the wind blows, your tarp may become flying debris. Employ bungee cords and tie-downs to secure the cover.

Bring your bike inside—-especially during rainy weather. Particularly important if you spent money on your bike that you would ordinarily have put into your retirement account, bumped up your stock portfolio, or used as a down payment on a house.

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