How to Clean a Motorcycle: The Dos and Don’ts

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Dealing with the anxiety of washing your motorcycle for the first time? Wondering if you’re doing it right? You’re not alone. From harsh chemicals that can cause rubber degradation to sharp objects that invite scratches, there are risks you run when cleaning a motorcycle (especially if you fail to adhere to best practices). 

But guess what? Understanding how to wash a motorcycle properly isn’t too difficult. Here are a few tips and tricks to assist you in cleaning it.

Key Takeaways

  • Always use motorcycle-specific cleaners and avoid harsh chemicals
  • Avoid washing a bike when its engine is hot. Let the bike cool down.
  • Opt for the two-bucket method to avoid scratches
  • Post-wash care is crucial: Dry properly, lubricate the chain, and apply wax and polish for protection and shine.

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The Don’ts of Motorcycle Cleaning 

Here’s what not to do:

DON’T Use Harsh Chemicals and Pressure Washers

Avoid the use of harsh chemicals and pressure washers. While it might be tempting to choose the strongest cleaning solution or the most powerful washer, these can do more harm than good.

DON’T scrub too much

If the dirt remains after a dousing in the appropriate motorcycle cleaner (and a subsequent rinse), it simply requires more time (not more power). Methodically scrub your motorcycle’s exterior, taking the time to lather every component in your cleaner of choice.

During this process, abrasive clothes and sponges are strongly discouraged. Steel wool or sanding sponges, for example, are one-way tickets to a full repainting job. 

The Dos of Cleaning Your Motorcycle

Consider these best practices when washing your motorcycle.

DO Select Motorcycle-Specific Cleaners

It’s time to stock up on cleaning supplies. Motorcycle-specific cleaners are recommended because they’re made to be safe on motorcycle surfaces and components, ensuring an effective yet gentle clean.

The market offers a plethora of motorcycle cleaning products like Thomas’ Top Picks for the Best Motorcycle Cleaner 2024–which include the Muc-Off Nano Tech bike cleaner spray and R&G’s aerosol degreasers.

DO Let Your Bike Cool Before Washing 

Before you begin the hands-on cleaning process, ensure your motorcycle has sufficiently cooled down. A hot engine or exhaust not only poses a burn risk to you–the motorcycle washer–but the engine itself can also sustain damage if sprayed with cold water. Therefore, it’s advised to let your bike cool down for at least 30 minutes before you start the cleaning process.

DO Be Cautious When Rinsing the Exhaust Pipe

Rinsing your motorcycle helps loosen the dirt and grime, making the cleaning process smoother. While rinsing your ride, pay special attention when spraying in the general vicinity of the exhaust pipe, especially around the exhaust holes. Here’s why: water can get into the exhaust system, creating internal issues with the engine. 

Do Use the Two-Bucket Washing Method

Once you’ve rinsed your bike, you’ll need to gather the necessary supplies—including two buckets. But why two? Ask any long-time motorcycle owner, and they’ll recommend the two-bucket washing method. This method involves the use of two buckets: one for the wash solution and one for rinsing your cleaning cloth. The two-bucket technique helps prevent dirt and debris from mixing with the wash solution. If you use a single bucket, you’ll simply be reapplying the same dirt on your bike. Therefore, use 2 buckets:

  • Bucket 1 – Wash Solution
  • Bucket 2 – Clean water to rinse your washing/cleaning cloth

DO Lubricate the Motorcycle’s Chain

Re-lubricate your motorcycle’s chain after drying it. Soap wear can reduce lubrication, meaning you’ll need to restore the moisture lost during washing. Neglecting this step could lead to decreased performance and even damage to your ride.

DO Rinse your Bike Properly

After cleaning away all remaining visible dirt and debris, rinse your bike once more. Using cool or moderately warm water works best.

Avoid leaving the soap on your bike’s surface for too long, as this can leave difficult-to-remove streaks.

DO Properly Dry Your Bike 

Once your motorcycle is thoroughly washed, the next step is drying. This is a crucial step in the cleaning process, as improper drying can lead to water spots and potential corrosion, so you want to dry as much water as you can.

When drying your motorcycle, it’s highly recommended to use a microfiber cloth. Microfiber is soft, lint-free, and won’t scratch the paint or surfaces of your bike. 

Do Wax and Polish 

The cleaning process concludes with finishing touches, ideally a thorough waxing and polishing session. Waxing and polishing your motorcycle will not only give it an appealing shine but also protect the paint job from sunlight and heat. You can use a Rolite chrome cleaner for best results. 

Final Thoughts

Regular care and proper storage can go a long way in keeping your motorcycle looking its best.  A proper motorcycle cleaning not only removes corrosive substances (i.e., road salt and grime) but is also a great opportunity to carefully inspect the bike for any structural or connection issues that may not be evident during your daily use.

Find The Ideal Motorcycle Storage Space With Neighbor

Keep your motorcycle clean by storing it in an indoor storage space. Consider options like a 5’x10’ storage unit for limited garage space. While heavy-duty covers help, they may not shield against all elements. Neighbor’s peer-to-peer storage marketplace provides safe, nearby, and budget-friendly storage units and garages for your new motorcycle. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Not to Do When Washing a Motorcycle?

When washing a motorcycle, avoid using regular detergent or soap, as it’s best to use motorcycle-specific cleaners. Also, refrain from washing your bike in extremely hot weather, even if it’s not in direct sunlight.

Can I Use Dawn Dish Soap to Wash My Motorcycle?

No, it’s not recommended to use Dawn dish soap to wash your motorcycle. It’s best to use a product specifically made for washing motorcycles or vehicles.

What Is the Best Thing to Clean a Motorcycle With?

To clean your motorcycle, use motorcycle-specific cleaners, such as S100 Total Cycle Cleaner, a mild pH-balanced soap like Meguiar’s Motorcycle Wash, and high-quality microfiber cloths. 

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