Can You Pressure Wash Bikes?

Bikes. They get dirty. Especially if you’re an off-road biker! We all love to see our bikes looking clean and shiny.

Although dirt and mud on bikes is a sign that it is being used to its full potential, it’s important to maintain all parts of your bike so it doesn’t start to rust and become damaged.

Once you get back and see your bike covered in debris, it can be extremely tempting to pick up your high-pressure water jet machine and simply spray your bike until it is gleaming again within a few minutes.

Well, this must be the quickest and most effortless way to clean your bike, right? While it may be quick, it’s certainly not good for your bike.

The high-pressure water can actually damage the sealed bearing assemblies contained in the bottom brackets, the pedals, the headsets, the hubs, and other moving components.

If water gets inside a greased bearing assembly, it’s not good. Water washes out the grease from these bearing areas leaving them unprotected the next time you use the bike.

Some say it’s not the pressure washer causing the damage, it’s the person holding it. So, don’t be that person!

However, some people continue to use water pressure to wash their bikes. Although it’s not advised, this is possible if you are sensible and don’t point the high-velocity water stream directly into your bearings seals close up.

With the right pressure setting and proper use, water pressure can sometimes be beneficial to your post-ride cleanup.

Let’s take a look at what pressure washers can do to your bike and consider other methods for transforming your bike from a mud monster into the slickest machine once more.

Is it safe to pressure wash my bike?

This depends on the amount of pressure you are using. We strongly advise against using a pressure washer with 1500 psi or more when washing your bike.

If this amount of pressure is directed at certain parts of your bike, it will undoubtedly hit sealed bearings or even ricochet off another part of the bike before reaching the bearings.

This amount of pressurized water could chip some paintwork off as well.

However, if you use a pressure washer with around 1200 psi or less, it can be safe to get rid of some grit. If you choose to do this, you must point the washer far away from any bearing so the grease doesn’t become loose below.

The lower the pressure of water, the better it is for your bike. A high-powered pressure washer is pretty much guaranteed to damage your bike, whether it’s in the form of the bearings or the paintwork getting washed off.

Luckily, there are other ways of cleaning your bike without the risk of damaging essential components.

Dos and Don’t of Washing a Bike

With a little bit of elbow grease and patience, you can easily wash your bike without damaging its internal and external parts.

Let’s take a look at some of the things you can and can’t do when removing road grime off your bike.

When washing your bike, you should not:

  • Submerge any bike parts 

Yes, some bikers have been known to leave their bike in a river or a pool after a ride to leave it to soak.

They think that the dirt and debris will simply rinse off after some time. While this may seem like a quick fix, problems can arise from such a method.

When bike parts are dunked, water can get into areas where water should never go such as inside the hub and cassette or badly sealed pedals. Trust us, you don’t want this to happen.

  • Wash with only one sponge 

Ask any bike mechanic and they will have dedicated sponges for specific washing purposes. And they never mix these up.

One sponge should be used for working on the clean areas of the bike such as the frame, fork, and wheels.

Another sponge should be used for greasy and dirtier parts such as the chain, crankset, and derailleur pulleys.

  • Forget to re-lube after cleaning 

This is a common mistake. You must refresh the lubes that have been stripped by the weather’s elements and your cleaning process.

If you don’t do this, there is a higher risk of corrosion setting in. 

Make sure that you lube the chain, brake, and derailleur pivots after you wash the bike. Allow it to sit for a while and then wipe off any excess lube afterward.

When washing your bike, you should:

  • Wash by hand 

You should do this with a bucket, a car wash brush, a toothbrush, or a gear brush, and some non-detergent-based soap. This can be done in as little as half an hour after some practice.

  • Use warm soapy water 

Warm water just makes the cleaning process easier. It produces a lot of suds to lift the grit so you can easily rinse off afterward.

Some detergent-based soaps react to aluminum and can cause damage to your bike’s frame and parts over time. Therefore, use an aluminum safe soap.

  • Remove the wheels 

Removing your bike’s wheels makes it easier to feel the bearings for grit and debris. It’s best to do this after a ride over muddy or wet terrain. This also makes it much easier to inspect and clean your wheels, too.

  • Suspend the bike while washing 

Keeping your bike off the ground will make the washing process faster and easier. Having the bike higher up keeps it closer to your eyes for an improved inspection.

It also has the added bonus of saving you from bending over and potentially hurting your back.

In Summary

Maintaining your bike is essential in ensuring it has a long life but there are right and wrong ways to do this.

We do not recommend ever using a power washer on your bike, even if it is a less powerful model.

Use a garden hose instead. A hose’s low pressure will not damage any bearings or bike parts.

If you do not have a hose, simply get a bucket full of soapy water and scrub your bike the good old-fashioned way. 

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