Washing your motorcycle routinely will keep its parts running smoothly and your bike looking great. While you don’t have to wash it every day or even every week, learning how to wash a motorcycle properly and doing so on a schedule will keep your motorcycle running like a top.
Why Washing A Motorcycle is so Important
From a cool-looking helmet to a custom jacket, riders tend to go big on motorcycle style and gear, so it makes sense that as a rider, you always want to keep your bike looking pristine. However, there are other reasons why you may want or need to wash your ride.
Cars and SUVs have their parts neatly stashed away and protected from the elements. Unfortunately, on a bike, you’ll find many of the parts are exposed to the elements, in addition to filth, dirt, and debris that it can pick up as you ride. While the process of washing a bike is similar to washing a car, there are some differences that will require a little special attention.
If you’re preparing for a motorcycle trip, or you just want your bike to always be Instagram ready, washing it routinely can keep it looking great at all times.
Fortunately, washing a bike is pretty easy, however, the cleaning products you have to use can be toxic. Make sure you don’t get any of the detailers, shines, waxes, or soaps in open wounds or in your mouth or eyes. When you’re washing your bike, always keep some gloves on to keep your hands chemical-free.
Using the wrong products and supplies, such as regular dish soap and some hand towels to wash your bike can end up damaging the paint. There are hundreds of different cleaning products to choose from, each of which has a different purpose, contains different chemicals, must be applied correctly and can react differently to a variety of materials. Make sure you always carefully read a product’s instructions before use.
As far as what supplies you’ll need, you’ll find a basic list below:
- Plexiglass cleaner
- Detail brush
- Wheel brush
- Motorcycle cleaner
- Microfiber towels
- Microfiber washing mitt
- A couple of buckets
Organizing all of your gear and tools will save you plenty of time otherwise spent searching for the supplies as your soaped-down bike is drying in the heat.
Try to find a flat area to work on your bike if you want to wash it properly, such as your driveway, the street, or your garage. Make sure that the area is well-ventilated since some of the products you use will have a very strong chemical smell.
Bucket Washing Method
Using a couple of buckets to wash your bike can help minimize the amount of grime and dirt in the washing mitt that may damage a bike’s paint job. You’ll fill one bucket up with plain water, which you’ll use to rinse off the bike. The other bucket will contain soapy water.
Before you soap down your bike, rinse it off with the hose and hit any really dirty areas that have stuck on grime. Use a high-pressure nozzle.
Make sure you get under the bike and hit the wheels as well.
Rinse Off Your Bike
Begin by rinsing the washing mitt off with the hose. Next, you’ll dip the mitt in the soapy water and begin washing your bike down. Once each section is complete, rinse off the dirty mitt using plain water before you dip it back into the soapy water bucket.
Next, pay attention to the wheels. Use the wheel-specific scrub brush to focus on removing grease and grime. Rinse off both wheels.
Remove Stuck-On Grime
Take the smaller brush to clean the body of your bike, paying attention to any hard-to-reach areas, including tight crevices and corners, after which, you’ll spray down the bike again.
Lather up the mitt again and wipe the bike down a second time. This time, most of the tough grime and grease should be loose enough that you can easily wipe it off with the mitt.
Try to wash and rinse off the bike in sections. This will prevent water spots and streaks. Once you’ve washed all the parts, you’ll rinse off the entire bike again.
Towel Dry Method
Take a towel and use it to soak up most of the water. Take a second towel and use it to detail dry. Make sure the bike is dried off thoroughly, to prevent streaks and water spots. If you have a shield on your bike, use the plexiglass cleaner and wipe it down, as the final step. Make sure you dry the shield off well to prevent water spots.
How to Detail a Motorcycle: Deep Clean
A bike can be deep cleaned at any time, however, it’s not really necessary unless it’s been a long time since the bike has been washed or you’ve ridden in inclement weather and you want to wash mud, salt, or grime off to prevent damage to your paint job.
If you’re dealing with a bike that hasn’t been washed in months, or you’ve just purchased a new motorcycle that has been neglected, then it may need a deep clean and some serious detailing. Detailing your bike will take significantly longer than your standard wash and it involves a lot of attention to detail and more products.
For a heavy-duty clean, start by dipping the mitt into a bucket of soapy water and be sure to wring out any excess water.
Avoid soaking the switches, buttons, and dash gauges.
Make sure you’re working in a shaded area and avoid cleaning your bike until the engine is nice and cool to the touch. Remove the saddlebags and the seat. Next, you’ll cover the battery using some plastic sheets and use some plastic wrap with a rubber band to seal off the exhaust pipe.
Rinse the bike using plain water to get rid of any grit and surface dirt. Use a gentle stream for the wheel hubs and don’t force water into the bearings.
Use a gentle soap, a washing mitt, and a couple of buckets, just like a regular wash. Avoid scrubbing any really filthy areas with the mitt. Save those areas for any special cleaners you have on hand. Soap down your bike and rinse it off with the hose. Dry the bike right away to prevent water spots. Instead of using towels, you can also use compressed air or a power blower, just make sure you keep the pressure below 70 PSI. Use a microfiber towel to remove any remaining water.
Wheel and Spokes
The next step is cleaning the spokes and wheels. Make sure you use an aluminum safe product.
Next, clean the driveshaft housing, chain, transmission, and engine with a product specifically designed for these areas. If the product you’re using isn’t working to remove any caked-on grease, you can try diluting a heavy-duty degreaser with a ratio of 4:1. Apply the degreaser and make sure you put plenty of elbow grease into your work. Avoid using a full-strength degreaser on your motorcycle.
Before you move onto the chrome, switch out the microfiber towel for a cotton one. You can use an old dish towel or shirt as long as you remove the seams first. Towels are stitched with a synthetic thread that can potentially scratch the chrome. The seams also tend to hang onto grit.
Saddle and Saddlebag Care
Use a leather cleaner to clean the saddlebags and seat. This type of product is designed to condition and rejuvenate the leather and shouldn’t contain any harmful additives.
Next, whip up another batch of soapy water and use it to remove any traces of the cleaning products.
Treat and clean the rubber footpegs using a rubber cleaner and protectant. This type of product often contains UV inhibitors which prevent the rubber from degrading over time. It also dries to a nice matte finish.
If you want to wax your bike, you’ll have to deal with old wax. The best way to get rid of old wax is to go ahead and apply the new wax, which will soften up the old wax. However, if there’s old wax stuck in the crevices, you’ll need to use a steam cleaner, directing the steam right onto the old stuck-on wax. You can then wipe it off with a rag.
Removing Melted Rubber
You can use your regular household oven cleaner to remove any melted boot residue from the exhaust pipes. Make sure you test it out first by spraying it on a small area of the chrome. If the product doesn’t cause discoloration, fire up the bike and run it until the pipe is warm. Next, you’ll spray the cleaner directly onto the melted rubber and allow it to soak into the metal for ten minutes. Next, use a cotton towel to wipe it off.
Tips Recommended By the Pros
- When you wash your bike, make sure to wear clothes that are soft and non-abrasive. For example, if you have buttons or any type of metal on your clothes like you’ll find on jeans, it can scratch your bike’s paint job.
- Make sure you always park your bike in the shade, especially on the day you plan to wash it. When parked in the sun, the heat will end up drying the soap and other chemical cleaners quickly, which will leave behind streaks.
- Don’t forget about the splash guards located under the bike. These areas are often hit with more grime and dirt than any other area of a bike and require extra attention and more elbow grease to get them clean.
- You should wash your bike twice a month. You may need to wash it more frequently if it rains, it’s muddy out or it’s covered in tree sap or animal droppings.
- Never use full-strength household or automotive degreasing products. Doing so can strip the paint off your bike or stain the aluminum. Make sure you don’t use any household spray cleaners or dish soap.
- Never allow cleaners to sit on parts of your bike longer than ten minutes and always rinse off the cleaned areas with water. Avoid allowing products to dry on your bike.
- Neve use abrasive scrubbing pads or coarse wheel brushes on your motorcycle
- Don’t use products that are not specifically designed for motorcycles
- Wash your bike a couple of times a month to keep the paint job looking great and remove grime, chemicals, and salt, all of which can damage the paint job over time.
- Invest in good quality brushes, products, and microfiber towels. Your bike deserves the best. Low-quality products can do more damage, and many aren’t tough enough to remove built-on grime and dirt.
The steps I’ve included that teach you how to wash a motorcycle like a pro and how to deep clean one, will ensure you avoid scratching the paint job and chrome. Following these steps can also prevent spots and streaks, and any type of damage to your bike’s exterior. Ideally, you should wash your bike once every two weeks, but as I mentioned earlier, you may need to wash it more frequently if you have to park under trees and deal with sap or bird droppings, or if you decide to take a ride in rainy or muddy conditions. By following the tips I’ve included in this guide, you can safely clean your bike without damaging the metal or paint job and you can keep your bike looking great around the clock and ready to ride.