Do's and don'ts of washing your bike. 

Description Do's and don'ts of washing your bike.
Author Matthew Date Mon Jul 11, 2005 12:23 pm Type Type 1
Category Tech Tips
Comments [13 - Post your comments]
Views 2388  [Rate Article]

Do's and don'ts of washing your bike.
FAQs on the do-it-yourself bike wash.

For many owners, the weekend act of washing a bike by hand is a therapeutic act as beneficial for the person's state of mind as to the vehicle's appearance. That's good, because frequent washing is also the best way to maintain a new-bike finish. But as simple as washing your bike may seem, there are some things to watch for so that you don't accidentally scratch or degrade the finish. Here are some basic bike-washing tips.

When should I wash the bike?

Don't... wait for a layer of crud to accumulate before washing. Dead bugs, bird droppings, and chemicals from the atmosphere all leach acids that can strip away wax and eventually eat into your bike's paint. If left too long, they can cause damage that requires sanding and repainting the area to correct.

Do... wash off dead bugs, bird droppings, and tree-sap mist as soon as possible. Other than this, a weekly bike wash will keep the finish in its best shape. In addition, if you live in an area that suffers from acid rain, rinse your vehicle off after a period of rainy weather. Otherwise, acidic chemicals in the rainwater will be left on the surface after the droplets have evaporated, leaving a mark that can permanently mar the paint.

What kind of products should I use?

Don't... use household cleaning agents like hand soap, dishwashing detergent, or glass cleaner on the paint. These aren't formulated for use on a bike's paint and may strip off the protective wax.

Do... use a dedicated bike-wash product, which is milder and specifically designed for use on automotive type paint. Apply the suds with a large, soft natural sponge or a lamb's-wool mitt.

Grease, rubber, and road-tar deposits picked up from the road often accumulate around the wheel wells and along the lower edge of the body. These can be stubborn to remove and may require a stronger product, such as a bug-and-tar remover. Use a soft, nonabrasive cloth to remove these deposits, as they can quickly blacken your sponge.

Use a separate sponge to clean the wheels and tires, which may be coated with sand, brake dust, and other debris that could mar the bike's finish. Mild soap and water may work here; if not, a dedicated wheel cleaner may be required. Be sure the cleaner is compatible with the type of finish (paint, clear-coat, chrome, etc.) used on the wheels. A strong formula intended for mag wheels, for instance, can damage the clear coat that's used on the wheels that come on today's bikes. To be on the safe side, choose a cleaner that's labeled as safe for use on all wheels.

Are there any general guidelines I should follow when washing a bike?

Don't... wash your bike when the it’s hot, such as immediately after driving it or after it has been parked in direct sunlight for awhile. Heat speeds the drying of soap and water, making washing more difficult and increasing the chances that spots or deposits will form.

Don't move the sponge in circles. This can create light, but noticeable scratches called swirl marks. Instead, move the sponge lengthwise across the different parts. And don't continue using a sponge that's dropped on the ground without thoroughly rinsing it out. The sponge can pick up dirt particles that can scratch the paint.

Do... rinse all surfaces thoroughly with water before you begin washing to remove loose dirt and debris that could cause scratching. Once you begin, concentrate on one section at a time, washing and rinsing each area completely before moving on to the next one. This ensures that you have plenty of time to rinse before the soap dries. Start at the top, and then work your way around the bike.

Work the bike-wash solution into a lather with plenty of suds that provide lots of lubrication on the paint surface. And rinse the sponge often. Using a separate bucket to rinse the sponge keeps dirt from getting mixed into the sudsy wash water.

When rinsing, use a hose without a nozzle and let the water flow over the bike from top to bottom. This creates a sheeting action that helps minimize pooling of water.

How should I dry the bike when I'm done?

Don't... let the bike air dry, and don't expect a drive around the block to do an effective job. Either will leave watermarks, which in areas with hard water are the minerals left after evaporation. In addition, don't use an abrasive towel or other material that can leave hairline scratches in the paint.

Do... use a chamois (natural or synthetic) or soft terry towels. If you choose towels, you may need several. It's best to blot the water up instead of dragging the towel or chamois over the paint. The drying process can be speeded up by using a soft squeegee to remove most of the water, but be sure the rubber is pliable and that it doesn't pick up bits of dirt that can cause scratches.

User comments 
braddahmarv Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:26 am    Post subject Re: [ KB ] Do's and don'ts of washing your bike.

Would I have to be careful and not get the carbs too wet or wetting the ignition coils? Can I use a de-greaser (diluted), to assist in cleaning the engine components? I've heard where some riders will use a leaf blower to help dry the bike faster. Is this a good method of drying or not?
mark75 Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 5:13 am    Post subject Re: [ KB ] Do's and don'ts of washing your bike.

Hosing a bunch of water under the seat, etc is not a good idea what with the TCI, relays, and such under there. Not likely to get a short, but will invite the corrosion gremlin to play with your connectors.
I have heard of some folks using leaf blowers to dry with, and they say it works for them. Personally I use old towels to get most of the water, then use my compressor for the hard to reach stuff. Then take a nice ride to make sure it's dried out and to show her off. naughty
Matthew Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 6:37 am    Post subject

Just rise with water, don't blast it. Bikes are made to get wet some like in rain but use elbow grease to remove dirt, no hi powered jets of water.
braddahmarv Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 9:49 am    Post subject Re: [ KB ] Do's and don'ts of washing your bike.

I've got one of those little steam cleaners that I ordered to clean the stove and whatnot, can I use it to remove built up sludge around the carbs and pretty up the engine somewhat? I think I'll also invest into an air compressor setup so I can use it to pump up tires and stuff.

But mahalo for the input. So far, I've only cleaned the gas tank, side covers and the windscreen and whatever chrome I can get to, since I wasn't really sure what I can and can't touch, as far as washing the engine goes.
mark75 Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 11:10 am    Post subject Re: [ KB ] Do's and don'ts of washing your bike.

Bikes aren't water-proof, they are water resistant, but like Matt said don't blast a lot of water on it.
I had to use Gunk engine degreaser on mine when I first got it(PO was not very tidy doh ).
I always put a plastic bag over the air-cleaner(even when I had Pods).
Since they are made to be used out-doors, a little shower is nice naughty , maybe even a steam Rolling Eyes , but the tub is out of the question. Laughing
braddahmarv Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 11:49 pm    Post subject Re: [ KB ] Do's and don'ts of washing your bike.

Awww shucks, Mark... and I was gonna fill my imu pit with plenty hot water and drive my bike into it... let it soak one time... pau! Laughing

I used carb cleaner to clean all around the carbs to make them look pretty and stuff, which is just about all I did... as far as cleaning the engine goes. Amazing how much soot had accumilated over the miles, not to mention that the PO of my bike didn't do much cleaning, since he's got a bum leg and can't bent it often.

Think I'll use that portable steam cleaner I got and give it a nice, hot and 'steamy' bath. It deserves it!

mark75 Posted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 6:56 am    Post subject Re: [ KB ] Do's and don'ts of washing your bike.

Let us know how that steam cleaner works out.
My wife recently got one for her cleaning business, if it works well on your bike I may borrow it naughty from her crew for a day or two. spank
braddahmarv Posted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 10:24 am    Post subject Re: [ KB ] Do's and don'ts of washing your bike.

Will do Mark! I'm off work this Sunday, so it'll be the perfect opportunity for me to get steamed on my bike. Til then.. laters 'n Aloha!
AaronA Posted: Sat Mar 03, 2007 3:37 am    Post subject

A note on the power-washers; I used one today, and, being careful, rather enjoyed it.

This is after drying it some; notice that brown grass, it's the spice of life in the midwest.
mark75 Posted: Sat Mar 03, 2007 4:35 am    Post subject

Braddahmarv, how'd the steam work?
Matthew Posted: Sat Mar 03, 2007 3:34 pm    Post subject

If n doubt go at it with a leaf blower.

Only problem wth pressurized water is you can blow it into places that will screw ya if you try and drive right away.

Now if you let it dry out well first..........
braddahmarv Posted: Sun Mar 04, 2007 11:30 am    Post subject Re: [ KB ] Do's and don'ts of washing your bike.

Sorry guys, but haven't gotten around to using the steam cleaner on the engine yet. Am in the process of moving again (divorce), so it may be awhile before i can do anything major with the bike. Take care and will be in touch when things settle down. Aloha!
mark75 Posted: Sun Mar 04, 2007 11:39 pm    Post subject

Sorry to hear that brother. I know that is very stressful, hope it was congenial.
You're in my thoughts and prayers for healing.

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