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The art of washing your motorcycle

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

We always advocate good motorcycle maintenance, but I think the alchemy for washing your motorcycle correctly escapes a few of us. Having read several blogs and magazine articles on this topic I can offer the following advice on how to achieve the correct cleaning regime for your motorcycle.

The very first point raised by most of the journalists and commentators is to NEVER EVER take your motorcycle to a commercial car wash. There is also a consensus that washing your motorcycle directly after a ride is also a bad idea as you run the risk of causing lasting cosmetic damage. A best practice is to let it cool off in a shaded area before getting the bucket and sponge out. The time of day that you cackle this task may also have bearing on the success. If it is a very hot day, it is recommended that you wait until early evening when the air temperatures are cooler, and the sun is not so hot.

The next to consider is the equipment needed. Do not use a power/pressure washer intended for cars and patios on a high setting. Water droplets will be forced into places it does not belong and you also risk removing vital grease. This combined is never good news for the moving parts on your motorcycle and may leave you with a highly preventable mechanic’s bill.

If you are confident about using a power/pressure washer set it on the lowest setting only and keep it away from vital electrics and electronics. The humble garden hosepipe with a bucket in the support role will meet your needs perfectly well. If you do not have access to a garden hose you can just use a bucket. The bucket-only method will take longer to complete so the temperature will play a bigger part.

When selecting the type of detergent, rim, chrome, chain and exhaust, and other cleaning products, it is always recommended that you use motorcycle-specific cleaners. A motorcycle is not a pushbike so do not use dishwashing liquid! Always follow the manufacture’s user instructions. These companies pay millions in R&D so it stands to reason that they would know best.

There is an entire catalogue of tools you can buy to aid in the cleaning process, but these are all a bit of a muchness. The sponge you use must be scratch-free and clean. It may sound like a duh statement but if there is oily dirt residue on the sponge from a previous cleaning session you may end up smearing it back onto the bike. The cloth you use to dry your motorcycle off after you have rinsed all the sudds must be clean with a high wicking rating. The more absorbent the cloth is the fewer streaks you are likely to leave. For the finishing process, it is common to use a microfibre cloth to put the polish on and another clean microfibre cloth to wax it if required. A chain brush is also a handy tool to have and makes cleaning the chain much less tedious.

The answer to how often you should wash your motorcycle is long and varied but the general rule of thumb is once a week if you are an everyday rider. If you are a Sunday rider you can do it every other week, but it is a matter of opinion. It must be noted that if you wash your motorcycle too often you may cause some much-needed lubricants to wash away. Conversely so, if you do not wash it often enough you may not notice oil leaks and damaged parts until it is too late for preventative maintenance.

The do’s and don’t list

  • Don’t use a pressure washer on the high setting

  • Don’t wash your motorcycle in the midday sun or directly after a long ride

  • Don’t park your motorcycle on uneven ground or a steep camber. You do not want to drop your motorcycle while washing it and then explain the damage caused at the next bike meet.

  • Don’t ignore the rims and undertray. Clean rims will reveal the condition of the rims and the powder coating on them. Corroded powder coating will prevent the tyres from seating correctly on the rims and cause flat tyres

  • Don’t leave dead bugs behind. If not removed it can cause lasting damage

  • Do use only approved motorcycle-specific detergents and finishing products

  • Do inspect the back wheel and undertray area for chain lube splats. If left unattended it can be very difficult to remove

  • Do remove tar splat as soon as you notice it

  • Do clean the chain at least every 750- 1000 miles. There is a school of thought that says the chain should be cleaned before each lubrication, as the combination of dirt and grit with chain lube/grease can make a 'grinding paste', severely reducing chain life.

  • Do make sure that you apply an adequate amount of chain lube after cleaning it.


when your motorcycle is spotless and gleaming put a cover over it to protect it from the elements until the next time you don your gear and go for a ride.

If all of this sounds like far too much effort for you or you are not confident that you can DIY it, you can always book it in with a professional Motorcycle Detailer.

There are many Detailers that you can Google. Alternatively, you can call the workshop on 0330 223 5432 and we will be happy to make recommendations.

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