How to Wash a Motorcycle in 7 Steps

Triumph Daytona 675 motorcycle in red parked on blacktop.

Justin Capolongo/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Whether you own a custom cruiser or a souped-up sports bike, you'll want to keep your motorcycle away from commercial washing facilities and perform the cleaning ritual yourself. Those high-pressure hoses can damage bike parts, which are more vulnerable than mechanical parts in cars.

Be sure you find a shady spot to wash (and dry) your bike since the sun can create temperature differentials that harm paint and allow water to leave spots.

You will need the following items:

  • A bucket for soapy water
  • Soap or liquid detergent; automotive cleaners will work
  • Gloves (to keep your hands clean)
  • Bug and tar remover
  • Degreaser and/or engine cleaner
  • A toothbrush
  • WD40
  • A brush for wheel cleaning
  • Wheel cleaner
  • At least two microfiber or 100% cotton sponges
  • A variety of soft cotton towels and more abrasive rags
  • A chamois cloth for drying
of 07

Prepping the Water for Bike Washing

Metal bucket of water sitting outside with a watering can and scrub brush.


While some people swear by washing their bikes with plain water, others insist on using specific brands of soap. Whatever your style, use warm water with the mix and fill up a bucket for convenience.

Keep the sponge nearby, and don't let it touch the ground, as it can pick up pebbles or abrasive particles that could damage your paint.

of 07


Young man cleaning the headlights of a blue motorcycle.
Sumeet Jain/Flickr/CC BY 2.0.

Dead bugs and grime are the banes of every motorcyclist, but using the right tools will get them off your paint easier than you think.

Bug and tar removers work surprisingly well, and some people also use WD40 for this duty. Don't scrub too hard into the paint when loosening bugs, and be sure not to use the same sponge for other cleaning duties.

of 07

Getting the Hard Parts Clean

Close up of a motorcycle in profile with lots of shiny chrome.


A motorcycle's hard parts (for example, the swingarm and matte exhaust pipes) require different treatment than more sensitive parts.

Using a degreaser, scrub hard parts carefully and individually, making sure not to let the powerful solvents touch paint or chrome. No need to use microfiber materials here; a rough rag will do.

Some people use oven cleaner to remove boot marks from chrome exhaust pipes, but extra care must be taken to keep strong cleaners away from the sensitive bits.

of 07

Don't Forget the Nooks and Crannies

Harley-Davidson motorcycle close up detail.


You might not need to get your motorcycle to contest-ready condition, but a toothbrush will go a long way towards making hard-to-reach parts look clean. Apply degreaser on the tip for non-chrome engine parts, and oil and grime will disappear. While specialized cleaning tools enable more detailed work, you should be able to scrub most visible parts with readily-available accessories.

of 07

Erasing Brake Dust

Close up of a front motorcycle wheel.

Oleg Magni/Pexels

Wheels can be difficult to clean, and a long-armed brush is usually the best way to scrub off brake dust and dirt. Apply a wheel cleaner first and let it settle before scrubbing it off. Chrome wheels will require specific cleaners, so be aware of your wheel's finish before purchasing a cleaner.

Don't use tire dressing products, as their glossy finishes can compromise wheel grip.

of 07

Washing the Body

Woman cleaning a motorcycle with a large sponge.

Nina Hale/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Microfiber sponge gloves are great ways to clean a bike's painted parts and should be used with warm, soapy water from the bucket. Be sure to get the paint good and wet before scrubbing, so the soapy water can act as a lubricant and not scratch the paint. Only use 100 percent cotton or microfiber sponges, as other materials can cause damage.

Rinse the soapy residue off with a gentle stream of water from a hose, or by pouring water from the bucket.

of 07

Last But Not Least, Dry

Detail of a person drying a wet motorcycle with an orange cloth.

Unknown/Pxhere/CC0 Public Domain

With your bike still parked in the shade, use a chamois cloth to soak up the moisture from the paint. The chamois will keep the finish from getting scratched, and prevent streaks and spots from accumulating.

Feel free to reward yourself with a ride on your newly cleaned bike. Not only will you enjoy the breeze after all your hard work, but the air movement will also dry out many of the parts you might not have been able to reach.