Cleaning items for washing a motorcycle
March 11, 2024

Washing and detailing your motorcycle isn't just about keeping it looking pristine; it's an essential part of motorcycle maintenance that can help it perform at its best.

However, there's more to it than just hosing down your ride for a quick wash.

Proper motorcycle cleaning requires attention to detail, the right tools, and understanding what to do and what not to do to avoid damage to your motorcycle's delicate surfaces, drive chain, and electrical connections.


Before you start the washing and detailing process, consulting the motorcycle owner's manual is an excellent first step when it comes to understanding the manufacturer's recommendations and best practices for cleaning and maintaining your motorcycle.

Next, gather all the necessary supplies. This ensures you can clean efficiently and effectively without causing harm to your motorcycle.

The owner's manual may suggest specific cleaning products or provide guidelines on what types of cleaners to use for different parts of the motorcycle including chrome, plastic, and rubber.

However, here is a list of essential supplies to gather:

  • Motorcycle-specific cleaner - Choose a bike cleaner specifically designed for motorcycles. This ensures it is gentle enough not to damage the finishes.

  • Microfiber cloths - Microfiber cloth is soft and non-abrasive, perfect for cleaning and drying surfaces without scratching.

  • Soft brushes - Various soft brushes can help you reach into tight spaces and clean intricate parts of the motorcycle without causing scratches.

  • Bucket - You'll need a bucket for soapy water and a second for rinsing your cloths and cleaning tools. A dedicated clean water bucket can help prevent dirt from being reapplied to the bike.

  • Soft sponge or wash mitt - Choose soft, non-abrasive cleaning tools to prevent scratching the motorcycle's surfaces while washing.

  • Hose with spray nozzle - A hose with a gentle spray nozzle allows you to rinse your motorcycle without high-pressure water that can damage sensitive parts.

  • Wheel cleaner and wheel brush - If your motorcycle has dirty or brake dust-covered wheels, consider using a specialized wheel cleaner to remove stubborn grime. A dedicated soft-bristled wheel brush can help you clean hard-to-reach areas of the wheels without scratching them.

  • Motorcycle chain cleaner and brush (if applicable) - If your bike has a chain, you'll need specific products and a chain brush to remove dirt, grime, and old lubricant.

  • Drying Cloth or Chamois - Use a clean, soft cloth or chamois to dry the motorcycle thoroughly after washing to prevent water spots and streaks.

  • Wax or polish - After washing, applying motorcycle wax or polish can protect the paint and keep your motorcycle looking shiny.

  • Lubricant - After washing, apply lubricant to moving parts such as the chain, cables, and levers to prevent rust and corrosion.

  • Protective Gear (optional) - Wear gloves and protective eyewear to shield your hands and eyes from cleaning chemicals and splashing water.

Having the right supplies ready before you start ensures you can clean every part of your motorcycle effectively. This will also ensure cleaning products are washed off promptly, preventing them from drying on the surface and leaving residue.


When washing and detailing your entire motorcycle, knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do.

Certain practices, like neglecting to rinse off cleaning products promptly, can cause more harm than good, potentially damaging your bike's finish or mechanical components.

Don't Wash Your Gas Bike Straight After A Ride

Ideally, wait at least 30 minutes to an hour after riding to allow the engine and exhaust components to cool to a safe temperature.

Washing a hot engine with cool water can cause damage to the engine block due to the rapid temperature change. Additionally, rapidly cooling baking surfaces with cold water can cause thermal shock and potentially damage materials like exhaust pipes, electrical connections, or engine components.

Hot surfaces on the motorcycle, such as the exhaust or muffler, can also cause burns or scalds if touched with bare skin while washing.

Give your bike some time to cool down to avoid these risks.

Don't Forget To Remove Coarse Dirt From The Motorcycle

Jumping straight into washing without first removing loose dirt and debris can lead to scratching the paint as you move the sponge or cloth over the metal surfaces.

Instead, start with a pre-rinse.

Use a hose to spray a gentle stream of cold water to carefully remove any loose dirt, mud, or other coarse grime before applying any cleaning products.

Don't Scrub Vigorously To Remove Dead Bugs

Dead insects can be a nuisance but scrubbing them off aggressively can scratch your motorcycle's finish.

Soak the affected areas with a wet cloth or a specialized bug remover for a few minutes to soften them.

Gently wiping away these softened bugs and their stuck-on grime with a clean cloth will be much safer for your bike's paint job.

Don't Use A Pressure Washer

While it might be tempting to use a pressure washer for convenience, the high-pressure spray can force its way into bearings, seals, and electrical components, causing damage, malfunctions, or corrosion over time.

Instead, stick to a hose with an adjustable spray nozzle to pre-soak and rinse your motorcycle, ensuring you're not harming sensitive areas.

Don't Forget To Lubricate

Cleaning your motorcycle is not just about the aesthetics; it's also an opportunity to maintain its mechanical health.

After washing and drying, don't forget to apply a suitable lubricant to the entire chain, cables, and other moving parts to prevent rust and corrosion.


Now that we've got the “don'ts” out of the way, let's focus on the “dos”. The tips below will help you keep your motorcycle clean and well-maintained without risking damage to its surfaces or components.

Do Use A Microfiber Cloth

Microfiber cloth is gentle on surfaces and is excellent at trapping dirt without scratching the paint or chrome.

Use them to wash and dry your bike to achieve a streak-free finish.

Do Wash Your Bike In The Shade

Washing your bike in direct sunlight can cause water and cleaning products to evaporate quickly, leaving behind residue or water marks on surfaces such as paint, chrome, and plastic.

Find a shaded spot to work in or choose a cooler part of the day to avoid the sun's direct rays.

Do Wash In Sections

Clean the motorcycle one section at a time, starting from the top and working your way down to prevent dirt from dripping onto clean areas.

This method helps prevent dirt and soap from dripping onto already cleaned areas, making the rinse process more efficient and effective.

Do Use Two Different Buckets Of Water

Use the two-bucket wash method. One bucket should contain your cleaning mixture, while the other should be filled with clean water for rinsing your cloth or sponge.

This helps avoid transferring dirt back onto the motorcycle, ensuring a cleaner wash.

Do Take Your Time

Rushing through the washing and detailing process can lead to missed spots or, worse, damage to your motorcycle's finish.

Set aside enough time to meticulously clean every nook and cranny, ensuring your bike looks its best.

Do Plug Up Your Exhausts Before Rinsing

Water entering the exhaust holes can cause rust and other issues.

Use rubber plugs or even a small, waterproof bag secured with a rubber band to prevent water from getting inside the exhaust pipes during washing.

Do Apply Wax Or Polish

After washing and drying, applying a layer of wax not only gives your ride a glossy, enhanced finish but also protects the paint job and leather seats from UV rays, dirt, and moisture.

Choose a high-quality motorcycle wax and metal polish for the best results.

Do Clean The Tools Too

After you've finished washing your motorbike, take the time to clean and dry your tools—brushes, cloths, sponges, etc.—with fresh water.

This ensures they're in good condition for the next wash and prevents the spread of excess dirt particles and any oil residue.

Do Head Out For A Ride!

Once your ride is clean, dry, and waxed, there's no better way to dry those hard-to-reach places completely and ensure everything works smoothly than by taking it for a short ride.

It's also a great opportunity to show off the fruits of your labor.


The bottom line on washing your motorcycle is that it's an integral part of DIY motorcycle maintenance, not just for keeping your bike looking its best, but also for its optimal performance.

A clean motorcycle reflects well on you and allows you to inspect the bike for any potential issues, such as leaks, tire wear, or damage, that might not be as noticeable when it's dirty.

So, take your time, do it right, and then hit the road with pride, knowing your bike is clean and cared for in every sense!