How to properly wash a dirt bike
Washing a dirt bike involves these steps:
- Remove/Cover Sensitive Parts of the dirt bike
- Using low pressure, rinse the dirt bike to remove large debris
- Scrub the bike with the proper equipment
- Spot clean with bike wash
- Clean chain with solvent and lubricant
- Towel dry
There are a lot of little things that are important to understand about washing a dirt bike, but luckily I am here to make sure you don’t damage your bike in any way!
Step 1: Remove and Cover the Sensitive Parts of Your Ride
There are parts of your dirt bike that should be removed or covered when you are deliberately spraying water onto your ride to get it clean.
Make sure you take care of these things FIRST. I’ll say that again in case you need it. TAKE THESE PARTS OFF OF YOUR DIRT BIKE OR COVER THEM UP BEFORE WASHING YOUR BIKE. You can thank me later.
OK but seriously. Here are the things you need to REMOVE from your dirt bike before washing it:
- Remove the seat. The foam inside your seat does not like water. It will soak it up like a sponge, then break down and deteriorate. If this happens, your seat will never be the same. Make sure you reinstall the seat bolts after taking the seat off so that the shrouds don’t wobble. If your seat is dirty and needs to be cleaned, you can use a brush and some Simple Green cleaner.
- Remove the air filter. The last thing you need is to destroy your dirt bike. If you get water in the air filter, your dirt bike is donezo. Avoid this catastrophe by removing the air filter before you get started washing your dirt bike.
- Remove the skid plate, pipe guard, bark busters, and other parts like them. Keeping these parts on your dirt bike while you’re washing it won’t necessarily destroy them, so don’t panic. They’ll just hide some potentially super dirty areas on your dirt bike, keeping them from getting clean. If you don’t get the dirt, grime, and grease off of those areas, you might run into some problems down the road. Remember that you’re cleaning your dirt bike to keep it healthy, not just so that it looks good.
Now, here’s what you need to COVER on your dirt bike before washing it:
- Cover the airbox. Even if you remove the air filter, the airbox needs to be covered. Some people will use an actual airbox cover, but others will just put duct tape over the holes. Whichever you do, make sure the airbox is covered.
- Cover the exhaust. Some people use wash plugs for their exhaust, but there are many alternatives that are much cheaper and that will keep the engine safe. You can use duct tape over the end. You can use a sandwich baggie and a strong rubber band. Do whichever method will help you feel less anxious about destroying the engine. Just do not let water get in there. Cover your exhaust.
I said you can thank me later. It’s later.
Step 2: Hose it Off
Once you’ve taken all of your preventative measures that will keep your pride and joy of a dirt bike safe during washing time, it’s time to get to cleaning it so well that it will sparkle. (OK, maybe it won’t sparkle. But you get the point.)
You might have noticed that I labeled this step with the word “hose”, rather than “pressure wash”. If you noticed, thank you. I appreciate you. If you didn’t notice, notice it now.
So many people will tell you that a pressure washer is OK to use on your dirt bike. And perhaps it is if you don’t care about the damage you can potentially do with a pressure washer. But I care, so I’m telling you do not use a pressure washer.
Pressure washers will get the job done without a whole lot of effort, so I entirely understand why they seem appealing when you’re about to wash your dirt bike. But like I said, they can potentially damage your dirt bike.
Pressure washers make it super easy to get water into places on your dirt bike where water doesn’t belong. And as we’ve said already, water in places where water shouldn’t be will ruin your dirt bike.
Another reason I advise against using a pressure washer on your dirt bike is that people tend to get a little… pressure happy… when they’re using a pressure washer. If you’re one of those people, I feel ya. It’s fun to see the grime come off so effortlessly. But your dirt bike deserves better. Pressure washers can potentially be so strong that they ruin the plastic pieces and graphics on your dirt bike.
If you want to use a pressure washer, just be very careful, especially when cleaning around the engine. And stand far enough away from the dirt bike that you don’t knock it over with pressure.
But seriously, I advise that you use a hose to clean your dirt bike. I find that a hose with a spray nozzle works just fine, especially when I’m taking all of the steps that will come later.
When you hose your dirt bike off, be very careful not to spray water directly onto any parts like your airbox, carburetor, or exhaust. Again, you have to be very cautious to avoid getting water where water doesn’t belong.
Your goal when you’re hosing your dirt bike down is to loosen mud, dirt, and grime that’s caked onto your dirt bike. Plenty of it will come off with this step, but you won’t get your dirt bike sparkling just yet. Just loosen that junk and move on.
Step 3: Scrub it Down
Is the junk loosened? Great! Time to scrub.
Use bike brushes to scrub those stubborn pieces of mud, dirt, and grime off of your dirt bike. It’s especially helpful to have brushes in spots where mud, dirt, and grime build up such as the chain, sprockets, swingarm, and wheels.
When I’m giving my dirt bike a good bath, I spend a lot of time on this step. I don’t want any of the build-up to stick around because build-up attracts more build-up.
During this step, I make sure that I scrub the underside of my dirt bike, too. It’s easy to see that the sides are all clean and beautiful and forget about those hard-to-see chunks of mud that hide on the underside of my dirt bike.
It’s also really important to make sure most or all of the mud, dirt, and grime is gone before moving on with washing your dirt bike. For this reason, I will spray off my dirt bike with water once I am done scrubbing it. I don’t want any of that build-up to cling on, waiting to scratch my dirt bike during the next step.
Step 4: Sponge it Up
Once all the mud, dirt, and grime is scrubbed and rinsed away, it’s time to get soapy.
I have found that dish soap mixed with warm water works great for washing my dirt bike. Depending on what kind of areas you ride your dirt bike in, you’ll want to choose a grade of soap that can combat the junk that makes your dirt bike filthy.
Use a big bucket and mix the water and soap to a good lather. You can use a sponge, soft brush, or a wash mitten. I use a sponge because that’s what my dad used to teach me how to wash my dirt bike, but my husband and uses a wash mitten on his dirt bike. Either will work great.
Whichever you choose to get your dirt bike soapy, use it on the larger areas of your dirt bike. I find that sponges and mittens don’t work perfectly in small, tight areas like in between spokes and such.
After you’ve lathered your whole dirt bike up with the soap, let it sit for 2-ish minutes. I find that this helps to penetrate any remaining grime and really get my dirt bike sparkling.
When you’re on this step, be careful to watch where the soap and water are going. As always, don’t let them get into places where they shouldn’t be.
When you’re done getting soapy, rinse your dirt bike off again with water.
Step 5: Use Some Bike Wash
If you’re feeling like your dirt bike needs a little extra cleaning after an especially messy ride, go after the small spaces again with a bike wash.
I like to use bike wash on spaces like the frame, engine, chain, and sprockets, even if I cleaned them with the soap earlier. It might be overkill, but hey, I like cleaning.
Bike wash helps with shine and really gets after grease, grime, or other gross residues.
After you apply the bike wash onto the desired area of your dirt bike, leave it to sit for just a minute. Then, scrub it clean with a soft brush. Make sure that the area is entirely clean from the bike wash and grime. Some people will rinse their dirt bikes off with a hose again after this step. I like to, just to make sure the bike wash didn’t get any place it shouldn’t have, like the brake pads. However, it isn’t entirely necessary.
We’ve been using Wynns Clean Green as a bike wash for years, and I think it works great! I think that Simple Green is probably one of the most popular and commonly used cleaners for bike washes in the dirt biking community.
Step 6: Dry Off
Once you’re done with the bike spray, it’s time to dry off your dirt bike.
Use a clean, dry towel to dry off your dirt bike. You can use cotton, terry cloth, or even microfiber. If I’m not taking my time, I’ll just use terry cloth and call it good. If I want to be fancy, I sometimes will use a terry cloth first to soak up the majority of the water, then use a microfiber towel to pick up any of the leftover grease, grime, or dirt. Microfiber also works best on the lower fork legs.
For smaller, hard-to-reach areas, I recommend using compressed air. This will save you so much time and will keep your dirt bike from rusting or mildew from growing.
When you’re drying your dirt bike after washing it, make sure to check the cables, too. These areas are easy to forget!
Step 7: Take Care of that Chain
When washing your dirt bike, it’s very important to remember to focus on the chain.
By this step, you’ve already scrubbed the chain. But it is especially important to not skip the rest of the chain’s care.
If you didn’t already dry the chain in the last step, do it now with compressed air. Make sure it is dry with no water clinging on. Then, apply some chain lubricant.
If you think your chain needs extra love, take these extra steps:
- Remove the chain.
- Put the chain into a mild solvent. It should be totally immersed.
- Scrub the chain with a brush to remove any leftover dirt or grime.
- Let the chain air dry.
- Apply chain lubricant.
- Put the chain back on the dirt bike.
Step 9: Get scuff-free
If your dirt bike has any black scuff marks on it, you can easily remove them with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Just soak the Magic Eraser in water, squeeze out the excess water, and get scrubbing on those scuffs. Your dirt bike will look brand new!
Step 10: Put It Back Together
Once you get your dirt bike clean and sparkling, remove the plugs, caps, or tape you may have applied to keep your engine safe. Don’t forget to put the parts back in/on your dirt bike that you removed at the beginning!
Cheers to a beautifully clean bike! Now go and get it dirty again!
Whiskey Throttle Motorcycles has a category of products dedicated to keeping your ride clean. Browse the products in our Motorcycle Care & Cleaning Products.