Hands up who likes cleaning their motorcycle?
Not many takers, I bet.
I actually really enjoy the process of taking a well-used bike and returning it to its former glory. Working with a keyboard all week, it’s nice to actually do something a bit physical and see the real-world fruits of my efforts.
We’ve published an excellent guide to help you give your motorcycle the professional valet look and at the heart of a good clean is a great cleaner.
With so many cleaning products available, it’s hard to know if you’re using the right one. To save you trawling the web or the embarrassment standing in Halfords looking lost and forlorn, we’ve done the legwork for you and chosen our best motorcycle cleaners to suit anyone’s budget.
We recommend using these spray cleaners alongside a bodywork shampoo. While these cleaners are great at cleaning a motorcycle on their own, they also work brilliantly as a pre-shampoo wash to help you lift all the surface grease and grime from your bodywork.
A refreshingly eco-friendly bike cleaner
At under £2.50 a litre, it’s worth paying that little bit extra and buying in bulk. I use this cleaner during my cleaning process and can say it works on all types of dirt and muck. The Bio Bike Cleaner contains microbes and enzymes which help get a deep clean. The cleaner contains no chemicals and is biodegradable, so it’s safe for you, your bike and the environment.
Eco-friendly bike cleaner. Proper job!
Road racing legend Guy Martin has his own range of bike cleaners. Safe to use plastics, carbon fibre, all metals and rubbers. Purchasing the starter pack first is essential. You’ll get an empty 1.5l spray bottle and a capsule. What? No solution? Here’s the surprise; it works by DIY mixing. Just drop the capsule in the spray bottle, fill with water, wait 20 seconds, give it a good shake and it’s ready to go. When you run out, just buy a refill and you’re back in business.
The cheapest motorcycle cleaner
You can still get a quality motorcycle cleaner on a budget. The cheapest motorcycle-specific cleaner we could find was Muc-Off’s Bike Cleaner at £6.99 for a litre, it comes in an applicator bottle with a spray nozzle.
If you buy in bulk, you can get it even cheaper. If you buy the massive 25-litre drum it works out at £2.80 a litre. Unless you run a hand car wash on the weekends, you probably won’t need such a large amount.
If you buy the slightly more sensible 5-litre bottle, it works out at £4 per litre.
A simple guide to quickly cleaning your motorcycle
If you just want to give your bike a quick once over, you can get it looking great in 20 minutes. You don't need a pressure washer but lots of fresh water from a hose or tap will reduce the amount of elbow grease you'll need.
- First, spray your bike with a hose getting everything nice and wet and washing off any surface dirt
- Then spray Bilberry wheel cleaner on the wheels, brakes and anywhere else caked in dirt
- Go around the bodywork with a cleaning spray and spray it anywhere that’s a bit dirtier than the average (belly pan, rear shock, radiator, etc)
- Put your car shampoo in a bucket of warm water
- Dip your cleaning mitt in and wash your bodywork. Wring out the mitt in a separate bucket of cold water or run it under a tap between applications. Give the bike a good-old once over and leave it for a minute while you do the next task.
- Use a wheel cleaning brush to scrub the wheels and hose them off with fresh water. Then hose off the rest of the bike, rubbing the mitt around the bodywork as you rinse it off
- Now work your way around the bike with a microfibre cloth or chamois leather wiping off the remaining water. I use one cloth to do the majority of it, wring it out a few times, then finish off with a new dry cloth to really get it dry.
- Put a bit of polish or wax on a microfibre cloth and smear it over the bodywork. You don’t need a lot. Once you’ve covered the bodywork, go back to where you started and with a clean section of the cloth and buff it in.
- Stand back and admire your handy work.
The Others From Our Shortlist
There are loads of different motorcycle cleaners out there, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We’ve picked through tens of products to shortlist some of the best motorcycle cleaners including ‘waterless’ motorcycle cleaners. Here are five other great options.
SDoc100 Motorcycle Gel Cleaner – 1 litre, gel clings to the bike rather than ending up on the floor. Can be used waterless. Corrosion inhibitors provide lasting UV protection. Quite pricey.
Autoglym Motorcycle cleaner – 1l, use as part of your normal motorcycle wash on wet surfaces or you can just squirt it on a dirty patch and buff it off.
Meguiar’s G12664EU NXT Generation Car Wash – 1.8l, with added water softeners. Amazon’s top-rated vehicle shampoo.
Turtle Wax Max Power Car Wash Shampoo – 3l, three levels of cleaning power.
BikeCare Gel Motorcycle Cleaner – 750ml, gel style cleaning product, can be used waterless like SDoc 100.
- If you always get streaks on your bodywork it's because you're probably finishing your wash with dirty water, so use the two-bucket method and refresh your water at the end of your wash, then dry the bodywork properly with a chamois
- Use an old spray bottle (from your household sprays) and buy your citrus cleaner in bulk, it’s much cheaper
- Two buckets and a microfibre mitt are better than a pressure washer
- Microfibre cloths are more paintwork-friendly than sponges
- Colour code your cleaning cloths for ease of use and to ensure you don't get grit on your polishing cloths
- While there are waterless motorcycle cleaners (like SDoc 100 gel cleaner) the name waterless is a bit of a red-herring. You need water to wash them off.
- However you clean your bike there really is no substitute for using lots of water in the cleaning process to get a streak-free finish
- Don't wash a hot bike or a bike that's in sunlight. It'll dry too quickly, leaving streaks
- Don't go crazy with a jet washer. The high pressure can force grease and oil from parts that need lubrication (like your foot operated levers) and it can remove decals and mess with electrics
Motorcycle cleaning FAQs
Should you clean your bike at a car wash?
There’s not a lot wrong with going to the local Eastern European car wash and getting your bike cleaned by 17 Bulgarians armed with cleaning cloths. They tend to do quite a good job but just keep an eye on where they aim their pressure washers. Some outfits are good and know a bike needs a bit more care and attention compared to the average car.
It’s common for them to use a diluted patio cleaner as their wheel cleaner, as it cuts through the crud on wheels which is fine for a BMW 3-series but for bikes with sticker kits and more plastic, you just have to watch where they aim it.
Sometimes they do silly things like apply tyre dressing (which is bloody slippery), so check they’re not doing that. Also, they clean 10s of cars a day and you could argue that their cleaning mitts aren’t as grit-free as your one at home.
So keep a close eye out on your first time and if they do a good job, you’re sorted.
Is it ok to use washing up liquid to clean my bike?
Yes, it is. The urban myth is that dishwashing liquid like Fairy contains a salt which corrodes the bike or the paintwork. While it does contain a salt, it’s a not a chloride, which when left will become acid, which is what would corrode parts. The issue with washing up liquid is that it’ll strip off any paint protection on the bodywork, i.e. wax, leaving you with a dull finish and bodywork that’s not protected against the elements. If you use Fairy liquid, you will need to re-wax your bodywork.
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this motorcycle cleaning guide: