Motorcycle Forums » General

Keeping Your Bike Clean - The Right Way

    • 5418 posts
    February 27, 2009 7:28 AM PST

    To the true motorcycle enthusiast your bike is more then mere transportation, it's a part of who you are, not to mention a substantial investment. That's why keeping it looking good is just as important to you as keeping it running good.


    Even with the best intentions, you can actually damage your motorcycle if you don't clean it correctly. Dirty rags, harsh detergents and neglected areas can cause scratching, dulling, and even corrosion.




    Before you soap-up and wash your bike, remember to take a few simple precautions that can make a huge difference and help you avoid dreaded scratching:


    • Remove rings, jewelry, watches and anything else that might scratch your bike as you clean. Motorcycle jackets and other clothing with metal buckles, zippers and studs can be especially hazardous to paint.
    • Make sure your bike is cool to the touch. A engine and pipes can not only burn you, but they can permanently damage the finish on your motorcycle by making waxes and cleaners act differently.
    • If your bike is caked with mud or heavy soil, rinse it off several times before attempting to scrub it. Sponging over hard dirt, soil and road debris can scratch your paint.
    • Do NOT use an old sponge or may have dirt trapped inside that will scratch your finish. We recommend using a soft wash mitt available from most auto parts stores.
    • Do not wash your bike in the direct sun. This will make it harder to get the spots off when drying it.


    The Wash


    We recommend using cleaners made specifically for motorcycles which can be found at your dealer or motorcycle accessory store. Cleaners that make your dishes clean or toaster shine, don't work as well on your bike.


    • Dilute the wash concentrate according to instructions on bottle and wash your bike. Be sure to pay attention to the underside of the bike where dirt deposit can build up an cause corrosion.
    • Clean your wheels. During normal use, particles of brake dust get on your wheels. If neglected, these non-compatible metals can react to one another, creating galvanic corrosion, and produce pitting on your wheels. This type of dirt cannot be easily remove with normal cleaners and you should use a tire and wheel cleaner available at most motorcycle dealers and auto parts stores.
      Caution: Never clean your brake discs or any brake component with anything other then soap and water or a cleaner made specifically for brake pads and discs. Be sure to thoroughly rinse all soap residue from the brake pads and discs.
    • Rinse the bike thoroughly from the top down, paying careful attention to complete removal of cleaner, especially from nooks and crannies.
    • All cleaner MUST be completely removed from the bike to avoid spots that will be hard to remove. During rinsing, you may splatter cleaner from one part of the bike to another, so go back and rinse the bike several times.
    • In drying your bike, pay close attention to areas where water tends to puddle.


    Drying Your Bike


    • Completely drying your bike IMMEDIATELY after washing will make it much easier to shine the finish without have to work on removing the water spots.
    • Do NOT ride the bike around the block to air dry it. Chances are the engine and exhaust will heat up before all the water has blown off causing "baked on" spots that will be really hard to clean.
    • Leaf blowers make excellent bike dryers. (make sure the blower is clean and free from debris that can damage the finish) On some leaf blowers the long shroud on the front make them a little bulky to use around the bike and spread the air so much that it's hard to dry the tight spaces. If the shroud is removable we recommend removing the shroud and making a custom shroud by cutting the bottom of a plastic two liter soda bottle and attaching the bottle to the front of the leaf blower. This will make the leaf blower much easier to maneuver and provide a more direct air stream.
    • Pay special attention to the places water can hide, i.e. under the fenders, under the floorboards and around the hand controls. This water will blow out during your first ride, spotting that nice clean bike.
    • If you do not have a leaf blower, dry your bike completely with a chamois or other very soft cloth. Then take you bike for a VERY SHORT ride down the block to blow the water out of the hidden spaces and dry the bike again.


    The Final Touch


    While cleaning and rinsing your bike, pay attention to how the water reacts. This will give you an indication of what to do next.


    • If the water beads into small round droplets, you probably don't need to wax your bike at this time.
    • If the water sheets or forms oblong droplets, it's time for a wax job.


    If your bike requires waxing, use a high quality wax available from your dealer or favorite auto parts store. Most waxes are designed specifically for the painted portions of the bike, not the chrome, so be sure to wax only these parts and polish the chrome separately.


    Even if your bike doesn't need waxing at this time, you still want to add the finishing touches to give it the best look possible.


    • If you are not waxing your bike, you may want to still improve the shine by using a spray finish (sometimes called instant detail). Simply spray a small section of the bikes painted surface and wipe dry to a shiny finish.
    • Polish all of the chrome with a chrome polish or glass cleaner. If you are using a spray cleaner, be very careful not to get any overspray on any of the painted surfaces. These cleaners will normally remove the wax from these surfaces, dulling the finish.
    • Dress all of your rubber, non-painted plastic and vinyl parts using a cleaner/protectant such as Amor All®.
      Caution: Never use any protectant on the hand controls, feet controls, seat, or the treaded portion of your tires. This could result in serious injury or death!
    • Leather seats can be cared for by treating them with a leather cleaner/protectant available at your favorite auto parts store. Once or twice a year you should treat your leather seat with saddle soap or mink wax, available where quality boots and leather products are sold, to keep your seat waterproof. Water seeping through the leather will damage the interior cushion of the seat.


    You're ready to hit the road with your bike looking it's best. One final suggestion is to carry a soft rag with you on your first rag after washing your bike. There is certain to be a little hidden water blowing out on your painted surfaces, simply buff out these spots at your first stop.

    Between Major Cleanings

    I have found a great product for a quick cleaning of your bike - Whipz Pro Gloss.  This stuff is amazing!  A quick squire and wipe with a rag gives the bike a just waxed look in minutes.  It even has a wax base to help repel water and dirt!

    Caution: After a cleaning your tires and brakes may be wet and may not immediately obtain their maximum traction or grip. Be sure to ride very slowly at first and test your brakes several times before you NEED to stop.

    This post was edited by EventMan at July 5, 2016 10:55 PM PDT
    • 46 posts
    March 10, 2009 11:34 AM PDT

    Another Tip:


    Wait until your local bike shop or bar has a Bikini Bike Wash

  • g
    March 12, 2009 2:56 AM PDT
    what i do is ....give the bike a good spray with wd40 all over ,the rain just beads off .also a furnature polish is good .but mine is mostly plastic's .
  • March 12, 2009 6:29 AM PDT
    I'm With Drake on this one!!!

    • 39 posts
    March 14, 2009 9:27 AM PDT
    Second that about the Amour All on the seat. It's sooo tempting and sooo bad.

    I'll try to keep the shameless self promotion to a minimum and just recommend Clean Cycle Saddle Soft for your seat.

    You can get it online or it should be available in a local cycle shop in your area.

    BTW...Love the new site.
  • November 19, 2009 1:41 PM PST
    If I am in the wrong for stating this product I am going to mention please delete this post......I was given a spray can of "PIG SPIT" that a friend brought back a case of from Kentucky...It works great on all the Black cylinder heads and engine parts to make them a shiny black after a good wash.....I cannot find it here in Las Vegas......Is there another product like that to make the dull engine heated black paint look shiny again

    Ride Safe and have fun doing it
  • November 22, 2009 10:10 AM PST
    I only wash mine once a year, the rest of the time I just wipe it off with a rag with some spray cleaner. If I clean it too much, the rattle can paint is noticable.
  • December 8, 2010 1:32 PM PST
    Any recommendations for the best way to maintain a windshield? I just got a new one and would like to keep it in top notch condition.
  • December 8, 2010 2:56 PM PST
    I use pledge on mine.cleans off the bugs and leaves a clear finish.Dont use anything with amonia to clean your windshield.
  • December 12, 2010 2:37 AM PST
    I use Plexus, it's available at most the Harley shops, but I got mine at the airport, they use it on the windshields of the planes. It doesn't scratch at all and takes those bugs off with ease. I was always a believer in just soap and water on my windshield so it wouldn't get scratched but this works great. I carry a can of it in my saddlebags along with a terry cloth rag.
  • December 12, 2010 3:56 AM PST
    Someone said they used Scrubbing Bubbles® Mega Shower Foamer on their scoot. I live on a dirt road. Last house. over a mile in and out. After a few trips and a small rain shower, I decided to give a try sense it was cold. Used the whole can, sprayed it down and let soak for a minute or two... Rinsed, used a drive through wash and a no spot rinse. Wiped down. Toweled off. Shined up like a new penny. Not on windshield though.
    • 1067 posts
    December 12, 2010 9:10 AM PST
    I don't wash mine, unless I have to ride in the rain and it gets covered with road film. I've seen too many bikes on E-Bay that look really sweet, till you look close at bolt heads, cable connections, and other places water can lay, that you cant get to. I use Micro-Fiber rags that you can buy at Walmart, with a spray cleaner/wax that I buy at my HD dealer. A good coat of that, or wax after you use it, and I use a California Duster till it gets dirty again. The dirtier those Cal. Dusters get, the better they work. They won't scratch paint either. We used one on a $5000 dollar paint job on a race car for several years, and it still looks great now.
  • December 13, 2010 12:54 PM PST
    Thanks for the input on this. I especially appreciate the recommendation not to use cleaners with ammonia.
  • January 13, 2011 1:24 PM PST
    You can order Pig Spit on line. One of the businesses on the site has it.
    • 44 posts
    February 20, 2013 7:53 AM PST
    Bike Brite do not use on polished aluminum I mix mine 50/50 with watre in a two gal pump sprayer last me all summer just spray on let set and hose off leaf blower with coke bottle to dry. Cycle Care makes some very good products as well
  • March 6, 2013 11:46 PM PST
    Has any one heard of FW1 ?? Is that good to use on a bike or not???
    • 44 posts
    March 23, 2013 3:57 PM PDT
    anyone used Opti-Coat 2.0 on they bike yet? I hear good things just wondering what you think
  • March 23, 2013 4:57 PM PDT
    Perfect time of year to bump this thread.
    I was happy to find the post on Pig Spit.  My block looked nice and dark when I bought it in January, but that's only because my rocker boxes were leaking 

    After replacing them and degreasing my engine - I've not been happy with the "less than black" appearance.

    Will have to get some Pig Spit and check it out - Any other secret formulas out there?
    • 44 posts
    March 24, 2013 6:20 AM PDT
    I use s-100 engine brite on my black parts on the engine works great.
  • May 4, 2013 3:11 PM PDT
     So so SO  glad I found this post about blow drying your bike.  My Craftsman shop vac worked great for the job.  Detailing went so much better with a completely dry bike and very little water spotting.
    Now it'e time to get out and smash some fresh Indiana bugs !!!

  • May 16, 2013 4:26 PM PDT
    I always recommend that you get a good quality clay bar, learn how to use it, and then use it. This will remove brake dust (the worst actually comes from other large vehicles and machines, especially trains) and other things that actually eat through your clear coat and paint. Clay is the secret of Concourse show winners. Definitely use a high quality product to seal (sorry, Harley brands usually are not high quality), and a finish wax where applicable. Do this, and all the solvents, acidic pre-cleaners, and the other "shortcut" products will not have to be used--these tend to be potentially harmful to finishes. But, don't take my word for it, ask the show winners.
  • May 16, 2013 4:37 PM PDT
    Blowers can force water into places it shouldn't be. I would never, ever concentrate and accelerate the airflow from a leaf blower, it is plenty forceful as it is. Blowers are great if used carefully...carefully. Pay attention to where the vents and seals are on your particular ride. I.E., such as on mine, the vent on the top tranny cover, the vents on the starter and marker lights, the seals on the clutch and brake reservoirs (high pressure water and air can sometimes defeat all of these).
    Finally, be careful with what you use on your windshield. Many products intended for glass will damage the plexi.
  • April 24, 2015 4:58 AM PDT
    Great post to do it the old fashion way! See our website for a much easier way to do it.
    • 10 posts
    April 24, 2015 8:36 AM PDT
    I have a gun connected to an air compressor that siphons fluid and sprays it. Kind of like a weed b Gone when you connect a water hose to the container.

    Lately I drop the hose in simple green with some water and spray the motor, trans and wheels. I use 50 psi air pressure.
    I rinse it off with a hose and wipe what I missed.

    I like the scrubbing bubbles idea.I'll have to try that.