How to Clean a Chainsaw Chain in 4 Simple Steps

Patrick McMann

Knowledge Based

Every homeowner dreams of keeping their chainsaw chain in perfect condition. Because a rusty or dirty chain can affect not only the chainsaw’s efficiency and longevity but also harm the blade.

While regular cleaning of your chainsaw chain is always essential, there are two instances when it becomes particularly crucial:

  • Prior to storing the chainsaw prevent rust or any other damage.
  • Before sharpening the chain with a chainsaw sharpener ensure that you’re not sharpening any dirt or debris into the chain teeth.

So, without any further ado, let’s start with the ins and outs of cleaning a chainsaw chain professionally!

cleaning a chainsaw chain

How to Clean a Chainsaw Chain?

To clean a chainsaw chain, first, remove it from the chainsaw and wipe it down with a soft cloth to remove any loose debris. Then, soak the chain in a cleaner/solvent to remove any tough stains or debris.

After soaking, use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the chain and rinse it with water. Finally, thoroughly dry the chain and lubricate it with chainsaw bar oil to prevent rust and ensure peak performance.

Step-by-Step Process of Cleaning A Chainsaw Chain

Below is your best guide for cleaning your chainsaw chain!

But before beginning the cleaning process, ensure the chainsaw is securely fastened to a stable table and standing upright. Check that no connected battery, gas, or fuel is left in the tank. Now remove the chain from the chainsaw, and here you go!

Step-1: Soak the Chain in the Cleaning Solution

The cleaning solution is basically a specially formulated solvent that aids in dissolving and removing dirt, debris, and rust that might have built up on the chain over time.

Immerse the chainsaw chain in the solution. Make sure that the chain is fully in the solvent.

The amount of time the chain should soak depends on two factors;

– the type of solution you’re using.

– the amount of dirt and debris.

Usually, the chain needs to soak for 15 minutes to multiple hours.

Remove the chain from the solution after the recommended time and proceed to the next step.

Step-2: Time to Scrub the Chain!

You have softened the debris, so now is the time for scrubbing! Take a bristle brush to remove the dirt manually.

Thoroughly brush through the teeth of the chain and the upper surface.

Step-3: Rinse and Dry the Chain

Make sure that you have removed all the contaminants. The color of the chain should turn to its original from black.

Now rinse the chain properly and use a paper towel to wipe down each chain link.

Finally, hang it up overnight to dry it properly.

Step-4: Lubricate the Chainsaw Chain

First, choose a high-quality chain oil made specifically for use in chainsaws. Pour the oil into the chainsaw’s oil reservoir and start the chainsaw to distribute the oil evenly along the chain.

Keep an eye on the oil flow and adjust it as needed to keep the chain properly lubricated.

Best Solvents to Clean a Chainsaw Chain

There are countless chainsaw chain cleaners available on the market. Here are some of the best solvents for removing a wide variety of dirt and debris.


Kerosene is an excellent solvent for cleaning chains with oily residues and other types of grime.

It is actually a colorless, transparent liquid that is commonly used as fuel in lamps and stoves.

It has a low viscosity, so it will flow easily and penetrate well into your chain’s small crevices and tight spaces.

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits are a type of petroleum distillate widely used as a paint thinner and solvent for cleaning metal surfaces.

They have a low evaporation rate and a moderate viscosity, making them ideal for removing stubborn dirt and grime from chainsaw chains.

Commercial Cleaners

Multiple chainsaw chain cleaners on the market are specifically designed for metal cleaning.

These cleaners are typically composed of a combination of solvents and detergents. They dissolve and remove dirt and other residues from chains way effectively.

Can I Use WD40 To Clean the Chainsaw Chain?

Water displacement 40 (WD-40) is a degreaser. You can use WD-40 to quickly clean your chainsaw if you don’t have a specialized cleaner or solvent on hand.

WD-40 contains anti-corrosion agents and ingredients that aid in the displacement of water, the penetration of surfaces, and the removal of debris.

However, WD-40, like any other lubricant, has some drawbacks.

Some users advise using it only when the chain begins to soak in water to remove excess moisture before applying a reputable lubricant. It’s essential to avoid using WD-40 as a lubricant when there’s a lot of dirt buildup, as this can harm the chainsaw.


What can I use to clean chainsaws?

It is essential to use a cleaner or degreaser designed specifically for chainsaws. You can alternatively use kerosene, Wd40, or mineral spirits.  You can find these products at hardware or outdoor stores.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or solvents, as they can damage the chainsaw’s parts and shorten its lifespan.

Should I soak my chainsaw chain?

If the chainsaw is running slowly or the fuel tank is running dry too quickly, soak the chain in bar and chain oil, such as AMSOIL, for a few hours to ensure all pivot points are well lubricated.

However, if you plan to clean your chain, soaking it in a solvent can help remove debris and dirt. To avoid damage, make sure to thoroughly dry the chain after cleaning and before using it.

How do you clean a chainsaw chain before sharpening it?

To clean a chainsaw chain before sharpening it, use a chainsaw cleaner or degreaser, a brush, and a rag to wipe the chain clean, paying close attention to each individual tooth/link on the chain. After cleaning the chain, you can begin sharpening it.

What is the easiest way to clean a chainsaw chain?

The easiest way to clean a chainsaw chain is to use a chain cleaner, a brush, or a rag. Spray the cleaner on the chain, then wipe away any accumulated dirt and debris on it with the brush or rag. Once the chain is clean, wipe it dry with a clean rag.

Can I clean my chainsaw chain with soapy water?

Soapy water can damage the bearings and cause rust or corrosion on the chain. Moreover, using soapy water can cause the chain to lose lubrication, resulting in excessive wear and tear or even chain failure. You’d be better off looking for a chain cleaner or degreaser.

Why do chainsaw chains get dull?

Chainsaw chains can become dull over time due to improper chain sharpening techniques, insufficient chain tension, or the use of the wrong type of greaser.

Using a dull chainsaw chain not only makes cutting more difficult and raises the risk of an accident. So, It’s important to maintain the chainsaw chain to ensure good working conditions regularly.

How do I know if my chainsaw chain is dull?

A dull chainsaw chain may struggle to pull itself into the wood, making cutting more difficult. It may also produce fine sawdust rather than the usual coarse strands.

Moreover, if a chainsaw produces smoke even when the chain is oiled, and the chain tension is correct, this could indicate that the chain is dull and needs to be sharpened.

Conclusion: How to Clean a Chainsaw Chain?

Cleaning your chainsaw chain on a regular basis is essential for guaranteeing its longevity and performance. Although it may initially seem tricky, the process is relatively simple and can be done with the right tools and techniques.

Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can maintain your chainsaw chain and keep it in top shape for your next cutting job.

Patrick McMann