Whenever we get the "how do I wash my motorcycle?" question our initial response of "very carefully" usually doesn't get met with much enthusiasm.

All kidding aside, washing a motorcycle doesn't require much careful consideration except for the tailpipe otherwise wash like you would a car with some exceptions. However, a difference exists between a mere wash down and an intricate cleaning resulting in a showroom shine. What version you want all depends on you.

Steps to Washing a Motorcycle

Don't wash right after riding. Start on a cold bike. You don't want your hands in or around a hot engine and dousing a hot engine with cold water probably won't cause much issue but why risk it? Also, PLUG the exhaust pipe. Get water in there and expect a host of problems. So, don't even risk it. Buy an exhaust plug and pop it in before getting to work.

When washing a motorcycle the primary areas requiring cleaning consist of the tires, wheels, fenders and any plastic, chrome or metal parts. Get those cleaned of debris with a little bit of spray cleaner followed by a water rinse and you have a pretty good looking bike in no time.

Therefore, with running water at the ready, use a towel or sponge with a mild detergent, preferably one made for washing motorcycles, and wash away dirt and oil residue on those sections. Dry using a towel - microfiber works best. Finish with the appropriate polish for plastic, chrome and metal, etc.

How to Really Clean a Motorcycle

If you really want to get down and dirty ending with a motorcycle you would rather display inside the house than ever exposing to the elements again, you need a bit more time and supplies.

  • Spray cleaner
  • Degreaser
  • Polish
  • Grease

As stated, start with a cool bike and running water then spray the whole thing down with a soap or cleaner safe for paint, plastic and metal like the Maxima BIO Wash or Motul Moto Wash. Let cleaner penetrate the dirt, grease and other grime before washing away. We don't recommend using a power washer, at least on high setting, because of the more delicate engine parts, however using one on the wheels can get those cleaned off pretty quick. Also, motorcycles don't have the elaborate instrument panels cars have so don't worry about wetting those as watertight casings hold the available displays.

Use a degreaser for the chain and sprockets. A grunge brush makes quick work of the chain while cleaning or detailing brushes help remove dirt and grease in smaller, confined areas. To save some time, while the bike marinates in the spray wash get to work on the chain. By the time you get the chain cleaned you can wash away the sprayed on cleaner along with the targeted filth.

For tough grease and grime, especially tar that kicks up from the road and sticks to wherever, you probably need a solvent (WD-40 works well) or some type of cleaner polish that dissolves grease without harming any of the finishes on your motorcycle.

Rinse and towel-dry your motorcycle. Some owners use compressed air or a leaf blower to expedite drying, eliminate water spots and thoroughly blow away all moisture prior to the next step.

Finally, grease the chain and use the correct polish to protect any plastic, rubber, vinyl, metal and chrome (some like Pro Honda Cleaner and Polish cover all of the above). Don't use a detailer or any type of spray cleaner on the seat because most leave a slippery residue. Just use soap and water if needed but wiping down with a damp cloth works best.

Feel free to polish the wheels but leave the tires alone. Like the seat, a mild soap and water goes a long way, if needed, but otherwise take some time to inspect the tires for cracking or fading and brush off any debris by hand. Using a sidewall shine or some other type of tire cleaner leaves a slippery residue and can negatively affect the rubber compound.