Can I Wash My Bike with a Hose? (Don’t Damage the Bike)

We’ve all been there, where our bike’s looking like it needs a refresh, but you don’t have the time for a full hand wash. And, before you reached for the hose, you stopped for a moment and thought  – will this damage my bike?

You can wash your bike with a hose. However, keep your hose on the shower setting to protect it. DO NOT use your hose on a jet or power setting as this can damage delicate bearings on your bottom brackets headsets, hubs and pivots, causing dirt and debris to clog them up.

Cleaning your bike is essential if you want it to work properly for a long time. But if you’re doing it wrong, you can do more harm than good. Below you’ll find out what you need to pay attention to in order to hose it down safely. 

Does hose washing damage the bike?

Cleaning your bike is an annoying task that many cyclists would rather avoid. I’m one of them, but I know it has to be done if I want to keep using it for a long time.

I’m looking at hose cleaning as a shortcut, as hand washing takes way too long. But every time I use a hose, I’m extremely careful because I know that If I do it wrong, I can damage the bike. And that can be very expensive.

Without the right know-how, hose washing your bike can cause damage. Pressurized water can cause dirt to settle in areas where you really don’t want debris clogging the mechanisms.

Hosing down a road bike
You can clean the bike with a hose but stay far enough to avoid damaging the bearings.

For example, dirt and grit from the road or a trail can end up being forced into bearings, clogging them up and resulting in the bearings grinding on the debris, reducing that smooth movement you need to have your bike performing at its best.

Over time, this can become a real problem and can result in you needing to replace bearings, as they get worn down by the consistent grinding whenever you move them.

This is something you really want to avoid.

So, if you’re thinking about hose washing your bike, avoid the high-pressure or jet settings at all costs.

Instead, opt for a shower setting for a gentler approach that will remove any build-up of dirt and grime in a far gentler way. Larger dirt pieces that cannot be removed by shower mode should be removed by hand rather than a high-pressure jet. This way, you’re far less likely to incur any damage to your bike.

Hosing a bike with shower head on a hose
If you’re hosing your bike, make sure you use a shower setting.

How should I hose the bike?

It can be really tempting to reach for the higher settings on the hose when it comes to cleaning out particularly grimy areas. Especially those that get a high build-up of dirt through use.

The first thought that ran through my mind when I thought about cleaning my bike was – surely the jet washer will get that out quickly?

If I’m being completely honest, the reality of this is that it probably will remove dirt quickly. The higher pressure from the stream of water will move it relatively easily, and it can be really satisfying to see the grime removed so quickly and efficiently.

But, I discovered, this can come with a cost.

In fact, these are exactly the areas you don’t want to be using a high-pressure hose on.

Instead, if you’re thinking about hosing your bike, you should tackle the high dirt areas by hand, using your specific bike cleaner and a microfiber cloth to get into those fiddly areas. With patience and a little bit of work, you’ll soon see a great improvement in those areas.

Cleaning the bike with microfiber cloth
For the dirtiest parts, use a wet microfiber cloth to avoid damaging the frame.

From there, grab your hose and put it on the shower setting. If you have a range of hose heads available to you, use a bigger head that spreads the flow of the water so it doesn’t come out in just one concentrated stream.

This will reduce the pressure coming out of the hose, spreading it across a larger area and reducing the risk of dirt and grit ending up in bearings, hubs and pivots.

If you don’t have a shower head, they’re a relatively inexpensive investment, which I definitely find comes in handy on multiple occasions. I personally use this one, which you can order quickly and easily on Amazon.

If you don’t want to spend money on a shower head, you can simply set your hose to the low-pressure setting and be careful around hubs, pivots and bearings. If this is the case, stand a little back from the bike so the water isn’t hitting it too hard. A couple of feet should be enough.

Can I use a pressure washer instead of a hose?

Don’t use a pressure washer for bike cleaning. Just don’t! I know professional teams do it, but keep in mind they get all the spare parts for free. You don’t!

It’s not advised to use a pressure washer for cleaning a bike, especially if you have a hose available. A pressure washer can damage bearings and hubs, which need to be replaced sooner or later. If you absolutely must use a pressure washer, use the lowest pressure and stand far away from it.

I would never recommend using a pressure washer on a bike over a hose.

While it can seem like a tempting quick fix to a dirty bike, the repercussions of using a pressure washer can be costly.

What’s more, it’s not something you’ll notice immediately. Where dirt sits in delicate areas, silently wreaking havoc, it can take quite a few rides before the damage is noticeable.

So, while you might’ve been using the pressure washer for a few months without any consequences, it’s worth being aware that something might show up in the near future.

With that in mind, it might seem like a quick solution if you’re short on time but put the brakes on using a pressure washer on your bike.

It’s not worth the risk.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a good amount of time on two wheels. Your bike is a big part of your life, and, often, it comes with a decent financial investment too. Don’t put all that on the line just to save a few extra minutes.

Do I need to dry the bike after hosing it?

I always dry my bike after hosing it. It’s just good practice if you want to avoid a build-up of rust occurring.

While the frame should be fine to air dry usually, there are some areas you should definitely give a once over with your dry rag to ensure they don’t become rusty and stiff.

For example, I’d recommend you definitely do the following:

  • Dry the chain. A rusty chain can be a recipe for disaster. To keep it clear of rust, run your newly cleaned chain through a clean dry rag to make sure it’s completely dry before you lube it and store your bike away.
  • Take care of the cassette. Give your cogs a bit of love with a dry rag too. While it’s a little fiddly, it can also give you peace of mind that rust won’t develop in there either.
Lubing the chain on a road bike
Don’t forget to lube your chain after you clean it. I recommend using a dry lube.

I tend to use a microfiber cloth when I’m drying my bike, as it’s soft, which makes it really gentle on the bike. I usually get mine from Amazon as I like that you can order them in bulk in case one gets greasy.

What’s more, I find giving my bike a once over with a dry rag can be a great way to check in on its overall condition. With it looking clean and shiny, I quite enjoy taking the opportunity to check on the brake pads and frame and make sure I’ve got enough lubricant on the chain.

For me, I find it reassuring to check in on my bike and take some time to make sure it’s in great condition over time and address any issues I think there might be. It’s just a great way to make sure your bike stays in good condition in the long term.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it really satisfying!

Luka Stular

Hi, my name is Luka. I fell in love with cycling back in 2014 when I broke my leg in the summer. The peak of my day was watching Tour de France, and soon I was hooked. Later I bought my first road bike, and now we're here.

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