How to Clean White or Light Handlebar Tape with Toothpaste

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White Handlebar Tape After Cleaning
Shine up your bike's handlebar tape with some simple household items.
White Handlebar Tape After Cleaning
Shine up your bike’s handlebar tape with some simple household items.

So you’ve found the sparkly, white handlebar tape that mesmerized you while you were winding it onto your bars has grown dingy and lackluster. Bike snobs everywhere might tell you, “Throw it in the trash can and buy a real color!”

Don’t listen to them! If you love white handlebar tape as much as I do because it just looks downright awesome, use a few tricks to spiff it back up like new and avoid filling up your local landfill.

I love the way my single speed looks with white tape (yes, that’s it pictured to the right, mismatched brake levers and all), and since I don’t want to fork out $30 for really durable Lizard Skins on my cheap bike (but it is the only type I use on my Cervélo–read my review of it if you’re curious) that will wipe up without much trouble, I found a few ways to make even the cheapest cork tape shine like new again!

In the above picture, you’ll see the affordable, Cinelli Cork Tape all spiffed up. How did I get it so pretty? Two products . . . well three actually.


Dirty White Handlebar Tape
Dirty white handlebar tape before the scrubbing started.

This brings new meaning to the “whitening” advertised on the tube. On the right side of the bar, I used a few squeezes of Crest toothpaste and a nailbrush–the toothpaste I received for free at my last dentist visit (not my brand).  Do pretty much exactly what you would when brushing your teeth. Squeeze it onto the brush head, get it wet, and scrub in circles (make sure it really foams up when you’re doing this). For me, the results were nearly instantaneous. If your tape is much dirtier, it might take a little more elbow grease. A few reapplications of toothpaste to the brush head and in minutes I had the entire right side clean.

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When you’ve worked through the full bar, simply wipe it with a clean towel. You’ll see the black grime collecting on the towel, and your white handlebar tape will look almost as clean as the day you bought it.


Orange-Based Hand Cleaner

photo 3-2I’ve recommended Orange Hand Cleaner (pumice is the real deal) in previous posts for getting grease out of your cycling jerseys and shorts. Well, it’s back again to clean up your bar tape! Since this has some magic de-greasing quality, it will usually clean even the blackest of grease.

I used a similar method as the aforementioned toothpaste: scrubbing with a clean nailbrush, but no water. This time, I cleaned the left side of the bars, so you can see the difference in the final and compare. The pumice actually took a little more scrubbing than the toothpaste, and, in my opinion, didn’t quite match the toothpaste’s whitening power, but overall cleaned it without leaving any black grime behind. To finish the job, I simply wiped off the orange cleaner with a rag, et voila.


Perhaps the best reason to try these two methods is that you won’t have to deal with a ton of water and a full rinse. In the past, I’ve tried Dawn dish soap and water, but that’s really for when you want to do a full wash of your bike. Frankly, orange cleaner and toothpaste work much better.

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Of course, I did mention a third method earlier. Well, in a word: baby wipes. Wait, that’s two words. In two words: baby wipes. I’m a huge fan of these cheap little towelettes, and they clean everything. “Wash” your whole bike with them. They’re fantastic.

Tried these ideas? Have another method that works for you? Let me know about it in the comments!

About Bek 301 Articles
SLO Cyclist's former chief editor and recovering road snob, Bek made sure everything ran smoothly around here. She was also the one who reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously--unless it involves black socks. Black socks are always serious.

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