How to Clean Your Road Bike’s Cassette Without Taking it Off

A few household hacks will get your cassette clean without having to remove it.

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We’re all aware of it. The best way to clean your cassette is by taking it off and bathing and scrubbing it in a degreaser solution. But let’s all face it, we’re lazy. We want quick results. So here are a few product hacks that will make your life easier, and keep your cassette shinier.

One side note, you’ll definitely want to make sure you clean and lube your chain and your chainrings (these tips work for chainrings too) first. Otherwise, your freshly cleaned cassette will get a brand new coating of whatever junk was already in the chain and rings.

Our Favorite Hacked Cassette Cleaning Tools

An old toothbrush (or an enemy’s new toothbrush):

A shop rag or microfiber cloth (or an enemy’s favorite t-shirt)

A shoelace (or an ene. . . nevermind)

A sock. (I know, sounds crazy, but it works. And you probably have a few that are living the single life.)

Degreaser – your favorite kind

Of course, you can also buy specific tools or accessories for this purpose:

Finish Line Gear Floss is actually really cool. It’s extremely good for running through your jockey wheels and such, and I generally get four uses out of each floss since it’s washable. Easier than cutting a shop rag into strips, but you get similar results.

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Park Tool’s Gear Clean Brush gets all the big gunk out and off of your cassette, and it’s definitely good for reaching into those tight spaces.



How to Clean Your Cassette Without Bothering to Remove It

1. Remove the wheel (yep)

2.  Pick your favorite DIY cleaning tool from above, and get it soaked with degreaser. Not too soaked, but enough to help break up the grime.

3. Lay the wheel down flat, cassette up. With a shop apron on, I usually just put the wheel in my lap. Do what’s most cofortable for you. You can also do what’s most uncomfortable, but that’s your call.

3. Start at the biggest sprocket, and work the rag (or shoelace/floss, etc.) all the way in toward the hub. The technique here lies in working with the freehub–pull your rag left to collect the grime and then right to move to a new section of the cassette.

4. Repeat between each sprocket until you’ve got the whole cassette cleaned up and shiny again.

5. Replace your wheel (after you’ve cleaned the chain, of course), lube your chain, and you’re good to go.

You’re Done

It’s generally best to perform this maintanance after a ride, and let your bike sit overnight before riding it–otherwise it will be best friends with all the road muck.

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Those are our tips, what are yours? Any other DIY tools you use to clean a cassette or chainrings? Let us know!

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.


    • Fantastic question, Stephanie! An article on removing and cleaning the cassette and chain is on the docket. Should be published tomorrow!

  1. If I’m going to take the wheel off, I’ll go one step further and remove the cassette or freewheel, and put in a small can with degreaser in it. Incidentally, I used to buy a small bottle of proprietary chain cleaner for $4.95 (plus tax). Then I discovered ‘Spray Nine’ is an excellent degreaser, and you get about eight times as much as the small bottle, for around $9. And ‘Spray Nine’ is good for household cleaning, too.

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