Best motorcycle cleaner | 69 reviewed from dish soap to S100 & Muc-Off

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Everybody has their favourite motorcycle cleaner, and most will tell you that theirs is the best, but since carrying out this review of a huge range of cleaning products – costing from 69p to £29.99 – I’ve made some big changes to my regime.

The aim here is to find the one-bottle wash that will safely clean every part of your bike, and this huge test has indicated that some chemicals could have the potential, over time, to damage some of the finishes on your pride and joy…

 

Quick links to the key points

Testing motorcycle cleaners for material safety
Testing for cleaning performance
What is the best motorcycle cleaner?
What the results tell us
Recommended and Best Buy motorcycle cleaners
Is it really safe to use dish-soap to clean a motorcycle?
But the internet says that washing-up liquid contains salt as fillers or thickeners
What’s best for cleaning flies?
Do these products leave my bike protected?
Products that caused noticeable damage in the test
Best motorcycle cleaner: verdict
The one cleaning product EVERY motorcyclist should own
How should I clean my motorcycle?
How do I clean the exhaust headers on my bike?
Why do motorcycles seem to need more care than cars?

 

Testing motorcycle cleaners for material safety

The average motorcycle has many different materials used in its construction, each of which could be affected by chemicals over time – that’s why most bike manufacturers will only recommend water and a mild detergent to clean them.

To test how safe these cleaning products are, I had samples of various materials made that were left to soak in each cleaner for three days. So this is a truly extreme test – of course nobody dunks their bike in cleaning fluid and leaves it to soak, but I used an immersion test in order to really push the limits of the products and be sure that the chemicals are completely safe on everything from bare metals to the plastics used in your bike’s screen.

Another concern is that chemicals can get trapped in nooks and crevices, or creep between the steel swingarm bolt and the aluminium frame. And while there may be very little effect seen at first, the damage has the potential to be cumulative. Most cleaning product manufacturers will tell you to rinse your bike thoroughly, but an immersion test is intended to create a level comparison when it comes to 100% material compatibility.

Flaking paint is something most riders have seen on bikes at one time or another, usually on engines or wheels. One of the dangers is that a simple stone chip can allow chemicals to creep underneath the paint; as soon as they start to attack the metal – usually aluminium – the damage has begun, and that small imperfection can start to spread. When bubbles started being formed on aluminium very quickly after I put it into some of these products, it was clear that reactions were taking place.

It’s a similar story with plastics – chemicals can creep around screws or behind rubber plugs and fixing points, leading to crazing or even cracking in extreme circumstances.

 

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I’ve tested bare steel and aluminium, painted steel, anodised aluminium, ABS plastic, polycarbonate, acrylic and chain O-rings, so I need to say a BIG thanks to the companies that helped me…

  • Thanks to Evotech Performance, manufacturers of motorcycle parts & accessories, who used their UK factory to cut the samples of steel and aluminium.
  • Thanks to accident repair specialist 4th Dimension for painting the steel samples (they also did the paint job on the Africa Grom you’ll see in the video).
  • Thanks to Skidmarx for supplying the samples of acrylic, which are offcuts from the production of their excellent aftermarket screens.
  • Thanks to trail and adventure parts manufacturer Rally Raid products for supplying the aerosol lids used as sample dishes from their sister company Masplas Mouldings.
  • Thanks to aftermarket and performance parts specialist B&C Express for supplying the chain O-rings.

 

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I drilled a 2.5mm hole (with a pillar drill for consistency) in all the samples of the three different plastics, then carefully inserted a stainless steel M3 6mm self-tapping screw. This creates a stress riser that highlights any incompatibilities between the material and the chemical.

Remember, this is all about accelerated testing – trying to show the potential for damage over a long period of time.

I didn’t test chrome as it’s a very hard surface that was far less likely to show any damage compared to the materials I already had.

Armed with the information below, you can decide how much the potential for damage worries you; after all, a strong degreaser or wheel cleaner that damages polycarbonate or acrylic is fine as long as it doesn’t get near the screen or headlights.

Alkaline products tend to be used in cleaners as they’re effective on oil and grease; acids tend to be more effective on mineral deposits and rust. The PH value of a product indicates acidity (0 to 6) neutral (7) and alkalinity (8 to 14). You can have a very strong acid (0 is the strongest), or a very strong alkali (14) that’s diluted, but they will maintain their PH regardless of how concentrated they are.

Some materials can be affected by acidity or alkalinity – aluminium, for example, can be damaged by strong alkalis in higher concentrations – so some manufacturers might shout about their product being PH neutral.

Take care when using any cleaners – while they may be diluted, your eyes and even skin can be damaged, so be careful not to let the spray blow back into your face. Be particularly wary of cleaners with a PH value of 13 or 14 as these are very strongly alkaline. That soapy feeling with some cleaners can be the first sign of harm to your flesh. And definitely be careful of the fluid spraying into your eyes on a windy day!

 

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Testing for cleaning performance

To test as consistently and repeatably as possible, I created a ‘mock’ dirt. Each cleaner was tested on an A5 sheet of polycarbonate that was coated with three different substances:

  • 500g of Comma lith-moly grease (bought from Halfords with my 10% discount through Bennetts Rewards), thinned down with 200ml of white spirit and mixed with 1kg of fine sand
  • 250g of pure oats mixed with 200ml of water and 20g of sugar – this was intended to represent organic materials stuck to the surface as I couldn’t find a way to get that many dead flies
  • S100 100 white chain lube (which I had plenty of)

All 70 plates were left overnight to dry before testing saw them held at an angle of 35° and the cleaning products applied as per the instructions; some require the surface to be wet first, while some don’t.

I then waited the time recommended on each product before rinsing them off with a fan pattern on the hose. Once the performance was noted, I applied the product again and agitated it with a Vikan brush.

 

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What is the best motorcycle cleaner?

The majority of motorcyclists are looking for one product that will clean all of their bike, so that’s what I’m testing for here. This weights the test against products like wheel cleaners, but where I had motorcycle-specific ones to test I’ve kept them in, but do be aware of the potential some could have to damage items like screens. Read the instructions!

The results below show all the motorcycle-specific cleaners, but because people have been known to use all kinds of products not designed specifically for motorcycles, I tested several of those as well – these ‘all-purpose cleaners’ can be effective for their intended purpose, but my findings in this test method were that they either didn’t perform as well as the ones listed below, and many had the potential to seriously harm some of the sensitive surfaces – like polycarbonate – used on motorcycles. These aren’t specifically named in this test to avoid any potential confusion around intended use. Again, cleaning a motorcycle is very different to cleaning a car or a kitchen, but if I’m going to say that a motorcycle wheel cleaner is okay as long as you don’t use it on polycarbonate, for instance, the argument against cleaners not designed for bikes is harder to make.

But one cleaning ‘hack’ that seems to cause the biggest arguments when it comes to washing a bike – or indeed a car – is washing-up liquid. I haven’t intended to pick on one specific dish soap in this test, but I chose Aldi’s Magnum Premium (lemon scented) because it was there when I was doing the family shop.

Here are the results of this testing, based on material compatibility and performance. I’ve split them into standard cleaners and waterless washes – while some manufacturers make big claims about waterless washes, they really are only suitable for light cleaning. The chemistry helps lift fine dust and dirt from surfaces, but rub too hard and you could scratch areas like the screen.

Prices are shown per litre, with any dilution taken into account. PH values are tested, not claimed.

Scores are based on the data gathered during testing and converted to a range of 0 to 10…

Standard cleaners

Product (dilution)

Price/litre

PH

Material safety

Spray & rinse

Spray & agitate

Tap water

£0.001

6

Heavy corrosion on bare steel

1

3

Aldi Magnum Premium washing-up liquid (10%)

£0.14

7

Corrosion on steel, slight discolouration of aluminium

0

8

Aldi Magnum Premium washing-up liquid (1.5%)

£0.14

7

Corrosion on steel, slight discolouration of aluminium

0

8

Ammo .243 Degreaser/cleaner

£14.00

14

Pitting of aluminium. Stripped anodising. Cracked polycarbonate

0

7

Ammo Magnum Power Cleaner

£10.95

6

Some staining & corrosionto steel

2

9

Ammo Pro Force 10 Wheel Cleaner

£19.00

7

Some mild discolouration to steel and aluminium. Cracked polycarbonate & acrylic

0

7

Ammo Pro Typhoon Wash & Shield

£0.06

8

Slight discolouration of steel & aluminium

1

3

BikeCare Gel Motorcycle Cleaner

£4.66

8

Noticable staining of steel. Discolouration of aluminium

1

9

BikeCare Liquid Motorcycle Cleaner

£4.00

8

Mild marring of steel. Slight discolouration of aluminium

1

9

BikeCare Evo Motorcycle Cleaner

£6.67

10

Slight discolouration of aluminium

1

9

Chemical Guys Motorcycle Cleaner & Degreaser

£23.31

7

Slight discolouration of steel & aluminium. Fractional swelling of O-ring

0

8

Cyko

£9.95

12

Minimal staining of metals. Cracked polycarbonate

0

7

Dirtbusters Bio Bike Cleaner

£8.99

10

Noticable discolouration of bare aluminium, minor staining to anodising

1

9

Dirt Wash Citrus Degreaser (100%)

£14.50

6

Some small staining of steel and aluminium. Cracked polycarbonate

0

10

Dirt Wash Citrus Degreaser (25%)

£3.63

6

Some staining of steel and aluminium.

0

10

Fenwicks Bike Cleaner

£7.99

10

Some gunk forming in liquid but no marring of materials

2

9

Guy Martin Proper Motorcycle Cleaner

£5.33

10

Minor discolouration of aluminium. Minor discolouration of anodising.

0

9

Guy Martin Proper General Cleaner

£4.32

10

Minor discolouration of aluminium. Minor discolouration of anodising.

1

6

Halfords Extreme Bike Cleaner

£5.00

12

Slight tide mark on steel

0

6

Isopropyl Alcohol (99.9% purity)

£3.79

6

Cracked acrylic. Fractional swelling of O-ring

2

4

M16 Extreme Bike Clean

£9.48

6

Pitting of steel. Some discolouration of aluminium.

0

9

Methylated Spirits

£7.50

6

Significant marring of steel. Significant damage to paint and lacquer. Cracked acrylic

2

9

Mirror Image APC

£18.00

13

Very slight staining of steel & aluminium

0

7

Motul E2 Moto Wash

£10.49

12

Noticeable marring of steel. Pitting to aluminium. Stripped anodising

0

7

Motul E3 Wheel Clean

£18.23

6

Strong discolouration of aluminium. Slight discolouration of anodising

1

8

Motul E7 Insect Remover

£13.23

8

No issues in this testing

0

10

Muc-Off Bicycle Cleaner

£10.99

11

Very minor staining of steel and anodising

0

7

Muc-Off bike Cleaner Concentrate (100%)

£19.99

12

Slight staining of steel and anodising, slight discolouration of aluminium

1

10

Muc-Off aerosol Motorcycle Degreaser

£19.98

6

No issues in this testing

6

10

Muc-Off Nano Tech Motorcycle Cleaner

£10.99

12

Minor staining of bare metals and anodising

0

8

Paraffin

£2.00

6

No issues in this testing

4

10

Pro-GreenMX Bike Wash

£7.00

7

Minor staining of steel, some discolouration of aluminium

0

9

Pro-GreenMX Drivetrain cleaner

£10.00

8

Some discolouration of aluminium

1

9

Putoline Put Off Concentrated

£7.30

6

Some discolouration of steel & aluminium

0

8

R&G Motorcycle aerosol Degreaser

£15.98

6

No issues in this testing

6

10

R&G Nano Bike Wash

£7.99

6

Severe staining / pitting of steel. Minor staining of aluminium

1

9

Rhino Goo

£7.99

12

Minor staining of steel. Minor staining of aluminium. Minor staining of anodising

0

8

S100 Total Gel Cleaner

£15.99

7

Minor discolouration on aluminium

3

10

Shiny Sauce

£8,99

13

Pitting to aluminium. Rapidly stripped anodising. Cracked polycarbonate

0

9

Silkolene Fuchs Wash Off

£7.29

12

No issues in this testing

0

5

Unlimited Passion Red Effect Wheel Cleaner

£18.66

6

Minor staining of steel and aluminium

0

8

Unlimited Passion Ungrease

£12.66

6

Cracked acrylic

5

10

White Spirit

£3.33

6

No issues in this testing

6

10

Ammo .243 can also be used diluted, but as it’s supplied in a spray bottle and can be used neat, it was tested at full concentration.

Some of the products here are intended as wheel cleaners, so while I’ve stated any issues with other materials – like polycarbonate –their intended use can be taken into account.

 

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A stone chip on paint can lead to harsh chemicals attacking some surfaces over time

 

Waterless washes

Product

Price/litre

PH

Material safety

Cleaning performance

Chemical Guys Full Cycle Waterless

£23.31

6

Very slight staining of steel

7

Pro-GreenMX Pro Wipes

£0.10/wipe

5

No issues in this testing

9

R&G Waterless Bike Wash

£10.99

6

Noticable staining of steel. Some pitting of aluminium

7

S100 Quick Cleaner

£28.00

6

Some staining of steel. Slight discolouration of aluminium

8

Unlimited Passion Active Foam

£21.98

8

Small cracks to acrylic

6

Unlimited Passion Addict Waterless Cleaner

£21.32

5

Minor discolouration to steel

4

Unlimited Passion Thunderbolt Wipes

£0.38/wipe

6

Some corrosion on steel. Cracked polycarbonate and acrylic. Slight swelling to O-ring

10

 

What the results tell us

I’ve tried to condense all the data I gathered from my testing into as easy to digest a format as possible, but I’m well aware that it’s a lot to take in, so here’s a summary…

  • All the products worked best when agitated with a brush, and then the differences were relatively small in most cases. Most would remove my test ‘dirt’ in the end, and the effort required was not that significantly different in the scores between 8 and 10.
  • The waterless washes are really only intended for light dust and dirt. These can be surprisingly effective at ‘floating’ grime away, but the high scores here were down to the fact that a microfibre cloth had to be dragged across the surface; if the bike’s really gritty you could scratch the finish. Be particularly careful on screens.
  • The majority of products left some rust on steel. However, as tap water was the worst for this, I’m not concerned; what we do need to be more aware of is pitting, stripping and cracking of materials.
  • Many of the non-motorcycle-specific cleaners caused damage to polycarbonate during my immersion test. While this is an extreme test, it does highlight that while an all-purpose-cleaner might be effective for its market, it might not be 100% safe for use on motorcycle screens, headlights etc. For that reason, use caution.
  • No products caused any damage to the samples of ABS plastic.
  • All the products made light work of the S100 White Chain Lube that was applied to the sample sheets; this is clearly an easy lube to remove from your wheels.
  • Swelling measured on O-rings was generally very slight. A few years ago I tested several chemicals, and the damage caused by petrol and acetone was far greater than anything I saw here.
  • It might sound daft, but pick a bottle up and try it before buying – some had quite small triggers that are uncomfortable when spraying a whole bike.

 

 

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Recommended and Best Buy motorcycle cleaners

Not all motorcycle cleaners are the same – while they might have similar ingredients, it’s important to know their limitations on certain surfaces, and to follow the instructions.

What IS the same is that every cleaner really needs agitating to get it to work at its best, so to find what I believe to be the best motorcycle cleaner, we need to first look at material safety.

I left anything out that showed significant damage under my immersion test method to steel, aluminium, painted steel, anodised aluminium, ABS, polycarbonate, acrylic or rubber, then selected all those remaining with a score of 8/10 or above for cleaning performance. These are what I would recommend for use on motorcycles…

 

Recommended motorcycle cleaners

Price/litre

Performance

Bikecare Evo motorcycle cleaner

£6.67

10/10

Motul E7 Insect Remover

£13.23

10/10

R&G Motorcycle Degreaser aerosol

£15.98

10/10

S100 Total Gel Cleaner

£15.99

10/10

Muc-Off Motorcycle Degreaser aerosol

£19.98

10/10

Bikecare Liquid motorcycle cleaner

£4.00

9/10

Guy Martin Proper Motorcycle Cleaner

£5.33

9/10

Pro-GreenMX Bike Wash

£7.00

9/10

Fenwicks bike cleaner

£7.99

9/10

Pro-GreenMX Drivetrain cleaner

£10.00

9/10

Aldi Magnum Premium washing up liquid

£0.14

8/10

Putoline Put Off Concentrated

£7.30

8/10

Rhino Goo

£7.99

8/10

Muc-Off Nano Tech Motorcycle Cleaner

£10.99

8/10

Chemical Guys Motorcycle Cleaner/Degreaser

£23.31

8/10

Unlimited Passion Red Effect wheel cleaner

£18.65

8/10

S100 Quick Cleaner waterless

£28.00

8/10

Pro-GreenMX Pro Wipes

£0.10/wipe

9/10

 

Special mention goes to the very good cleaning performance of Ammo Magnum Power Cleaner, which has a fairly neutral PH of 6, but had more noticeable marring of the bare steel plate than these others. The same applies to M16 Extreme Bike Clean, which was a great cleaner, but just marked the bare steel that little more.

All of these cleaners performed well and certainly proved to be a lot safer on my test samples than some of the others, and especially compared to many of the non-motorcycle-specific products.

 

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Most effective motorcycle cleaner

Price/litre

Cleaning performance

S100 Total Gel Cleaner

£15.99

10/10

 

While S100 Total Gel Cleaner works far better when agitated, it does do a very good job of loosening dirt when you leave it to dwell. That means it requires minimal effort to get a bike properly clean with a brush, and if your machine’s not too grubby you can just spray it on, leave it for 10-20 minutes, then rinse it off without even having to wipe dry. It was the best ‘no-touch’ motorcycle cleaner, but it is expensive and you won’t get a showroom finish on a really dirty bike unless you use a brush.

Muc-Off and R&G’s aerosol degreasers stood out as being effective with minimal effort, and are great degreasers, though they do work out rather expensive so they’re best on the smaller, most grotty areas – I use these just on the greasy metal parts of the bike. R&G has a lower RRP, but my can’s nozzle leaked (as did both of the bottles of R&G’s liquid cleaners, so keep them upright). Muc-Off also smells the better of the two.

 

Buy in bulk to save money

Buying in bulk can make a big difference with some of the products I’ve tested, for instance…

5 litres of Pro-GreenMX Drivetrain Cleaner works out at £6.00 / litre.

5 litres of Putoline Put Off works out at £5.58/litre

Ammo Magnum Power Cleaner costs £25.95 for 5 litres, so works out at £5.19/litre

5 litres of M16 Extreme Bike Clean costs £20.98, so works out at £4.20/litre

5 litres of Pro-GreenMX Bike Wash works out at £2.30/litre as it’s concentrated. Buy 25 litres and it’s just £1.60/litre

1 litre of Fenwicks concentrate makes up to 11 litres of the ready to use that I tested, so works out at only £1.09/litre

 

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The importance of PH value

While I didn’t encounter any strong acids in this test, a strong alkali can cause serious harm to your skin and eyes, so be careful not to let any spray blow back into your face. Be particularly wary of cleaners with a PH value of 13 or 14 – that soapy feeling with some cleaners can be the first sign of harm to your flesh.

To narrow these results down, I wanted to eliminate any products that weren’t relatively PH neutral, so I took out all outside of the range between PH 6 and 8. Having had plenty of cleaning products spray into my eyes when cleaning the bike in the garden, I think it’s important.

It’s vital to remember that the cleaning performance is, to some extent, rather subjective, so all of the cleaners above offer good performance, but these stood out as being, in my opinion, the Best Buys thanks to their performance and value for money:

 

Best Buy motorcycle cleaners

Best price/litre

Cleaning performance

Pro-GreenMX Bike Wash

£1.60

9/10

Fenwicks bike cleaner

£1.09

9/10

Aldi Magnum Premium washing up liquid

£0.14

8/10

 

Fenwicks bike cleaner is PH 9, so while it’s just outside of neutral PH range, it had excellent material compatibility, it cleaned very well, and it works out exceptionally cheap when bought in bulk, so it’s crept in with a Best Buy.

While white spirit and paraffin were both effective cleaners, they can leave a bit of a film after use, and they smell bad. White spirit was fine on my professionally-painted sample, but it can be used to thin some paints, so just to be on the safe side I’d avoid it on all but the really grimy areas, like the front sprocket. Bike manufacturers recommend paraffin for cleaning chains, so that’s your best bet.

A special mention goes to Dirt Wash citrus degreaser – when used at 25% it was safe on all surfaces in my testing. At 100% concentration it did crack polycarbonate just slightly, but as a degreaser on metal parts, it performs very well indeed. This does highlight some of the non-motorcycle specific cleaners, which in come cases cracked polycarbonate in my test even at 10% solutions, including when I checked my results while spraying suspended samples – in four days I sprayed them 12 times (without rinsing), and cracking still occurred.

Ammo Pro Wheel cleaner didn’t make the recommended list as it scored 7/10 in my test devised to find the best one-bottle wash. It also proved harmful to polycarbonate and acrylic, but if you’re using it as intended it’s still worth considering, and is safer on aluminium than some of the non-motorcycle specific wheel cleaners I tried.

 

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Best waterless wash

Price/litre

Cleaning performance

S100 Quick Cleaner

£28.00

8/10

Pro-GreenMX Pro Wipes

£0.10/wipe

8/10

 

I wouldn’t recommend waterless cleaners on anything but very light dirt as they rely on using a cloth to wipe them clean. While they encapsulate the contaminants to help float them off, you still need to be careful on softer surfaces like screens. However, S100 Quick Cleaner stood out as being the most effective, had very good material safety, and also caused good water beading on a painted surface after use.

The Unlimited Passion Thunderbolt Wipes are very effective, and while they can damage some materials, the risk is lower than other products as it’s less likely to run into nooks and crannies. I’d still be very careful around polycarbonate and acrylic, and while they can be folded multiple times to get the maximum use out of them, they are costly. The container also doesn’t seal brilliantly, so they can dry out over a period of several months. The slight swelling evident on the O-ring seems to tally with the strong smell of acetone from these wipes. I wouldn’t recommend these or any of the other wipes for use on helmet visors.

The Pro-GreenMX Pro-Wipes proved completely safe on all materials. They’re also excellent at removing grease and work out at just 10p/wipe.

They’re also the only wipes I’d be confident using on a visor as they proved safe on polycarbonate and acrylic, but the best way to get flies off, I think, is to soak them with a paper towel then let them float off. That’s what I do on my bike screen too.

 

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Is it really safe to use dish-soap to clean a motorcycle?

A lot of people worry that washing-up liquid contains salts that will cause your motorcycle to rust, but this isn’t the case. I spoke to Professor Bob Eden PhD – founder and managing director of Rawwater and an Honorary professor at Manchester University, with a master’s degree and doctorate in Corrosive Science and engineering.

“Washing up liquid does contain a ‘salt,’” he told me, “but this is the active ingredient and should not be confused with road salt; the term ‘salts’ covers a very wide range of anions that dissolve in water.

“Some anions – like chloride – can pit metals, while others – like chromate – protect metals but damage the environment. Others – like ‘anionic surfactants’ – will degrease metals. And there’s a crazy world in between.

“An anionic surfactant is a chemical that will dissolve both in water and in oil & grease. One end of the anion is water soluble, the other oil soluble. A clever trick.

“Remarkably, when these surfactants dissolve in water and come into contact with oil, the surfactant anions spontaneously form zillions of imperceptibly small bags containing the oil, which is now dissolved inside the bag. And since the outside of the bag dissolves in water without the bag breaking open, the oil is washed away through rinsing.

There’s nothing in a washing-up liquid that will exacerbate corrosion – there’s no sodium chloride salt to worry about.

“The issue regarding corrosion is the ‘chloride’ bit of the salt. In ‘chloride nests’ at the base of a corrosion pit, the chloride exists as hydrogen chloride, which in damp conditions creates a solution of dilute hydrochloric acid, and it’s this acid that does the damage.

“You need to avoid ‘chloride’ from any and all sources, for instance road grit and seawater, but not washing up liquid.”

 

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But the internet says that washing-up liquid contains salt as fillers or thickeners

I asked Dr Bob if, while the active ingredients of dish soap don’t contain salt, could it be in there to make it thicker? “I’d be surprised if it did contain sodium chloride,” he told me, “because that would leave dull deposits on glass.

“Stick two iron nails in it and keep them apart, or better still, titanium or graphite if you have it, but iron will do. Wire them up to a 6V or 12V battery – if you get the acrid pong of chlorine, then it contains sodium chloride...”

Using 2mm graphite clutch pencil leads I did exactly this, and there was no chlorine smell, at least from the Aldi Magnum Premium that I’ve been testing. I did the same thing with the 5% road-salt solution that I use for corrosion testing, and the stench from that was horrific.

There is indeed no salt in this washing-up liquid. It’s safe to use.

 

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I also set up a quick test in the warmth of our airing cupboard – one large plastic box had a sheet of steel in that I sprayed with 10% washing-up liquid solution, the other box had a sheet of steel that I sprayed with plain tap water. The results were very clear; the water that we use to rinse our bikes off after washing causes more rust than the dish-soap mix (or indeed most of the cleaners on test here), so stop worrying.

At 10% solution, and with plenty of agitation, washing up liquid does start to remove Collinite Wax, but so do other cleaners, like S100 Total Gel. A motorcycle needs a more powerful clean than a car body, but if you don’t have ten minutes to give the bodywork another run over with your wax or speed detailing spray of choice, just use a milder solution on the bodywork (Collinite is claimed to be detergent-resistant), or a gentle automotive shampoo. A noodle wash mitt or a microfibre cloth is worth using to protect your paint’s top-coat from any scratches.

 

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What’s best for cleaning flies?

As I couldn’t definitively test these products on dead flies, I can’t say which is more effective. However, I maintain that the best way to clean dead flies from the front of your bike (or helmet) is simply to soak a piece of kitchen roll in water, lay it over the area then wait a few minutes. They’ll float straight off after that.

 

 

Do these products leave my bike protected?

Chemical Guys waterless, R&G Waterless, S100 Quick cleaner, Unlimited Passion foam, Unlimited Passion waterless and Unlimited Passion wipes all claim to leave a protective coating behind after use. These are all said to be cumulative, but S100’s Quick Cleaner really stood out for its strong performance, followed by R&G’s Waterless Bike Wash and Unlimited Passion’s Addict Waterless Cleaner. Don’t expect the deep shine you’ll get from a coat of wax, like Collinite, but water beaded well on these.

 

All the samples were checked for damage – this is an extreme test, but it’s intended to highlight the potential for cumulative damage

 

Products that caused noticeable damage in the test

I can’t test every type of dirt you might encounter, and my results are subjective, so if you have a cleaner you find works well for you, I’d suggest you stick with it. But I would recommend checking the material compatibility results of the motorcycle specific cleaners in the chart above, and if you do want to use something that isn’t designed specifically for use on motorcycles, keep in mind that there’s a possibility it might not be 100% safe on all the surfaces that – uniquely – are so common on motorcycles.

An immersion test for three days is extreme, but I was looking for complete peace of mind in what I use. Someone asked me if I’d leave a shower gel on my arm for three days, thus making this test irrelevant, but if I knew of a shower gel that would cause fissures in my flesh – or indeed remove it – should it be left on for that long, I personally still wouldn’t want to use it for five minutes. Would you?

 

best motorcycle cleaner muc off s100 dish soap review_03

Reactions were seen quite quickly on some products

 

  • Ammo .243, Motul E2 Moto Wash and Shiny Sauce all caused damage to my immersed samples of anodised and bare aluminium. While these samples were left to soak, the reactions sometimes began very quickly, bubbles forming on the plates after they were put in the pots. Most surprising was Shiny Sauce, which – like many of the other cleaners aimed at motorcyclists – is claimed to be safe on all surfaces, but this is also supposed to be PH neutral; my testing indicated it’s actually strongly alkaline at PH 13. Ammo .243 can be used diluted, however we were testing it in the spray bottle it’s supplied in. Damage to anodising occurred in many of the products not marketed specifically at motorcyclists, especially powerful degreasers.
  • Ammo .243, Cyko, Dirt Wash (100%), Shiny Sauce and Unlimited Passion wipes caused cracks around the stress risers in my immersion testing of polycarbonate. While some caused larger cracks than others, be careful when using these on or near screens, and I’d recommend not using them on helmet visors. Ammo Pro wheel cleaner also damaged polycarbonate, but it is marketed as a wheel cleaner, and my test proved it safe on aluminium, so when used correctly this isn’t a concern. Ammo .243 can be used diluted, however we were testing it in the spray bottle it’s supplied in. Damage to polycarbonate was a significant issue in many of the products not marketed specifically at motorcyclists, so do take particular care around your screen and headlights. I checked these results by spraying polycarbonate samples that were suspended – within 12 sprays over four days (without rinsing), cracks were very evident around the stress riser, and clear in the edges after flexing.
  • Unlimited Passion wipes, Unlimited Passion Ungrease, Isopropyl alcohol and Methylated Spirits all caused cracks around the stress risers in my immersion test of acrylic, so be very careful when using these on or near screens, and I’d recommend not using them on helmet visors. Ammo Pro wheel cleaner also damaged acrylic, but again, it is marketed as a wheel cleaner, and my tested proved it safe on aluminium. Unlimited Passion Foam also caused a small crack in acrylic, but as the foam disperses very quickly this is less worrying.
  • Don’t put methylated spirits anywhere near your motorcycle – it’s the only one in this test that damaged professionally-applied automotive paint.

 

 

Best motorcycle cleaner: verdict

None of the cleaners I test here will instantly ruin your bike, but it’s important to understand that some have the potential to cause harm, which is why we have the selection of recommended products above. As reactions between the materials and chemicals were, in some cases, immediately visible, I believe it’s worth considering.

Most people are looking for one product to do all of their motorcycle, but there are some cleaners designed for specific areas, so if you want a wheel cleaner, for instance, you don’t really need to worry about the compatibility with plastic and acrylic. Aluminium safety does matter here though.

Some of these products are ideal for people looking to give their bike a quick wash with the minimum of effort and may well dry more streak-free, or leave something of a coating. But these features don’t really bother me – I spray everything except the wheels, tyres and brakes with XCP Rust Blocker Clear Coat, which gives an instant and lovely shine to the metals as well as significantly inhibiting corrosion. The rag that I use to wipe this off is also great on unpainted black plastic, bringing the richness back and eliminating any water marks. This works great with ACF-50 too, if that’s your corrosion protectant of choice – check out our full reviews of them all here.

Then all that’s left is the painted panels, and I like to spend an extra ten minutes getting a thick coat of Collinite 476S wax on; you might need a toothbrush to flick out any that dries in the edges of badges and panel lines, but this stuff leaves a very long-lasting and deep shine. And the pot lasts years.

Slightly easier-to-use alternatives are products like S100’s gloss spray wax, which gives good results, or even a speed detailer, which is typically an easy-to-apply carnauba wax suspended in water.

I enjoy the process of cleaning my bike, and like the fact that the extra effort gets me looking at all the details, potentially spotting any problems early. Spend as much as you like on cleaning products, but know that you can get a great finish if you’re willing to put a little more time in.

 

best motorcycle cleaner muc off s100 dish soap review_02

 

The one cleaning product EVERY motorcyclist should own

The best way to get any surface clean is by agitating the cleaner to help it lift the dirt. Using a sponge can grind this dirt into the surface, so you’re best off with a soft brush – I’d recommend this one from Vikan as it’s made entirely of plastic, so there’s no risk of scratching your paintwork.

You’ll also want a drying towel – here are some from CleanYourCar, but there are loads available – and some general microfibre cleaning cloths. If you want to cover larger areas of bodywork, consider a microfibre noodle wash mitt.

A stiffer brush will help clean out tougher deposits of grease and grime, with a cheap toothbrush being particularly handy for small details.

Finally, if the cleaner you choose doesn’t come in a spray bottle, you can recycle an old one, or buy one fairly cheapy – I’d suggest going for a chemical-resistant trigger and a bottle with measurements on the side.

 

best motorcycle cleaner muc off s100 dish soap review_16

 

How should I clean my motorcycle?

I’ve simplified my cleaning regime, going from obsessive use of snow-foam and expensive chemicals to these, much quicker steps. To prove my confidence in its safety, I’m using washing-up liquid at a 10% mix with water from a spray bottle, along with Muc-Off aerosol degreaser for small, awkward and heavily soiled areas. If wheels are really dirty, I use the S100 and let it dwell for a while to make life easier.

  • Soak the bike with a hose (unless the cleaning product advises against this).
  • Apply your cleaner, then agitate with a Vikan brush. Keep the brush rinsed clean. Consider using a noodle mitt or microfibre towel to clean the bodywork, as long as there’s no grit present.
  • Rinse the bike again then dry it with a microfibre drying towel. A dryer (I have a Brühl) is great for getting moisture out of the nooks and crannies of the engine, radiator and switchgear (blow across the controls to draw the water out, rather than blast it in). You could use a dog dryer, though these don’t tend to have the protection circuits that make them safer to use outside near garden hoses.
  • I spray on XCP Rust Blocker Clear Coat for a great shine and protection on the metal surfaces (but not near the brakes!)
  • Finally, a quick coat of wax or other protective finish

 

A regular rinse to get any salt off is important in winter, but a couple of good washes a year will suffice for most. For a more intensive wash, check out the full feature on how to clean and rust-proof your motorcycle.

 

best motorcycle cleaner muc off s100 dish soap review_35

 

How do I clean the exhaust headers on my bike?

Most of my bikes have the downpipes covered, so I’ve not worried beyond ensuring they’re well rinsed, but for more details on cleaning the headers, check out this feature, which explains why you shouldn’t use Harpic 10X (it’s a fairly strong concentration of hydrochloric acid).

You can also get away with using distilled vinegar (acetic acid) to improve the look of tarnished down-pipes (aluminium foil and vinegar is also surprisingly effective on brake disks and other plain metal parts). Coca Cola works too (phosphoric acid), but it’s a bit sticky. Anything must be used with care and very well rinsed.

I haven’t tested any exhaust cleaners, but Dr Downpipe is one example of a product designed for the job – it’s milder, and takes more agitation, but carries fewer risks.

Another option is this Rust Remover from Pro-GreenMX. I will be reviewing it fully as soon as I can, but it’s claimed to include corrosion inhibitors.

Still, anything that can eat through rust needs to be aggressive, and this is strongly acidic at PH 1 to 2 when I checked it, so wear gloves and take care. You shouldn’t leave it on for more than ten minutes, and you should wipe it down before rinsing it thoroughly, to be sure none splashes on any of the other areas of your bike.

I wash the end-can as I do the bike, using the brush to agitate any dirt. Be careful on polished surfaces as scratches will quickly appear.

 

best motorcycle cleaner muc off s100 dish soap review_06

Remember that, unlike a car, everything is visible on a bike!

 

Why do motorcycles seem to need more care than cars?

Roll under your car and you’ll see why bikes need more attention… looks a mess, right? Well, a motorcycle’s chassis is fully on show, as is the engine.

While four-wheelers are a big slab of painted metal, there are numerous complicated parts all in full view on a motorbike. Many machines have anodising, paint and other finishes to help protect them, but it’s still crucial to keep them clean, even if it’s just a quick rinse off as often as you can.

 

None of the links used in this article are affiliated – every one was chosen in the hopes that they help you find the best price, or to understand the item I’m describing.

 

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