Bicycles made from iron-based alloys have the potential to present rust sooner or later. Iron reacts with oxygen and water to create rust, and rust can appear on any alloy that contains a fair amount of iron.
You can remove rust from bike handlebars using baking soda and water, mild acid cleaners, or chemical rust cleaners. All of these are affordable and effective ways to get rust off of any part of your bike.
If your handlebars are severely rusted, you will need to repeat the following methods as much as necessary. If your bike is painted, test a small bit of the product on the paint. If any discoloration or tarnishing occurs, do not continue with the method.
Baking Soda and Water
Baking soda is not just a cooking ingredient. It also makes an effective cleaning product. It can be used on the bike’s frame and spokes. However, for these instructions, I will be referring to the handlebars of the bike. For this process, you will need baking soda, water, soap, a cleaning tool (a sponge, or toothbrush), and a bowl. I suggest wearing cleaning gloves to protect your hands.
- First, you will need to clean up the handlebars of your bike. Use a soft sponge and soapy water to clean off dirt and dust that has accumulated on your bike. This will reveal any hidden rust stains and make it easier for the baking soda to get to the rust.
- Next, you will need to prepare the baking soda. The mixture should be 50% baking soda and 50% water. If you are not sure about how much you need, try combining two cups of baking soda and water. You can increase the amount from there if needed. The resulting mixture should be a white paste that can stick to the surface of the handlebars.
If the mixture is too wet or too dry, add more baking soda or water to balance it. Keep some extra water and baking soda nearby in case you need to make more.
- Now, apply the mixture to the bicycle. Dip a sponge into the baking soda paste and carefully apply the paste to the handlebars. Make sure to coat the mixture evenly over the entire surface of the handlebars. You can use a large paintbrush to help spread the mixture out. Leave the mixture alone, for about 15 minutes, to give the paste time to lift the rust.
- Next, use a sponge or toothbrush to scrub the mixture off. Wet the sponge with some water to soften it, and use it to scrub the baking soda mixture off of the handlebars. The baking soda should pull the rust away easily and leave behind a clear surface. You can use a toothbrush to remove any small stubborn rust left behind.
If you still have some rust remaining on the handlebars, apply another coating of the mixture, and leave it alone for about 10 minutes. Scrub the mixture away with a sponge or toothbrush after waiting 10 minutes.
- Finally, rinse the mixture off of the handlebars with some clean water and dry with a cloth. Make sure that there are no water droplets left on the bike handles. Coat the handlebars with some bicycle wax to keep the rust from coming back and to give the bicycle a protective layer against dirt and corrosion.
Supplies at Home
Items found inside your homes such as aluminum foil, vinegar, and even table salt can be used to clear rust away from your handlebars. All it takes is a bit of time, patience, and elbow grease.
- Repeat step one from the method listed above to prepare the bike handlebars. Make sure to clean the area well so that the aluminum foil can contact the rust directly.
- For the aluminum foil method, you will need a sheet of aluminum foil, saltwater, a sponge, soapy water, and a cloth.
First, take a 4 x 4-inch sheet of foil, or crumple a large sheet of foil into a ball. Dip the foil into a bucket of saltwater. Rub the foil over the rust stains on your handlebar, using a bit of pressure to remove the stubborn stains. The foil pulls the rust off, and the saltwater makes the scrubbing process easier. The rust will slowly come off from the handlebars revealing the shiny metal of the handlebars.
After you finish scrubbing, rinse the handlebars with clean water and dry with a cloth. Make sure that no moisture is left on the bike and coat with a protective wax to prevent future stains.
- When using acidic cleaners like vinegar or lime, apply the cleaner to the rust stains and leave it alone for about 15 minutes. After waiting 15 minutes, use a soft sponge or cloth to scrub the rust off. Use a few drops of lime if you come across some stubborn rust. Rinse the mixture off with soap and water and then dry with a cloth. Apply wax to the handlebars to prevent rust from coming back. For more information, read how to use vinegar for removing rust.
- Table salt can also be used to remove rust. First, combine six tablespoons of regular table salt with two tablespoons of lemon juice into a container and mix. You should have a thick paste-like mixture that should not drip off of the handlebars when applied.
- Coat the handlebars with the mixture, using a sponge or brush. Make sure the mixture is applied evenly so that it can work to get all of the rust stains removed. Leave the mixture alone for 10 minutes and then scrub the mixture with a sponge or cloth to lift the rust off the surface. Wash the mixture off with soap and water, and then dry with a cloth. Apply a layer of wax or polish to ensure that the rust does not come back.
These methods can be used on any part of the bike and do not cost a lot of money to acquire.
Chemical Rust Cleaners
Sometimes using a little elbow grease won’t be enough to remove tough stains. If this is the case, you can try store-bought products to get the job done. While these products cost a few dollars, they do much of the work on their own, without hours of scrubbing.
One effective rust removing commercial product you can use is called WD-40 Specialist Rust Remover Soak. This product not only removes rust from handlebars, but it can also be used on other items such as tools, metal equipment, and more. Simply apply a little on the rusted areas and then clean off as directed.
You might also want to read: Rust Removers Vs. Rust Converters
Like everything else, bike handlebars must be given proper care if they are to last long. To take care of this problem, use one or all of the methods that were discussed in this article.
- Use a mixture of baking soda and water to clear rusted areas. This mixture takes some time to prepare and apply, but the results are worth it.
- Homemade cleaners such as vinegar, lime, and even table salt help to remove stubborn streaks. Make sure to rinse the mixture off and apply a coat of wax when you’re done to keep the rust from returning.
- Finally, store cleaners may cost a few more dollars, but are effective in removing rust in little time. Just spray or soak the cleaner onto the bike, wipe it away with a cloth, and you are all done.
Once your bike is free of rust, grab your gear and start pedaling.