Chain Waxing 101

By Coach John DiPalo

We work hard for every watt we produce. But not all of those watts go into producing more speed. Sometimes, our equipment can get in the way of our speed. In this article, you’ll learn how to wax your chain to get more of your watts into forward propulsion. Waxing a chain will also improve the life of your drivetrain, so you get more life out of your bike. 

Now let’s dive into how to prepare a brand new chain, how to clean your chain and the waxing process. At the end of this article, you will find a shopping list with everything you need to complete this process. 

Preparing a New Chain

The first step in preparing a new chain for installation is to remove the factory grease. The factory grease is there to protect the chain and although manufacturers have been touting the benefits of factory grease, there are multiple independent tests that show factory grease is not fast, and leaving it on leads to quicker wear and more dirt and grit on your chain.

Once you have a clean chain, the next step is to prepare the chain for installation. This involves two steps. The first step is to make sure that the chain is the proper length. The simplest way to do this is to remove your old chain, stretch it out to its full length, and place the new chain next to it. Using a chain breaker, remove the excess links from the new chain so it matches the old chain. 

Once you have a chain to the correct length you can start the waxing process. The best result for both speed and wear resistance is the immersion method. If you don’t want to use the immersion method, using a wax-based drip lube will still give you a fast chain, just not quite as good as using the immersion method. 

The cleaning process is quick and easy but first, you need the correct supplies and tools for cleaning and installing the chain; see the shopping list at the end of the document. 

Cleaning the chain

Once you have prepared your new chain, or you have taken off an existing chain, you are ready to clean. Fill two water bottles up halfway with mineral spirits. Place the new chain in the 1st water bottle and let it sit for 15 min and then give it a good shake. Transfer the chain to the second water bottle and shake for two minutes. For bonus points, do it a third time to get the chain prepped. 

After the mineral spirits treatment, transfer the chain to another water bottle filled with alcohol or acetone, shake for two minutes, and repeat this process two or three times. 

Take the chain out and hang it to dry or to speed things up you can use a hair dryer or heat gun. Do not let the chain sit around once it is stripped of factory wax, it will start to rust, the experts at recommend placing it in a microfiber cloth if you are going to let it sit for more than 12 hours. This will protect it for a few days if needed.

Waxing the chain:

Once you have a prepped chain, you can start the waxing process.


Place your wax in a crockpot or instapot. Take an old wire hanger or spoke, and thread a few links of the chain through the wire. This will allow you to move it around in the melted wax and equally importantly, get it out of the wax. 

Place the chain on top of the wax in the pot. Turn the crockpot or instapot on low. The wax will melt and the chain will drop into the wax. Let it sit for a bit to make sure that the wax gets into the pins and rollers. Swish it around and pull it out of the wax. Let the excess wax drip off the chain, hopefully back into the pot. 

Let it hang to dry and the wax will harden on the chain, after drying you will need to get the excess wax off of the chain as the wax will cover the chain. You can do this by reinstalling the chain and making sure that it is running properly. The excess wax will flake off after a few turns of the crank. (See below for a section on how to install the chain.) 

Installing the new chain:

Take the new chain and thread it through the drivetrain. Be careful to make sure that it is routed properly through the drivetrain. It will make life easier if the chain is on the small chainring or on the inside of the chainring to give it some slack while installing the master link. 

Most master links require a chain link tool for proper installation. It is important to make sure that the link is installed correctly, some master links are also directional so make sure you check the instructions prior to installation. 

Many original links are single use so, if you plan on waxing your chain often take a look in the shopping list at the master link from YBN that can be used up to 5 times. 

See this YouTube reference for a good installation video:

Drip Method:

Install the chain on the bike, once you have the chain installed, apply the drip wax to the chain and let it sit overnight. This allows the wax to get into the rollers and pins and let the carrier for the wax evaporate. If you apply the drip lube and immediately go out and ride, it will not be as effective as the lube will be on the outside of the chain and not where it needs to be. Drip lube needs time to set up.

Cost of running over time

Other than speed and efficiency, one of the main reasons to keep up on chain maintenance is the cost over time of either using the wrong lubricant or not maintaining your chain often enough. With the current cost of components plus the inability to get parts, it is more important than ever to keep up with your chain care. Take a look at the following link to see what it actually will cost over time to run your bike based on the different chain lubes on the market today.

Shopping List:

Cleaning Fluids:

  •  Mineral Spirits – Denatured alcohol or Acetone – Available at most home stores, hardware stores, and online. 

Chain Wax for Immersion Process

  • Two options that have tested very well – Molten Speed Wax, Silca Super Secret Chain Blend

Chain Wax for Drip Application

  • Two options that have tested well – Silca Super Secret Chain Lube, UFO Drip (new formula)  

Chain link tool

  • Used for installing the master link. I like the Park Master Link Pliers.

Chain breaker 

  • Used for removing extra links to properly size the chain, I like the Pro Bike Tool chain breaker.

Small Crockpot or Instapot

  • Used to melt the wax for the chain. It is advised to get a separate machine for this process. Don’t also cook food using this same wax pot. 

4 Water bottles

  • No need to buy new ones, use the oldest ones that you have.

Master link

  • New chains will come with a master link but some brands recommend that you only use the link once. If you are going to wax your chain on a regular basis, the QRS master link from YBN can be used up to 5 times. 


Zero Friction Cycling

Silca Blog on chain friction

Chain Waxing 101
Scroll to top

Accessibility Toolbar