The road is not your motorcycle’s friend. It’s a constant battle against flying gravel, grit, grime, and your motorcycle’s paint job. Even metal is at risk thanks to salty air and other corrosives that can be kicked up off the road. Bet I don’t have to tell that to you who live near the beach, right? Bottom line, motorcycles benefit from breaking out a bucket and using some elbow grease to get it all spiffed up every now and again. We’ve scrubbed down more than our fair share and figured we’d pass along these little pearls of wisdom on how to wash a motorcycle because there’s more to consider than one would think.

10 Tips on How to Wash Your Motorcycle

1.       It’s best to use cleaning products that are specifically designed for motorcycles or cars. Be sure to read the label because motorcycles can have parts made from stainless steel to aluminum to plastic, and what might be friendly to one can be damaging to another. There’s a lot of part specific cleaners, too, from engine to wheel cleaners.

2.       Don’t be lazy, remove accessories. Take off that tool bag hanging between your downtubes and remove those leather saddlebags you tossed on over your back fender. Grime builds up beneath these quickly and if they don’t have fixed mounts, they could easily scratch up your paint. Also, don’t neglect the lower frame rails, beneath fenders, and other hard-to-reach areas. These can pick up the more corrosive crap off the road than most places but tend to get the least amount of attention.

Don't be lazy, take 'em off! 

3.       Use microfiber towels or mitts. Make sure whatever you’re wiping your motorcycle with, be it washing or drying, is clean and grit-free. It doesn’t take much to scratch a good paint job up.

4.       Use the two-bucket method. Fill one bucket with soap, the other with plain water to rinse in. Sediment and particles can stick to wash clothes and contaminate the soapy bucket quickly, so you’re pretty much washing your motorcycle with dirty water if you don’t. This lessens the probability of unknowingly scratching up your paint.

5.       Don’t wash your bike when it’s hot and don’t wash it in direct sunlight. I know, common sense, but there’s a surprising lack of it these days. Only wash your motorcycle when the engine is cool. Hot metal engines and cold water don’t mix.

6.       An old paint brush is a useful tool to get in around spokes and engine fins. A toothbrush can be a handy detailing tool, too.

7.       Compressed air can be used to dry a bike, especially if you’ve plunked down big $$ on a custom paint job. After you’re done, take it for a quick spin to dry the engine out and shake off any water spots you may have missed. When you get back, give it a final once-over with a microfiber cloth.

8.       Use the occasion to inspect your motorcycle. Check the condition of your cables, look your bike over for leaks or loose bolts, inspect your belt or chain. How's your oil looking? Might as well check your tread wear and tire pressure while you’re at it.

9.       You don’t have to wash your motorcycle with soap and water. There are some quality spray-on cleaners and detailers. Read all about it in our Cycle Care: Cleaning/Detailing Products Review article. I’m also a big fan of Bugslide and Shine Werks for quick, parking lot jobs if I’m at a rally or event.

10. Skip steps 1 through 9 and take your motorcycle to a bikini bike wash. No, seriously, these ladies bust their ass during rallies. They can make a killing in a good week's work. And don’t be a tight-wad, be sure to tip!