How to Clean a Chainsaw Chain: Step-By-Step Guide

Keeping your chainsaw in optimal condition is crucial for its longevity, safety, and efficiency. One of the key components that require regular cleaning is the chainsaw chain.

Maintaining a clean chainsaw chain ensures efficient cutting and increased safety. This guide on “how to clean a chainsaw chain” covers the step-by-step cleaning process, including removing the chain, soaking and scrubbing it, drying and lubricating, and reassembling the chainsaw. Regular maintenance and following safety precautions are emphasized for optimal performance and prolonging your chainsaw’s life.

Why Cleaning the Chainsaw Chain is Important

Cleaning your chainsaw chain is vital to ensure the smooth operation of your tool. A clean chain reduces wear and tear, improves cutting efficiency, and extends the life of your chainsaw.

It is also important to maintain the chain well to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries.

Gathering the Necessary Tools

Before starting the cleaning process, gather the following tools and materials:

  • Protective gloves
  • Compressed air or an air compressor
  • Wire brush or toothbrush
  • Putty knife or thin screwdriver
  • Small container
  • Household ammonia or degreaser
  • Warm soapy water
  • Clean cloth or paper towels
  • Bar and chain oil

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning a Chainsaw Chain

Follow these steps to clean your chainsaw chain effectively:

Step 1: Disconnect the Power Source and Remove the Chain

Step 1: Disconnect the Power Source and Remove the Chain

First, disconnect the power source to prevent any accidental starts. For gas chainsaws, turn off the engine, remove the spark plug connector, and ensure the chain brake is engaged. For electric chainsaws, unplug the power cord or remove the battery.

Next, remove the chain from the chainsaw. Loosen the two nuts holding the side cover in place and remove the clutch cover.

Release the chain tension by turning the tensioning screw, then lift the chain off the guide bar. If unsure about this process, consult your chainsaw’s owner’s manual.

Step 2: Clean the Guide Bar and Remove Excess Oil

Clean the Guide Bar and Remove Excess Oil

Use a putty knife or thin screwdriver to scrape off any build-up of sawdust and debris from the guide bar grooves.

Clear the oiler holes and ensure there’s no dirt accumulated underneath. If the guide bar is extremely dirty, use a wire brush to gently scrub it clean.

Step 3: Soak the Chain

Soak the Chain

Prepare a bucket by adding one gallon of warm water to one cup of household ammonia or cleaning solution. Let the chain soak in the solution for at least three hours to break down all the dirt.

Step 4: Scrub the Chain

Scrub the Chain

After soaking, use a wire brush or toothbrush to gently scrub the chain, ensuring to clean between the links and around the cutters. Rinse the chain with warm water to wash away any remaining residue.

Step 5: Dry and Lubricate the Chain

Dry and Lubricate the Chain

Thoroughly dry the chain using a clean cloth or paper towel. Ensure no moisture remains, as this can lead to rust and corrosion.

Once dry, apply a generous amount of bar and chain oil to the entire chain, making sure to coat each link and cutter to prevent rust and reduce friction during operation.

Step 6: Reassemble the Chainsaw

Reassemble the Chainsaw

Reattach the chain to the guide bar, ensuring it’s properly seated and aligned with the sprocket.

Adjust the chain tension by turning the tensioning screw until the chain sits snugly against the guide bar. Replace the clutch cover and tighten the two nuts.

Step 7: Check the Chain Tension

Check the Chain Tension

Once the chain is reassembled, check the tension by pulling the chain away from the guide bar.

It should snap back into place when released. If the chain is too loose or too tight, adjust the tensioning screw accordingly.

Consult your owner’s manual for the correct tension settings for your chainsaw model.

Regular Maintenance Tips

To keep your chainsaw running smoothly, follow these regular maintenance tips:

  • Clean the chain after every use to prevent the buildup of dirt and debris
  • Inspect the chain for wear, damage, or dullness, and replace or sharpen as needed
  • Regularly check the chain tension and adjust as necessary
  • Keep the guide bar clean and well-oiled to reduce friction

Safety Precautions

When cleaning and maintaining your chainsaw, always follow these safety precautions:

  • Disconnect the power source before performing any maintenance tasks
  • Wear protective gloves to avoid cuts or injuries from sharp chain components
  • Work in a well-ventilated area when using cleaning solutions or degreasers
  • Dispose of used cleaning solutions and rags responsibly, according to local regulations.


What can you spray on a chainsaw to clean it?

To clean your chainsaw, you can use a product specifically designed for this purpose, like STIHL SuperClean resin solvent. It’s great for getting rid of tough dirt and helps keep your chainsaw in tip-top shape, which prevents early wear and tear on the guide bar and saw chain.

The best solvent to clean chainsaw chain

The best way to clean a chainsaw chain is to use a special cleaner made for it, like STIHL SuperClean resin solvent. It helps get rid of dirt and keeps your chainsaw working well. Remember to clean your chainsaw often to keep it in good shape.

Can I use wd40 to clean my chainsaw?

Yes, you can use WD-40 to clean your chainsaw. Just remember to apply chain oil afterward for optimal performance and durability.

Is brake cleaner good for cleaning tools?

Brake cleaners can clean tools effectively but use caution, as it may damage plastic or rubber parts. Always test a small area first and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for safe use.

Final Thoughts

Proper cleaning and maintenance of your chainsaw chain are essential to ensure optimal performance.

This guide will help you to keep your chainsaw running efficiently and safely. Finally, remember always to follow safety precautions and consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions regarding your chainsaw model.

Photo of author

Charlie Bass

Charlie has been a mechanic for over 25 years and has worked on everything from small engine gardening equipment to huge diesel-electric mining haul trucks, trains and even aircraft. This broad range of industry experience gives him a unique insight into almost anything mechanical especially with an engine, including gardening and landscaping equipment. He currently owns his own mobile mechanic business and lives with his family in Australia.

Leave a Comment