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How Often Should You Clean Your Motorcycle?

Cleaning your motorcycle is essential in order to keep it in good working and visual condition.

Like any other vehicle, motorcycles, too, tend to collect and accumulate dirt, gunk, grime, and grease over time.

How often should you clean a motorcycle? You should clean your motorcycle between 1 and 4 times a month. How often you need to clean your motorcycle depends on various factors. Motorcycles that are ridden frequently and stored outside should be cleaned every week, and motorcycles that are used on weekends and stored indoors should be cleaned once a month.

Below I go into more detail about the different factors that will determine how often you should clean your motorcycle.

A man cleaning his motorcycle.

How Often Should You Clean Your Motorcycle?

If you are riding your motorcycle frequently or if you keep it outside, you should clean it at least once every week. Cleaning your motorcycle every week will prevent gunk, grease, and dirt accumulation.

If you are riding your motorcycle only on weekends or you are keeping it in a garage, you should clean it once a month. Less frequently ridden motorcycles and ones that are kept indoors accumulate less dirt, grease, and gunk over time; thus, cleaning them once a month is sufficient.

If you are riding your motorcycle long distances, then you may need to clean it after, or during, each trip. Long-distance trips, depending on the terrain, may cause your motorcycle to accumulate dirt incredibly quickly.

If you are riding your motorcycle in the winter, there can be a lot of salt on the roads, which could be very detrimental to your motorcycle. In which case, you may need to clean it a few times a week, depending on how often you ride it.

What Determines How Often You Need to Clean Your Motorcycle?

There are different factors that will determine how often you should clean your motorcycle. Consider all of these when deciding when to clean your motorcycle.

How Often You Ride Your Motorcycle

It is very simple. The more often you ride your motorcycle, the more dirt will accumulate around the different cracks and parts of your ride. Thus the more often you will need to clean it.

However, if you do not ride your motorcycle very often, you will be able to get away with cleaning it less often.

For more information check out my article about how often you should ride your motorcycle.

Where You Ride Your Motorcycle

The next factor in determining how often you should clean your motorcycle is your location and where you ride it.

Is there a lot of sand, dirt, salt, or pollution in your area? The general condition of the roads can also be important.

Where You Keep Your Motorcycle

If you keep your motorcycle in your garage or any other structure, for that matter, that will keep it protected against the outside elements, this means that your motorcycle will stay cleaner for longer.

Although a lot of riders do keep their motorcycle outside year-round, generally speaking, leaving your motorcycle outside is not good for it. If you keep your motorcycle outside, the dirt and gunk will build up quicker, especially if you do not use a protective cover.

You cannot leave your motorcycle sitting indefinitely, even indoors. Eventually, rust, corrosion, and other unpleasant things will start developing and require your attention.

How You Clean Your Motorcycle

Not everyone cleans their motorcycle the same way. 

Spraying some water with a garden hose to wash away the dirt is one thing, and cleaning every nook and cranny by hand is a whole different animal.

Usually, by spraying water with a garden hose, you will not be able to clean the motorcycle properly, while on the other hand, a pressure washer will be too aggressive.

Cleaning your motorcycle by hand takes more time, but a little elbow grease can go a long way.

The products you use also will determine how clean the motorcycle is and how much time it can go between cleaning. (I will talk about some of the top cleaning products that you can use in a bit.)

The Weather

Even if you have just cleaned your motorcycle, the weather can always throw a spanner in the works.

One of the things you should do after riding your motorcycle in the rain is to clean it. I am not talking about thoroughly drying your motorcycle but actually taking the time to clean all the dirt.

Because of the rain, things tend to get really messy and may require more detailed cleaning.

  • If you are riding a motorcycle with an open (uncovered) chain.
  • Clean the headlights and the windshield.
  • Clean the air filter and seals.
  • Clean the tires as they can also accumulate a lot of dirt and grime, which could affect their grip.

More information about how rain may affect your motorcycle can be found in my article about whether rain can damage a motorcycle.

Is It Bad to Clean Your Motorcycle Too Often?

You know how it is. Most folks will either clean their motorcycle after each ride or will not bother cleaning it for long periods of time.

Not cleaning your motorcycle is generally speaking a bad idea, but is there such a thing as cleaning your motorcycle too much?

Cleaning your motorcycle once or twice a month will not damage the paint job or its mechanics. However, it is important to use high-quality products that will not damage your ride.

Here are the most popular products the majority of riders use to clean their motorcycles:

  • Meguiar’s Motorcycle Care Kit is one of the best kits you can use to clean your motorcycle.
  • Another very popular tried and tested product is the S100.
  • For waxing, one of the best products is Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax.
  • A simple microfiber sponge or cloth is ideal. Those are softer and more gentle. Avoid using rough sponges as they can scratch the paint. Make sure to be gentle when scrubbing accumulated dirt or anything sticky off the motorcycle.
  • When drying your motorcycle again, use a softer microfiber sponge or cloth.
  • Always after cleaning your motorcycle, apply some wax.

Some people may prefer to use a pressure washer to clean their motorcycle, but this can do more harm than good. You see, pressure washers are very aggressive and may damage or nick the paint. This can lead to rusting.

If you want, you can still use a pressure washer. They are generally considered relatively safe, but still, you will have to be careful not to hit directly any of the electronics, seals, the chain, and the engine.

In a way, it is more important how you clean your motorcycle than how often. 

Using a garden hose, a soapy sponge, and a little elbow grease is a lot better. After all, you are not washing a car or a pickup, so it does not take too much time. A garden hose and a sponge are a lot less aggressive and will be easier on the paint.

You should occasionally wax your motorcycle, too, to give it some extra protection.

One of the advantages of cleaning your motorcycle is that it is also a convenient time to check your ride for any issues.

How Often Should You Clean Your Motorcycle?
My ultimate solution to cleaning

What Will Happen If You Do Not Clean Your Motorcycle?

Cleaning your motorcycle is one of the often neglected aspects of motorcycle maintenance.

If you do not clean your motorcycle often, dirt and gunk will start to accumulate around the different parts and cracks of the motorcycle. The more that dirt and gunk stay on those parts, the more damage it can do to them.

However, it is not just the dirt and gunk that you have to worry about. Other things like salt, corrosive dust, tree sap, abrasive sand, acidic rain, bird droppings, insects, pollution, and road tar will also slowly but surely accumulate all over the motorcycle.

The dirt tends to accumulate and retain moisture, which could lead to rusting if you do not clean your motorcycle often.

Things can get even worse if you happen to ride in the rain. All that dirt that has been accumulated will be picked up, dragged, and blasted by the rain across the paint, damaging and scratching it in the process.

Of course, the damage will not happen immediately. It takes time, and it happens slowly, but it does happen.

This may also reduce the longevity of the motorcycle’s paintwork significantly with time and cause the paint to fade.

This is why wax is so important. It protects the paint. However, you will still have to clean the motorcycle before waxing it.

Although the paint and the clearcoat will protect the metal underneath, everything has its limits, and so does the paint and the wax. They will not be able to protect the metal underneath forever.

During the winter, things can get even worse because of the salt. It can damage the paint and lead to rusting of the different parts of the motorcycle, including screws and the chain.

Motorcycles that do not get cleaned often will rust faster. This can result in higher maintenance costs and additional expenses buying replacement parts, but it can also negatively affect the resale price.

What to Do If You Cannot Clean Your Motorcycle Often?

People clean their motorcycles (and cars) because firstly, a clean motorcycle is more pleasant to look at, work on, and use, and secondly, because before, there were a lot of problems with the older paint and lack of any rust protection.

The paint jobs today are definitely not what they were 50 years ago. Not washing your motorcycle for a while will not necessarily destroy it.

Even a few months will not necessarily damage the paint of a reasonably new motorcycle.

However, if you really care about your motorcycle, it is recommended to keep it clean and wax it, ideally with a UV wax.

If you really don’t care about appearances, then you can clean it less often, there are no laws against that, well you have to keep your license plates clear, of course.

The rule of thumb is that anything is better than nothing. So even in the worst-case scenario, try at least to wash it with a little water and a soapy sponge.

How Often Should You Clean Your Motorcycle Gear?

Well, it is not just about the motorcycle that you need to worry about, now, is it? Your motorcycle gear also needs some love and care.

It is always good to keep your motorcycle gear clean.

You should clean your motorcycle gear at least once a month.

Always make sure to leave the leather gloves and boots to dry thoroughly. Clean them at least once a month and apply oil.

Wash the helmet liner and pads at least once every month.

Clean the jacket and pants about once a month as well. You can use some baby wipes and leather conditioner.

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