Apartment bike wash?

For those who live in apartments: How do you wash your bicycle?

All of the bike wash how-tos I see on the Internet involve either a yard and driveway, or they use spray and wipes with no actual dirt on the bike. I have no yard or driveway. I have a shower, but that doesn’t work so well, mostly because I end up with a filthy bathtub.


Bike wash

Currently, I wash my bike in the parking lot by spraying the bike down with Simple Green, wipe gently with a wet rag, brush off grime where necessary and rinse from a bucket of hot water. For heavy mud after a day of mountain biking, I use multiple buckets of water, which is a pain since I need to haul all of this from a second story unit. I live in a swanky complex that doesn’t allow car maintenance in the parking lot, though, so I have to sneak around and it’s only a matter of time before the manager sees me and tells me to stop.

Ideas? Suggestions?

15 Comments

  • April 4, 2011 - 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Bike maintenance is not car maintenance.

  • Religion Of One
    April 4, 2011 - 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Supersoaker.

  • Anonymous
    April 4, 2011 - 8:51 pm | Permalink

    1. Nice bike.
    2. I agree with Steven.
    3. I also live in an apartment, and I’ve only washed my bike once – I live near a college campus, and I noticed that the water sprinklers for the campus lawns are on every afternoon, so one day I brought my bike to one of the sprinklers, and started washing it. The water comes out with a decent amount of pressure too which is good for getting dirt of my chain.
    4. Either than #3 I wouldn’t have any other way to do it besides what you already mentioned.

  • Anonymous
    April 4, 2011 - 8:51 pm | Permalink

    1. Nice bike.
    2. I agree with Steven.
    3. I also live in an apartment, and I’ve only washed my bike once – I live near a college campus, and I noticed that the water sprinklers for the campus lawns are on every afternoon, so one day I brought my bike to one of the sprinklers, and started washing it. The water comes out with a decent amount of pressure too which is good for getting dirt of my chain.
    4. Either than #3 I wouldn’t have any other way to do it besides what you already mentioned.

  • Anonymous
    April 4, 2011 - 8:51 pm | Permalink

    1. Nice bike.
    2. I agree with Steven.
    3. I also live in an apartment, and I’ve only washed my bike once – I live near a college campus, and I noticed that the water sprinklers for the campus lawns are on every afternoon, so one day I brought my bike to one of the sprinklers, and started washing it. The water comes out with a decent amount of pressure too which is good for getting dirt of my chain.
    4. Either than #3 I wouldn’t have any other way to do it besides what you already mentioned.

  • April 4, 2011 - 8:59 pm | Permalink

    One idea I have used on a car before is a pump-up pressurized garden sprayer. The pressure is decent enough to wash some grime out of hard to reach places without getting water in the bearings.
    Also, there are “no rinse” washes for the car market that are pretty good at loosening dirt and done need a lot of rinsing. One I’ve used is called “Optimum No-Rinse.”

  • April 4, 2011 - 9:12 pm | Permalink

    For years I lived in tiny studio apts & I had a two-bucket method. One bucket for soapy water, the other for the rinse water. I eventually obtained a special double-bucket like many housecleaning services use. With practice & the right brushes this is enough water for the initial cleaning. I used (still use, actually) a large soft brush marketed as a “motorcycle” cleaning brush (check auto supply stores for this) + a stiff toothbrush style brush marketed at cyclists.

    After this I’d run the chain through a cleaning contraption. Wipe everything dry with an old towel. Then back in the apt I’d use rag and automotive rim polish or Pedro’s bike lust to get everything shiny. That’s when the bike gets really clean anyway.

    On very muddy days (e.g. after MTBing) I’d sometimes stop at a u-spray car wash and give it a quick rinse before going home, or just ask a neighbor/friend/passerby if I could rinse down with a garden hose. HOWEVER! never point a high-speed jet like the u-spray kind directly at your bike, NOT EVEN THE FRAME. I actually stripped the finish off a frame with one of those.

    In one apartment bldg, I had close access to a fire escape where I could work. In another, the landlord let me use the utility sink area in the basement by the washer/dryers & didn’t mind the grease. A couple of landlords let me do the washup in garden areas that were otherwise off-limits (it pays to ask nice). Otherwise I’d do my washup out front of the building just off the curb.

  • April 4, 2011 - 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the tip on the “no rinse” wash — I’ll check those out. I like your pump sprayer idea too.

  • April 4, 2011 - 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Ha ha, good idea!

  • April 4, 2011 - 11:54 pm | Permalink

    Ditto the garden sprayer. This has the additional benefit of using a measured cup so you can mix soap in it.

    If you want to use your bath tub, get a shower head with a hose attachment. If you don’t want to unscrew the showerhead you can pick one up that fits over the tub spigot. Put a cheap strainer over the drain and you can wipe up any large stuff when you’re done.

    Waterless car washes won’t be effective against major dirt, but they’re great for road bikes and quick detailing. It just takes a light spray and wipe, so even a small bottle will last a long time.

    You might want to check out the local car wash: Regular rinsing will be too strong, but the spotless rinse should be much lower pressure.

  • jonesyaj
    April 5, 2011 - 10:36 am | Permalink

    I bought a manual hand pump jet wash http://www.savewatersavemoney.co.uk/product/hand-water-pump/244
    fill up from your tap and you could carry it down to the parking area.

  • April 5, 2011 - 10:46 am | Permalink

    Very good question Richard – I’ve always wondered the same thing. Personally, I’ve tried the shower method, the take the bike downstairs method and the clean in the kitchen. Definitely don’t recommend the clean in the kitchen as leaves too much grease everywhere. Shower clean is a pain so I tend to carry the bike downstairs, soapy water it and then carry it upstairs again and outside my doorway (a balcony style area) I then rinse down using clear water. Not ideal but sure feels a lot nicer to ride after a clean!

  • ktcita
    April 5, 2011 - 12:21 pm | Permalink

    A couple of buckets, loads of demucking spray, and the footpath on a sunny day.

  • Andy
    April 5, 2011 - 6:13 pm | Permalink

    That’s what I used the first few times. :)

  • Andy
    April 5, 2011 - 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Ok I’ll chip in since I live in an apartment, though I have easy access to a spigot outside and don’t live in an urban area. If I’m washing the whole bike, which is rare, then I lean it on the wall and fill some gallon jugs with water to wash and rinse. More often I’m just working on the wheels, which I just do in the shower. With most any cleaning, I use old shirts cut into rags to get as much dirt off first. I can blast water all day, but it’s not very effective. I usually “floss” a few parts, like around the brakes and fenders to get some more grime off as well. I often take advantage of a ride ending in rain too – while the bike is wet, I might as well wash it off then instead of letting the mud dry on it and take care of it another day.

    Clean or dirty, my bike du jour gets parked in the apartment on top of a sheet of plastic Tyvek homewrap. I fold up the sides an inch, and it keeps any drips and other messes on the Tyvek.

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