How to Clean a Chainsaw Chain

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Things You'll Need

  • Chainsaw with dirty chain

  • Ammonia

  • Water

  • Soft bristle brush

  • Bucket

  • Old towel

  • Plastic tray

  • Bar and chain oil

  • Paper towels


The last step of dabbing up the chain oil is much easier to do with an old towel, but the oil stains are likely to never come out. It's a good idea to keep a grungy old towel around for jobs like this if you have power tools that require lubrication.


If you do not disconnect the spark plug wire prior to working on a saw, it is technically possible that the saw can be turned on accidentally. If you allow a wet or damp chain to set out, no matter how clean it is, it is an invitation for rust.

With each use, a chainsaw will pick up sap and resin from wood and will get gummed up with a mixture of sawdust, dirt and chain lubricant. If you want to get peak performance out of your saw every time, you'll have to make the commitment to keep it clean. Cleaning a chainsaw chain isn't particularly difficult, however, and it doesn't require the use of any special solvents. Just read on to learn how you can clean yours in a matter of minutes.

Step 1

Make sure that the chainsaw is turned off. To be on the safe side, disconnect the spark plug wire from the chainsaw engine, making it impossible to accidentally turn on. If you cannot locate the spark plug wire, refer to the technical diagrams in your chainsaw's user manual.

Step 2

Loosen the chain adjustment knob on your chainsaw until there is enough slack on the chain to allow you to slip it off of the guide bar. Completely remove the chain from the saw.

Step 3

Create a mixture of one cup of household ammonia and one gallon of water in a plastic bucket. Soak the chain in this solution as you carefully scrub one section at a time with a soft bristled brush. Continue soaking and scrubbing until the chain sparkles and appears to be grit-free.

Step 4

Rinse the chain thoroughly under running water. Dry it immediately with an old but clean towel, making sure that all of the moisture has been sopped up before you proceed.

Step 5

Lay the chain in a plastic tray and pour some bar and chain oil over it until the chain is at least halfway submerged. After about three hours of soaking, turn the chain over to soak the other side. After this final soak, lift the chain out of the oil and let the excess drip off into the tray. Lightly dab the chain with clean paper towels until it no longer drips, then reinstall it on your chainsaw.

Josh Baum

Josh Baum is a freelance writer with extensive experience in advertising and public relations. A graduate of the University of Missouri - Columbia School of Journalism, Baum writes targeted, optimized Web copy, print advertisements and broadcast scripts for advertising agencies, publishers and Web developers throughout the United States and Canada. He lives and works in Chicago, ll.