How To Clean Bicycle Disc Brakes

Disc brakes are the most powerful and the most effective types of brakes which can be fitted to any mountain or road bike, providing superior performance compared to older styles of rim brakes. Although many cyclists are split as to whether they prefer rim brakes VS disc brakes, one thing which can be agreed upon, is the importance of keeping bicycle disk brakes running clean.

One of the first signs of a problem with your disc brakes, is all manner of noises and a reduction in stopping power. This is usually caused by contaminants, such as oil on the rotor of the disc brakes.

Below is our advice, and the steps we take here at Westbrook Cycles to clean our own disc brakes.

Buy a Disc Brake Specific Cleaner

The first thing to do is buy a disc brake specific cleaning product. It’s important to use a cleaner which has been designed for disc brakes, which does not leave any residue on the contact points of the braking system. Designed to wash away, these cleaners ensure that your brakes are left with no contamination.

It’s also really important not to use cleaning products which contain lubrication or gloss enhancing chemicals - which will make the rotor of the disc brake slippy, providing poor braking performance.

Learn the Parts of Your Disc Brakes

When cleaning your bike, it’s a great time to learn more about how your bike works and which parts of the bike you can clean and maintain yourself. When cleaning your disc brakes, you will come across:

  • Disc Rotors (Metal discs attached to the wheel)
  • Brake Pads (which come into contact with the rotors)
  • Calipers (which house the pads and clamps them onto the discs)
  • Brake levers and cables

The frequency of cleaning will depend upon the condition of the disc brakes, however bikes which have a hard life or are kept outside will require more frequent cleaning and maintenance.

Clean after a Ride

Although settling down in the cold to clean your disc brakes may not massively high on your list of priorities, remember that it’s easier to clean your bike immediately after a ride, rather than to wait and let the mud and grime settle into the components of your bike.

Wear & Tear

Use the opportunity when cleaning your bike to give the disc brake system a thorough scan for wear and tear, such as major damage, oil contamination, scratches or warping of the disc brake. When taking apart the brakes for cleaning, place all parts on a lint towel to avoid them becoming contaminated.

Disc Brake Cleaning Process

  1. Remove the calipers, pads and rotors from the wheels - so they can be cleaned thoroughly.
  2. Spray brake cleaner onto either side of the rotor, using a cloth to remove any excess grime and muck. Use a separate cloth to give them a final clean.
  3. Spray the brake cleaner over the calipers and remove any muck and contaminants.
  4. Clean the moving part of the brake levers with brake cleaner, and ensure there is no grit when they are operated.


Once you have cleaned the braking system, reassemble the bike carefully. Use this opportunity to lubricate any moving parts, which are easier to access with the bike in bits. If you over lubricate some of the working parts, and they get on the braking system - use the brake cleaner to remove it.