How to Clean a Chainsaw – 6 Simple Steps (Tried & Tested)

So your chainsaw has become dingy and no longer sparkles as it used to? If that’s the case, this guide delves on how to clean a chainsaw so it looks spotless again and delivers optimum cutting operations.

There’s no doubt chainsaws are versatile power tools for felling trees, chopping up firewood or pruning braches. However, these expensive pieces of equipment need regular care and maintenance to keep them running safely, smoothly and effectively.

A chainsaw calls for frequent cleaning to remove buildup of such things as sawdust, dirt, sap from trees, and old oil. Regular cleaning helps prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your machine and extends its lifespan.

In this guide, you’ll learn pretty much everything you need to know, from how to clean a chainsaw chain to how to clean a chainsaw carburetor and anything in between.

Without further ado, let’s explore the useful tips and tricks that’ll help you clean your chainsaw like a pro!

Supplies Needed:

  • Water
  • Household ammonia
  • Plastic bucket
  • Stiff bristled brush
  • Microfiber towel
  • Degreaser solvent
  • Bar groove cleaner
  • Compressed air
  • Bar and chain oil
  • Substantial amount of paper towels and old cloth towels
  • Bar and chain oil
  • Pack or thin screwdriver

Steps for Cleaning a Chainsaw 

  • Place your chainsaw in a secure position on a solid, firm work surface

Before the actual cleaning kicks off, a chainsaw should be placed in a stable work surface such as a workbench. Choose a clear surface free of debris or other tools to minimize the chances of losing any parts or screws when you disassemble the equipment.

  • Turn off your chainsaw

Switch off your chainsaw before you start the cleaning. Chainsaws can be gas-powered, battery-powered, or corded. For a gas-powered unit, make sure to drain the tank and disengage the spark plug connector from the spark plug.

For a battery-powered Chainsaw unit, remove the battery before cleaning. And for a corded electric chainsaw, detach the power cord from any power source. These are measures intended to prevent the machine from accidentally turning on amid cleaning.

  • Clean the chainsaw chain

When it comes to how to clean a chainsaw chain, the first step involves completely removing the chain from the saw. To remove the chain, loosen its adjustment knob until there’s adequate slack on the chain. This makes it easy to skid the chain off  its guide bar.

Now, after successfully detaching the saw’s chain, go ahead and mix one cup of household ammonia with one gallon of water. Pour the mixture into a plastic bucket.

In a well-ventilated area, soak the chain in the ammonia solution for at least 20 minutes. Once it’s fully soaked, carefully scrub one section using a stiff brush, and then flip the chain over and give the other side a good scrubbing.

We recommend soaking and scrubbing the chain until it’s completely grit-free and sparkling. Once done, rinse the chain exhaustively under running water and dry thoroughly with an old (but clean) towel.

You can also speedily blast the water off the chain using compressed air, especially if you reside in a cold or humid environment where the chain could take longer to dry.

After the chain has completely dried, lay it in a plastic tray and dip it in some bar and chain oil until it’s halfway submerged. Let the chain sit in oil for 2-3 hours, then toss it over for the other side to get soaked too.

Once you’ve lubricated both sides of the chain, allow the excess oil to drip off freely into a newspaper or tray. Finally, use clean paper towels to dab the chain lightly until it no longer drips.

  • Clean the chainsaw bar

On the side cover of the chainsaw are two nuts for mounting the guide bar to the powerhead. Locate these nuts – but try not to loosen them just yet!

Some chainsaw models hinder you from removing the cover while the brake is still engaged. Other models allow you to take off the cover even when the brake is engaged, but reassembling can be intricate.

As a rule of thumb, always disengage the chainsaw brake before removing cover.

Soon after the brake is disengaged, loosen the cover nuts and take them off. Then, disconnect the guide bar from the powerhead and clean all dirt and debris from the bar and its groove.

You can simply use water and soap on a rag to clean the guide bar if it isn’t too dirty. But if it’s deeply soiled, then you might need to loosen the gunk buildup using a degreaser solvent.

To clean the chainsaw bar groove, you’ll need to use either a special groove cleaning accessory or a putty knife for the best results. A combination of compressed air and bar groove cleaner will play a crucial role in removing gunk between the rails of the guide bar groove.

At the base of the bar, there’re bar and chain oiler holes that also need to be cleaned. You can extract any grime blocking these holes by using a pack or thin screwdriver.

Compressed air also delivers impressive results in cleaning these small spots. In some guide bars, there’s a hole close to the tip of the blade for oiling the sprocket. Make sure to clean this one too.

  • Clean the carburetor and air filter

First, check out the carburetor to determine if there’s any residue clogging it up. Any gummy buildup is a good sign the carburetor needs to be cleaned.

When dirt and old oil accumulate in the carburetor, fuel flow to the engine is blocked, leading to difficulties in turning on your chainsaw. Spraying the carburetor with compressed air is the best way to clear off any residue buildup.

Identify and take the needle valves, diaphragm, and cover plate out of the chainsaw. If you’re not sure about how to identify or remove any of these parts, you can consult an owner’s manual or a local dealer for assistance.

Soak these carburetor components (needle valves, diaphragm, and cover plate) in a solution containing one gallon of water and one cup of household ammonia. Leave all the parts to soak for 10-20 minutes.

After 20 minutes are over, thoroughly scrub each part using a bristle brush to eliminate the debris. Then, rinse the carburetor parts with clean, cool water and dry them meticulously with a microfiber towel.

If there’s still any lurking moisture in these parts, blast it off with compressed air. Don’t reassemble the parts until they’re completely dry. Reattaching parts while still wet can cause rusting and damage to your saw.

Now, once you’ve cleaned the carburetor parts, proceed and wash the air filter as well. Detach the filter and immerse it in warm soapy water.

If the air filter is heavily dirty, soak it in soapy water for about 10-15 minutes and then scrub it using a gentle brush. We recommend replacing the filter if you can’t get it completely clean. Replacement chainsaw filters can be found at your local chainsaw dealer or hardware department.

A dirty air filter can cause multiple problems, from excessive fuel consumption to extreme wear on engine components. Therefore, the air filter needs constant monitoring and inspection to determine whether cleaning is necessary.

By the same token, cleaning the air filter with compressed air is not advisable. This is because it could blast a hole in the air filter leading to permanent damage.

Caution: Choose a well-ventilated space when working with ammonia. Use gloves and eye protection to prevent ammonia from coming in contact with your skin or eyes. Do not combine chlorine bleach with ammonia as it will create a harmful gas.  

  • Reassemble your chainsaw

Once you’ve completed the cleaning of your chainsaw, you need to put it all back together. Reassembling should be done in reverse order.

First reattach the engine cover, followed by the starter cord cover. After that, remount the dried-up chain to the bar in the CORRECT direction.

Mount the saw’s bar back on the studs,  affix the clutch cover and tighten the nuts. Holding the bar by the tip of its nose, fiddle with the tensioning screw, making sure the part of the chain underneath the bar isn’t sagging.

Try to avoid over tightening the chain. Give it just enough space to move freely.

After properly mounting the chain, tighten the bar nuts using the scrench. Now your chainsaw is perfectly cleaned and ready to cut wood again. These six steps on how to clean a chainsaw have been tried and tested. So you can be sure to get remarkable results every time and again.

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