Chainsaw Cleaning Guide


Chainsaw Cleaning Guide


If you want your chainsaw to deliver the best performance every time you are using it is worthwhile to ensure that it is maintained in the right way. You need to ensure that you are regularly cleaning the sprocket nose, the oil bar groove, oil inlets and clutch cover and also the cooling fins on gasoline engines.

Regular cleaning prevents seized parts, improves machine lifespan, keeps your tool shed clean and helps highlight any defects that could be troublesome and dangerous. All in all it is just a good habit to get into. Without proper cleaning especially in and around the clutch housing you will find parts wear out quicker, efficiency is reduced and parts can over heat and cause a fire risk.

Working on the bush cutting and tree cutting can be dirty and dusty work so you will need to ensure that the chainsaw remains clean especially if storing it away.

The machine will often get covered with thick gobs of oil, this mixture of dirt and saw dust will clog the chain area and this is important to do something about it. It’s not just saw dust that will block up and muck up your saw. Soil and clay as well as grass and other vegetation can get wrapped around and lodged in the saw. If left unchecked this blockage will put pressure on the motor and chain even causing it to loosen up. The end result will be a broken or derailed chain, poor cutting ability and a chain that dulls quickly.

This is why it is important to clean you chainsaw often in order to ensure that the engine/motor and the chain are functioning well. The reality of the matter is that if you don’t clean and maintain your chainsaw the right way, the bar and the chain can also receive insufficient lubrication while in operation which can cause problems including overheating and dull chain teeth very quickly.

Trust us the short amount of time it takes to clean and maintain your chainsaw will pay off in the long run.

The whole process of cleaning your chainsaw will entail the removing of nuts and screws and so you should ensure you do it in a clean comfortable and well-lit environment such as a shed or ideally a workshop.

Learning how to properly clean your machine for the first time can be overwhelming and tiring especially if you are a beginner. However set aside a little time ideally an hour or so and follow any instructions in the owner’s manual. If you don’t have access to an owner’s manual, you can follow the steps below which will give you a good idea of what’s involved, and what needs to be done to ensure you have access to a clean saw every time.

There are a few things to point out before you start off. Be careful of your fingers it is quite easy to slicing or cut your fingers with the chains teeth. Always ensure parts are allowed to cool down after use to ensure you don’t get burned from hot engines, motors or exhausts.

Wear gloves ideally nitrile type disposable ones. This will protect you from dirty and oily residue that can be harmful and will also eliminate the need to give your hands a good scrubbing afterwards. It’s a real time saver and promotes good hygiene.

Always ensure batteries or spark plug leads are disconnected before you begin the cleaning of your chainsaw. The last thing you want is the saw to operate while you are cleaning it.

The good thing is that many of the chainsaw manufacturers are putting some measures in place to ensure that the machines they get out on the market are safer than ever. However, due to their sophisticated technology and sturdy construction, a chainsaw is considered one of the most dangerous small machines to deal with.

In this brief, we are going to show you how to clean your chainsaw like a pro. To prolong its lifespan and also increase performance, you need to do this task several times if you are operating the machine for long periods of time. You also need to ensure that the machine is clean and in good condition before storing it away especially for extended periods over the winter.


Why You Should Clean a Chainsaw


There are several reasons why you should ensure that your chainsaw is clean every time. It doesn’t matter if you only intend using the saw for a few minutes it is good practice to clean it afterwards.  You should ensure that it is clean in all aspect starting with the engine, the cutting chain and all the other important associated parts of the machine.

  • To increase chainsaw performance – A clean machine will always increase productivity. It works best because the cutting teeth are in their best condition and the engine performance is not compromised.
  • Safety – There are several instances where a chainsaw can put you at risk of injury. When the chainsaw is not clean, the machine is more likely to jam, derail or snap and cause potential injury. For this reason, you need to ensure that the chain is always clean to reduce the risk of unexpected complications when performing your daily duties.
  • To avoid downtime – a dirty machine is likely to cause more problems. You will have a hard time trying to keep it operating. It will require you to put more effort into the task being performed. A clean chainsaw will not give you a hard time and the work will be a lot smoother, efficient and hassle free.
  • To reduce wear and tear on the machine – Poor cleaning and maintenance will lead to parts wearing out long before their expected lifespan costing you more money in the long run.


How Often Should I Clean a Chainsaw?


Chainsaw maintenance is often better than having to entirely replace the machine after mechanical damage or failure. For this reason, you should ensure that your chainsaw is cleaned, maintained and serviced more often than not. The answer to how often you should clean your chainsaw will vary based on a number of factors. The main one being the amount of use it gets.

For best results, we would recommend at a minimum cleaning the machine straight after using it. It should without question be cleaned before storing it away. It is simple to clean a chainsaw at home and so once you understand the process we don’t see any reason why you cannot do it more often. It can actually be an enjoyable process if you have a few minutes to spare over the weekend.

Once you know the process you will be able to just unscrew the machine, clean its interior parts and then fit them back together all in the space of a few minutes.  


How to Clean a Chainsaw Chain like a Pro


So you want to know how to clean your chainsaw like a pro. Great keep reading and have a look at the videos and your saw will look like it just left the factory! So the first step is going to be removing the chain from the chainsaw.


Remove and Clean the Chain


You probably have already realized that a chainsaw consists of 3 essential parts, a cutting bar, the engine/motor block and the plastic covers, handles etc. The cutting bar carries the cutting chain while the engine/motor block is responsible for the driving the force necessary for the cutting to take place. The plastic covers keep everything protected and add strength and shape.

Ok so what first? Well the most important part to clean first is in and around the main chain assembly. Depending on your machine you may need to slacken off the chain tension first. Either way start by loosening and unscrewing the main nuts which are holding the clamping plate/clutch cover in place on the main engine/motor block.

So you want to clean your chainsaw chain but would rather look at a video of how it should be done then we have the perfect video for you (Cigar is optional). Thanks to Swamp Yankee and his YouTube channel for posting this.

Here’s the Perfect Video On How To Clean Your Chainsaw Chain.




Remove the Clamping Plate


After this, remove the clamping plate which is holding the cutting bar and you will get access to the internal drive system and chain tension mechanism.

You need to take care at this point and ensure that you are wearing the right garments. You will need to wear gloves when handling the chain. The sharp tips and concave cutting teeth can cause deep wounds even when the chain is not rotating.

Top Tip: Take some photographs using a camera or smart phone while you go through each stage of disassembling your machine for cleaning. This will help give you a reference point on how to reassemble the various parts after cleaning has been carried out. Remember you won’t be taking the whole machine apart in order to clean it, just the most relevant areas/parts need cleaning, so there aren’t really that many steps involved.


Loosen the Chain Tension


After the clamping plate is off, loosen the tension on the chainsaw chain by moving the adjustment screw. The adjustment screw lies just inside the edge of the cutter bar. You need to have a screwdriver because this adjustment screw is only accessible using a screwdriver. (Most new chainsaws come with a tool kit so you should find the correct toolkit there).


Lift away the Chain


Once the chain is fully loose, it now becomes easy to lift off the chain. You need to be careful here to avoid injuries. Wearing a pair of gloves will ensure you are safe when lifting off the chain.

You should also rotate the guide bar and remove any burrs from the guide bar after changing or sharpening the chain. The other thing is to ensure when refitting the chain after cleaning is that the chain has the right tension and most importantly is facing the right direction.


Soak Chain in an Oil Bath


It is imperative to dismantle the chain and soak it in an oil bath. This is especially important to ensure that the chain remains functional and at the top of its performance. The reason for this step is to thoroughly clean the chain which accumulates layers of wood sap when logs are green and lubricating oil which can in one way or another impair the chain’s ability to cut.

After some time, you can get a bristle brush and brush the chain. Later, rinse it under a faucet or with a water hose. Allow it to sit for some time before you reinstall it to the machine.




You need to grab a plastic bucket and mix household ammonia based cleaner with a gallon of ideally warm water. After you have loosened the chain and lifted it from the machine, dip it in and allow it to settle for some time before you remove it. After this, remove it and scrub each section with a hardened bristle brush. After this, you can rinse the chain thoroughly with a water hose or under a faucet. Then allow the chain enough time to dry afterwards and later reinstall it. After you have reinstalled the chain, ensure you use a good lubricant to lubricate the chain again before the use. This will also prevent rust accumulating on the chain if being stored for long periods.


Clean the Chain Brake and Chain Guide


After the chain is clean, you need to focus your attention on the chainsaw brake assembly. It should be thoroughly cleaned before use. The main purpose of the chain brake is to prevent the movement of the saw’s cutting chain in an emergency situation.

It applies a steel brake band around the driven clutch drum. This system has two main purposes but the main one of these two is to secure the chain when changing positions, when starting a cold saw or when moving between cuts. It ensures that there is no uncontrolled chain movement which can be a source of worry on older chainsaw models.

The other purpose is to activate under kickback conditions to save the operator from being struck by a moving chain. The two purposes are very helpful and so you need to ensure that the chain brake is clean every time to ensure safe operation and performance.

To clean the chain brake use a smaller brush dipped in cleaning solution and water. Remove any larger debris first with a small screwdriver then thoroughly clean the brake mechanism.

The chain guide is very delicate and hence you need to change it regularly to prevent it from breaking. A chainsaw guide is a key piece since it ensures proper rotation and a straight chain.

Always read and become familiar with all the parts of your chainsaw and any guidelines that relate to specific parts. At this point, we are going to share some of the most useful and effective procedures of cleaning the machine as a whole.


Step by Step Chainsaw Cleaning Process


Ok so now the chain is clean what about the rest of the chainsaw? Well that’s the next step. Again we thought a video might be useful in order to further explain the steps below. Thanks to Jeandre van Heerden for providing the useful video on how to clean a chainsaw after use.




The 8 Step Chainsaw Cleaning Process


Heres a step by step list of what’s involved in cleaning your chainsaw. The steps may vary slightly based on the type of chainsaw involved, however this will generally be the procedure. Some things must be done systematically and you will learn this as you clean your machine.

Step 1


Turn the machine off after use and leave it to cool for some time. During this time, ensure that you have all the tools needed to clean your machine. You can give it 30 minutes to cool down as you prepare a good and a clean site to clean your chainsaw. You can choose to do it either in a garage, workshop or even on a pavement somewhere however it can be messy so protect the area by using newspaper or with a plastic sheet. Just ensure that the site is clean and bright, and you will not have a hard time looking for lost screws.


Step 2


On a Gasoline chainsaw remove the spark plug cap. This is what ignites the fuel on the combustion chamber. In order to create a spark, the spark plug boot should be firmly connected to the spark plug. If the plug boot is either damaged or loose, it will no function as needed. For this reason, you need to always remove, clean and check the spark plug boot. The process is simple.

  • Place the machine on a flat surface but ensure that the chainsaw bar is pointed away from you to prevent it from contacting the ground or any part of your body as you work.
  • Remove the air filter cover – the air filter cover is found at the back of the machine. You can easily remove it by unclipping or twisting the lock counterclockwise. This will ensure that you have gained access to the spark plug and rubber spark boot.
  • Place one hand on the saw and grab the spark plug with your other hand. You can now remove the spark plug boot off the spark plug. You can later just detach it where it connects to the spark wire after cleaning and checking it or if you have to replace it.

In relation to battery powered rechargeable chainsaws and indeed corded chainsaws, always ensure batteries are removed and corded chainsaws are unplugged from mains power before carrying out any cleaning and maintenance procedures.


Step 3


Remove the Sprocket/clutch cover and use a brush to clean the inside of it. Ensure that there’s no debris, dust, or sawdust left. Your next step is to loosen the chain tensioner and remove the chain and soak it as outlined above. Next you need to remove the guide bar, which will easily lift away.


Step 4


Unscrew and remove the screw that is securing the guide bar in place. On many newer machines the chain brake and sprocket/clutch cover and chain tensioner are all one piece. This makes life a lot easier and eliminates this step completely. You will need to remove the guide bar for further cleaning behind it.


Step 5


Unscrew and remove any screws that are specifically used to secure the brake mechanism in place (if applicable). Remember to disengage the brake mechanism in order to remove it easily from the chainsaw.


Step 6


Clean the guide bar gently using a brush and cleaning solution. Also ensure that you also clean the cover of the brake mechanism. Clean all the interior surfaces using a high quality brush and household cleaner and warm water. The brush should be soft enough to remove all the debris and dust perfectly without damaging the plastic and other parts.


Step 7


After the machine is clean, refit everything but this time in reverse order. Start by replacing the last part that you removed and work backwards in a systematic way so you don’t forget any steps.


Step 8


When the machine is clean visually inspect it and if something appears to be loose then tighten it. Sometimes when a machine leaves the factory it can be a case that certain elements loosen up over time due to operating use and the vibration and stress involved in its operation.

While doing this check the sharpness of the chain and if it appear dull re-sharpen it. Check and re-adjust the chain tension afterwards and always test cut first to ensure everything is ok before attempting larger tree felling tasks.


Cleaning the Outer Covers


To clean the outer cover of the chainsaw, you need to ideally use an air compressor and towel. Most people use turpentine or acetone to get rid of the sap on the handles. For those small openings on the machine, you can use an old toothbrush to reach awkward places.

If you are having difficulty getting the dust on some small areas of your machine out completely, you can use a spray of wd40. You need to carry a soft bristle brush in your tool box for cleaning while you are in the field.

But if you get home, you can clean it thoroughly using an air compressor or if you don’t have an air compressor you can buy cans of compressed air. You can also use warm water to clean the outer cover. After you have cleaned the machine to your satisfaction, you may as well spend some time sharpening the chain to increase its performance.


To Sum Up


We hope you found this guide useful in outlining the importance of cleaning your chainsaw on a regular basis. Once you begin to use your chainsaw you will understand just how quickly it can get filled with a whole range of dirt, debris, oil and grime.

Check out our other useful guides and resources which will help you make the most of your chainsaw journey. The Rechargeable Chainsaw Blog also has some informative information so is worth having a look.


Thanks Folks and Happy Cutting!