How To Clean A Chainsaw

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Is it really that important to regularly clean a chainsaw?

The answer is yes!

No matter how much of a clean freak you are, you might be surprised to hear that one of your most commonly used household tools needs to be cleaned almost just as often (per use, anyway) as you might clean other things around the house - just like your bathroom or kitchen!

True, you probably don’t use your chainsaw quite as often as other household staples (like the toilet) but you still need to clean it regularly.

So what's the best way to clean your chainsaw and why is it important?

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Why You Need To Clean A Chainsaw

Although you might be able to get away with allowing some of your other tools to get a little on the grimy side, that’s not the case with a chainsaw.

A chainsaw is a machine that works more effectively when it is clean.

A chain that isn’t clean and lubricated is more likely to fail, leading to increased vibrations and hazards while you are cutting.

The chain will be more likely to run hot, which can damage the internal components of your saw, too.

Not only that, but grease, sawdust, and sap can accumulate underneath the clutch cover, clogging oiler holes which can make your parts less reliable and more prone to damage.

A dirty saw might be harder to stop in an emergency and of course, it’s just not going to run as well as if it was clean.

What Is The Best Way To Clean A Chainsaw?

Want to know the best way to clean your chainsaw? 

Regardless of whether your saw is a complete mess or just a bit on the soiled side, these tips will help walk you through it.


Before you take anything apart or start to clean, it’s important to make sure you have all of your gear laid out and ready to go, then make sure there’s no power running to your saw

If you don’t do this, you run the risk of hurting yourself as soon as you start to clean.

Husqvarna 440 18" Gas Chainsaw

If you’re cleaning a gas-powered chainsaw, begin by draining the fuel tank and disconnect the spark plug from the spark plug connector.

If you’re working on a battery-powered saw, remove the battery

With an electric chainsaw, disconnecting the saw is about as easy as it gets. 

All you need to do is unplug it!


The first thing you will clean on your chainsaw is the bar. 

Look for the two nuts that are on the side cover of the chainsaw. 

These help mount the guide bar to the powerhead.

Don’t loosen these nuts right away

Some chainsaw models make it impossible for you to take the cover off while the chain brake is still engaged. 

Others might let you but it will be more difficult to put the cover back on. 

Therefore, it’s important to always disengage the chain brake before you remove the nuts.

After you’ve loosened and removed the nuts, separate the chain and guide bar. 

Set the chain to one side - you will deal with this piece later.

Use a bit of soap and water on a clean rag to wipe the guide bar clean.

You may need to use a degreaser for seriously messy guide bars.

If you need to get into the groove to clean, use a cleaning tool that’s specially made for this or use a putty knife.

Just run it around the groove until it’s free from any gunk.

To clean the bar and oiler holes, which are at the base of the bar, you can use a thin screwdriver to loosen up any debris that might be clogging the holes.

You can also use a can of compressed air.


Remember the chain you set aside a while ago?

Time to pick it back up.

You’ll want to do this in a well-ventilated area, but your next step will be to combine a gallon of water with a cup of household ammonia.

Let the chainsaw chain soak in the solution for 15 to 20 minutes.

After it has soaked, wearing a pair of gloves, you can use a toothbrush to scrub the chain until the debris has all been loosened and removed.

Be sure to rinse your chain in water and dry it thoroughly prior to continuing on with the next steps.

Submerge your chainsaw chain in a shallow bucket of bar and chain oil.

Let it remain in the solution for three hours, then turn it and let it soak for another three hours so that both sides are evenly saturated.

After these six hours of soaking, you can remove the chain and use some paper towels to dab it free of any dripping oil.

Take the time to sharpen your chain prior to putting it back on your saw.


Next, you’ll wipe the powerhead with a cloth.

Use a paintbrush to dust off dirt that’s lodged into any of the components, using a thin screwdriver to loosen up any stuck-on gunk.

The same goes for the air filter, if you’re cleaning a gas chainsaw.

Remove the air filter (beneath the top cover of your chainsaw) and stuff a rag into the air intake so dirt can’t get inside.

Use your paintbrush to remove any dust.

If your air filter is extremely dirty, you can rinse it in water, too.

For gas chainsaws, you’ll also need to clean the spark plugs and cooling fins. 

Use a T-wrench or scrench to unscrew and then remove the spark plug. 

These can be tough to clean and are often easier just to replace

If you notice that the spark plugs have electrodes that are chipped, black, or damaged in any other way, you need to replace them.

As for the cooling fins, these are beneath the side panel (which can be removed). 

Use a screwdriver to scrape the gunk between the fins but be gentle, since these fins are easy to bend

You can use your paintbrush to dust around the rope rotor area.


Once you’re done cleaning all of the parts listed above, it’s time to put your saw back together. 

Obviously, this should be done in reverse order.

Once you’ve put the saw back together, you would notice a marked improvement in how your saw performs

If not, you might need to perform some other maintenance tasks or upgrade in order to get your chainsaw running in tip-top shape.

How Often Should I Clean My Chainsaw?

How often you should clean your chainsaw will depend on a variety of factors, including how often and how heavily you use your chainsaw (as well as what type of wood you use it on).

Most experts generally agree that you clean your saw every few months if you use it heavily or at least once a year if you use it only occasionally.

If you notice that your chainsaw isn’t running as efficiently as it once was, it could be that a good cleaning is all you need to whip it back into fighting shape. 

Consider these tips as you learn how to clean a chainsaw - and try to do it as often as you can!

FAQ: How To Clean A Chainsaw



In fact, WD40 is a helpful product when it comes to lubricating your chain so that you can more effectively clean it.

Just make sure you wipe off any extra WD40 residue before reattaching your chain to the guide bar.


You can use just about anything to clean a chainsaw chain, but a common household solution that many people use is a mixture of ammonia and water.

Simply combine one cup of household ammonia with a gallon of water in a plastic bucket.

Soak your chain in the solution as you gently scrub each section with a soft-bristled brush.

Continue soaking and scrubbing until your chain looks fresh and shiny!


About the Author

Nick Greenway

Obsessed with firewood, Nick is behind over 350+ of Firewood For Life's articles, as well as countless reviews, guides and YouTube videos to help readers like you reduce heating costs and create the perfect fire.