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How to clean a chainsaw

How to clean a chainsaw
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You’ve spent a pretty penny on your chainsaw, so it makes sense that you’d want to extend and maintain its lifespan for as long as possible. One of the simplest ways to do this is by cleaning your chainsaw on a regular basis.

With regular use, even the best chainsaws (opens in new tab) will experience a build-up of dirt, dust, oil and plant remnants. Even if these aren’t obvious to the naked eye, the build-up can eventually affect how well your chainsaw functions. Therefore, it makes sense to keep on top of cleaning it. We spoke to a chainsaw expert to find out everything you need to know about how to clean a chainsaw. 

Why is it important to keep a chainsaw clean?

We consulted with Thomas Goodman, a property and construction expert for MyJobQuote. Goodman says that regularly cleaning your chainsaw can maintain its lifespan, saving you money down the line. “Whenever you use your chainsaw, sap, plant remnants, dirt and resin will inevitably get stuck to the chain,” he explains. 

“The cutting teeth will also get blunter, and dust will accumulate in the different engine components. Without cleaning it, these start to inhibit the functionality of the chainsaw and reduce its lifespan."

How to clean a chainsaw

Thomas Goodman
Thomas Goodman

Thomas Goodman has worked as a property and construction expert for MyJobQuote (opens in new tab) for six years and has worked in the construction industry for over twenty years. Thomas continues to work on building projects, while also providing expert construction and property advice to industry professionals and DIY enthusiasts.

Now that we know how important it is to clean your chainsaw, the main question is how to do it effectively and safely. We asked Goodman for a step-by-step process on cleaning a chainsaw. 

Goodman says that the first step is to take the chainsaw apart, followed by cleaning the bar, chain and powerhead, before putting everything back together.

Step 1

“First, place your chainsaw on a flat, stable surface and disconnect it from the power source. If it is a cordless chainsaw, remove the battery. For gas chainsaws, drain all of the bar oil,” Goodman explains. “Locate the two nuts on the side cover and loosen these from the bar studs with a wrench. Ensure the anti-kickback chain brake is disengaged before removing the clutch cover. 

Step 2

“Once the chain and bar have been removed from the powerhead, take the chain out and put it to the side. Use a wire brush and scrape all of the hardened dirt and sawdust from the bar. Use a bar groove cleaner tool or a small putty knife to clean out all of the grime stuck in the bar rails. Then, you can move on to wiping the bar with soapy water and a clean cloth or rag. For very dirty chainsaws, the best method of cleaning is compressed air or high-pressure steam. You may need to get your chainsaw cleaned professionally if it is very dirty.

Step 3

“Now you need to clean the chain. Soak the chain in some turpentine or in a solution of household ammonia and water. Leave the chain to soak for around 10 to 20 minutes. Next, take a wire brush and scrape the chain clean. If you’re using an ammonia solution, it’s important to do it in a well-ventilated area and use eye protection and gloves. Once your chain is clean, dip it in some bar oil and wipe off the excess oil. This will stop it from rusting. Finally, add bar oil again before reassembling the chain with the guide bar.

Step 4

“Next you’ll clean the powerhead. Use a one-inch soft-tipped paint brush to remove all of the dirt from around the crankcase area. Use a pick to access all of the tight spots and scrape away all of the bits of sawdust around the bar studs and clutch drum. Remove all debris from the oiler port. Remove the top cover of the power head, and you should then be able to access the spark plug and air filter. Inspect the air filter and gently clean it with your soft-tipped paintbrush. You must stuff the air intake of the carburetor with a clean cloth or rag to prevent any foreign objects from falling in. 

Step 5

“After that, rinse the filter with clean water and then allow it to dry completely before reattaching it. Inspect the gaps between the cooling fins on the cylinder head and then use a bar cleaner tool or screwdriver to clean out all of the gunk from between the cooling fins.Take out the starter rope and grill cover and brush away all of the sawdust accumulated around the crankcase. 

Step 6

"Finally, you need to reassemble the chainsaw. Reattach the engine cover and starter cord cover. Then, remount the dried-up chain to the bar. Ensure the chain is mounted in the proper direction. Mount the bar back on the studs, reconnect the clutch cover and tighten the nuts by hand. Hold up the chainsaw bar by the tip of the nose and adjust the tensioning screw, ensuring the bottom part of the chain isn’t sagging. Once the chain is mounted properly, use the wrench to tighten the bar nuts.”

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Deborah Cicurel is a London-based freelance journalist specializing in lifestyle, travel, interiors and more.  She also regularly reviews lifestyle, tech and parenting products, putting them to the test to ensure other consumers are well-informed before making important purchasing decisions.

With contributions from