How To Clean A Chainsaw Safely: Your Guide To Cleaning A Chainsaw

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How do you clean a chainsaw?

If you’re like me, chainsaw cleans are few and far between. It’s easy just to keep putting the saw away for months without even thinking about cleaning it, but it is important. Routine maintenance, including cleaning, will both prolong a chainsaw’s life and give you better results.

They don’t need to be cleaned after every use or anything like that, but perhaps after every 20 – 30 hours worth of work. It’s all going to depend on how often you use it. When winterizing a chainsaw it should definitely first be cleaned!

Cleaning A Chainsaw

This video shows how you can quickly clean your chainsaw using compressed air. However, this obviously requires an air compressor which not everyone will have (or want to get).

You don’t have to use an air compressor though, it just takes a bit longer using a rag and a brush.

Here’s another video showing how to clean and maintain a chainsaw (the Stihl 261).

A chainsaw doesn’t always need a full thorough clean every time as demonstrated in this video.

The bar and chain may need to be cleaned more often than the powerhead, for example.

Make sure you’re working on a stable, solid surface, such as a workbench or a strong table. It’s often nice to have a vice as well, especially if you’re sharpening the chainsaw at the same time.

The Bar

To clean the bar, undo the nuts securing it to the powerhead, and remove it.

Clean the debris and dirt on the bar, including in the chain groove. You can do this simply by using a rag, but compressed air will help you get better results.

When you replace the bar later, put it back in the reverse order you had it at first.

This will ensure that the bar wears in a more balanced way which can help to extend its life, while also improving the efficiency of your chainsaw.

The Chain

Cleaning the chain is also important, and it can be done using compressed air as well.

Make a solution using a 1/2 gallon of water and a 1/2 cup of usual household ammonia.

You can also use household lye (as shown in the video above), which is a drain cleaning product (and can be made from wood ash).

While doing this step, it is important to use an area with good ventilation and gloves for protection. Let the chain soak in the solution for a minimum of 20 minutes.

After the soaking time is complete, use a stiff brush to scrub the chain thoroughly. Next, rinse it well and dry it using an old towel or a clean rag.

If you want to speed up this part, you can use compressed air for blasting the water and dry the chain sooner. This might be particularly useful in humid or cold places as your chain may need more time to dry otherwise.

The next step is lubricating the chain. To do this, you will dip the chain in chain oil. Let the excess part of the oil drip off and hang it up so that the remaining excess oil gets off too.

Make sure you get the chainsaw chain direction correct when putting things back together!

The Spark Plug

Whether you are cleaning or servicing your chainsaw, the first component to start with is the spark plug.

This is because a dirty spark plug will cause problems in the starting or the operation of your chainsaw. You must ensure that the spark plug is working correctly.

Take the spark plug out and check if it has a carbon build-up. If you do find some, use a stiff brush to clean it.

However, in case the carbon build-up is too much, it may be a good idea to replace the spark plug with a new one as it does not cost much.

The Fuel Tank

The next component you will check is the fuel tank.

This is because gasoline does not do well for long. If your fuel has been in the tank for a month or so, it will begin to deteriorate. As the liquid parts start evaporating, there will be a viscous, sticky goo left.

If you have not used your chainsaw for a month or more, you must drain it and fill it again with fresh fuel. In case the fuel has been there for three months, drain the fuel and clean it out thoroughly.

Remove the fuel filter and soak it using a strong solvent. To clean out the insides of your gas tank, you will need a strong solvent such as sodium hydroxide. If the process seems too complicated to understand, watch a video to understand how exactly this is done.

The best way to make sure your chainsaw stays in good condition, use it regularly. This will also help in the fuel being replaced continually and you can then skip this step.

For interest’s sake, find out how to unflood a chainsaw without tools!

The Chain Lubrication Hole

The hole that lets the lubrication oil get to the chain is rather small and can get clogged very easily.

You have to make sure that it is unblocked and clear so that the required lubrication can reach the chain.

You can do this using a piece of wire or pipe cleaner to clean the chain lubrication hole.

It’s a good idea to clean this part more regularly if you are using an alternative bar and chain oil like motor oil, canola oil, or biodegradable oil.

Clean The Carburetor

Start by cleaning any sticky residue in the carburetor. Then remove the diaphragm, needle valves, and cover plate. Make a solution using a gallon of water and a cup of household ammonia and soak these parts in the solution for 20 minutes.

Once the soaking time is over, take them out and scrub using a stiff brush. Rinse them thoroughly using warm water. It is important to let all the parts dry well as any leftover dampness can cause rusting.

Clean The Air Filter

Take the air filter out and use a brush and warm soapy water to wash it gently.

If you use compressed air to clean the air filter, there is a possibility that you may damage it by blowing holes in it. This will make it useless and you will have to replace the air filter.

In case the air filter is very dirty and does not clean well, it may be a good idea to replace it. It won’t cost you much as air filters do not cost much. In either case, you need a clean air filter so you can choose to clean your current one or replace it with a new one.

Check out this complete article on how I clean my chainsaw air filter.

Clean The Spark Arrestor

Your chainsaw has a screen that prevents any sparks from coming out while you are using it.

This is the spark arrestor. With the passage of time and with use, the spark arrestor gets clogged. It has to be cleaned regularly so that your chainsaw stays in good working condition.

To remove the spark arrestor, you will have to unscrew the muffler cover in front of it. To clear any deposits on the spark arrestor, you can either tap it on your workbench or you can clean it using a small brush.

After the spark arrestor has been cleaned and there are no more deposits, put it back and reattach the muffler cover.

How To Clean An Electric Chainsaw

The cleaning process we have just discussed is applicable only to gas chainsaws.

However, if you have an electric or battery-powered chainsaw like the Stihl 161 T (for example), you need to clean it regularly too. The cleaning process for these types of chainsaws is somewhat simpler.

For an electric chainsaw, you need to disconnect the power source before you start. So either unplug or remove the battery, depending on your chainsaw type.

The three parts you have to clean are the chain, the bar, and the lubrication hole. So you simply have to follow the steps for those parts. Just forget the remaining ones.

Make sure you read your chainsaw owner’s manual for complete instructions.

Chainsaw Cleaning

how to clean a chainsaw

Is it that important to clean your chainsaw?

The answer is simple: yes, it’s very important. If you do this simple cleaning process regularly, you can keep your chainsaw free of dust, debris, and any possible build-ups that may cause you problems. It’s important from a chainsaw safety perspective as well.

By cleaning it regularly, you are ensuring that your chainsaw lasts for a long time.

However, if you are unable to do it for whatever reason, ask your local hardware store or chainsaw dealer if they offer it as a service. Many do! This way you’ll get it done correctly and without any hassle.

Lastly, if you use your chainsaw in the rain, make sure you let it dry out in the sun before storing it away. This will help to prevent any corrosion from occurring.


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