If you want to lubricate your bicycle chain be aware that the bike lube can contain the problematic chemicals PFAS, which have dirt and water repellent properties.
In our test, 12 bike oils contain PFAS.
Why do chain lubes contain PFAS?
Bike lube, impregnations sprays, hardshell jackets, and dental floss can contain PFAS to provide a dirt and water repellent surface.
According to the companies, PFAS - in the form of PTFE or Teflon – are also added in chain lubes to reduce friction.
PFAS have negative effects on the environment and your health because they accumulate in nature and your body over the course of many years.
When using spray products - such as water repellant sprays and bicycle oils on spray – you are more exposed to unwanted chemicals because you inhale the product during application
But fluorinated substances in bike oils are also problematic because they can be released to the environment during production and when we are using the chain oil.
These 12 bike oils contain PFAS
In the test, 12 bicycle oils contain fluorinated substances. These products receive our lowest chemical rating, the C-rating.
Additionally, two of the tested bicycle oils contain smaller amounts of PFAS. They get a medium rating, the B-rating.
FinishLine informs us that they have changed their Dry lube products so they will no longer contain Teflon. WD company also informs us that they are removing PFAS from their products.
Both Finishline and Weldtite also have bicycle oils without fluorinated substances.
Avoid PTFE and Teflon
In most cases you can easily see if your bicycle oil contains PFAS. No less than 10 of the 12 products with PFAS are marketed as containing PTFE or Teflon. This means that the product contains PFAS.
PTFE is the name of just onefluorinated substance within the group of thousands of fluorinated substances (PFAS). You can also find PTFE in some dental flosses, non-stick pans etc.
Teflon is a trademark like Gore-Tex that is common on outdoor clothes and shoes. Both trademarks are produced with PFAS.
Greenwashing of bike lube
Four bicycle oils with PFAS are marketed with descriptions or logos that make the products seem eco-friendly.
One of the bike lubes is described as “biodegradable”. Another bicycle oil is named “Eco-lube” and two others have a “Bio”-logo with little green leaves on the packaging.
PFAS also known as ”forever chemicals” accumulate over many years in nature and they are not biodegradable, eco-friendly, or biological. Therefore, we find the marketing on the four products misleading.
Four tips for bicycle oils
- Choose one of the tested bike chain lubes without PFAS. We recommend chain lubes that receive our best chemical rating, the A-rating.
- Avoid bike chain oils marketed as containing PTFE or Teflon. This means that they contain PFAS.
- Choose bicycle oils in a dripbottle rather than as aerosol spray if you want to avoid inhalation of the product during application. If your bike lube contains PFAS it is a good idea to throw it out in hazardous waste and buy a PFAS-free oil instead.
- Teflon and PTFE can also be used as coating on bicycle chains. Ask for bicycle chains without Teflon next time you need to change the chain on your bicycle.
About the test
In the fall of 2022, The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals bought 27 bike chain lubricants on the Danish market.
All lubricants marketed as containing either PTFE or Teflon (which are both fluorinated substances) on the packaging were not sent to analysis.
The rest of the products not mentioning PTFE or Teflon were sent to the lab and analyzed for total organic fluorine (TOF) which is similar to the amount of PFAS in the product.
We have tested the bicycle oils for total organic fluorine, which means that we get a measure of the total content of organic fluorinated substances in the oil but without knowing which specific fluorinated substances they contain.
PFAS, also known as organic fluorinated substances, is a group of substances that can damage your health and the environment. Therefore, the EU are working on a ban on all nonessential use of PFAS.
While we wait for a ban on PFAS, we recommend choosing products without the substances to avoid exposure and further dispersion of PFAS in the environment.
Warning symbols and aerosol sprays
We have checked the bicycle oils for warnings of environmental hazard. Products with the warning pictogram for environmental hazard automatically receive our medium rating, the B-rating, because they contain substances that are harmful to the environment.
If the bicycle oil is an aerosol spray – also known as a spray can – they also automatically get the B-rating. This is due to the risk of inhaling the chemicals when using spray products compared to drip bottles.
- 7 bicycle oils get our best rating, the A-rating, because they are without PFAS and warnings of environmental hazard. Further, they are not aerosol sprays.
- 8 bicycle oils get a medium rating, the B-rating, either because they are aerosol sprays or hazardous to the environment. Two of the bicycle oils contain lower amounts of PFAS.
- 12 bicycle oils get the lowest rating, the C-rating, because they contain PFAS.
We have found PFAS in 14 products. Some of the products are aerosol sprays while others are drip bottles.
- 10 of these bike chain oils are marketed as containing PTFE or Teflon on the product and thus, these products were not tested. They get a C-rating.
- 2 bicycle oils showed a higher content of organic fluorinated substances than the other products. This indicates that PFAS were used in the production of the oils. Therefore, they also receive the C-rating.
- In 2 of the bike chain oils, the total content of fluorinated substances was lower. These oils get the B-rating.
13 of the tested bicycle oils are without PFAS.
- 7 of these are drip bottles without warnings of environmental hazard. They receive the A-rating.
- The remaining 6 products are all aerosol sprays and some of them also warn of environmental hazard. They receive the B-rating.
Our test shows, that in most cases you can check if the product contains PFAS by looking for the words Teflon or PTFE on the packaging. However, it is no guarantee as some products contain PFAS without stating it on the packaging.
12 of the tested products are aerosol sprays that are both available with and without PFAS. Either way, spraying cans increase the risk of breathing in the product as it is spread in the air during use.
Therefore, we recommend bike chain oils in drip bottles.
If you use an aerosol spray bicycle oil , it is important to use the nozzle extension that comes with many of the products.
4 of the aerosol sprays also contain substances that are hazardous to the environment as shown by the presence of the hazard pictogram for environmental hazards. We recommend to use bike oils without such classification.