How to clean a chainsaw

Dirt and built-up grease can quickly limit the effectiveness of your chainsaw. Knowing how to properly clean it is a key component of chainsaw care.

A workbench with several STIHL products on it: a chainsaw, Varioclean, Multispray and Superclean resin solvent

Why do I need to clean my chainsaw?

Every time you use your chainsaw the tool is impacted: plant remnants, sap and resin get stuck to the chain, the teeth get blunt and dust accumulates in the individual engine components. Without cleaning, over time these unavoidable impacts will accrue and inhibit the functionality of the chainsaw.

How to clean a chainsaw

Take time to regularly clean your chainsaw, to help ensure that it always delivers perfect performance. Battery, electric and petrol chainsaws each have specific individual requirements when it comes to cleaning.

A STIHL MS 462 C-M petrol chainsaw on a bench with the cylinder cover removed

Stubborn dirt

Check the air intake slits and clean them with a paintbrush or compressed air if necessary; it’s important to ensure that the air intake slits are working correctly as they help to prevent the engine from overheating. Remove the sprocket cover and clean the area around the sprocket. You can use a resin solvent to tackle particularly stubborn dirt.

Filing Kit
Filing KitHand and Forestry Tools
For domestic users and professionals
This item is only available at STIHL Approved Dealers.
Round files for saw chain
Round files for saw chainChain Maintenance
Matching round files for STIHL sharpening sets and file holders
This item is only available at STIHL Approved Dealers.

Regular cleaning helps to combat premature wear to your chainsaw guide bar and saw chain. To get them properly clean, first remove the saw chain and the guide bar. Remove oil residue and dirt from the oil outlet port and channel, then clean the oil inlet hole and the bar groove; you can use a filing gauge for this, or a high-quality resin solvent is also very effective. Remove any burrs that have developed on the guide bar using a flat file.

For optimal protection of your chainsaw, we recommend using STIHL Varioclean special detergent for long-term care. Spray the cutting attachment with care oil after cleaning. 

Reattach the clean, dry cutting attachment to the chainsaw and replace the sprocket cover.


If you have one, an air compressor gives an even better result, as you can use it to remove even the smallest particles of dirt. 

You should always store your chainsaw with its scabbard in a dry place until its next use. 

How to clean a chainsaw before extended storage

You will need to give your chainsaw a more thorough clean every so often, and especially before a longer break (three months or more). Much of the process is the same for battery, electric and petrol chainsaws: 

Clean the cutting attachment and sharpen it

Remove the guide bar and saw chain from the housing. Clean both as described above. Check the condition of both components. Do the blade teeth need sharpening? Have any burrs developed on the guide bar? If so, remove them carefully using a flat file.

You will find further useful tips in our step-by-step instructions for sharpening your chainsaw, or you can alternatively visit a STIHL dealer to have it professionally sharpened.

When they are clean, spray the guide bar and saw chain with care oil and store them separately from the housing. . 


STIHL resin solvent: 2-in-1 care

STIHL resin solvent deals with stubborn resin deposits and also protects effectively against rust. 

How to clean the housing

Remove all dirt and sawdust from the chainsaw housing. Clean the area around the sprocket (see above). Check whether the air intake slits are clear and clean them with a paintbrush or compressed air. 

Refill the chain oil tank

If you use vegetable-based chain lubrication oil, you need to fill the chain oil tank completely and ensure it is full during storage. Is it time to clean the oil tank? This is a job you can do yourself or your STIHL dealer can help. You may find some damage while cleaning the tank, in which case we recommend that you consult a STIHL dealer to arrange repair. 

Cleaning the oil channel

Check the fill level in the oil tank. The oil level should fall as you use your chainsaw, and if this is not happening there may be a fault with the lubrication oil conveyor system. Clean the oil channels on your chainsaw to fix this, or contact one of our dealers.

Specific requirements for Battery and petrol chainsaws

In addition to the steps outlined above, you should also perform the following cleaning measures depending on whether you have a battery or petrol chainsaw: 

Battery chainsaw cleaning for extended storage

For battery chainsaws, it is important to ensure that the battery is stored correctly.

A man walking into a workshop carrying a STIHL cordless chainsaw with scabbard
  • Clean the battery with a damp cloth. . 
  • You should ensure that the battery charge level is at two illuminated LEDs for storage. This will help you avoid deep discharge, which damages the functionality and service life of the battery
  • You should store the battery separately from the chainsaw and the charger. 
  • Wipe the charger with a damp cloth as well. If necessary, clean the electric contacts with a paintbrush. 
STIHL Varioclean cleaner next to STIHL chain saw on workbench

Petrol chainsaw cleaning for extended storage

It takes a little more effort to completely clean a petrol chainsaw:

  • Empty the fuel tank

Empty the fuel tank of your chainsaw in a well-ventilated place. Any remaining fuel should be disposed of in an environmentally safe manner via specialised waste disposal facilities.

  • Run the carburettor until empty

Empty the fuel tank, then start up the chainsaw and allow it to run idle for a short time until there is no more petrol in the tank and the chainsaw switches off. This will prevent the diaphragms in the carburettor from sticking together. For a deeper clean, we recommend contacting a STIHL dealer.

  • Check the spark plug and cool air intake opening and clean if necessary.
  • Clean the air filter

To ensure that the performance of your chainsaw does not diminish over time, you should clean the air filter regularly. Remove it from the housing first and then tap it to get any dirt out. 

In the following video, we show you how to get a chainsaw’s HD 2 filter thoroughly clean:

In the operating instructions for every STIHL chainsaw we provide a table with an overview of all the necessary cleaning measures.

Summary: how to clean a chainsaw

  • Keeping components clean after use ensures that your chainsaw continues to function well
  • Always wear appropriate protective equipment when working
  • Clean the tool after every use. We also recommend thorough cleaning before the winter break
  • Remember to observe the specific requirements in respect of cleaning battery and petrol chainsaws