At last--proper chain cleaning instructions, just in time for the first of April

It is well-known that proper chain cleaning is the most vital and important aspect of cycling. There are zillions of doo-dads and gimmicks out there intended to make this task easier for spoiled, lazy cyclists.
Rusted Chain, by ksnyan_1975

Unfortunately, there's no "free lunch" in bicycle maintenance, and all of these existing systems are fundamentally mono-buttocked kluges.

The only proper way to clean a bicycle chain is to disassemble it, otherwise there is no way to be sure you've thoroughly cleaned and properly lubricated the critical internal parts where chain wear occurs.

Similarly, there's no way to apply correct lubrication to an assembled chain, since the rollers have different lubrication needs than the link articulation pins do! . . .

If you're a cheapskate, you can use the same grease for both the pins and the rollers, but if you want to do it right, you will use:

* Deakins White RollerGrease for the rollers, so they can roll freely.

* Phil Wood green grease for the pins, which are the parts that usually wear first.

This is the step that makes your chain better than new! When chains come from the factory, they're lubricated by dipping, so that the same lubricant is used on all parts of the chain. This is a cost-cutting move on the part of the manufacturers, who choose a lubricant that is a compromise between an optimal roller lube and an optimal pin lube.

Real Cyclists, however, eschew such penny-pinching compromises, and use the correct lubricant for each application, even if it is a bit more trouble.
Get the complete, detailed instructions complete with photo illustrations on Sheldon Brown's web site.