Does Dirt Dull a Chainsaw Chain? (Spoiler: YES, Here’s Why)

does dirt dull a chainsaw chain - featured image

Yes, dirt is abrasive, and it can easily dull a chainsaw chain. It contains hard particles like sand, rocks, and gravel that can wear away the steel teeth on your chain right away. When dirt gets stuck between chain links, it can also cause your chain to stretch.

Well, that’s just a SHORT answer to the question.

If you’re looking for more detailed information, this article is for you!

I’ve over 20 years of experience with chainsaws, and in this article, I’ll be discussing – 👇

  • Why dirt dulls a chainsaw chain,
  • How you can avoid hitting the dirt,
  • What you can do if your chain is already dull, and many more!

So let’s get started!

Why Does Dirt Dull a Chainsaw Chain?

chainsaw chain after hitting dirt and rocks

As already mentioned, dirt is an abrasive material that contains small particles of sand, clay, rocks, and other hard materials. When mixed with sawdust and other debris, it can grind away at the sharp edges of a chain’s teeth, making them dull.

Sounds confusing?? Let me BREAK it down a bit more!

Dirt is mainly made of organic and mineral materials.

Organic materials include decaying leaves, animal droppings, dust, and other organic matter.

But do you know what??

Organic materials are NOT an issue for chainsaw chain sharpness! They don’t cause significant damage to the chain, as their particles are too small and soft.

On the other hand, mineral materials include nanoparticles of sand, clay, and rocks (could be limestone, granite, sandstone, etc.)

When the chain passes through the dirt (at a 9,000 RPM), these hard particles work like a SANDPAPER and wear off the edges of the teeth. 

(Learn More: What Causes a Chainsaw Chain to Wear Out Faster?)

dull chainsaw chain

And TRUST ME, It takes only a few seconds of contact to make a chain dull and useless!

Here’s my friend Carl showing how cutting into dirt could RIP off your chainsaw chain in just a matter of seconds: 👇

Wood VS Dirt

Some of you might argue that – Dirt feels soft while wood is hard, so how come hitting dirt dulls a chainsaw chain faster than cutting wood?

Well, that’s because wood isn’t ABRASIVE (at least NOT to the same extent as dirt!)

Wood might seem HARD to us, but on a microscopic level, it’s made up of softer materials like cellulose and lignin.

On top of it, chainsaw chains are specially designed to efficiently cut through the soft fibers of wood, so the impact is significantly LESS!

That’s why it doesn’t make any sense to COMPARE wood and dirt on a chainsaw chain sharpness scale!

I posted a thread on one of the largest Reddit communities of chainsaw users to get some EXPERT insights on this topic: 

Here’s what an EXPERIENCED chainsaw user had to say (that got the most vote!): 👇

(If you want to check what others had to say about it 👉 Here’s the link!)

What Else Can Dirt Do to a Chainsaw?

The story doesn’t end here!

Dirt can also cause many other issues. Here are some of them: 👇

  • Worn out the chain: Apart from dulling the chain, dirt can also cause excessive wear and tear to the chain by clogging up the links.
  • Cause the chain to stretch: As dirt gets stuck in the links, it might cause them to stretch out and become loose. And a loose chain won’t be able to cut through wood smoothly. (Learn More: Why Does My Chainsaw Chain Keep Getting Loose?)
  • Cause damage to the sprocket: Dirt can cause your chain sprocket to wear out FASTER!
  • Affect your saw’s lubrication system: Probably the WORST thing dirt can do to your chainsaw! When it gets inside, it might clog up the oil pump or block the oiler holes, preventing your saw from oiling the chain and bar.
  • Make your chainsaw less efficient: As dirt builds up, your chainsaw will become LESS efficient and start consuming more fuel!
  • Damage to your guide bar: Cutting into the dirt can also cause dirt particles to get stuck into the groove of your guide bar, damage the tip sprocket, and wear the bar rails.

And the list goes on and on…

5 Tips to Protect Your Chainsaw Chain from Dirt

With that said, now you know that – hitting dirt can EASILY dull your chainsaw chain!


But what can you do to protect your chain from dirt and other abrasive materials?

Well, that’s what this section is all about!

Here are 5 tips to help keep your chainsaw chain away from dirt: 👇

1. Always Support the Log Before Cutting

Many folks (especially the “beginners“) make the mistake of cutting a log on the GROUND.

You might ask – why is this a BIG deal?

Well, when you cut a log on the ground, there’s a HIGH chance that you would run your saw blade into the dirt (and other sand-like particles) on a lot of cuts.

chainsaw bar hitting the ground

That’s why it’s recommended that you always support the log before cutting it.

For instance, you could use a pair of logs or saw horses to keep the log elevated off the ground. You could also utilize a log jack to support the log!

elevate your log off the ground - infographic

And guess what??

This way, you can also prevent your saw from getting stuck in the tree! (Learn More: How to Prevent a Chainsaw from Getting Pinched?)

2. Inspect the Log You're Cutting Beforehand

This is a very IMPORTANT step that you should never ignore!

Before cutting, always inspect the log and check if there is any dirt, sand, stones, metal pieces, or rocks that might get stuck in the saw blade.

stop cutting dirty wood with your chainsaw

Remove the bark (if needed) to get a good look at the log.

If you find any foreign objects – make sure to remove them before you start cutting.

3. Leave a Bit of Wood Between the Cut and the Ground

Whenever you’re cutting – always remember to leave a bit of wood between the cut and the ground.

(Here’s what I mean by that: 👇)

how to prevent chainsaw from hitting the ground

Say you’re cutting a log that’s 6-7 inches thick – rather than making a “direct” cut, it’s BEST to leave a tiny bit of wood (10-15%) between the cut and the ground.

This will help to create a barrier between the saw blade and the dirt and reduce the chance of your saw hitting the dirt.

You could FINISH the cut later by making an incision with a hand saw. Or, you could roll the log over and make the cut from the opposite side.

Simple, isn’t it??

This way, you can prevent your saw from hitting the dirt and keep it in GOOD condition.

What to Do If Your Chainsaw Hits the Dirt?

Let’s say you accidentally hit the dirt with your chainsaw.

Now what??

Well, DON’T PANIC! I’ve got you covered.

Here’s what you need to do if your chainsaw hits the dirt: 👇d

Step 1: Shut Off Your Chainsaw Right Away and Inspect the Chain

If you’ve hit the ground, TURN OFF your chainsaw immediately and inspect the chain for damages.

  • Check if the cutting teeth are still sharp or if the chain has become dull. (Touching the top of the cutting teeth with your thumb is a GOOD way to check).
  • Check for any dirt stuck in the chain.
  • Check for cracks and other signs of damage, too.

Step 2: Sharpen the Chain (If Needed)

hand sharpening chainsaw chain

Once you’ve inspected the chain and determined what kind of damage has been done, it’s time to take action!

If your chain looks dull, then sharpen it a bit!

Use a GOOD quality chain sharpening tool and make sure to follow the instructions that come with it. 

Here’s a QUICK guide on how to sharpen a chainsaw chain: 👇

PRO TIP: Make sure you use the right angle and speed when sharpening. Also, don’t forget to set the rakers correctly! Otherwise, your saw won’t cut straight.

Step 3: Clean the Chain Thoroughly

When you’re DONE cutting, give your chain a thorough clean!

Because if the dirt has gotten stuck into your chain’s teeth, it could cause problems down the line.

Use a soft brush to remove the visible dirt and debris.

cleaning a chainsaw chain with brush

Then rinse the chain with a bucket of water to remove the rest (don’t forget to wipe it off with a cloth after that).

cleaning chainsaw chain

If you want to be extra thorough, put the chain in chainsaw oil and let it sit for a while. Instead of chainsaw oil, you can also use WD-40 (my favorite!)

What Chainsaw Chain Works the Best in Dirt?

Though it’s NOT a good idea to cut into the dirt, but some of you might face a situation where you must!

So, what type of chainsaw chain works best in the dirt? 🤔

Well, carbide-tipped chains are your BEST bet in this situation. As the name suggests, these chains are made of CARBIDE, which is an incredibly strong and durable material.

Regular chain vs carbide chain

The best thing??

These chains stay sharp for a LONG time, so you won’t have to worry about frequent sharpening and cleaning.

But there’re a few drawbacks as well. 🐸

  • First of all, it’s NOT an easy job to sharpen a carbide chain manually. (so, you might need to take it to a professional)
  • Plus, carbide-tipped chains are EXPENSIVE 💸, and they can be hard to find in some places.
price of a carbide chain

GoodBye Words!

That’s all I have for today!

Hopefully, now you know why dirt dulls a chainsaw chain and how.

If you’ve got any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I’m always here to help!

Until next time, stay safe and keep cutting 🙂 😀

Samuel Anali

Hey there! My name is Sam, and I'm the NERD behind this site. I'm an avid chainsaw enthusiast, and I've been tinkering with them since I was 17 (it's almost 20 years now!).

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