Self-reactive B cells specific for ubiquitous membrane-bound autoantigens are eliminated in the bone marrow by two mechanisms of tolerance: receptor editing and clonal deletion. However, the relative contributions of clonal deletion and receptor editing to B cell tolerance in a polyclonal B cell population have not been established. Here we show that tolerance toward a membrane antigen-reactive B cell clone acts by receptor editing with very minimal cell loss. The capacity of receptor editing to rescue almost all autoreactive B cells from deletion relies on the availability of multiple joining light chain gene segments as substrate for secondary immunoglobulin light chain gene rearrangement and is independent of the affinity of the autoantigen and the presence of non-autoreactive B cells. Our data further suggest that clonal deletion is a default pathway that functions only when receptor editing has been exhausted.