How To Clean Fishing Reel Bearings

To ensure that the reels can work well and deliver the highest performance on fishing trips, the reels’ maintenance and cleaning are indispensable.

One of the things that need cleaning is the bearing of the reel. Most reels can be taken apart to clean, but it’s not that simple; you still need skills and knowledge to do it, including what you should use to clean.

How to clean fishing reel bearings? The information I wrote below will guide you on how to clean the bearings and what you can use to clean.

What cleaners can I use?

Before getting into how to clean the shaft, you must determine the cleaner you plan to use. Many cleaners can be used, such as degreasing agents like Simple Green, citrus-based cleaners, and industrial solvents.

I’ve often found that many anglers I know and even some anglers on the forums like to use lighter fluid to clean bearings for many years. Yes, this is a popular cleaner, and it works great; many people have used it all the time without causing any damage to their bearings.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind before diving into how to clean the bearings:

  • Certain solvents such as mineral spirits, brake cleaning fluid, denatured alcohol, lighter fluid, acetone, naphtha, and so on are flammable and hazardous to the airways. Therefore, do not forget about safety measures for them.
  • Do not use bleach based products.
  • Ammonia based products will crack yellow metals (copper-nickel, nickel-copper, light bronzes, and brasses).
  • Some solvents can melt plastic or tarnish paint, so don’t let it stick.
  • Not clean rubber or poly sealed bearings or plastic roller bearing races in solvents.
  • Poorly mounted bearings will become projectiles when you rotate or dry the bearing.
  • Avoid solvents with additives or fragrances.

One of the cleaning tools most used by anglers is acetone, as it completely breaks down the components and additives in oils/greases without leaving any harmful issues after drying. Combined with it, the ultrasonic cleaner will provide maximum efficiency.

How to clean fishing reel bearings

First of all, to do the cleaning, make sure you have removed all the rubber washers; if the bearing has a metal shield, you don’t need to. To do that, the only thing you need to prepare is a small knife and remove it; note, work under a magnifying lamp because the bearings are usually tiny. And you just need to push it down, and it will return to the way it was.

What cleaners can I use (2)

Prepare a small glass vial (~50ml) half-filled with acetone and seal it with a metal stopper. The reason for using a glass jar is to see the acetone get cloudy, and glass is very efficient at transferring ultrasonic motion.

You can proceed to soak your bearing for 15 to 30 minutes. When the grease comes out of the bearings, you will see small white flakes; that’s when you need to replace the new acetone and continue to repeat the process, soaking the bearings for the next 15-30 minutes.

Usually, you will have to change the acetone 2-3 times, or maybe more, before it stays clear. And the last step, clean the bearings in the ultrasonic again for 15 – 30 more minutes.

Between replacing the acetone, you can rotate the bearing (putting it on an awl or any sharp-pointed tool) to check the condition of the bearing. If you finish all, but one had a rough spot, and you hear grinding, the bearings do not spin to your satisfaction, soak again.

Next is to dry the bearing; you can blow it dry with compressed air or allow them to air dry for up to 24 hours. Note, you must make sure it is completely dry. And finally, make sure you lubricate the bearing before re-inserting it into the reel.

Can I clean the bearing if I can’t remove it?

Sure it does, but you need more experience, and the process can take more time to make sure your teeth don’t damage other components of the reels.

A commonly used cleaner here is Simple Green; spray it onto the reel (avoid drag systems) and scrub the bearing and surrounding areas, repeating the process several times before all lubricants and debris are removed.

Can I clean the bearing if I can't remove it


I have finished sharing with you how to clean fishing reel bearings; take note of what I say to avoid damaging your bearings. If you have repeated it repeatedly and it still doesn’t clean, that’s a sign that you need to replace the bearing for your reel.

I hope you write this helpful for you. Do you have another idea?

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