what can you use to clean a bowling ball

What Can You Use to Clean a Bowling Ball?

Becoming a master of the lanes means not only honing your skills but also understanding the importance of equipment maintenance. Crucial amongst these is the care for your bowling ball, a prized possession that, with proper cleaning, can dramatically influence your game. If you’re well-versed in the sport, you understand that the oil tracks and dirt can affect your ball’s performance.

You can clean a bowling ball using commercial bowling ball cleaners, a homemade solution of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol, or a ball spinner for a professional deep clean. Regular and thorough cleaning maintains the ball’s performance and prolongs its lifespan.

Here, we delve into three distinct methods of bowling ball cleaning to keep your game at its peak.

Using a Bowling Ball Cleaner

Among the range of options, many professional bowlers and bowling enthusiasts swear by the use of specially formulated bowling ball cleaners. These cleaners are specifically designed to tackle the grime and oil that builds up on your ball after a game, which, left unattended, can affect your ball’s performance.

  1. Purchase a commercial bowling ball cleaner. These cleaners are widely available online, in sporting goods stores, or in specialty bowling shops. Research and select a cleaner that best suits your bowling ball’s material and your budget.
  2. Spray the cleaner directly on the ball. Hold the spray bottle a few inches away from the ball’s surface and spray generously. Ensure that you cover the entire surface, paying special attention to the track area where the most dirt and oil collect.
  3. Let the cleaner sit on the ball for a few minutes. The duration will depend on the instructions given by the cleaner manufacturer. Generally, allowing the cleaner to sit for 2-5 minutes is advised. This time allows the cleaner to penetrate the ball’s pores and break down the oil and dirt embedded within.
  4. Wipe off the cleaner using a microfiber cloth. This type of cloth is preferred because it does not scratch the ball’s surface and can absorb the cleaner along with the dissolved oil and grime effectively. Ensure you wipe the ball thoroughly and check that no residue is left behind.
  5. Repeat the process if necessary. For balls with significant oil and dirt build-up, one round of cleaning may not suffice. If the ball still feels slick or looks dirty after the first cleaning, repeat the process.
  6. Dry the ball completely. After cleaning, let the ball air dry completely. You can also pat it dry with a clean, dry cloth. Be sure to check that the finger holes are dry before storing the ball to prevent any potential for mildew or bacteria growth.

Remember, while commercial cleaners are formulated for bowling balls, not all cleaners are the same. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations for the best results.

Using a Homemade Bowling Ball Cleaner

If commercial cleaners aren’t your preference or aren’t available, you can opt for a homemade solution. Many household items can serve as effective cleaning agents for your bowling ball. This method can be particularly useful if you need to clean your ball but don’t have access to specialty cleaners.

  1. Create a mixture of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol. The rubbing alcohol works effectively to cut through the oil and grime. Use a clean spray bottle for this purpose. Ensure that the water you use is warm, as warm water can help dissolve oils more efficiently than cold water.
  2. Apply the solution to your ball using the spray bottle. Spray the solution liberally over the ball, covering the entire surface. Pay special attention to the track area where oil and dirt accumulate the most.
  3. Allow the solution to sit for a couple of minutes. This gives the rubbing alcohol time to work its magic and break down the oils. During this time, you can gently agitate the ball’s surface with a clean cloth to help the solution penetrate deeper.
  4. Wipe the ball clean with a microfiber cloth. Microfiber cloths are ideal for this purpose because they are soft, super absorbent, and won’t scratch your ball’s surface. Wipe in a circular motion to ensure you lift all the dirt and oil from the ball.
  5. Repeat the process if necessary. If the ball still feels oily or grimy to the touch, don’t hesitate to give it another round of cleaning. Thorough cleaning is key to maintaining the performance and longevity of your bowling ball.
  6. Dry the ball completely. Once you are satisfied with the cleaning, make sure to dry the ball thoroughly. Any residual moisture can damage the ball or promote the growth of bacteria, especially within the finger holes. Use a clean, dry towel to pat the ball dry and then let it air dry completely before storing.

Always remember, when using a homemade cleaner, it’s best to avoid any harsh or abrasive chemicals that might potentially damage your bowling ball’s surface. Gentle and frequent cleaning is the key to a long-lasting bowling ball.

Using a Bowling Ball Spinner

For those seeking a more thorough and professional method of cleaning, a ball spinner is a powerful tool to consider. Often used by professionals and serious bowlers, a ball spinner cleans by creating a centrifugal force that lifts the oil and dirt out of the bowling ball’s pores.

  1. Purchase or access a ball spinner. These machines can be found in pro shops or online. While a significant investment, a ball spinner can provide an unmatched deep clean, especially for heavy bowlers.
  2. Place the ball in the spinner. Your bowling ball should fit securely in the spinner. Make sure it is properly centered to avoid any imbalance during the spinning process.
  3. Apply the cleaner on the ball’s surface. You can use a commercial cleaner, polish, or a homemade solution. When the ball is in the spinner, start by applying the cleaner to one side of the ball.
  4. Turn on the spinner. Set the spinner to a low or medium speed initially to prevent the cleaner from splashing out. The rotation helps distribute the cleaner across the ball’s surface and works it into the pores for a deep clean.
  5. Increase the speed gradually. Once the cleaner is evenly spread, you can increase the speed of the spinner. This increased speed will work the cleaner deeper into the pores of the ball.
  6. Let the spinner run for a few minutes. This ensures all oil and grime is lifted from the ball’s pores. However, don’t let it spin for too long as it could potentially damage the ball.
  7. Apply cleaner to the other side and repeat the process. After one side of the bowling ball is cleaned, apply cleaner to the other side and repeat the spinning process.
  8. Remove the ball and dry it with a microfiber cloth. Once both sides are clean, remove the ball from the spinner and wipe it dry using a microfiber cloth. Ensure all the cleaner residue is wiped off.
  9. Let the ball air dry. After wiping it down, let the ball air dry completely before using it or putting it away for storage. This ensures that any residual cleaner evaporates and that the ball is completely dry.

Remember, a bowling ball spinner provides a comprehensive clean, but it’s also more intensive. To prevent damage to your ball, use this method with care and follow the instructions provided with your particular ball spinner model.


Should I use a bowling ball cleaner or polish?

A bowling ball cleaner and polish serve two different purposes. A cleaner is primarily used to remove the oil, dirt, and grime that accumulates on the ball’s surface after each game. It helps restore the original traction and performance of the ball by cleaning its pores.

On the other hand, a polish is used to change the ball’s surface texture and performance characteristics. Polishing your bowling ball can increase length and backend reaction, essentially allowing the ball to go down the lane further before it starts to hook.

If your bowling ball has lost its original shine or if you want to alter its hook potential, you can use a polish. However, it’s crucial to clean the ball thoroughly before applying any polish to ensure the polish works effectively.

Can I use a household cleaner to clean my bowling ball?

Yes, you can use a household cleaner to clean your bowling ball, but it’s essential to choose the right type of cleaner. Avoid any cleaners that contain harsh or abrasive chemicals, which could damage the ball’s surface.

One of the simplest and most effective homemade cleaners is a solution of equal parts warm water and rubbing alcohol. The alcohol works effectively to cut through the oil and grime, and the warm water helps dissolve oils more efficiently than cold water.

Remember to wipe the ball dry after cleaning it and let it air dry completely before storage or use.

How often should I clean my bowling ball?

Cleaning your bowling ball regularly is key to its longevity and performance. Ideally, you should clean your ball after each game to prevent oil build-up which could affect the ball’s performance.

However, if you are unable to clean the ball after each game, at least aim for a thorough cleaning after every three to five games. Also, consider a deep cleaning every few months, especially if you notice that your ball isn’t hooking as much as it used to.

Is it necessary to clean my bowling ball after every use?

Yes, it’s necessary and highly recommended to clean your bowling ball after every use. Each time a bowling ball is used, it picks up oil from the lanes. This oil can seep into the pores of the ball, affecting its performance over time. Cleaning the ball after each use ensures the oil doesn’t get a chance to build up.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when cleaning a bowling ball?

Several common mistakes can potentially harm your ball or render your cleaning efforts less effective. Here are a few to avoid:

Using abrasive materials. Never use abrasive cloths or cleaners. These can scratch the surface of the ball and affect its performance. Always use a microfiber cloth for wiping your ball.
Not letting the cleaner sit. Give your cleaner a chance to work. Letting it sit on the ball for a few minutes allows it to dissolve the oil and dirt, making it easier to wipe off.
Using harsh chemicals. Certain household cleaners contain chemicals that can damage your bowling ball. Always ensure the cleaner you use is safe for your ball’s material.
Not drying the ball properly. After cleaning, ensure that the ball is completely dry before storing it. Any moisture left, especially in the finger holes, can promote the growth of bacteria or mildew.

In Summary

Keeping your bowling ball clean is critical to maintaining peak performance and extending its lifespan. While commercial cleaners, homemade solutions, and ball spinners all provide viable cleaning methods, the best approach depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Irrespective of the method you choose, consistent and careful cleaning will keep you bowling strikes and spares more consistently.

Remember to avoid common pitfalls such as using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could damage your ball. With the right care, you’ll get the most out of your bowling ball, game after game.