Pro Tips: How to Clean a Bowling Ball the Right Way

Have you noticed some oil that’s formed around your bowling ball? This means only one thing: it’s time to clean it. Today We will cover everything from how to clean a bowling ball to how you can regularly maintain it.

Wait; what? Yep, you heard right.

Your bowling ball also needs some TLC from you. Why do you think your ball doesn’t seem to hook anymore?  Poor maintenance can affect how your bowling ball works for you. You will feel it’s not as responsive anymore after about ten games or so.

cleaning-a-bowling-ball

You see, oil and dirt buildup can impact your ball’s integrity; it makes it difficult to grip the lane as it rolls down. A bowling ball’s surface is porous, and grime can easily get plugged in its microscopic holes.

Your ball will no longer generate its usual power upon impact with the pins. Aside from collecting dust, the accompanied oil usually comes from the lane conditioner that gets transferred to the ball.

The oil that a lane conditioner provides is essential to the game as it protects the lane surface and helps with your ball performance. However, any excess that gets embedded in the bowling ball is also the reason why you lose its hooking capabilities

Getting a bowling ball of your own isn’t cheap. You don’t want to put it to waste after spending some money buying one. You should get up to 10 years of use out of your bowling ball with proper maintenance. Naturally, you have to take care of your investment.

As a personal item, you can do the cleaning yourself, or bring it to one of those pro shops. If I were you though, I would save myself some dollars and DIY it. 

Actually, I have a few tricks up my sleeve as I will teach you how to clean a bowling ball. It will not only go back to its optimum reaction, but it will also prolong its lifespan so that you can enjoy it for many years to come.

Why your bowling ball will benefit from cleanliness

Before anything, you must know that learning how to clean a bowling ball is not just for the sake of cleaning it. There are benefits to be gained in doing so. 

a) It can improve your game: While bowling balls from the same manufacturer may be alike, the big difference lies in how the bowler delivers the ball and how he maintains it. Self-cleaning can go a long way as encrusted dirt on your ball will definitely affect how it curves even if you throw them using the right technique with your dominant hand.

b) It can make the ball last longer: Cleaning your bowling ball seems to have an impact on its lifespan. Especially with bowling-specific cleaners that are formulated to protect your coverstock from dings and cracks. 

c) Well, it just looks a lot better: A nice-looking ball won’t hurt, would it? A bowling ball that is maintained from frequent cleaning will sparkle like its brand-spanking-new every time.

Cleaning Guide

clean a bowling ball at home

As you bowl more often, the reactive resin material absorbs oil, which affects its reaction.  

Ideally, you should wipe any oil track on the bowling ball using a microfiber cloth or microfiber applicator as soon as you notice it. Just place the ball where the oily surface is on top of the cloth and spin it with your opposite hand. This should do the trick.

You can take a few minutes of your time to give it some maintenance. Better yet, do your routine cleaning during the weekend just before your next tournament. 

The steps on how to clean a bowling ball at home are very easy to follow, which involve the ball’s immersion in a diluted cleaner solution.

Start by dusting off the coverstock, which is the outer shell of your bowling ball. You can make use of any soft brush and a microfiber towel to wipe off sticky residue. 

Avoid using brushes that have stiff bristles as they can leave scratches on the surface.

Cover the finger holes using a waterproof tape such as duct tape to prevent water from seeping in. The bowling ball can be waterlogged if the holes are left exposed. When that happens though, water itself cannot do major damage, but the mixed in cleaner or detergent will.

clean a bowling ball hot bath style

Usually, you can just dunk your bowling ball in a bucket with warm water which can help draw out the oily residue from the coverstock. You don’t want it boiling, it should just have enough heat at about 140 degrees or less, that you can still submerge your hand quickly without being scalded.

Avoid overfilling your bucket or filling it to the brim. You should just put the right amount, at least halfway through a four-quart size. You have to leave room for water displacement when you immerse the ball.

Once inside, the waterline should cover the entire ball; otherwise, you should add more water until it does. Leave it for up to half an hour before taking it out. You will notice that the oil has separated from the ball and floating in the water.

clean a bowling ball using a cleaner

If you are using a bowling ball cleaner, it will suffice without diluting it depending on their usage instructions. In case you can mix it with water, you should also use a warm one as it will be more effective in removing oil traces. 

Cold water can be used, but not work as efficiently as warm water. You’ll just end up frustrated and still with a greasy bowling ball.

clean a bowling ball with dawn

Alternatively, you can also use Dawn dishwashing soap to deep clean your bowling ball. While other dish soap brands should cut it, Dawn seems to be the unanimous choice among bowlers. 

Dawn has a gentler formula, yet it can take care of the saturated oil on the ball surface. Take ¼ cup Dawn liquid with some ammonia and mix in with some warm water.

There are some bowling balls, the colors of which may bleed in the cleaning solution. As such, observe your soaked ball every after five minutes. If you notice any changes, just remove the ball. While it will not affect the ball’s integrity, the appearance of a faded or discolored ball may throw you off.

You can take comfort in the fact that although the coloring may be affected, it usually reverts to its normal state after a few uses when oil would accumulate again on the coverstock.

You will use the same bucket filling procedure as when cleaning with plain H2O. You can up the cleansing ante by wiping the immersed ball while spinning it. 

Soaking it from 20 to 30 minutes should do the trick. It should be enough to leave your ball sparkling clean afterward without damaging it from staying too long in the cleaning solution.  This is not a hard and fast rule though.

When you’re regularly cleaning your ball, you should be able to gauge the time it takes to clean it, which could be shorter or a little longer. After all, your detergent might be quite strong enough to strip off oil faster than usual.

If you’re doing it for the first time, you can be conservative by leaving the ball in a bucket with warm water at 125 degrees F for only 20 minutes. Use a timer if need be so you don’t overdo it.

clean a bowling ball with rubbing alcohol

Many cleaning experts would say that oil stains can be best dealt with using good old rubbing alcohol

Just to clarify, you should never soak your bowling ball in a tub full of alcohol. All you need is to put some on your cleaning cloth or microfiber towel and wipe it on your coverstock.

You can also dilute it using a 1:1 ratio and place in a spray bottle. Spritz a few pumps onto the bowling ball surface. Follow through right away with vigorous wiping using any cleaning cloth.

Things to remember

Avoid using chemical solvents

While DIY cleaning can go a long way, you should be careful not to use harsh formulation such as acetone which can negatively affect the hooking properties of your bowling ball.

In case you will be using commercial cleaners, always follow the instructions. Sometimes people tend to over-clean, thinking it is for the best. Also, check if the products you use have the USBC seal of approval. If they don’t, you should proceed with caution.

Drying your bowling ball

When you choose to care for your bowling ball using a bucket of either plain warm water or diluted cleaning solution, you should not forget to dry it out. Just like you hang dry washed clothes so that you can use them again, a bowling ball is no different.

To dry your bowling ball, simply wipe any excess moisture using a microfiber towel. This type of cleaning cloth is preferred because its fibers are able to absorb liquid up to seven times their weight. Plus, you will be assured that it will not scratch your coverstock.

After wiping excess moisture from washing, you should remove the tape with the finger holes facing downwards, and place your bowling ball in a dry area. Ideally, you can leave it there up to 24 hours to thoroughly dry. 

Remember not to dry it outside uncovered, with the sun shining down on it. That might warp your ball, if not cause damage to it.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat

Guess what OC people, you can do it all over again. Yes, you can repeat the process for that deep clean you prefer. There could be too much oil stuck on it anyway that cleaning once will not suffice.

That nasty film of oil can be quite stubborn. When that’s been dealt with by having one or 2 more rounds of washing, the next cleaning activity will be much easier and faster. You might even realize that you don’t need specialized cleaners other than warm water to achieve this.

Regular maintenance

Having tried how to clean a bowling ball using dawn, rubbing alcohol, or just plain water, you may have already found the one that works best for you. Whatever that is, you should always make time to look after your ball every now and then. 

Doing it every week is a good routine because many new resin coverstocks need more maintenance than rubber or plastic. Because they are designed to have hooking capabilities, they are also more prone to absorbing oil and dirt from the bowling lane.

Other preventive maintenance tips that will keep your ball out of trouble include wiping off the surface after every game with the help of a microfiber towel or a soft cleaning cloth. 

You should store the bowling ball at room temperature and avoid extremely hot or cold environments. Its position must be moved from time to time as it may crack if kept immobile during prolonged storage.

Of course, you should not forget to clean the cleaning cloth itself as well. If you don’t, you’re not really doing much with the wiping action. Instead, you may further clog the surface with dirt and grease.

Final thoughts

I could not stress the importance of cleaning your bowling ball more. It can be a chore for sure, but you wouldn’t want to find yourself buying a new ball year after year. 

Also, if you can, giving it a professional makeover from your local bowling club once in a while will also be worth it. Periodic visits will make your ball not only sparkling clean but also polished by resurfacing, which can restore its sharp edges for better lane grip.

Let us know if you have other nifty suggestions on how to clean a bowling ball better. Thanks for dropping by!

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    • James Wood

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