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How to Clean Your Bowling Ball and Keep It In Top Shape

  • Reading time:13 mins read

As any seasoned bowler knows, a bowling ball is a significant investment. Whether you’ve recently purchased a new ball or have been using the same trusty one for years, maintaining its cleanliness is crucial for optimal performance and longevity. Over time, bowling balls can accumulate a buildup of dirt, oil, and other residue that can negatively impact your game.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the importance of regularly cleaning your bowling ball, how often it should be done, and the step-by-step process to get your ball looking and performing its best.

We’ll also cover essential maintenance tips to help extend the life of your valuable equipment. By the end of this post, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to keep your bowling ball in top shape, game after game.

Why Cleaning a Bowling Ball is Important

There are several key reasons why it’s important to keep your bowling ball clean:

Improved Ball Performance and Consistency

One of the primary benefits of regularly cleaning your bowling ball is that it helps maintain the ball’s original performance characteristics. As oil, dirt, and other contaminants accumulate on the ball’s surface, it can alter the ball’s reaction on the lane. This can lead to inconsistent hook and ball motion, making it more challenging to achieve consistent shots and scores.

By removing this built-up residue, you’ll restore the ball’s original texture and surface, allowing it to react as intended. This helps ensure your ball performs consistently, shot after shot, which is crucial for improving your game.

Extending the Ball’s Lifespan

Neglecting to clean your bowling ball can also significantly shorten its lifespan. The abrasive nature of the lane conditions, combined with the accumulation of dirt and oil, can slowly wear down the ball’s coverstock over time. This gradual deterioration can eventually lead to cracks, chips, or other damage that requires the ball to be resurfaced or replaced entirely.

By regularly cleaning your bowling ball, you’ll be able to remove those harmful contaminants and better preserve the ball’s original condition. This, in turn, helps extend the overall lifespan of your investment, allowing you to maximize your return on it.

Maintaining the Ball’s Original Hook and Reaction

In addition to improving performance consistency and extending the ball’s life, cleaning also helps maintain the ball’s original hook and reaction characteristics. As oil and dirt build up on the surface, it can alter the ball’s ability to grip the lane and generate the desired hook.

By keeping your bowling ball clean, you’ll ensure that it continues to provide the same reliable hook and ball motion that you’ve come to expect, shot after shot. This consistent performance is crucial for developing and refining your technique, as well as achieving the results you’re seeking on the lanes.

Overall, regularly cleaning your bowling ball is an essential maintenance task that helps optimize its performance, extend its lifespan, and maintain the ball’s original characteristics. By taking the time to properly clean and care for your equipment, you can ensure it continues to serve you well for years to come.

How Often Should You Clean a Bowling Ball?

The recommended frequency for cleaning a bowling ball can vary depending on several factors, but generally, it’s a good idea to clean it after every 10-15 games played.

This is a general guideline, but the actual cleaning frequency may need to be adjusted based on the following considerations:

Frequency of Use

The more often you use your bowling ball, the more quickly it will accumulate dirt, oil, and other contaminants. If you’re a frequent bowler who hits the lanes several times a week, you may need to clean your ball more often, perhaps after every 5-10 games.

On the other hand, if you only bowl occasionally, say once a week or less, you may be able to stretch the cleaning schedule to every 15-20 games.

Bowling Alley Conditions

The environment in which you bowl can also impact how quickly your bowling ball gets dirty. Bowling alleys with heavily oiled or heavily trafficked lanes will generally require more frequent ball cleaning compared to alleys with drier, less oily conditions.

If you primarily bowl at alleys known for their heavily oiled lanes, you may need to clean your ball after every 8-10 games. Conversely, if you bowl at alleys with relatively dry lane conditions, you can likely stretch the cleaning schedule to every 15-20 games.

Ball Coverstock Type

The type of coverstock material on your bowling ball can also influence how often it needs to be cleaned. Balls with more porous or absorbent coverstocks, such as reactive resin or pearl coverstocks, tend to attract and hold on to oil and dirt more readily than balls with solid or smooth coverstocks.

If you’ve invested in a ball with a highly absorbent coverstock, you may need to clean it more frequently, perhaps every 8-12 games, to maintain its performance. Balls with less porous coverstocks, on the other hand, can typically go longer between cleanings, around 12-18 games.

Ultimately, the ideal cleaning frequency for your bowling ball will depend on a combination of these factors. Pay attention to how your ball’s performance and appearance change over time, and use that as a guide to determine the right cleaning schedule for your specific ball and bowling habits. Developing a consistent ball cleaning routine will help ensure your equipment continues to perform at its best.

Supplies Needed for Cleaning a Bowling Ball

Before you can begin the process of cleaning your bowling ball, you’ll need to gather the right supplies. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Bowl Cleaner or Ball Polish: This is the primary product you’ll use to clean and restore your bowling ball’s surface. Look for a specific bowling ball cleaner or polish that is designed to remove oil, dirt, and other contaminants without damaging the ball’s coverstock.
  2. Clean, Soft Towel: You’ll need a clean, soft towel to gently scrub and wipe down the bowling ball during the cleaning process. Avoid using abrasive materials that could scratch the ball’s surface.
  3. Bucket or Sink: You’ll need a container large enough to fully submerge your bowling ball in warm water and cleaning solution. A clean sink or large bucket will work well for this purpose.
  4. Optional: Abrasive Pads or Drill Attachment: For more stubborn buildup or to help restore the ball’s original texture, you may want to use a mild abrasive pad or a drill attachment designed for bowling ball cleaning. These can help gently remove any deeply embedded contaminants.

With these basic supplies on hand, you’ll be ready to dive into the step-by-step process of properly cleaning your bowling ball.

Step-by-Step Bowling Ball Cleaning Process

Now that you have the necessary supplies, let’s walk through the step-by-step process for cleaning your bowling ball:

  1. Soak the Ball in Warm Water and Cleaning Solution: Begin by filling your bucket or sink with warm water. Add a small amount of your chosen bowling ball cleaner or polish to the water and stir to create a cleaning solution. Submerge your bowling ball completely in the solution and let it soak for 15-20 minutes. This will help soften and break down any built-up oil, dirt, or residue on the ball’s surface.
  2. Gently Scrub the Ball: After the soaking period, use your clean, soft towel to gently scrub the ball’s surface. Apply light pressure and work in circular motions to lift and remove the loosened contaminants. Pay close attention to the ball’s holes, finger holes, and any textured or porous areas, as these are prone to trapping more dirt and oil.
  3. Rinse the Ball Thoroughly: Once you’ve scrubbed the entire surface, rinse the ball thoroughly under clean, running water to remove any remaining cleaning solution and dislodged debris. Make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies to ensure a complete rinse.
  4. Dry the Ball Completely: After rinsing, use your clean, soft towel to dry the bowling ball completely. Make sure to wipe down all surfaces, including the finger holes and any other recessed areas. Ensure the ball is entirely dry before moving on to the next step.
  5. Apply Ball Polish (Optional): If desired, you can apply a thin layer of bowling ball polish or conditioner to the surface of the dried ball. This can help restore the ball’s shine and provide some additional protection against future oil and dirt buildup. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application.
  6. Inspect and Repeat as Needed: Once you’ve completed the cleaning process, take a close look at the ball’s surface. If you still see any stubborn dirt or residue, you may need to repeat the soaking and scrubbing steps until you’re satisfied with the results.

For more heavily soiled or textured balls, you can also consider using a mild abrasive pad or a drill attachment designed for bowling ball cleaning.

These can help gently remove any deeply embedded contaminants. However, be sure to use these tools with care, as over-abrading the surface can damage the ball’s coverstock.

By following this step-by-step process, you’ll be able to effectively clean and restore your bowling ball to its optimal condition, helping it perform at its best on the lanes.

Tips for Maintaining a Clean Bowling Ball

Cleaning your bowling ball is an important maintenance task, but it’s not the only thing you can do to keep it in top shape. Here are some additional tips for maintaining a clean and well-performing bowling ball:

  1. Wipe Down the Ball After Each Use: After every bowling session, take a few moments to wipe down the surface of your ball with a clean, dry towel. This will help remove any fresh oil or dirt that may have accumulated during your games, preventing it from setting in and becoming more difficult to remove later.
  2. Store the Ball Properly: When not in use, store your bowling ball in a cool, dry place. Avoid leaving it in your car or other areas that may be subject to extreme temperatures or humidity, as these conditions can accelerate the buildup of contaminants on the ball’s surface.
  3. Consider Resurfacing Periodically: Even with regular cleaning, the surface of your bowling ball will gradually wear down over time due to the abrasive nature of the lanes. To restore the ball’s original texture and performance characteristics, consider having it professionally resurfaced every 6-12 months, depending on how frequently you bowl.
  4. Use a Ball Cleaner Between Games: If you’re bowling multiple games in a single session, consider using a quick ball cleaner spray or wipe between games. These products can help remove any fresh oil or dirt buildup before it has a chance to set in and become more difficult to remove.
  5. Invest in a Ball Storage Bag: Protect your bowling ball when transporting it by investing in a high-quality storage bag or case. This will help shield the ball from scratches, dents, and other physical damage that can impact its performance.
  6. Rotate Ball Usage: If you have multiple bowling balls in your arsenal, try to rotate their usage evenly. This will help ensure that no single ball is subjected to an excessive amount of wear and tear, prolonging the overall lifespan of your equipment.

By incorporating these maintenance tips into your regular bowling ball care routine, you can help ensure your investment continues to perform at its best for years to come.


Keeping your bowling ball clean and well-maintained is an essential part of being a successful and consistent bowler. By regularly cleaning your ball and following best practices for its care and storage, you can maximize its performance, extend its lifespan, and maintain the reliable hook and reaction you’ve come to depend on.

Remember, the recommended cleaning frequency can vary based on factors like how often you bowl, the conditions of the lanes you play on, and the type of coverstock on your ball. Pay attention to how your ball’s appearance and performance change over time, and adjust your cleaning schedule accordingly.

With the right cleaning supplies, a step-by-step process, and a few additional maintenance tips, you’ll be able to keep your bowling ball in top-notch condition, game after game. So, make cleaning your bowling ball a regular part of your bowling routine, and enjoy the benefits of consistent, high-performance play on the lanes.

If you have any other questions or need further guidance on properly cleaning and maintaining your bowling equipment, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local pro shop or bowling center staff. They’ll be happy to provide additional insights and recommendations tailored to your specific needs.

Happy bowling!