How to Clean a Bowling Ball

If you’re wondering how to clean a bowling ball, the answer is that it depends on how thoroughly  clean you want it. There are plenty of ways to clean a bowling ball, from wiping it down between games to deep soaks, so it’s just about finding the routine that works for you. 

While plenty of bowlers scour the internet looking for bowling tips, one of the most critical searches is often forgotten: how to properly clean your bowling ball. 


Why Clean a Bowling Ball?

When a bowling ball travels down a lane, it picks up lots of oil and gets banged around a lot. This damage reduces the performance of your ball and diminishes the shine. 

Alleys are coated with wax and oil to protect them from damage caused by heavy bowling balls and to prevent friction from causing sparks. This grime, mixed with any dirt on the alley wall or return channel, builds up on your bowling ball and can disturb the way the ball travels. 

Many bowlers don’t realise that a dirty ball can also ruin your hook potential, and scuff marks from rubber pinsetters will disrupt the trajectory of your bowling ball. 

You may even notice that you’ve begun to get an oil track around your ball. An oil track is when a ring of oil begins to build up around your coverstock from residue on oily lanes. 

This build-up occurs because the coverstock of a bowling ball has many microscopic holes which can store saturated oil. 

To keep your ball at optimum performance, you should wipe down the bowling ball surface often and with the right supplies. 

How to Clean a Bowling Ball With Rubbing Alcohol 

The easiest and cheapest way to clean oil and dirt from your bowling ball is to wash it with rubbing alcohol. 

To clean with rubbing alcohol, just wipe down the bowling ball’s surface vigorously with a doused microfiber towel. Be sure to clean the entire bowling ball so that the surface is even. 

When cleaning, you can put adhesive tape, like duct tape, over the finger holes to ensure no liquid gets inside them. 

You can also put the rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle for easier cleaning. A spritzer is a perfect idea for when you’re cleaning your coverstock at the bowling lane, so you don’t have to worry about spilling your rubbing alcohol. 

Finally, check your towel. If you see any dirt or oil, clean it again. Also, if you didn’t place waterproof tape over the holes, make sure to remove any remaining moisture from inside the bowling ball. 

Cleaning Your Bowling Ball with Dish Detergent and Water

Dousing your ball in warm water and detergent is a better bowling ball cleaning method than alcohol, if you want to get a deeper clean.

Warm water quickly and efficiently removes grime, germs, and oil stuck to your bowling ball. Cold water will work too, but it won’t clean as well. 

How to clean a bowling ball at home with dish detergent and water:

  • Place the bowling ball in a bucket with the finger holes facing down. You can put waterproof tape over the holes if you wish to keep water from getting into them. 
  • Add warm water (do not use hot water as it can cause major damage, especially to a reactive resin bowling ball) and dish detergent. Make sure you have enough water to cover your bowling ball completely. 
  • Let it soak for 30 minutes. 
  • Then, remove the ball from the bucket. Rinse with warm water until you have gotten rid of all the soap. 
  • Dry it with a towel or lint-free microfiber cloth. If water has gotten into the ball’s holes, make sure you thoroughly dry inside as well. 
  • Voila! You can now enjoy your clean bowling ball. 

This soaking process should help to get rid of dirt and grime and should also remove oil tracks. But your coverstock still probably isn’t going to look brand new—polish and sand it to complete your maintenance. 

Cleaning Your Bowling Ball with Commercial Cleaner

Bowling ball cleaner is the most effective way to clean a bowling ball at home. Experts created these cleaners to remove the kind of dirt and oil commonly picked up by bowling balls. 

For most bowling ball cleaners, you will use it the same way you would use rubbing alcohol. Just make sure that you are applying the mixture with a clean rag. 

Finding the Right Cleaner

There are tons of different cleaners that you’ll find on the market today. 

Some are high strength and use harsh chemical solvents like methanol. Others are softer and have water as their base. 

The most important thing to remember when choosing a bowling ball cleaner is to check the amount of acetone. Too much acetone will soften the coverstock and cause cracking. 

Softer coverstocks are harder to clean, and a cracked bowling ball is worthless. 

If you are a professional bowler or are thinking about playing in leagues, you should find a cleaner approved by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). Some leagues and competitions require that you only use USBC-approved products on your coverstock and using other cleaners may be a violation of the rules. 

It would help if you take the material of the coverstock into consideration. Not all cleaners work for all bowling ball types. 

So, for instance, if your coverstock is reactive resin, you’ll want a cleaner safe for that material. 

Making Your Own Cleaner

Another way to get a deep clean and remove all that excess oil without spending too much time or money is to make a homemade bowling ball cleaner. The best homemade ball cleaner is a mixture of equal parts Simple Green, rubbing alcohol, and water. 

This cleaner is a cheap option; but unfortunately, it won’t give you the same restorative powers as more expensive commercial cleaners. 

Applying Polish and Sanding Your Bowling Ball at Home

Polishing and sanding will help make your ball look new again and provide a deep clean like no other. Ideally, you should polish a ball every 15 – 18 games, but if a ball is older or not in good condition, it’s best to polish it a bit more often. 

This is how you can polish and sand your bowling ball:

  • Once you have a clean bowling ball, apply polish to a hand-polishing pad or directly onto each side of your bowling ball. Don’t be stingy with the polish, or your ball will suffer. Instead, add polish liberally. 
  • Rub the polish around the entire surface of the bowling ball with your fingers or pad using a circular motion. 
  • Let it sit for a few minutes, and then buff with a clean microfiber towel until all the polish is gone and the ball looks shiny. 
  • Next, sand the surface gently with 1000-grit sandpaper to remove any remaining polish. 
  • Wrap the ball in a towel and let it sit overnight. 

Using a Bowling Ball Spinner

Another way to clean a bowling ball at home is to purchase a bowling ball spinner. 

Spinners allow you to clean, polish, or sand your bowling ball evenly. Giving all parts of your ball equal care is important because if one side is too polished or too buffed it can affect your game. 

It is best to only invest in a spinner if you are very serious about bowling because spinners cost upwards of $200, with most selling for almost $300. 

Cleaning the Finger Holes

When cleaning the finger holes of your bowling ball, it’s best not to use any liquids. Liquids can easily be trapped inside the cavities and make the inside of the ball feel slippery or too grippy. 

The foremost way to clean out the finger holes of your ball is to use a dry towel to wipe the inside as best you can. The easiest method for doing this is to wrap a towel or rag around your pointer finger and wipe out the entire inside of the hole. 

When cleaning the holes, make sure you get to all the sides and the bottom to remove dirt and oil. If you want to clean the finger holes more thoroughly, soak the ball in a bucket of warm water and dish soap for 30 minutes. 

Make sure that the holes are facing downwards when you take the ball out to get as much water out as you can. Then, wipe the surface of the ball and the holes with a microfiber towel. 

Place the bowling ball to dry with the holes facing downward. 

Of course, the premier practice to ensure your finger holes stay clean is to keep your fingers clean. Before you begin to play a game or after you eat, wash your hands with warm water and soap to prevent any oil or grease on your hands from entering the holes. 

Bowlers should pay special attention to their dominant hand to ensure their finger holes stay clean. 

Common Cleaning Mistakes

You may not have realized that you can cause significant damage to your bowling balls if you don’t clean them correctly. 

One of the most common mistakes bowlers make is creating their own cleaner with acetone. Some professionals swear by acetone, but it can cause a lot of damage if you don’t dilute it correctly. 

Acetone can quickly destroy polyester coverstocks and remove polish if used incorrectly. Call a professional if something stuck to your ball’s surface won’t come off with homemade or commercial cleaner or a soak in a bucket. 

Another common cleaning mistake is leaving soapy water or cleaner in the finger holes of your bowling ball. Allowing liquids to dry in the ball’s holes can ruin a game since it can make the inside of the ball slippery. 

If you do get fluid into the holes of your ball, make sure to dry them out well using a towel. 

Regular Maintenance to Keep Your Ball Looking Its Best 

To keep your bowling ball looking its best, you have to do a bit more than just keeping your bowling ball clean. Even polishing and sanding won’t always make a ball look new. 

Instead, you should think of ball maintenance throughout your game, and if you play a lot, deep cleaning is essential. You may need to take your ball to your local pro shop for a deep clean to get rid of extra oil. 

If you want to keep your ball in its best condition to improve your game and keep it looking shiny, you can’t only clean your bowling ball at home. Every time your ball comes back to you through the ball return, you should give it a quick wipe down with a lint-free towel. 

When you are done bowling for the day, wipe your ball’s surface down with some ball cleaner or rubbing alcohol. 

You should take your bowling ball to one of your local pro shops every 50 games, or 75 – 100 games if you play on regulated lanes which are less oily, for an entire resurfacing job. These stores have high-speed ball spinners that can get a bowling ball clean better than you can at home. 

What to Do About Chips and Scratches

It is easy to believe that your bowling ball is indestructible because of how heavy and hard it is, but the truth is bowling balls are prone to cracking and chipping. From throwing your ball down the lanes at your local alley to improper bowling ball cleaning, your ball can suffer all types of damage. 

If your ball becomes chipped or scratched, it is easiest to take it to a professional because they have experience and the proper tools to repair your ball. Nevertheless, don’t worry if you don’t want to pay someone else to fix your ball; you can do it yourself with a repair kit and a Scotch-Brite pad. 

To fix chips in your ball: 

  • Apply Master Kwik-Patch filler to the chip. 
  • Spray on some Kwik-Patch accelerator. You should check the package on the Master Kwik-Patch kit to find out how long you should wait before applying the accelerator. 
  • Finish the ball with a gray Scotch-Brite pad to smooth the filler. 
  • Polish the entire ball. 

If you want to repair scratches on your bowling ball, it’s best to get it resurfaced. Resurfacing is best done by a professional because it is challenging to do yourself, especially if you don’t have access to a ball spinner. 

Storing Your Bowling Ball to Prevent Damage

Bowling balls should always be stored in a protective bag in a dry and cool environment to prevent damage because all the deep cleaning in the world can’t repair a cracked cover. 

One important rule to keep your bowling ball from suffering harm is to keep it from experiencing temperature extremes. You may think the garage is a fine place to store your balls, but if you don’t have climate control in there, you are putting your ball at risk. 

High temperatures can cause the different materials of the ball to expand and contract, which can cause cracks. A cracked bowling ball is hard to fix, and you may have to take it to a pro shop for repair. 

Final Thoughts

You should deep clean your bowling ball whenever it gets dirty, and you should rub it with cleaning agents after every set to get rid of oil. 

When cleaning your ball, be careful using household products because they can harm your ball’s surface. For example, while acetone can get rid of oil, it can destroy your coverstock. 

Finally, when your ball gets full of oil, wash it in a bucket or take it to a shop so a pro can ensure it is properly cleaned.