Bowling Ball Maintenance

Taking proper care of your own sports equipment, specifically your own bowling ball, isn’t as difficult as many bowlers would have you believe. 

You don’t have to transfer the responsibilities of maintaining a bowling ball to a seasoned bowler or pro shop all the time. You may be surprised to learn that you can do most of the things that will keep your ball in top shape yourself!

Not sure how? This article will show you how you can keep your equipment in mint condition for optimal performance. 

Why Bowling Balls Require Regular Upkeep?

In order to protect the lane from the repeatedly thrown bowling balls, owners of bowling alleys often spread oil on the lanes before games. The oil plays such an important role in keeping the effects of the friction produced by the balls to a minimum that it is worth the massive amount of oil absorption that results in the ball.

This also allows the owners to get their money’s worth on the lanes, helping them keep the surface of each lane in prime condition for as long as possible.

Nowadays, a bowling ball will often come manufactured with a cover stock that features microscopic pores. These pores are responsible for generating friction and increasing the hook performance and ball reaction in every shot. 

So, when a bowling ball is used frequently, the track area of the ball surface starts picking up oil and debris from the lane surface. When the entire ball has clogged pores, it loses its effectiveness and is unable to perform at optimal levels. 

To prevent a ball from losing its accuracy, power, and hook potential, bowlers have to deep clean and maintain the coverstock surface of their bowling ball regularly. 

The 4 Stages of Bowling Ball Maintenance 

1. Cleaning (After Every Use)

The emergence of cleaning agents has made it extremely simple to clean a bowling ball

Do note, though, that cleaning agents vary depending on the specific coverstocks they are manufactured for. For instance, a cleaning agent made for a brand new ball with a polished factory finish shouldn’t be used on a sanded, rougher surface coverstock. 

Pay attention to this specific detail when you make your purchase. We also recommend that you only purchase an agent that has been officially approved by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). 

Cleaning agents are available in both a spray bottle or a squeeze bottle, so feel free to choose whichever one you are most comfortable using to keep your ball clean. Applying the cleaning solution to your bowling gear after every game is a good cleaning habit of surface maintenance that will help improve your ball’s performance.

To clean your ball properly, apply the ball cleaner after each game. Work the solution with a towel and, after you have polished the entire ball, simply wipe the agent away. 

Next, wipe the ball again with a microfiber towel, this time using a bit more pressure. Why?

Microfiber does a great job of getting the oil out of deep track marks. Use a fresh towel to finish this surface maintenance routine before stowing the ball away for the night.

2. Polishing/Sanding (After Every 10 Games)

The two different types of coverstock surfaces mentioned previously require different treatments, with different levels of grit, to maintain the factory finish.

For instance, a sanded surface coverstock will need to be sanded with grit disks, abralon pads, or sanding pads. Meanwhile, a polished surface will need a polisher. 

When working with a sanded surface coverstock, use the grit to scuff the surface to the roughness you prefer — but watch out that you don’t over-sand because this can negatively affect hook reaction on the lane. As a general rule, use a lower grit with increased pressure for small changes, but a higher grit with less pressure to mimic getting your bowling ball resurfaced. 

Polishing a ball is much easier. Simply smooth the polish over the ball and follow the instructions on the bottle for desired results. 

In most cases, you simply need to put a dime-sized drop of polish on a fresh rag. Then, apply the polish to the bowling ball in a circular motion. 

Let it dry for a while and then use a fresh rag to finish up with another quick dry polish.

3. Bleeding (After Every 30 Games)

Despite regular maintenance with a ball cleaner, the pores of your bowling ball will eventually get clogged up, affecting hook performance and ball reaction. When this happens, you will need to extract the accumulated oil and dirt from your bowling ball, a process called bleeding. 

There are two effective ways to bleed a bowling ball: bathing and baking.

Bathing

You can perform this cleaning method at home. Simply tape the finger holes of the ball to prevent water from seeping in, then submerge the ball into a bucket or bowl of hot water and dishwashing liquid.  

Let the ball sit in the bucket for 20 minutes. Be careful not to exceed the time limit. 

Remove the ball from the bucket and wipe it clean with a dry rag. 

Repeat the process until you don’t see any more oil rising to the top of the water. Every new bath cycle will require fresh hot water and dish soap.

Baking

Baking is a popular method used by experts to bake the oil out of bowling balls. 

As you must have guessed, this method requires you to bake the ball in an oven. However, a regular oven will not suffice because they’re not made for this specific type of baking.

Pro shops have special ovens specifically created to bake bowling balls. These special ovens are capable of maintaining a temperature of 110 degrees, the ideal temperature to bake balls. 

Most ovens also wipe the bowling ball thoroughly as the oil comes out of the microscopic pores. 

You need to take your ball to a pro shop to have it baked unless you have a bowling ball rejuvenator at home, which is basically a mini version of the ovens found in pro shops.

4. Resurfacing (After Every 60 Games)

The pores in your bowling ball don’t only contribute to debris and oil absorption. They are there for beneficial reasons too. 

The pores play an instrumental role in producing friction on the track area of a bowling ball, thereby enabling the ball to hook better and grip the lane properly.   

Resurfacing is a process that requires you to sand down your bowling ball thoroughly. It involves the recalibration of your ball’s surface to restore the elevated edges on the pores and improve friction on the lane and hook performance.

To bring a “dead ball” to life, you will need to restore the pores and smooth out the ball’s surface.  

Unlike the other stages of bowling ball maintenance, we believe resurfacing a bowling ball should be left to the experts. It can be done at a pro shop for a sum that is well worth the price. 

Final Note

Before you purchase a bowling ball, you should bear in mind the additional costs of maintaining it. Though most of the things you need to do to maintain a bowling ball can be done at home, they still require materials and tools that can be costly over time, especially when you burn through them because of frequent upkeep.

Also, some professional bowling balls are best maintained solely at pro shops. So, only purchase a bowling ball that you can afford to maintain.

Remember that no matter how expensive or expertly-designed a bowling ball is, it will lose its performance if not maintained well enough. Give some love to your bowling balls and they will repay you tenfold on the bowling lane.