In any sport, the care and maintenance of the used equipment is paramount to maintaining functioning gear and uninterrupted play, bowling is no exception.
Bowling pins must be well balanced so they do not topple over when racked, bowling shoes must be scuffed and kept tidy and extra care must go into the preservation of bowling lanes through the use of oil coating.
In fact this, the oil coating has become so important in keeping the lanes in working condition that oil patterns have been integrated into the game as key strategic challenges!
Now, while pin care, shoe care, and bowling lane care are extremely important, our focus for this article is the care of perhaps the most important piece of equipment used in the sport of bowling, the bowling ball.
It can vary in weight, design, coverstock, and grit. It can come in a variety of colors with a variety of drill hole layouts, but without the bowling ball, this sport would not be the American pastime it has come to be over the past several years.
A lot of thought goes into which bowling ball is the right fit for a bowler.
Does it work with your dominant hand?
Your individual bowling style?
Does it fit your hand correctly and react the way you want it to?
Does it hook well?
Does it weigh the right amount?
All of these are important questions that bowlers strive to answer as they find the right bowling ball partner for them, and once they find it you can bet they strive to keep the ball cleaned properly and in pristine condition.
How Dirty Is a Bowling Ball?
When bowling you’re throwing your ball down a sixty-foot oil coated lane. The surface of your bowling ball is porous, allowing for different friction generation, and eventually, those tiny microscopic holes get plugged with the dirt and oil they go through.
As your microscopic holes become more and more plugged up your ball reacts in a different way than it should. Maybe it is rolling slower, grabbing wrong for the hook or its margin of error increases, the point is that a dirty ball will eventually affect your game, and not for the better.
How Often Should You Clean a Bowling Ball?
Constant maintenance is key in the longevity of a bowling ball. As you bowl each turn of your game your bowling ball is exposed to more and more oil, picking up more and more slick into its surface.
You may even notice a ring of oil around your ball when you retrieve it, this has come to be known as an “oil track”. It is important that you take care of this oil track right away, preferably after each turn so the oil doesn’t have a chance to absorb into the ball’s surface.
To take care of the oil that gets on your bowling ball, you should rub the ball down with a microfiber towel after each turn. The sooner you get that oil off your ball the better, that way it doesn’t have a chance to absorb further into the surface.
Once you are done bowling for the night, you should also spray your ball down with a specialized cleaner before wiping it down with a towel as well. This prevents any missed oil from absorbing further into the bowling ball’s surface.
Another way you can clean your bowling ball is to resurface the coverstock. This process sands away the oil saturated level of your bowling ball and helps your ball get back those microscopic bumps and valleys that generate traction.
This process does slowly wear away at your bowling ball though, so it should only be done when your ball is really struggling to perform as it should.
What’s the Best Way to Properly Clean a Bowling Ball?
As we mentioned above, the key to a bowling ball’s longevity is constant maintenance. Wiping your bowling ball down with a microfiber after each use, as well as spraying it with a cleaner and wiping it down before storing it after a game will go a long way.
There are also a variety of cleaning sprays or home methods that people will employ in an effort to increase their ball’s longevity. These sprays can usually be found at a local pro bowling shop or on an online retail site.
What is important is to look to make sure the sprays act as a degreaser of sorts, targeting oil saturation without wrecking the bowling ball.
Resurfacing the bowling ball is also another method to get it cleaned up. Bowlers can resurface the bowling ball at home but this method does involve risks.
Inexperienced bowlers could sand off more than they want or fail to get the amount of grit they want on their ball. They could also create an uneven surface on of the bowling ball which will affect how the bowling ball reacts during gameplay.
In order to ensure your bowling ball is getting cleaned, gritted and polished to the right surface you want it is probably best for you to seek out your local pro bowling shop.
These shops have high-speed ball spinners, a variety of abrasion pads and different polishes that are used to set your ball up the way you want it. There are also trained professionals that work on your ball who have training and experience in how to resurface your ball properly.
If you do not want to resurface your ball but still need a thorough “deep clean” then you should definitely go to the pro shop. Many of these shops have a specialized oven that bakes out the oil.
The oven is heated to a constant temperature of one hundred and ten degrees Fahrenheit and an inner machine rotates the ball while wiping the surface with rollers underneath.
It is important that you go to a pro-shop for this method though and do not attempt it at home since home ovens are not generally equipped to keep the whole surface of the ball at the exact temperature it needs to be.
Do Bowling Ball Cleaning Machines Work?
They do in the way that they help extend the life of your bowling ball. By using a variety of cleaning methods coupled with the occasional trip to the pro-shop for some deep cleaning, the machines help rejuvenate your ball and extend its use.
While the machines help keep your ball in an optimal condition, they are not one hundred percent effective. Your ball will eventually need to be replaced, but by using the machines to help maintain a healthy ball you can extend the lifespan of your bowling ball greatly.
Can You Use Bowling Ball Cleaning Machines at Home?
For the ball spinner, yes you can! There are companies that sell home ball spinners that you can buy for your own use.
Before spinning and sanding your own ball though you should make sure to seek advice from a local pro shop or a bowler who has used a ball spinner before. Do not try resurfacing your ball without doing the proper research first!
For the baking method, unless you want to spend a lot of money on a specialized oven home, this option is out. Residential ovens, unfortunately, do not come with the capability of rotating the ball at a constant temperature.
There is a method you can try, though, that some bowlers have found to be as effective, if not more, as the baking method and that is the hot bath method.
Hot Bath Method: Clean a Bowling Ball with Dish Soap
To clean your bowling ball using the hot bath method you’ll need a few supplies. You will need a bucket, one big enough to fully submerse your ball in, waterproof tape, Dawn dish soap, and a microfiber towel.
To begin you need to fill your bucket with hot water that should be around one hundred and forty degrees Fahrenheit. Use the waterproof tape to seal the finger holes of your ball so water can’t seep in and wreck the material.
Once the bucket is filled completely you will need to add a few drops of dish soap to the water before adding in your bowling ball.
Allow your ball to soak in the bath for twenty minutes (it is very important that you do not go over the twenty minutes with soaking or you run the risk of warping your ball), spinning the ball occasionally throughout the soaking process.
After twenty minutes remove your ball from the water and dry it thoroughly with a microfiber towel. Dump the dirty hot water and refill it, repeating the process as much as you need to.
Once oil stops rising to the top of the water’s surface you will know you’re done.
Can You Clean a Bowling Ball with Household Products?
There are a variety of methods out there to clean your bowling ball with household methods and products. The effectiveness of these methods varies from person to person, some swear by certain methods while others find them ineffective and useless.
What is important to remember is that you must always exercise caution when trying out these varying methods, since some may actually end up hurting your ball.
How to Clean a Bowling Ball with Dawn Dish Soap?
Dawn is the main choice of the Hot Bath method. The gentle formula seems to work best with getting the oil saturation out. Other brands work as well but the general consensus is that Dawn seems to work the best.
How to Clean a Bowling Ball with Rubbing Alcohol?
First thing first, you must never soak your bowling ball in rubbing alcohol for any period of time. That being said, wiping down the surface of your bowling ball with a towel or microfiber cloth soaked with alcohol right after use helps clean the dirt and oil from its surface.
Afterwards, you should wipe off and dry the ball with a clean microfiber towel to protect the surface. This method does require quite a bit of vigorous scrubbing in order to really get the ball’s surface clean but it works well to help keep the oil from soaking into your ball further.
Another way to use rubbing alcohol to clean the surface of your bowling ball is to mix it with equal parts water and Simple Green in a spray bottle. Then squirt the surface of the bowling ball with the mixture. Make sure to wipe the ball down with a microfiber towel after use and not to let the mixture soak into the surface for more than thirty seconds.
Can You Clean a Bowling Ball with Windex?
Windex has been approved as legal ball cleaner by the US Bowling Congress. It along with ammonia are cleaners that work to help keep the surface of your bowling ball clean.
In fact, it is always smart to look and see what cleaners have been approved by the USBC as safe and legal methods of cleaning. Using incorrect cleaners could actually wreck your bowling ball.
With Windex, gently spray the bowling ball’s surface and quickly wipe it up with a microfiber towel. Like with all cleaners it is important that you do not let the Windex soak into the bowling ball’s surface for an extended period of time.
Can You Clean a Bowling Ball with Nail Polish Remover?
While some people find some success with non-acetone nail polish remover as a cleaner you should never use nail polish remover with acetone in it.
The harsh chemicals can hurt and warp your ball, an unnecessary risk since it is just as easy to find acetone-free nail polish. Nail polish is also not approved for tournament use on the US Bowling Congress site so while it can be used in a pinch it may be best to seek out more effective cleaners.
There are many methods and ways out on the internet on how to clean your bowling ball, from professional machines and home baths to what type of home remedies you can use as a cleaner.
While some methods of cleaning may be more effective than others finding the right fit for your ball will help ensure its longevity and use.
Your bowling ball is the most important piece of equipment to your game, it is important that you take the proper steps to clean and care for it as you use it to ensure it functions properly and doesn’t affect your game.