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Bowling Equipment Tips by Chuck Schommer


Bowling equipment today can often be considered an investment that must be maintained and protected, so knowing the Do's and Don'ts of cleaning your bowling balls increase the life and performance of your arsenal. To begin, it's imperative that you keep the surface of your ball as clean as possible, especially if it's reactive urethane or particle reactive urethane, which absorb lane oil into their respective coverstocks much more aggressively than plastic and rubber balls of yesteryear.

Ball manufacturers have recognized that ball surface maintenance is key to allowing a bowler to have a consistent ball reaction, so every ball maker has also developed a complete line of cleaners and polishes to help the player maintain their own equipment.

It's my long standing opinion that bowlers should leave ball surface maintenance to their Pro Shop Technician, for many reasons the most important of which is that the Pro Shop has an useful device that makes ball cleaning much easier; the ball spinner. Rather than relying on good old fashioned elbow grease, the ball spinner rotates the ball at a high rate of speed which allows cleaners to do a much more effective job at removing surface dirt and lane oil. That said, let's review the different cleaners and polishes available today and what they do to help you keep your ball in good condition.


Cleaners are usually a liquid or gel material composed of an alcohol and a degreaser combined. Some cleaners also employ a surfactant that suspends dirt particles until they are washed away by further cleaning, much like soap bubbles do. Again, these cleaners are much more effective when used in conjunction with a ball spinner. Cleaners are formulated to work on any type of ball currently manufactured. I'd like to mention now that there are two types of substances that should never be used on the surface of your ball: Solvents, such as acetone and MEK, and household abrasives, like Comet and SoftScrub. Solvents can actually degrade any urethane material, and abrasives not specially formulated for bowling balls can embed tiny particulates in the ball material that can end up being deposited on the lane surface itself. Almost all cleaners available are mild enough to be used every time bowling takes place.


Polishes for the most part are designed to smooth the ball surface to produce more skid, length, and a later break in the ball's path down the lane. There are 4 types of polish available today. The first and oldest, is wax. Wax, when applied, tends to give the ball added length, but a tamer back end reaction because the wax "blinds" the ball surface to the lane. However, most waxes wear away in a game or two due to friction between the ball and lane, so it is a temporary surface adjustment at best. The second and most widely used polish incorporates different degrees of "grit" which can either roughen or smooth the ball surface to change the friction level of the ball to the lane. These polishes act like liquid sandpaper, and can change the ball's reaction with very little effort, and can change the surface above the level produced by using sandpaper alone. The third and fourth class of polish use chemicals with and without abrasive materials that both increase length and tend to make the ball' s backend reaction sharper, because the smoother ball surface skates through the front part of the lane more cleanly, conserving momentum and the chance for a bigger change of direction down the lane.

There is no way to predict the life expectancy of a ball before it loses reaction potential. Whenever it's noticed that your ball reaction is changing when the lane conditions are apparently the same for other players, it's time to consult your Pro Shop Technician on how you can restore your ball's former reaction. Of course, there is no substitute for regular cleaning. Also, resurfacing and removing soaked in lane oil will restore most balls, which will also extend the usable life. But no matter what is done, a bowler can't expect a reactive urethane coverstock to remain "like new" for a long period of time. As always, consulting your Professional is the best way to make sure your equipment stays in top condition.  

For more information, answers to questions, or feedback on this article please  visit Chuck at the Pro Shop at Eastway Lanes or e-mail him at

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