How to Clean and Lubricate a Spinning Reel

The maintenance of a spinning reel is not as hard as you may imagine it to be. In fact, it is surprisingly easy if you know the right method. Unless and until you have a fully sealed design in your fishing reel, it is quite common for grit and water to go inside and damage the bearings.

When this is not taken care of, in the long run, it will lead to rusting and corrosion. This applies to both the saltwater reel and freshwater reel. In this post, I will discuss how to clean and lubricate a spinning reel in a step-by-step process.

Table of Contents

Step 1 – Organize the Tools and Supplies You Need

The first step is to gather everything you need to deep cleaning and lube your spinning reel. There are many parts that need separating in a spinning reel, so it’s very easy to lose the smaller pieces. To avoid this, take a towel and spread it over your working space.

Some of the common tools and supplies you will need:

  • Screwdriver
  • Tweezers
  • Wrench
  • Toothpick
  • Toothbrush or bristle brush
  • Parts list
  • Cleaning solution or reel cleaner
  • Multi-purpose grease
  • Reel oil and
  • Lighter fluid

There are some reel cleaning kits available in the market. You can grab a reel cleaning kit to make things easier.

When you take apart each of the spinning reel parts, carefully arrange them on the towel. If possible, number them as 1, 2, 3, and so on so that you don’t lose any of them.

Step 2 – Take the Spinning Reel Apart

Disassembling Spinning Reels To Prepare For Maintenance
Taking reels apart

Now, it’s time to disassemble the spinning reel, and this is where you’ll need your tweezers, screwdrivers, and wrenches. Every fishing reel, whether it’s a spinning reel or a baitcasting reel, is different in one way or another, so the first time you take yours apart, you will want to do so one piece at a time. Just see what makes sense to you and take it apart piece by piece.

There is one universal step common to all spinning reels, however, – to avoid tangles, before you remove the spool, make sure you have secured the fishing line. Whenever you remove any tiny parts, use tweezers so that they don’t shoot across the room.

Step 3 – Clean the Reel Coil

Start by cleaning the reel coil. First, you have to remove the central screw and then use a small soft-bristled toothbrush to remove any debris, or foreign object stuck on the surface of that fishing gear. Now, take distilled water or clean water in a bucket and keep the reel coil immersed for a couple of hours.

Use paper towels or a dry cloth to rinse and dry the coil. Keep in mind that the friction unit does not require lubrication with fishing reel oil or grease.

Step 4 – Clean and Lubricate the Rotation Mechanism

This step is something you should do every time you go fishing using a microfiber cloth. Dampen it with water, and then clean the outside surface of the reel with it. Once you have removed the coil, you will see certain moving parts. These need to be lubricated. You can use a silicone lubricant for high performance, which will protect these parts from moisture.

Step 5 – Lubricate the Line Spool and the Bail

When you are fishing, the bail joint sees a lot of use, so you also need to take care of it. Start by cleaning the joints thoroughly. Use a toothbrush or a bristle brush to clean the ball connection points and line roller. Then apply reel oil as a lubricant on ball connection points.

In most of the spinning reel models, the line spool comes with a small bearing; it is called spool bearing. It would be best if you lubricated it as well along with the line spool.

Step 6 – Lubricate the Handle

Once you have disassembled the spinning reel’s handle, use the same lubrication product that you have used in the previous step to lubricate the rotation seat, shaft, handle, and reel head.

Step 7 – Lubricate All the Internal Mechanisms

Usually, this part is more complicated than the rest, so search for any small hole or screw caps on the reel body’s exterior surface. Add a few drops of the lubricant in these areas to reduce wear and tear to a minimum. Don’t forget to use a good-quality fishing reel lubricant.

If you are confident enough to open all the internal mechanisms, you can do so but once you finish, make sure you have reassembled everything precisely as it was. Once all the reel parts are clean, use fishing reel grease on the gears inside with the help of a toothpick. It is safer to put the grease on the upper teeth as it helps spread the grease to other areas.

Step 8 – Reassemble the Reel

When you have lubricated and cleaned everything, it is time to put everything back together. Every reel comes with an explosion diagram. So, if you feel confused, you can simply consult the diagram.

Quick maintenance after every fishing trip

This is a part of regular reel maintenance that involves wiping the grime and dirt off and then drying the reel with the help of a dry cloth. Always tighten the drag knob before washing the reel with water. And don’t use soapy water to clean reels; otherwise, you will only end up damaging the internal parts.

Another thing to keep in mind is that saltwater fishing reels have more saline residue buildup than freshwater fishing reels, making them more prone to damage.

Fishing Reel Grease vs. Reel Oil for Fishing Reel Lubrication

There are some confusions among the amateur anglers about the use of fishing reel grease and reel oil. They often ask me where to use grease and where to use reel oil during lubrication. Both are similar, but does that mean we can use them alternatively? The answer is; no. It’s not recommended.

Use the reel oil for parts listed below:

  • Handle Knobs
  • Ball Bearings
  • Worm Gears
  • Line Rollers

And use grease for the parts listed below:

  • Main Gears
  • Pinion Gears
  • Drag systems
  • Spool Shafts

Grease offers more viscosity which makes it long-lasting. At the same time, excess grease is not good as it can make your reel gummed up and sticky.

Now, let’s talk about something out of the box. How about using both oil and grease in some particular parts of a reel? I mean one after another. Yes, it does work! Using reel oil is recommended for the ball bearings. After oiling that parts, you can put an extra layer of grease on them. That will make sure the optimal performance of the ball bearings.

How often should you do the reel maintenance?

It might seem to you know that the process is tedious and cumbersome. But you need to do the reel maintenance only once or twice a year for optimal performance and to make your spinning reel last longer.

Now that you know the basics of reel maintenance and you will save a considerable amount of money because spinning reels don’t come cheap. What’s more, once you lubricate and clean the reel, you will be amazed to see how its performance improves. A clean and well-lubricated spinning reel will make your entire experience on the water much better and help you catch more fish in the long run.

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