How to Clean a Baitcast Reel


After you finish this guide, make sure to read our honest opinion about one of the most popular baitcast reels out there. Check it out and see if you like it or not.

No matter the reel you choose, you will always have to remember that keeping your fishing gear clean is of utmost importance. Brand new reels, in particular, need your attention and after you finish cleaning them you also need to lubricate them. So let’s find out how to properly clean a baitcast reel and how to keep it working for years.



You rarely have to take it apart

Some fishing enthusiasts are afraid of cleaning their baitcast reel because they think they need to disassemble it. Putting it back together can be a hard task, but it’s nothing to fear and, furthermore, it shouldn’t be done that often. If you don’t want to clean your reel yourself, you can ask for it to be serviced by someone that specializes in that.

But before you give it to someone else to be cleaned, there are some things that you can do yourself with ease. First of all clean the outside cover with a towel that’s dry and clean. This way you remove the dirt, debris and everything else before going into the reel itself.

After that, take off the side plate and you will be able to see the spool inside. Tap it to remove any debris there but don’t be too harsh with it. Get the spool out with care and start cleaning the reel from the inside. You can use q-tips for this as they work wonders. If you feel that you need to do some heavier work, use a solution such as rubbing alcohol to get the dirt that’s stuck off.

Be sure to reach all those places where dirt will usually be. If you’re fortunate you can reach the inner rubber ring and rubber guards, so when you do that clean them well. If you want to do more than this you will have to take the reel apart.


The soft cleaning

Most reel parts can be cleaned easily by simply using hot water, a small brush (maybe a toothbrush) and some dish soap. These are the parts which aren’t that messy and don’t require any special attention. Some people recommend a certain kind of dish soap, but really anything you use in your house and you feel is doing a good job for your plates will work.

You don’t need to use any strong chemicals. Some suggest the use of carb cleaner, acetone, brake cleaner or something like that, but there’s really no need for that kind of substance. Some warm water, a toothbrush, and dish soap will do the work just fine.

You can, however, use harsh chemicals like the ones mentioned above for the metal parts of the reel. By the way, don’t risk using such chemicals on plastic or anything similar, as you don’t know what can happen to the plastic part and it can melt. When you use strong chemicals, be careful to the fumes they produce. Always stay safe, wear gloves, and even a mask and goggles if you feel the need.

When cleaning bearings, you can do that with water, a toothbrush, and soap. But remember that they need to be soaked in some kind of solvent, so mix the soap in the water and let the bearings sit in it for a while. There is no best way to clean the bearings, and it all depends on how dirty they are.


Going in with the harsh chemicals

Sometimes you need something stronger to get the residue off the bearings and for that, you have to use some harsher solvents. You can make use of brake or carb cleaner, lighter fluid or acetone. All of them have a similar effect - they get the dirt away, quite effectively.

Most of us have heard that there is a certain solvent, any one of these, that does a better job than the others and leaves nothing behind. That might be true, but there haven’t been any studies on that, so you can experiment with all of them and see what works best for you.

Furthermore, none of these is safe enough to be used in your everyday life, so be careful when cleaning your reel with them. And don’t let that solution sit in one of your main rooms as the fumes will spread.

If you want to speed up the process of cleaning the bearings, you can use an ultrasonic unit. This is the high-tech alternative and it certainly makes things faster, but it’s not the only way. Fortunately, you can find such a cleaning unit for low prices if you’re looking for bargains. However, it works like a dishwasher in the sense that it cleans the bearings, but you still have to do some washing yourself if you want every speck of dust gone.

Keep in mind that such a machine is one that is commonly used by professional cleaning services that get hundreds of reels to clean every season. By the way, if you hate cleaning your fishing gear, you can go and have it cleaned by a service like this.


Keeping things simple

When you’re cleaning the baitcast reel for the first time it’s best to keep things simple. Find two or more small glasses that you don’t normally use and put the bearings in them. Pour enough solvent in each of the glasses until you cover the bearings. Put something over them, like a cling wrap so the fumes don’t spill outside.

The spool bearings need special treatment, so keep them separated from the others. There are also the bearings with shields and those that have removable shields. Make sure you separate those. You should do this to make the cleaning process a faster one, as the solvent will be better able to get to the dirty parts.



Regarding how much time you should keep the bearings submerged in the cleaning fluid, there isn’t a specific time when you’re using acetone, lighter fluid or something like that. It’s a decision that you need to make from case to case. You will also need to change the fluid from time to time when it gets too dirty and you sense that it doesn’t do its job anymore.

The number of times you change it also depends on how clean you want your reel to be. Some parts will take longer than others to get cleaned, the shielded bearings being some of the most difficult-to-clean parts. Those bearings that have a heavier lube will also take longer to get that lube loose and be cleaned and they will also require you to change the cleaning fluid more often.

Once you see which bearings are clean, get them out of the fluid safely and leave them out to dry. It’s preferable if you keep them in an environment that allows good airflow, as they still give out fumes from the solution they’ve been in. If you want to speed things up, get your hair dryer and dry them with it.

The bearings will be the most difficult parts to clean, so by the time you finish with them, all the other parts will already be clean, dry and ready for you to lubricate them and put all of them back together.



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