Bowling enthusiasts aren’t the ones scouring the racks at the local alley to find a common-use ball which almost fits their fingers and can just barely get the job done. Bowling is an investment for a serious player, requiring the right tools for the right situations such as bowling ball cleaners and microfiber towels. The right bowling balls can help separate fair players from good, good players from great. However, it’s the amount of practice one gets at the lane which really serves as the divide, along with how a bowler takes care of their bowling balls after such use.
Heavy practice puts bowling balls through hell due to the regular wear and tear of repeated use, mucking them up with everything from oil on the lanes to sweat/dirt from gripping and ripping. Chips and fissures slowly take away the shape and make the hardest shots nearly impossible. To keep a ball from losing its effectiveness on the lane (not to mention, its aesthetic sheen), it pays to regularly clean your bowling ball after use. How do you do that without overpaying someone at an alley or pro shop to do it for you? Well, there are several ways – with the first being finding the right commercial bowling ball cleaner for you.
What Is In A Bowling Ball Cleaner?
The big plus about buying a commercial bowling ball cleaner is that they have been formulated and tested with the express purpose of dispersing and cleaning the particular oils and dirt buildup common from repeated use at any bowling alley. Every commercial bowling ball cleaner is different, with various chemicals ranging from natural-based to industrial solvents containing harsh chemicals such as methanol and glutaraldehyde. Some cleaners have a petroleum base, some stick with alcohol, while a few others use good-old water as the base in concert with active degreasing chemicals.
One key note: be careful about the level of acetone in any cleaner you see on the market. Unchecked acetone has been known to break down and soften the cover of bowling balls over time, making them much harder to clean and nearly useless once the cover is broken down beyond repair.
With all this being said, here’s our list of five commercial bowling ball cleaners which really hit the mark to help you hit your mark on the lane.
5 of the Best Bowling Ball Cleaners
Monster Tac is a universal cleaner which has proven effective for repeated use on all different types of surfaces on bowling balls. Whether it’s a plastic, urethane, rubber, resin, or particle coverstock surface, Monster Tac has been approved by the USBC for use before, during or after a game. It comes in a light, recyclable plastic spray bottle and requires just a few spritzes along with a wipe down from a microfiber towel to lift oil and dirt from the surface of the ball.
Priced around $34.99 for a 32 ounce bottle, Monster Tac is also one of the most cost-effective commercial cleaners for those who regularly clean their balls due to repeated use. One key strength of this particular product is that it cleans out belt marks just as effectively as it does the normal buildup of oil and dirt, giving your ball a just-purchased glow and feel which will help you maximize your game.
Purple Stuff is the perfect in-game bowling ball cleaner as it has been known to increase control on the spot and give your ball that tacky, just-bought feel that can help increase accuracy and sharpen precision on tough shots. It’s simply one of the most impressive professional cleaners on the market, cutting through grease and oil almost instantaneously to return your ball to its optimum play state.
While Purple Stuff should be used with care as there are noted skin irritants and harsh chemicals such as the aforementioned glutaraldehyde which can be a real bother to the exposed skin of your hands and arms, it is simply a well-trusted brand that has been lauded in reviews by players of all skill levels on everything from Amazon to trade sites.
If you’re looking for an alternative to solvent- and alcohol-based commercial cleaners, Vise Bowling Ball Cleaner is a relatively new solution on the market that is getting great initial reviews. It’s main differential selling point is that it is a water-based cleaner, albeit one loaded with typically high and effective levels of alcohol and petroleum. Therefore, it doesn’t come with the harsh chemical smell that other cleaners can give off. Anybody with a sensitive sense of smell or who is prone to headaches from harsh chemicals can rest easy knowing that Vise has got your back.
Not many water-based cleaners are given the thumbs up by serious players, due to perceived or actual lack of effectiveness. However, Vise Bowling Ball Cleaner has proven itself to be a fantastic exception to the rule. It cleans effectively, gives your ball that tacky feel which is essential to control, and functions as a perfect alternative for any ball surface not requiring a solvent to clean it thoroughly.
If you’re looking for a one-stop bowling ball cleaner and polish which balances effectiveness with its cute, bowling-pin shaped bottle, look no further. While it’s a cream-based solution that can leave a lot of residual stickiness on your hands if you don’t wash properly after cleaning, it’s simply unmatched in blocking lane oil from absorbing into the finish of your bowling ball. It’s also extremely cost effective for those who don’t want to purchase a professional bowling ball cleaner and polish separately.
The bottle opens similar to a lotion dispenser and only requires a small amount applied to a microfiber towel for maximum effect. It doesn’t have a harsh smell like many other cleaners on the market, nor does it cause any unwanted stickiness or smudges on the surface of the ball. One key advantage to this particular base of cleaner is that it has been known to increase the full hook potential of your ball when used properly. If you’re looking for added oomph to your delivery, that’s a huge advantage to have!
Want all the advantages of a top-level professional bowling ball cleaner without all the environmental, harsh chemical drawbacks of some of the most well-known brands on the market? Tac Up has got you covered. It is completely biodegradable while also functioning to give your ball back its original tackiness to increase control. Just spray it directly on the ball and wipe down with a microfiber towel to increase smoothness while cutting into all the oil and grease buildup from the lanes.
Tac Up is one of the fastest-drying cleaners on the market. It doesn’t leave any noted residue which can serve as counterproductive when it comes to getting a consistent spin and speed on your shots. You can also partner Tac Up with a ball spinning machine to really get a thorough wash of your ball, cutting into belt marks and lane debris that otherwise would hamper your overall feel and shot. Solidly cost effective and reviewed kindly on a bevy of sites, Tac Up does its job without doing a number on your skin or the environment.
DIY Homemade Bowling Ball Cleaner Instructions
All of the above cleaners are perfect for bowlers of all skill levels, but they can definitely be pricey if you’re working on a limited budget. With league and per-game cost continuing to rise as the years go on, no one will blame you if you can’t spare the additional income to regularly buy commercial cleaners which can go for forty dollar or so a pop. With that being said, there are definitely homemade alternatives to commercial bowling ball cleaners which can give you plenty of bang for a limited buck.
Bowling Ball Cleaner Recipe
One of the most widely-accepted solutions for a homemade bowling ball cleaner requires equal parts Simple Green, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and water. Just mix these three into a regular spray bottle and it makes for an effective, cheap cleaner. Now, it won’t give necessarily give you the tackiness or restorative powers of some of the professional bowling ball cleaners above. Sometimes, fancy chemicals and expensive solutions are fancy and expensive for a reason! However, budgets are a real thing and this is the age-old quick fix for those bowling without crazy bucks to spend.
Now, there are other ways of going about this on the DIY route which can serve as either an effective stopgap cleaner or a regular fix for those who aren’t going to be spending tens of dollars on commercial products. Let’s delve deeper by looking at different key ingredients which can help you turn your cupboard into a makeshift pro shop.
Bowling Ball Cleaner Ingredients
Used as a base for both homemade and some commercial cleaners, rubbing alcohol does wonders for clearing off surface dirt, oil, and grime. However, the reason why it’s often used as a constituent part or a base is that it is ineffective on its own accord in removing dirt, oil, and grime from deep in the pores of the ball.
Rubbing alcohol is a fantastic quick fix on its own if you just need to get to the surface of the problem and time/resources are limited. However, it’s not going to serve as a single solution for the needs of regular bowlers with its limitations as a full-fledged degreaser.
Liquid dish soap
The use of Dawn and other liquid dish soaps is a point of contention among experienced bowlers. Some will laud Dawn for its degreasing powers and swear by it as a safe, cost-effective method – sharing stories about taping over the holes of the ball before immersing it in soap and water.
However, some dish soaps have a fatty base to them which can seep into the pores of the ball and add more muck over the long-term. There’s also worries with certain balls that dish soap can create an emulsion with bowling lane oil that becomes a much bigger problem to clean than simply lane oil itself.
Other household cleaners
There are many other household alternatives out there which have various positives and negatives attached to their reputation. The following is a list of USBC-approved substances which are approved at anytime for usage. Be sure to read more into each of these cleaners for ways to safeguard your ball and ensure maximum effectiveness –
SuperClean (Castrol SuperClean)
Denatured Alcohol (Ethyl Alcohol)
Orange Clean Multipurpose Degreaser
Spray Nine Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Using a dishwasher
Sometimes lane oil gets way too deep into the shell of a bowling ball, making most household and commercial cleaners relatively ineffective. One way of skirting high costs at the pro shop for a deep clean is to “bake” the oil out of the ball with a dishwasher.
To do so, plug the holes of your ball with tape, clay or another adhesive. Put the ball on the bottom rack of your dishwasher. At this juncture, you could add soap if you’d like – but, the hot water and movement of the dishwasher alone usually will do the trick. Make sure your dishwasher is set to a regular wash cycle because any type of special cycle could unevenly heat the ball and lead to a crack. Once complete, leave the ball to dry for a few hours inside the dishwasher. Don’t use the ball for at least 24 hours to ensure it is fully dried and ready to go.
Some experts warn you to limit the times you “bake” your own ball, as the risks of uneven heating and variations of the dishwasher’s cycles could end up leaving your ball in worse shape than it started. With regular wiping and surface cleaning, deep cleans are only recommended every 75-100 games or more.
Whatever methodology you choose to use to clean your bowling ball, be it homemade or a commercially-licensed product, the bottom line is that regular cleaning of your ball is essential to its effectiveness and longevity on the lanes.
Always be careful and do your due diligence no matter what you use. Certain drawbacks exist for pretty much every method out there, so it behooves the serious bowler to pick and choose wisely. Regardless, the right regular cleaning method will serve as a huge benefit to anyone’s game. A clean ball will always do the most damage.