Understanding The Importance Of Ball Maintenance

Understanding The Importance Of Ball Maintenance

Many bowlers ask if it is really that important to clean and maintain their bowling ball.  A quick answer to that question is simply YES!  Grease, grime, lane oil and other things get on your ball and slowly deteriorate its performance and effectiveness of knocking down pins.  The “shell”, AKA “coverstock”, of most bowling balls are very porous and will absorb any contaminants that it comes in contact with, especially the lane oil on the lane.  These contaminants will alter the box finish and clog the pores of the coverstock, thus changing how the ball reacts on the lane.  This article will provide the basic information on what types of cleaners, polishers and conditioners you should use based on the type of ball(s) you own.

First, you need to know what type of coverstock is on your ball.  It is either plastic (polyester), urethane or reactive resin.  Plastic covers are on your lower end balls that are used to throw straight.  Examples of these types of balls are the Brunswick T-Zone, Storm Mix and Columbia White Dot.  Plastic is the hardest coverstock, has very little or no pores at all and therefore is very low maintenance.   All plastic balls have a polished out of box finish.

The second type of coverstock is urethane.  Urethane is on the harder end of coverstocks but is still softer than plastic.  Most urethane balls come sanded out of the box but the textured box finish is altered very quickly by lane oil.  The oil tends to “sit” on top of the ball and is not absorbed into the shell causing the ball to loose it’s grit and shine up very quickly.  This is called “lane shine”.  Examples of urethane balls are the Brunswick U-Motion, Storm Fast Pitch and Storm Pitch Purple.

The third type of coverstock is reactive resin.  Reactive resin is the softest, most porous of all bowling ball coverstocks.  Box finish can either come polished or sanded.  When reactive resins balls get dirty, one of two things happen.  Polished (shiny) balls turn dull and sanded (dull) balls turn shiny.  Out of the box, polished balls are sanded first with a specific grit and then a layer of polish is put on the ball to create the shiny finish.  As you use the ball, the polish actually burns off the coverstock due to the friction between the ball and the lane.  You will start to see a dull “ring” around your ball.  This is where the surface of the ball makes contact with the lane every time you deliver the ball down the lane.  With your dull balls, the same happens as with urethane, the oil creates a lane shine from the effects of lane oil.  Because reactive resin coverstocks are very porous, the oil is more absorbed into the coverstock rather than sitting on the outside of the ball.

When to clean a ball is actually important to maintaining a true clean surface.  A bowling ball should be cleaned after EVERY use.  Not each time you throw the ball but after your bowling session is complete.  If you go out and bowl, put your ball away and then clean it before the next time you bowl, you allow all the contaminants to get absorbed deeper into the coverstock.  If you make it a habit to clean your ball(s) before putting them away, you will create a much more consistent ball performance every time you bowl.

So how do you know which type of product to use to clean your ball?  Maintenance products are broken down into different categories.  Cleaners, polishers, liquid abrasives and sanding pads.  Each has its specific purpose and should be used accordingly.  Below is a breakdown of each category:


Polishers are used just as it states, they are used to polish a bowling ball.  Polishers do not clean your ball, rather they are used to replenish the shine of a bowling ball coverstock.  If you where to apply a polish to a dirty ball, it would be the same as waxing a dirty car.  You will want to apply polish to your ball AFTER you have cleaned your ball.  Examples of ball polishers are Brunswick Crown Factory Polish, Powerhouse Factory Finish Polish and Storm Reacta Shine.

Your bowling ball does not need to be polished every time you use the ball.  How often is dependent on how much you use your ball.  As you start to see the fading of the polish as mentioned earlier, that is when you will want to apply a coat of polish after you have cleaned your ball.  A good estimate is every 20-30 games.  We suggest using an old, clean cotton towel.  Apply a quarter size amount of polish to your towel, gently coat half of your ball with the polish, let stand for a few seconds then rub the polish into the ball until you see the shine return.  Repeat on the other half of the ball.  You will have a little polish residue remaining that just needs to be gently wiped off.


Cleaners are just that, they clean the dirt, grime and oil off of your ball.  They also will aid in removing foreign materials from the pores of your coverstock.  If these pores get “clogged” with dirt and oil, your coverstock can’t absorb lane oil like it is designed to and you will loose performance and hook.  Cleaners come in two styles, liquids and gels.  Examples of liquid cleaners are          Vise Ball Cleaner, Storm Reacta Clean and Powerhouse Energizer Ball Cleaner.  Examples of gel cleaners are Brunswick Crown Scrubbing Gel and Powerhouse Clean N’ Dull.  There is also a liquid that is specifically engineered to clean urethane coverstocks, Storm U Clean, U Score.

Liquid cleaners are great for polished balls.  Spray half the ball, let stand for 30 seconds and remove with a clean cotton towel.  Repeat.  Liquid spray cleaners will clean a dull ball but because it is a liquid, it will, in effect, add a little shine to your ball.  Gel cleaners do not alter the coverstock and are recommended for dull finished balls.  You would apply gel cleaners in the same manner as a ball polish.  The great thing about gel cleaners is that they are more universal and can be used to clean polished and dull balls.  If you own multiple balls with different box finish surfaces, a gel cleaner would be the best universal cleaner for all of your balls.


Liquid abrasives are cleaners that are mixed with abrasives to allow you to clean your dull finished ball and maintain that dull finish.  Examples of liquid abrasive cleaners are Brunswick Factory Compound and Storm Reacta Skuff.  Simply put, abrasive cleaners are 2 in 1 type cleaner, sanding and cleaning your ball in one step.   Applying the abrasive cleaner is the same as applying polish and gel cleaners.  The restrictions of these type of cleaners is you do not get a sanded box finish as you would using our next, and last, category….pads.


Sanding pads are just that, pads with different grits (just like sandpaper) that you can apply to your ball to keep the dull finish or to do a true “restore” of your polished ball.  The two types of sanding pads are Siaair and Abralon.  Both types come in multiple grits ranging from 180 to 4000 grit.  Applying a sanding pad to your ball will create a true box finish and restore it’s out of box performance.  You can apply a sanding pad either dry (no water) or wet sand (with water only).  Obviously the dry application is a lot less messy but when using this method, you want to ensure that you do not put too much pressure on the pad while sanding your ball.  Using too much pressure can create deep gouges in your coverstock that can only be removed by getting your ball resurfaced at your local pro shop.  A soft pressure, circular motion around the entire ball will suffice.  Continue to do so until you have an even finish around the entire ball.

The wet sand is a bit more messy and should be done at home, not sitting at the table just before or after you bowl.  Do not waste your ball cleaner and use it in place of water.  You can use a spray bottle or wet your sanding pad.  The wet sand allows you to apply more pressure on the pad and also creates a more even finish around the entire ball.  A wet sand also helps remove contaminants from the pores of the coverstock as well.

If you would like to apply a cleaner to your ball, clean the ball before using a sanding pad.

All this information is great but how do I know what the finish of my ball is?  When you look at the bowling ball product page, under description, you will see “Factory Finish” listed.  This listing will tell you the finish of your bowling ball out of the box.  You may see “2000 Sanded” or “500/1000 Sanded” or “1500 Polished”.    A “500/1000 Sanded” ball means the ball was sanded with a 500 grit sanding pad and then a 1000 grit sanding pad.  A “1500 Polished” ball means a 1500 grit sanding pad was applied and then a polish is put directly on top of the 1500 sanded ball.  These finishes vary from ball to ball.  Knowing the factory finish of your ball will allow you to clean and finish your ball so that you can create the same type of performance for a longer period of time.  A ball that comes out of the box 2000 sanded will react differently if you sand it with a 4000 grit pad or put polish on it.  So yes, you can tweak how your ball reacts by altering the finish of your ball too….but that is a completely new article.




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