How to Clean a Spinning Reel – Helpful Guide Shows You How

Knowing how to clean a spinning reel is crucial to the continued performance of your spinning reel. Spinning reels are one of the most important pieces of fishing equipment that you could own. So you will want to clean your reel properly by removing dirt, debris, and saltwater that can accumulate on and in your reel.

These little particles can get in your reel and cause damage and corrosion that could become irreversible. That’s the last thing we want. You have spent your hard-earned money on this equipment and you want to keep it as pristine as possible.

If you adhere to the following guidelines your spinning reel should last for years to come. Without further ado let’s jump right into the dirty little details. 🙂

How to Clean a Spinning Reel Properly


Saltwater Usage

Saltwater is one of the worse things that can happen to your spinning reel. If you are a saltwater angler you will want to clean your reel more often than a freshwater angler would. You will want to clean it after every fishing outing that you go on.

Freshwater Usage

If you are a freshwater angler you will probably want to clean your spinning reel about once or twice a year. I will usually clean my reel once in the middle of the fishing season and then when I’m done fishing for the season. That way you don’t put it away wet so to speak.

Items Needed For Cleaning a Spinning Reel

Items use for cleaning a spinning reel. Spinning fishing reel with spool detached. Toothbrush, phillips head screwdriver, toothpicks q-tips, 3 sticky notes 1,2,3 written on them, lubricant cleaner, towel.

You will need a few every day around the house type of items to clean your reel with.

Here’s what you need:

  • Phillips head screwdriver or screw gun with a Phillips insert.
  • Flat Head Screwdriver
  • Tweezers
  • Q-tips
  • Toothpicks 
  • Toothbrush
  • WD-40 or a similar brand lubricant
  • Reel Grease
  • Ball Bearing Oil
  • Clean towel or rags that you can get dirty and stained

Once you have these items you are ready to clean.

First Clean the Outside of the Spinning Reel

spinning reel

Cleaning the outside of your reel is the easiest and doesn’t take long at all. You can do this after every fishing outing that you go on if you like. You can use a hose with a light mist of water to clean the salt and dirt off the outside of the reel. Next whip it off with a clean, dry towel or rag.

Whatever you do don’t dunk it in a bucket of water even though bearings and components are sealed it is not good practice to put your reel in water if you absolutely can help it.

Next, take the spool off and then you will want to lower the axle of the reel so that it is in a downward position. You can do this by turning the handle. After that, spray the body of the reel with WD-40 making sure to have the rotor and spool axle away from you while you are spraying.

Now take the towel and whip down the body of the reel. This will clean the dirt and grime from the outside of the reel. Pretty easy right?

Cleaning the Internal Components of the Spinning Reel


Now that the outside is nice and clean you will want to start disassembling your spinning reel so that you can clean the internal parts of the reel.

I recommend taking your reel apart piece by piece taking special note of the parts that come off so that you can reassemble them in reverse order from the way you disassembled them. A good way to keep track of the parts is to get a pad of posted notes and put the part on the posted note with a number that corresponds with the part 1, 2, 3, etc. Then you would assemble the parts in reverse order after cleaning.

Take out little parts like springs with the tweezer. This ensures that you won’t lose any parts while you are disassembling them. The tweezers also make it a lot easier putting the small parts back as well.

Grease the Gears and Oil the Bearings


Grease and oil can.

Once you have everything disassembled, check the gears in the reel make sure that grease doesn’t look black or have dirt and grime in it. The only reason the gear grease would be dirty is if you dropped it in mud or dirty water. If the gears have dirt in the grease then you will need to take the gears out and clean them with the Q-tips. Make sure that you align them right when you put them back in. If the gears are misaligned you are going to damage the reel and or it won’t work.

If the grease seems clean then all you have to do is dab a little grease using a toothpick onto the bottom and top of the gear teeth. The block that holds the gears should be greased as well on the top and bottom.

Clean the ball bearings with a biodegradable cleaner and then oil them using only one drop of oil per ball bearing.

Cleaning of Parts

Now you will want to clean all the parts with a biodegradable cleaner. There are special rod and reel cleaners that you can buy but you can also just use Simple Green or WD-40. Clean the parts scrubbing with a toothbrush and toothpicks to get into the small crevasses. This is the most important part of the cleaning process. Make sure all sand, grit, and dirt are out of the component parts before reassembling.

When All is Said and Done


Once you have sufficiently cleaned all the internal parts of the reel, greased and oiled everything that needs it then you can start reassembling all the parts. As long as you numbered the parts as I mentioned earlier you should have no problem reassembling them in reverse order from how you disassembled them.

Once the reel is put back together spin the reel and make sure it works the way it’s supposed to. The good thing is that it’s not that difficult as long as you have everything laid out and individually numbered. You only need to do this once or twice a year if your fishing freshwater but if your saltwater fishing you might want to do this after every fishing excursion.

At the very least for saltwater fishing clean the outside of the reel every time. Now that you know how to clean a spinning reel you will be able to keep your reel corrosion and damage-free for years to come.

I hope I have provided you with useful information on how to take care of your spinning reel. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I will be happy to answer each and every one of them. As always Happy Fishing!

 

Cory is a content writer-editor for websites that he owns about various topics such as living off the grid, portable generators, internet marketing, fishing, and sports. When he is not working on his websites he is out doing the things he writes about.

8 thoughts on “How to Clean a Spinning Reel – Helpful Guide Shows You How”

  1. What about using a detergent that’s dissolved in water? A detergent, whether in a bar or in powder is a good surfactant that attracts the dirt including oils and maybe accumulated salt too from saltwater. Plus, they are economical and don’t cost much and I guess the spinning wheel won’t be damaged because it looks like it’s made with stainless steel.

    Reply
    • It would depend on the detergent that you use. I would read the uses for the detergent carefully before using it on a spinning reel.

      Reply
  2. What an informative article. Thank you for explaining how to clean the spinning reel. My uncle has just taken a liking to fishing as his new hobby so that this article will be useful for him. Oh, I got one question. How often should you regularly clean the reel? For your information, my uncle is a freshwater angler (for now). Thanks

    Reply
    • I would recommend that your uncle clean his spinning reel once or twice a year. Clean it earlier in the middle of the season and once at the end of the fishing season. He could wipe it down after every use would be ideal, so the reel will stay functioning correctly for a long time to come.

      Reply
  3. Thank you, Cory. What you have written is one of the most helpful articles on how to clean a spinning reel that I have come across. You help to clarify some things that I was still confused about after reading other guides on the subject. It sounds complicated to take apart the whole spinning reel, but with your guide, it makes it simpler. 

    If I knew someone who was having trouble with fishing equipment, I would recommend them to your website first. Thank you for your expertise on the subject, and have a great day.

    Reply
    • I try and keep my guides as simple as possible. As long as you take the spinning reel apart piece by piece and number the parts as you go, then you should have no problem putting it back together in the reverse order. 

      Another tip is to take a video when you are disassembling the spinning reel so that if you run into an issue reassembling, you can go back and view the video. I’m glad I could help you with how to clean a spinning reel.

      Reply
  4. I fish in saltwater a lot. I didn’t clean my first spinning reel as often as I should, and it was damaged rather quickly as a result. I had to spend a fortune to get a new one. I now clean the outside of the reel every single time and do a thorough clean once every two months. I wish I had come across your post earlier, as it is beneficial. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hey Joe, yeah even if your spinning reel has sealed bearings saltwater can do a lot of damage to the gears and other components in the reel. Doing a thorough cleaning like you said every two months is a wise thing to do if you want your reel to continue working properly for years to come. The cost savings from doing the cleaning every couple of months is priceless!

      Reply

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