Tag Archives: cleaner

Bowling Ball Cleaner Experiments 101 by James Goulding III

Bowling Ball Cleaner Experiments 101

By James Goulding III

Hello again bowlers, and it feels good to be back blogging after a nice summer break.  I hope everyone is ready for fall leagues as most have either started up already, or will be shortly.  There is always a lot of talk surrounding which type of bowling ball cleaner and/or polish to use to keep your bowling equipment looking good.   While I have blogged about this in the past, and gone through different types of cleaners, which ones are good to use during USBC certified
competition, and which ones are banned, I would like to take this opportunity
to share a real world experiment I performed using a cleaner available at any
local drug store or supermarket, and I think you will find the results quite
interesting.  Just an FYI, here is the USBC list of allowable cleaners and polishes as of the start of the 2011 – 2012 bowling season:


Here are the notes from my personal experiment last season into this season….

I bought a Hammer Swagga and put 90 -100 games on it the last two months of the season between leagues and tournament play. I have used most of the commercial cleaners and even household cleaners on the market, trying to find the simplest, easy to use, and most effective cleaner between sets. I decided to go with 91% isopropyl alcohol, as it is a strong cleaner (in my opinion) and many have debated it’s ability to deep clean a ball and keep oil from seeping deep into the cover of the ball, and it is relatively cheap to purchase (I used the
CVS brand for the experiment) compared to other cleaning products.

Now, anyone who uses high end Hammer equipment knows that these balls soak in oil with the best of them, which is why I wanted to experiment using the Swagga (2000 Abralon factory surface). I religiously cleaned the Swagga immediately at the completion of each set, using only a microfiber towel and the 91% isopropyl alcohol. I also took the ball into the Revivor oven in my pro shop every 35 games to check and see how much oil was coming out of the ball. Also, I kept track of my scores with the ball, and noted ball reaction over the course of the life span in the experiment. Lastly, the ball got one surface freshener at 50 games, back to the original box finish of 2000 Abralon.

Results were very promising for the use of ONLY 91% isopropyl alcohol on your bowling ball as a cleaner. I noted almost ZERO reduction in ball reaction over the course of the experiment, averaging 236.5 in tournament play with the ball, 242.33 in one house on league, and 244.0 in the other house in league play over that span of time. I saw no dip in scoring with the ball from game 1 to 35 before each Revivor session, as the sets were very consistent from beginning to end. As far as oil extraction went, the ball went into the oven for the period
of 30 minutes with just a few drops of oil wiped off, and then an hour, with
only a few more small spots of oil wiped off, and finally at the hour and a half mark I pulled it for the final time noting no more oil coming out of the cover of the ball. This was true with each Revivor session, which honestly blew me away using only the 91% isopropyl alcohol as a cleaning agent on the ball. I thought there would be much more oil seeping from the cover each time, but apparently the isopropyl alcohol did the trick as the only cleaning agent being
used on the ball.

So, based on my personal experience with this experiment, I feel very
comfortable using just 91% isopropyl alcohol to clean my bowling equipment,
which IS approved for use by the USBC during, before, or after competition of
your bowling session. It does a very good job of removing lane oil, dirt, belt marks, and grime from the ball AS LONG AS YOU USE IT IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOUR SET BEFORE YOU PUT THE BALL AWAY EVERY TIME. If you don’t, I can’t say how well this product will work to keep oil out of the cover, but my guess is significantly worse than if you use it immediately after you are done bowling.  I am not saying that the cleaners made specifically for bowling balls work any less, rather I wanted to see if I could find a cheaper alternative that worked just as well, and I think I have found that in the 91% isopropyl alcohol.  I will try this on balls of different surfaces and textures just to make sure that this works well across multiple types of equipment.  I will say that I have used it on a Roto Grip Nomad Dagger and a Brunswick C-System 4.5 with good results, but I will continue my quest for knowledge, and try and post those results up as they come in.  I just wanted to share my recent experience in this area, and hope that someone else can find this trick works well for them, too.  If you have tried similar experiments as mine, please feel free to post those results up on the comment section of this blog for everyone to learn from and read, thank you.  As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are mine, and in no way represent those of the Maine State USBC or any of its members.  Take care everyone, and good luck on the start of your bowling seasons!

James Goulding III

(M.I.S.T. Tournament Director)




Bowling Ball Maintenance: The Key to Success

Bowling Ball Maintenance: The Key to Success

by James Goulding III


I hear many bowlers complain that their bowling balls lose reaction, or that they just can’t get that same look they had from a bowling ball after only 15-20 games with a ball.  Many times, bowlers will go out and buy a new piece of equipment, only to run into the same problems over and over again, without addressing the real problem, which is poor equipment maintenance.

How many of you would expect your car to last more than a year if you never changed your oil, or did any routine maintenance on your vehicle?  No one would do that, it would be crazy to even think it.  But, many of those same people who are so diligent about taking proper care of things such as their car, home, or work space, are also the ones who are guilty of poor bowling ball maintenance. 

I have been in the bowling industry as a competitive bowler, coach, or pro shop worker for over 15 years, and I have YET to have a bowling ball “die” on me, unless it happens to split in half due to a variety of factors (i.e. cold temperature, improperly cured resin, etc.).  This is because I always take proper care of my bowling equipment, and if you do the same, your bowling balls can out last the 5 years worth of payments on your new car.  Here are a few steps you can do at home to keep the reaction alive in your equipment:

1) Clean the bowling balls immediately after each session.  This is THE most important step to lengthening the life of your bowling equipment.  If you do not have the money for a commercially available product, such as Ebonite or Track ball cleaner, here is a simple formula for you to make up your own bowling ball cleaner:

Take a squirt bottle, and fill it up halfway with Isopropyl Alcohol (I use the 91%, but anything >70% will suffice).  Fill the other half up with Simple Green cleaner (very cheap, available in large sizes everywhere).  Mix this together 50/50, and it makes an excellent bowling ball cleaner to use at home in between bowling sessions, and it is a much cheaper alternative to brand name cleaning products. 

**Now, if you are at the lanes, or during tournament or league competition, and want to clean your equipment, I always suggest using a commercially available USBC approved product, because those are the only ones certified to be used in sanctioned competition.  Otherwise, use the home cleaner away from the bowling center, after your league session, when you get home for instance, and NOT during competition. 

The quicker you apply the cleaner after your bowling set, the better chance you have of getting the oil out of the cover stock before it seeps in too deep.  This will greatly increase the life of your ball, and reduce the need for a complete oil extraction, which can be costly and time consuming from your local pro shop.

2)  Use a hot water bath to get the oil deep out of the cover stock.  There are various methods to do this, but the general idea is to get the oil out of the bowling ball that regular cleaning can not get out.  When the lane oil seeps into the oil absorbing cover stock material, you can get most of it out each time with a general bowling ball cleaning agent, but there is always some lane oil that goes beyond what the cleaner can extract.  Over time, this deep oil in the ball will cause the cover stock to weaken, and lose some reaction if not properly taken out of the bowling ball.  Here are the steps I use with the hot water bath method to get the oil from deep within the bowling ball:

A) Sand the ball to around 400 grit to open up the pores and allow the lane oil to be extracted.

B) Fill a bucket up with hot tap water (< 140 degrees F), and put in a drop or two of dish soap to help break up the lane oil and pull it out of the ball.

C) Submerge the ball in the bucket of tap water and leave it in there for about 15 minutes.  You will notice the film of oil rising to the surface of the ball, and in the water.  This is normal and is a good sign that you are getting the oil out of the deepest parts of the bowling ball.

D) Next, take the ball out of the water, wipe it off with an oil and lint free towel, and repeat the process 2-3 times, or until you no longer see any more oil on the surface of the ball after the 15 minute period of time.

E) Finally, after you let the ball dry out for a 24-48 hour period of time, bring the surface of the ball back up to the desired level, and you’re done.  You should only have to do this every 50 games or so, if you are diligent about cleaning your equipment after each set.  If you start to notice a significant loss in ball reaction before 50 games, you may need to adjust this process to do it more often (cover stock porosity varies greatly on bowling equipment, so keep that in mind), just find a comfort level for yourself and go with it.

3) Baking the ball to bring lane oil out of the bowling ball.  This method should ONLY be done by a pro shop in a controlled oven made specifically for extracting oil from bowling balls.  Many people try this at home, and it can have devastating results to your bowling equipment.  Any time you bring a bowling ball above 140 degrees (F), you start to remove and harden the material that holds the ball together (plasticizers), and this will make the ball brittle, thus hardening the resin to the point where the bowling ball is useless.  Once this happens, the ball can not be saved, and has to be discarded. 

This process is so hard to regulate in a home oven, that I tell ALL bowlers who seek this process to leave it in the hands of a pro shop who has the material specifically made for baking bowling balls.  You can do a good enough job at home with the hot water method to maintain your bowling balls properly without having to resort to baking the ball in the oven.

Well, those are my general tips for bowling ball maintenance.  I hope you found it informative and helpful, and realize that with proper care, your bowling balls can last you 500 games or more, no problem at all.  This will help keep money in your pocket, and keep that “new ball reaction” longer.  Take care everyone, and good luck out there!  Please feel free to comment, and I will get back to you ASAP, thanks!

– James Goulding III