How to Clean a Baitcasting Reel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Spread the love

Do your reels squawk and fail to cast your bails as far as they once did? It could be because you've not cleaned them in a long while. Reels should be cleaned annually to keep them running properly and extend their lifetime.

Despite your level of expertise in fishing, if your baitcasting reel fails you, you'll suffer in the long run. You can prevent this from happening by taking the necessary steps in cleaning the reels. This guide will provide you with guidance on how to clean a baitcasting reel.

1. Gather the Required Cleaning Tools

For effective cleaning of your reel, you need:

  • Warm water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • A pack of cotton pads
  • Reel oil
  • Two towels
  • A cleaning solvent
  • A cotton swab or Q-tip

You also need to prepare the surface where you’ll do the cleaning. Spread one of the two towels. It will help keep all the parts of the reels together when you dismantle them.

2. External Cleaning

It would help if you started cleaning the reels from the outside as you check the condition of the outer surface. Clean the outer cover using a cotton pad, wiping it in all directions to remove dirt and stains. For firmly stuck dirt or impurities, use a toothbrush to scrub.

3. Dismantle the Reel

By dismantling the reel, you’ll be able to reach the hidden internal parts. Consider doing this often to facilitate the smooth operation and movement of the wire.

  • Press the key dial to open the cover of the reel.
  • Carefully separate the spool from the lines.
  • Add some cleaning solvent to the warm water.
  • Soak the spool and lines in the water and leave them for a few minutes.
  • Using a clean towel dipped in the water, wash the spool and lines thoroughly. If there’s stubborn dirt, use the toothbrush.
  • Wipe the spool using the rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to facilitate movement.
  • Repeat this process two to three times to ensure you reach all the hidden places where dirt tends to hide.
  • Clean the pinion area using the Q-tip dipped in some alcohol.
  • Place the spool back in its place and return the cover.

Once the internal parts have been cleaned move to the handles and clean them as well.

4. Clean the Handles

Remember to clean the handles too. They get exposed to salt and other impurities, which can cause them to corrode.

Turn the handle anticlockwise to remove it then soak it in warm soapy water. Rinse it thoroughly, and using the Q-tip, clean the inside areas. This applies to the handle-mounting area that goes to the body of the reel.

If there’s grease on the handle, use a degreaser to remove it. Before attaching it back to its place, apply some reel oil to prevent corrosion.

5. Dry the Reel

As soon as you finish cleaning the reel and its parts, you should let them dry. Alternatively, you can use a clean cloth to wipe them dry. Ensure every part of the reel is oiled to prevent moisture, dirt, and rust residue.

Use a cotton swab to apply oil on the shaft of the spool, pinion gear, and worm drive. Do this for all the internal components.

6. Reassemble the Baitcasting Reel

Once you’ve dried and oiled the parts of the reel, assemble all of them and put them back together. Once the process is complete, you’ll have a polished, smooth, and varnished baitcasting reel.

Things to Remember

The process of cleaning your reel is simple. However, if you don't pay attention to some things, you might end up wrecking the reels.

Cleaning Solvent

The first thing is that the cleaning solvent you use must be mild. This will prevent the plastic parts from becoming damaged. It also should dry completely without leaving a residue on the surface.

If you deem the cleaning required by your reels to be minor, consider using isopropyl alcohol. It forms an excellent cleaning solvent as it comes with these qualities. You can apply the alcohol using a pump spray bottle.

A questionable cleaner to use is a degreaser like WD-40. Although it does a perfect job of removing dirt, it may leave a film behind. This will require that you wash with soapy water, adding to your work.


The best lubricant to use should be made explicitly for fishing reels. If possible, buy from the same company that made your reels. Here, it’s important to note that WD-40 should never be used as a lubricant as it breaks down grease and oil.

When applying your lubricant, ensure that you grease every movable part sparingly. Too much greasing can impede the spool and reduce the casting distance.

Final Thoughts

You may think that baitcasting reels don’t need cleaning. However, their exposure to different elements may cause them to become less functional. Instead of buying new reels, you can learn how to clean a baitcasting reel to restore its initial performance.

Make it a habit to clean the reels after every fishing session, and you'll notice the difference.

Leave a Comment: