How to a Clean a Baitcasting Reel in 5 Easy Steps [2022 Update]


Updated on November 25, 2022 by
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It’s crucial to clean and maintain your baitcasting reel to last longer and perform better. Regardless of how intensely (or rarely) you use your reel, you must clean it regularly. And if you can’t afford to take it to the shop for regular cleaning, doing it at home is just as effective.

However, you don’t just pour it in water and soap. There’s a proper way to clean a baitcasting reel at home. If you’re wondering how to read on as I show you the procedure and tips to keep your baitcasting reel clean and in good condition.

Whether you’re a beginner with the “starter” reel or an advanced fisherman with a baitcaster combo, these are the imperative steps to follow when cleaning your baitcasting reel:

Step 1. Ready Your Materials

First, you must prepare all the materials needed for a clean baitcasting reel, all of which you can find at home or in the supermarket. Ready the following:

  • Warm Water
  • Cotton Pads
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Reel Oil
  • Reel Grease
  • Soap and/or Degreaser
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Two Soft Towels

Also, it’s best to have a clean and flat surface (like a table) to work on. Spread one of the towels on your surface to keep all the reel parts in one area as you disassemble them.

Step 2. Clean The Reel’s External Parts

Once you’ve readied the materials, it is NOT time to open up your reel to dig in the internal parts. You also need to take into account the reel’s outer surface.

To clean the reel’s outer cover, use the cotton pad. Make sure to wipe its cover in all directions, removing all forms of salt and dirt. If it’s difficult to get in some nooks and crannies, use a toothbrush to brush off any stuck impurities and dirt firmly placed in the reel. 

Check this PDF E-book.

Dismantle your spinning reel

Step 3. Dismantle Your Reel

When the reel’s outer part has been cleaned, it’s time to dismantle and clean the internal components. Even if you don’t use the reel often, you should clean it once a month to smoothen the wire’s movement, improving its performance the next time you use it.

Disassemble the reel according to the manufacturer’s instructions, depending on the reel type and makes. Afterwards, follow these steps to clean its insides:

  1. Press the reel’s key dial, which flips open the cover.
  2. Separate its spool and lines.
  3. Mix the soap with warm water, preparing it to clean the spool and lines.
  4. Soak both spool and lines in warm, soapy water. Leave it in for up to ten minutes, then take it out. Dry them using a dry towel.
  5. Wipe the spool using a soft cloth with cotton pads, which helps with its smooth movement.
  6. Using cotton swabs or Q-tips with alcohol, wipe the reel’s inside.
  7. Continue wiping and cleaning the reel’s inner parts three times until you’re sure you reached all nooks and crannies and where all impurities and dirt accumulate.
  8. Clean the reel’s pinion area using a cotton swab or Q-tip with rubbing alcohol.
  9. Attach the spool back to its place, then close the reel’s cover.
Cleaning a Spinning Reel

Step 4. Clean the Handles

You have to clean the reel’s handles, which are also subject to salts and impurities. After all, you’ll be rolling them with salty and dirty hands, and when left out in the air, the salts and impurities will corrode the reel. Its discharge may also be negatively affected.

Remove the handle by turning it in a counter-clockwise direction. Soak the handle with warm water, then add a degreaser, removing oils and grease.

Afterwards, wipe the handles’ insides using a cotton swab or Q-tip dipped in reel oil. It’s best to do this to prevent corrosion and to give the handles a shinier look.

Step 5. Do The Finishing Touches

Once you’ve cleaned out every part of the reel, you’re done with it! Now, it’s time to do the finishing touches, lubricating and reassembling.

Dry out the entire reel with your dry towel first, then lubricate it using reel oil and cotton swabs. Make sure you lubricate all parts of the reel as possible but avoid over-lubricating it. Reel oil can help protect the reel and parts by moisturizing it, varnishing, and polishing it for a good look.

After lubricating the reel and its parts, let it dry for a few minutes, then reassemble it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The handles should be tightened in the clockwise direction.

More Tips on Maintaining Your Baitcasting Reel

Besides these steps, here are some extra tips for cleaning and maintaining your fishing reels well:

  1. Do NOT put metal against metal when working on the reel, it should be metal to fiber.
  2. When handling wire clips and springs, use tweezers to prevent them from flying around and getting lost.
  3. Secure the fishing line before removing your reel’s spool.
  4. You can use lighter fluid to clean the reel’s bearings by using one drop for every bearing.
  5. Hold the reel properly doing disassembly and assembly to ensure all the parts go back together accurately.

You can lay all the reel parts on a soft mat, placing masking tape on each part and numbering it to remember how to place them back together.

If you want to learn more about cleaning your reel, here’s an informative video with tips on what to do after saltwater fishing:

Wrapping It Up

Cleaning your fishing reel isn’t difficult, as long as you have the right knowledge and materials. Do this regularly and after using your reels, and you’re thanked with equipment to last and perform amazingly for years to come. Making sure your reel is clean means you won’t need to repair it if it gets sand or grit in the bearings.

Cleaning a spinning reel is similar in concept but requires a different method to disassemble it.

Hopefully, this article on how to clean a baitcasting reel at home helped you out. So begin following these steps and tips for a better reel on future fishing trips.


Photo of author

Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.