How to Clean and Oil a Fishing Reel – Deep Cleaning Step-by-Step

If you use fishing reel you probably know how to maintain your reel by cleaning and oil them. Here are some tips to oil your reel.

To oil your fishing reel you would need to follow these step.

  • Unscrew the cap on the reel body and remove the handle of the reel.
  • Use cotton swab or napkin to remove the grime or old oil from the bearings.
  • Add a drop of the reel oil to each bearing and joints on the handle.
  • Put the handle and screw back together.

For any avid enthusiast of sport fishing, every day is always a good day to go fishing. That includes even in winter, and if you know where to go. So, you’d always have to be ready anytime you’d get the chance to cast your bait.

The modern fishing reel is surprisingly strong and sturdy, as it is as reliable as you would need it to be. It will serve you well for as long as you provide it with the proper care and maintenance. If you expect lasting service from your fishing reel equipment, cleaning it every after use would be a very good idea. Next, would be oiling it and all the other necessary parts as it reduces wear and tear over time.

Before we get into the meat of the matter, we shall identify the basic parts of a fishing reel. This is so that we could use them as reference for 2 types of cleaning methods that we are about to tackle in this article.

Basic Parts of a Fishing Reel

Most anglers would use the spinning reel to cast lures and other types of bait to catch fish. This type of reel has many features that make it very adaptable and easy to use, as it is the most preferred fishing reel by both novices and professionals alike.


The spinning reel can be made out of any of the following: aluminum, magnesium or carbon fiber, stainless steel, or even plastic. Children’s fishing reels take the plastic category, while aluminum reels are also much preferred because they are lighter, more durable, and affordable.

Stainless steel on the other hand, though not as light as aluminum, is strong and durable too, not to mention cheaper. Carbon fiber is five times stronger than steel and also lighter, though it is the most expensive among the four types of reels.


The Handle of the reel is more often than not reversible. Its user can unscrew it and place it on the other side of the housing. Turning this handle then rotates the spool and the bail, at the same time retrieving the fishing line.

Foot and Arm

The thing that connects the reel to the rod is the foot. The foot is an elongated piece that inserts itself into the handle of the reel. The reel arm, on the other hand, protrudes from the foot and holds the rest of the reel in place.

The Spool

The fishing line is wound around a spool that fits onto the reel. The spool itself has a specified line capacity that it can handle for every diameter of the fishing line.

Gear Housing

The lower portion of the reel contains the gears and usually features an anti-reverse button that lets the angler reel forward as well as backward. Or, it can put a lock on the reel so that it only reels forward.

Drag Adjustment Knob

This knob is located on top of the spool, which is a common feature of a spinning reel. Twisting this knob, either way tightens or loosens up the rotation of the reel, giving the angler more control over how fast the fish can pull the line from the reel.

Quick Maintenance Guide for Cleaning Your Fishing Reel

Quick Clean and Lubrication with Minor Disassembly

Things that you will need:

  • Reel oil (available online, or at your nearest sports fishing store)
  • Clean cloth
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Light brush
  • Reel Cleaning solvent
  • Paper towels

With the exception of a sealed fishing reel, water and debris can get to the moving parts of your fishing equipment. Needless to say, dirt and water can cause corrosion and potentially shorten your reels serviceable life.

1. Detach the spinning reel from the rod.

Loosen the drag all the way.

2. Clean the outside part of the reel with a damp cloth.

Clean and oil the bail by opening it and applying the cleaning solvent to the connection points and line roller. Scrub lightly with a brush and wipe off with a cloth. Put a few drops of reel oil to the bail connection points, then open and close the bail to allow the oil to work its way in.

3. Clean the spool by removing the drag knob.

Detach the spool from the reel body. Apply the cleaning solvent on the drag knob as well as the interior of the spool. Wipe off with a cloth to remove dirt and grime and excess oil. Use the cotton swabs to remove dirt from nooks and crannies. Apply oil to the shaft and gears, after which reassemble by placing the spool back on the reel and reattaching drag knob.

4. Apply oil on the bearings.

Unscrew the cap on the reel body and remove the reel handle. Use a cotton swab to remove grime or old oil from the bearings. Apply a drop of reel oil for each bearing and to the joints on the handle. Reassemble handle and screw back the cap.

5. Lubricate the external part of the reel by wiping it down with reel oil.

This will help preserve the metal as it repels water when using the reel.

Deep Cleaning with Lubrication (with total disassembly)

Some quick exterior cleaning every other trip is ideal, but deep cleaning is necessary from time to time. This is to maintain the performance of the internal moving parts of your reel as well as keeping it in tip-top condition for the next fishing trip. Check out fishing reel oil on Amazon

Deep cleaning is important because even the smallest grit can damage any internal part of your reel, which will render it virtually unusable. What you actually would want to hear is a clean zipping sound each and every time you hear your line heave and give.

Things you will need:

  • Screwdriver (Phillips and flathead)
  • Tweezers
  • Toothbrush or small brush
  • Special wrench that came with your reel
  • Toothpick
  • Parts guide of your reel
  • Biodegradable Reel cleaning solution (whenever available)
  • Multi-Purpose Grease
  • Reel Oil
  • Lighter Fluid
  • Commercial Fishing reel cleaning kit (optional/recommended)

Step 1

Prepare and organize your tools for disassembly

Propping everything on a medium-sized table, begin disassembling your reel. Spread out a mat or towel where you will be laying out the individual parts. Use one long single masking tape to label each part with numbers from 1 to 10. This is so that you won’t lose the sequence of the parts as they come off when you are removing them. Position them opposite that long piece of tape to remind which one goes first.

Step 2

Disassemble the Reel One Piece at a Time.

Assuming that you have done the cleaning of the exterior part of the reel, you can start using your tools to take the reel apart in an organized manner. The first part that comes off gets labeled as number 1 and so forth. To prevent your fishing line from loosening and getting entangled, secure it by holding it together tightly with a piece of tape.

Be ready to use your tweezers for really small parts. Be it springs and clips that can shoot straight out of the reel while you are attempting to take it apart.

Step 3

Thoroughly Clean Parts

Once all parts have been removed and properly labeled clean them with the toothbrush. Be patient with the small parts by making sure that you will be able to remove any residue however small it is. Getting to remove small debris or grime would spell the difference between a reel that is working perfectly to something that’s not.

Step 4

Apply Grease on Gear Parts

Assuming that the reel is already clean. Use the toothpick to apply grease to the gearing inside the reel. It is important to apply grease only to the lower set of gear teeth since putting grease on the upper set of teeth will have it all over the other parts of the reel.

Step 5

Clean and Oil the Bearings

The bearings of a spinning reel are responsible for keeping it turning smooth. Otherwise, it will be making a grinding sound that will indicate that it is not clean or may have already been damaged. Generally, there are specialized bearing cleaning solutions that are available in the market.

However, in this case, plain lighter fluid can finish the job with the same desired results without damaging the bearings. As you apply the lighter fluid to the bearings use a brush to scrub and spin them clean. If it seems like they are stuck just keep at it, until they spin again. After that, with the bearings already clean apply 1 drop of reel oil to each bearing.

Step 6

Reassemble Your Reel

Assuming that your reel is already clean and lubricated, you’ll need to do one more step and you will be good to go. Reassemble your reel according to the order of numbering you have laid down to the parts on the mat. Do this one at a time, and again try to be patient with the smaller parts.

If you get confused you can always consult the explosion diagram that came along with your reel. Overall, deep cleaning is something that you would only need to do from time to time depending on the frequency of your trips. It might seem a little tedious and time-consuming, but that’s just a small investment considering the fun and enjoyment that a clean and well-lubricated reel will bring you for many years to come. Recommended oil.

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