3 Reasons Bowlers Wipe The Ball


When people become serious bowlers, they make sure they have their own bowling ball and shoes. But as anyone will tell you, these things are not cheap. Maintaining them in the best condition possible requires routine practices to keep them clean and problem-free. One of these practices is to wipe your bowling ball regularly, but how regularly?

Bowlers wipe their bowling balls to make sure it doesn’t absorb the oil from the bowling lane, wipe off all excess oil and debris, and keep their ball in optimum condition. If they do not clean it regularly, it affects the performance of the ball when they play. 

I always see the professional bowlers continuously wiping their bowling balls, and I could never understand how important it is for the maintenance of the ball. Here are a few compelling facts I’ve discovered about wiping your bowling ball. 

Why Do Bowlers Wipe Their Bowling Ball?

Whether the bowling alley’s floors are made of wood or synthetic materials, they all require a layer of protection against the friction from the bowling balls. The surfaces are most commonly covered with an oil-based solution like polyurethan conditioner or some type of mineral oil. When you bowl, the outer layer of the bowling ball, or the coverstock, retains the oil it picks up on the lane and affects how it moves down the lane and how and when it hooks. Therefore, bowlers need to wipe their bowling balls after they bowled to keep them clean and maintain an accurate speed, axis tilt, and layout pattern for each play. 

The 3 Main Reasons Why Bowlers Wipe The Ball

When you become a serious bowler, it is essential to follow the correct maintenance process for your bowling ball. Negligence in the upkeep of your equipment will cause the ball to crack or become unpredictable when you bowl. Here are the main reasons why professional bowlers continuously wipe their balls.

  1. To remove access oil and debris picked up on the lane. 
  2. Keep it clean, so the ball doesn’t absorb the oil and influence the player’s hook potential.
  3. To increase the lifespan of a bowling ball. 

Should You Wipe Your Bowling Ball After Every Shot?

Bowling lanes are maintained with an oil-based solution to enhance the performance of the players. The oil makes the lanes slick and easier for bowling balls to move down the lane. When a bowling ball is released down the lane, it collects the oil, and the oil travels down the lane to the dryer parts of the flooring. However, some of the oil remains adhered to the bowling ball. This must be wiped away from your ball with every throw because it will affect your next play. Over time a buildup occurs, and your ball will become unreliable and unpredictable. Professionals advise that you should wipe your bowling ball after every throw to maintain a clean ball. And the golden rule of bowlers, never replace a dirty ball in your bowling bag after a night’s game activities. 

With What Do You Wipe Your Bowling Ball?

Using a proper cleaner to wipe your ball is probably one of the most overlooked details in your arsenal. You should consider your type of bowling ball and what brand cleaner works best for it. Rubbing alcohol might work as a home remedy, but it might strip the ball of too much tac and affect the ball’s hook potential. Other cleaning agents are gentler, remove the excess oil ring, and won’t affect the ball’s grip but cost an arm and a leg. The trick is to find a solution that cleans, disinfects, and maintains the bowling ball for a longer lifespan. Some of the cleaning items you might want to purchase for the maintenance of your bowling ball are: 

  • an isopropyl alcohol cleaner
  • a good quality microfiber cloth or a power pad, 
  • conditioner to polish your ball after games, 
  • ball cleaner wipes,
  • and a microfiber bowling ball polisher and cleaner see-saw.

How To Detox Your Bowling Ball At Home

As bowling balls are made of porous materials, it is never truly possible to clean them thoroughly. The oil and dust from the bowling alley lanes cling to it and are absorbed by the outer coverstock. Over time, this may affect the ball’s performance and cause the ball to crack and develop fissures. When this happens, it is time to replace your bowling ball. However, as a measure of good ball maintenance, you can do an at-home deep cleaning of your bowling ball every thirty to sixty games. The process works like this:

  1. First, you need to grab a container large enough to hold your bowling ball as well as enough hot water to soak it. 
  2. Fill the container with ample boiling water to immerse the ball entirely with enough space above it.
  3. Cover the holes with water-resistant tape and make sure it’s tight. If water seeps in through the holes, it might affect the ball’s core and severely influence your hook reaction. 
  4. Submerge the bowling ball completely under the water. Oil’s density is lighter than water, and the oil and debris extracted from the pores will drift to the top. 
  5. Leave the ball in the water for about 20-30 minutes before taking it out and placing it flat on a drying towel with the holes to the bottom. 
  6. The ball will be slippery from the oil. Before the coverstock reabsorbs the oil, dry the ball with a clean microfiber towel and remove the tape from the holes. 
  7. After ensuring the ball is wiped clean, let it rest for about 10 minutes with the holes again facing down. 

How To Clean The Finger Holes?

You should never dunk or soak the finger holes in any kind of solution or water. This may cause harm to the weight block or the core of the bowling ball and ultimately affect how your bowling ball performs on the lane. The best way to disinfect or clean the holes is to use a clean lint-free or microfiber towel you haven’t used before to wipe the ball or that doesn’t have any residue oil or cleaning substances on it. Firmly press the cloth into the holes with your fingers, making sure to reach all the areas and the rim properly. Since the finger holes get dirty quite quickly during a game, it’s vital to ensure that they are also adequately cleaned after every game. 

3 Signs You Should You Replace Your Ball?

Bowling balls don’t last forever, even if you maintain them regularly. Typically, balls last about five to ten years before they become relatively unusable. Here are three crucial signs you should look out for.

  1. Even if you make a good hit, but the corner pins remain upright, it might mean that the velocity or angle with which your ball entered may be off. The turnout will be significantly different if you hit the pocket the same way with a new bowling ball. 
  2. The conditions on the lane flooring are constantly changing. As you throw your ball, the ball’s trajectory will move the oil on the surface from one area to another. Some areas have more oil than others. A bowling ball with a different type of coverstock might suit the conditions of the lane much better. 
  3. The oil on the floor gets displaced as bowling balls move along the lane. The more you play, the more the oil disappears, and you will start noticing some irregular reactions in your hook; it either hooks too early or too late. It should improve if you changed your bowling ball. 

What Is Resurfacing?

Bowling balls with a smoother surface have a slower reaction speed and will hook with a sharper motion on the lane, whereas balls with a rougher exterior have lower grit and react sooner and with more arced movement. But no matter how often you maintain your bowling ball or how impeccable your cleaning habits are, regular use will cause the outer pores of the coverstock to smooth down, causing the ball to lose its friction and hook-ability. To refurbish your ball’s sharper reaction speed, visit your favorite pro shop so they can resurface your ball and replace its effectiveness. To keep its performance reliable, you should be looking at resurfacing your bowling ball every season or every sixty games or so. You can also request that your pro shop do a deep clean with professional oil extraction machines. During this process, they also check for cracks and defects which might impact your game. 

Can Your Bowling Ball Lose Its Hook?

Through gradual age and some careless cleaning rituals, your bowling ball will lose a certain amount of motion and reaction on the lane. Bowling balls create a hook when they gain enough friction on the lane to turn in. They arch and hit the pins in a better pocket, so more of them will fall. If there is a lack of friction between the ball and the floor, the coverstock surface might be worn down, and you could benefit from having it resurfaced or deep cleaned. If you throw your bowling ball and it simply doesn’t go where you want it to go, the coverstock might be absorbing more oil than is typical; a clear indication that your ball has not been appropriately cleaned. 

With the more customized bowling balls, you can acquire a ball with a reactive resin coverstock and have it drilled to make it easier to hook. The drilling will make it easier for you to control the ball because your fingers will fit exactly. If you familiarize yourself with your bowling ball’s inner core, you’ll understand better how to make it hook. Regardless of what kind of bowling ball you purchase, it will mean nothing if you don’t apply the correct cleaning routines. 

Oiling The Lanes

Bowlers often complain to the alley about oiling conditions changing too often. The bowling house tries to stay consistent with their conditioning practices, not to affect the players’ games. Players argue that the bowling alley oil their lanes too early, and by the time they are on the floor, the oil has evaporated. However, this is a pure myth since all lane conditioners are mineral oil-based and can evaporate under no circumstances. Ideally, the bowling alley should condition its floors around the same time every day to stay consistent. They should clean the floors of all dirt and grime with an isopropyl alcohol solution. Atmospheric conditions, air condition ducts, and human traffic moving around cause dust and particles to move in and cling to the oily floor. These foreign particles need to be correctly cleaned before an oil-based conditioner is applied to the lanes. It should continue to sit for about thirty minutes for the floor molecules and the oil to bond and the oil to stick to the floor. 

Why Do Bowlers Need Special Shoes?

If you’re a regular at the bowling alley, you will distinguish the recognizable two-toned leather shoes made with a rubber sole for quick sliding action. From 1888 when these special shoes were brought to the U.S., it has become a permanent fixture in bowling alleys. Regular shoes will stick to the floor and stop abruptly, making it difficult to throw a ball in a smooth action. The special bowling shoes’ sleek basis causes you to slide in motion as you bowl. 

Apart from the safety factor, the lanes are treated and conditioned for a smoother bowl action. The oil on the floor would become tainted and dirty if you were to slip and slide all over it with your street shoes. 

Why Do Bowlers Wipe Their Shoes?

You’ve seen professional bowlers wipe their shoes right before they slide up and cast the ball down the lane, haven’t you? They do this for the same reason they wipe their bowling ball. To get a smoother gliding action, bowlers wipe their shoes to rid them of any debris and moisture that might cause traction on the lane. If their shoes get stuck and make you slip, it could cause you to bowl your ball right into the gutter. Not only that, but this might result in you tripping and sustaining unnecessary injuries. And lastly, wiping your shoes will also keep them clean so they won’t scratch the floor surface, maintaining a smooth and shiny alley floor.

Conclusion

Oil plays a significant part in keeping a bowling lane functional and lubricated for a much smoother glide when a player throws the ball towards the pins. But the bowling ball picks up all kinds of grime and oil from the floor, and the ball’s coverstock absorbs this. Over time, this can greatly impact your game and your bowling ball. To avoid this, you will have to make a regular practice of wiping the ball before, in between, and after a game to keep it clean and your bowling ball lasting longer. 

References

https://www.liveabout.com/how-to-clean-your-bowling-ball-immersion-method-420736

https://www.kegel.net/wpa/2016/1/5/does-lane-oil-evaporate-and-how-long-should-the-oil-pattern-sit

https://www.bowlingball.com/BowlVersity/bowling-lane-oil-facts

Tim C, M.D.

My grandfather and my mother both taught me bowling in the early 1970’s. I spent the next few decades working my way up to the top tiers of local amateur bowling leagues, and continued to participate in college at the club level. My wife and bowled in coed leagues before kids, and then taught our kids bowling as they grew up. Now I’m here to answer some of the web’s common questions about bowling rules, techniques, equipment and more. To see more about the site, check our About Page

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