Using Baby Powder While Bowling? Is it allowed?


Have you ever watched a bowling game and noticed the bowler rubbing baby powder on their hands? Or their shoes? You may be wondering why they do it and if the rules of bowling allow it.

Baby powder is allowed in bowling, as long as its usage does not affect the normal performance of players. And yes, baby powder is helpful in bowling. Bowlers use baby powder to reduce the moisture in their hands and to improve their grip on the ball’s surface when swinging the bowling ball.

We will look at some of the rules that regulate using lubricating substances called “easy slide” in bowling.

Why Do Bowlers Apply Baby Powder On Their Fingers?

Bowlers use baby powder as a dry lubricant. It helps keep their fingers tight, which helps them get and maintain a good grasp on the ball during delivery. 

Most bowlers often have a small bag that contains baby powder by their side. They use it as a gripping aid, to keep their fingers tight in the ball.

However, during bowling games, you can see the bowler rubbing baby powder on the ball, and then wiping it off before doing the delivery. This is to comply with the bowling rules, every residue must be removed from the ball surface before delivery.

This is due to a proposed change in the rules of bowling that took effect from the 1st of August 2019. The change was that it was illegal to add baby powder or any other lubricant to the ball. You can only use a dry towel to remove lane condition (when the ball is oily, medium, or dry) from the surface of the ball. You cannot add or apply any substance to the ball surface.

After the rule went into effect, it became a violation to alter the ball surface during a competition. The use of a cleaner during the competition was also regulated. Anyone that applies lubricants during a game can only apply them directly to their fingers as desired or in the hole below the ball’s surface. 

The only time a player is allowed to clean his bowling ball with any substance is before or after a competition. If your ball comes back from the pinsetter and has any marks or substance on it, do not clean it yourself. Take it to a league officer to clean it with a USBC approved cleaner.

The Covid-19 pandemic made the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) update the rules of bowling. The use of rubbing alcohol, such as isopropanol, could be rubbed on the ball surface as a sanitizer. 

But, from the 2020-2021 bowling season, the use of sanitizers has reduced drastically.

How to get a perfect grip as a bowler

Having a perfect grip is an essential part of bowling many people overlook. Without a perfect grip, you cannot perform effectively in a bowling game. Professional bowlers are aware of the importance of a perfect grip, and they do anything it takes to have it.

One of the best things to do is to have your bowling ball drilled by a professional. In addition to giving you a better grip, one of the benefits of having your bowling ball drilled by a professional is comfort.

If you bowl for fun, once in a while, you will not notice much strain on your hand. But if you are a professional bowler, who bowls at least three times a week, you will need to have a grip that will not hurt your hands. Improper grip causes discomfort while bowling and potential injuries over time.

There are different levels of grip, and it depends on the level of bowling you are at. These are;

  • The fingertip grip
  • The semi-fingertip grip
  • The conventional grip

The best grip for a beginner bowler is the conventional grip.

The bowler inserts their fingers into the ball up to the second joint. The conventional grip gives the bowler better control of the ball while learning the game. A person without proper strength in their hand will also find this grip comfortable.

The fingertip grip allows the bowler to insert their fingers into the ball up to the first joint. Giving them little control but a powerful release and a stronger roll on the ball. With the fingertip grip, the thumb will come before their fingers. Creating more leverage and rotation.

There can be days your fingers may be bigger or smaller, and you should understand that there are different factors that can affect your grip. The temperature and humidity have a great effect on your grip on the bowling ball. 

If you find the holes are too large for your fingers, there are different bowler tapes that you can use to amend this issue. You can add or remove pieces of tape to the finger holes based on how perfect you want your grip to be. 

Using a hand conditioner or rosin can also help improve your grip. Adding baby powder to the back of your thumb will also help you release the ball smoothly. Particularly on occasions when you stick your thumb in the thumbhole and it feels humid or tighter than needed. 

United States Bowling Congress Rules For Altering The Bowling Ball Surface

To be on the safe side as a bowler, you need to understand the rules enforced by the United States Bowling Congress to regulate altering the ball surface. Below are some of the rules enforced in a USBC competition.

  1. The surface of a bowling ball cannot be altered using an abrasive during a USBC competition.
  2. You cannot clean the bowling ball with a cleaning agent or liquid substance during a competition.
  3. You must not have any foreign substance, including paint, marker, rosin, or powder, on the surface of the ball.
  4. Every bowling ball that has been cleaned or altered by the bowler must be removed from the competition.
  5. You can only clean, polish, or sand the surface of your bowling ball before the commencement of the competition.
  6. It is a violation to alter the surface of a ball once a tournament commences, and this includes balls not yet used in the game.
  7. You cannot alter the surface of a bowling ball between concurrent events in a tournament.
  8. If an unidentified substance is found and you cannot get rid of it using a dry cloth, a permitted cleaner can be used. Only with the approval of a tournament officer or the league.
  9. The surface of a ball should be prepared uniformly, preparing it in any other manner is a violation. The penalty can be forfeiture, disqualification, suspension of USBC membership, or removal from the league.

How To Make Bowling Shoes Have A Perfect Grip

In the same way, you want a proper grip on your bowling ball, you also want bowling shoes that give you enough traction in the alley. Bowling alleys can be slippery, and without the correct bowling shoe on the lanes, you can trip and fall. 

One good way of getting a bowling shoe to have a perfect grip on the bowling alley is to purchase new bowling shoes. However, this may not be the perfect option for you if you consider many factors.

If you have bowling shoes that do not slide well, you may want to purchase a bowling shoe slider. Another option is to apply a little amount of sliding powder on the soles and heels of your bowling shoes.

A good piece of advice, purchase bowling shoes that allow you to interchange the soles and heels. This is a great and helpful feature you should take advantage of. Purchasing bowling shoes that allow you to interchange the soles and heel will help you save money since you do not have to purchase new shoes so often.

There are situations where your bowling shoes are too slippery, and you need them to slide less, what do you do?

One hack that professional bowlers use that you will find useful is to brush through the frames of the soles of your shoes with a shoe brush. Nylon or wire shoe brush is more preferable. The rough texture of the wire or nylon shoe brush helps decrease the slipperiness of your bowling shoes.

Final Thoughts

As a bowler, you will agree that having the perfect grip is vital to have a good bowling game. In achieving the perfect grip, you will consider baby powder as an addition to your process. But you should also be aware of the regulations of the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). Ignoring or violating these regulations will have unpleasant results.

With the right pair of shoes, the perfect grip, and a good posture, you are guaranteed a spot at the top of the scoreboard. 

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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