Sunday, February 5, 2012

That bearing cleaning blog: Clean up your act!

Ok.  So, I've been approached by several skaters to write a blog on cleaning bearing.  I hate doing it, but I end up cleaning them at least once every couple of months.  This weekend I skated in a really really dirty warehouse, and my bearings were SCREAMING at me during practice today, so I broke down and cleaned them while watching the Super Bowl.  To be honest, I was just watching the ads anyway!

The things you will need
1. A container that you can use a solvent in.  I use one of my paint brush cleaning glasses.
2. A push pin
3. Biodegradable cleaner
4. Skate tool
5. Chop stick
6. Sewing machine oil or speed cream
7. Bucket
8. Soap
9. Brush or old toothbrush
10.  Bearing press (optional)
11.  Gloves

First, put on your gloves.  Then, take your wheels off of your skates with your skate tool; take this opportunity to check out your nuts (stop giggling) and see if it is time to replace them.  If you didn't need a tool to change them out, then it is PAST TIME!  Also, look at your wheels; how are they doing?  Is it time for a new set?  Do you have any tread left on them?  How much gum is on them? Any chunks missing?

All clean now!  I'll sterilize my poor bucket later!  Where did this long, blond hair come from?
After I take my bearings out with my bearing press, I dump all of my wheels into a bucket of warm, soapy water and scrub them down because they usually pick up all sorts of detritus when I'm skating. Today they were especially disgusting, so I used an old tooth brush to scrub all of the gum, Skittles and hair.  I also take this opportunity to wipe down my axles and plates because they too are usually pretty grimy. 

If you've never cleaned your bearings before, each bearing has a rubber shield on it that you need to remove before you clean it.  If you use Bone REDS brand bearings, the shield is red and you're going to use the pushpin to pry it out of there; stick the point of the push pin into the outer edge of the rubber shield and pry it up.  If you want to mess around with putting that shield back when you're done (I don't) then you need to clean them off and put them to the side.  I throw mine out because I find that it's way easier to clean my bearings without the extra annoyance of messing around with those shields.  Does this mean I clean my bearings more often because they get more dirt in them?  Yes.  Is it waaaaaay easier to clean them this way?  Hell yes!

Bearings are in the dish, paint thinner next!

Before you put your bearing in the container, knock off the disgusting dust and everything that is clinging to them.  Just for grossness' sake, you realize that 80% of dust is made up of human skin cells!  Ew!  Also, this is the time to check if you have any rust on those bearings.  If you see rust, it might be time to buy some new bearings. Now comes the fun part, cleaning the bearings.  There is something very satisfying in seeing all of the crap come floating off of the bearings when I pour the paint thinner in the bowl.  Depending on the amount of crap I see floating in there, I may change the fluid once or twice so it won't re-deposit on my bearings. 

Guess I was ridin' dirty!

When they've soaked for a while, usually I keep them in there for an hour or so, I use a chop stick to take them out with and put them on a paper towel to dry.  Drying is KEY in this process because if you get impatient and decide that they are "almost dry" then you will have issues with rust, and nobody wants that.  I've heard that you can use a fan to blow over them if it's a humid, or even a blow dryer, but I would avoid using compressed air since you can blow dust back into your bearing.

Once the bearings are dry, check to see if they spin well.  If everything is good, then take a little of your sewing machine oil or speed cream and SPARINGLY lubricate the bearings.  It doesn't take much to get the job done, and if you use too much your bearing is sticky and a gigantic dust magnet.  At this point, I check the spin of each bearing and then I put them back into my wheels, open side turned into the center so it's protected.  If you are one of the anal retentive people who puts the shields back on your bearings, you need to do that first, and you want to turn the shielded side so it faces out.  Side note, if you do put the shields back in, make sure they aren't damaged because they can interfere with the movement of the bearings. (Just throw them out you crazy OCD people!  You'll be much happier!)

This might be a good time to rotate your wheels as well. Check out this blog to see the whole wheel rotation or just read the following advice. Most people wear out the front left wheel the most, because this is the direction they're constantly leaning while skating in a rink. The most effective rotation is: exchange wheels (of the same skate) from front to back and left to right. Therefore, your left front wheel swaps with your right back wheel, and the right front wheel swaps with the left back wheel. Do the same on the other skate. 

So, there ya' go. That's how I clean my bearings. I'm sure a million people have a million different ways to do it, but I've had the same set of bearings for three years now, so I'm happy with my method.  If you have suggestions, please list them in the comments, and we all can skate on happier bearings!


  1. I currently have Mini Logos bearings. I clean them with rubbing alcohol (it's what I've got nearby), and I also clean my wheels with it. I'd heard it breaks down the urethane, but I'll probably need new wheels before the alcohol starts to break them down.

    I like to put my bearings into a container with a lid, so I can swill them around. It makes me feel like they are cleaner. And my bearing oil is "Tri-Flow Lubricant" purchased on sale at Dick's. Also, I put the silly shields back in my bearings.

  2. Good point on spinning the bearings after oiling them! I did that, but I forgot to mention that into the blog. I might make an edit. white metal bearings

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