A Guide to Bowling Ball Surface Maintenance


When you invest in a new product, you want that product to last for a while, and the best way to make something last is to take care of it properly. That’s why when you purchase a bowling ball, it’s important to know how to keep it in the best shape possible.

Bowling ball maintenance isn’t rocket science, but it does take commitment – and you have to do it correctly for it to be effective. Bowling balls collect a lot of oil, dirt and dust from the lane that’s not only disgusting but can also affect the way they perform. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to clean a bowling ball for peak performance.

Bowling and Its Equipment Throughout the Years

Bowling has always been around in one way or another, but it wasn’t until about 100 years ago when our modern version of the game became official with rules and specifications surrounding the balls, lanes and pins. Since the sport became popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s, bowling has gone through a major transition.


In the beginning, most bowling alleys were kept alive thanks to leagues, which used to make up 70 percent of a bowling alley’s business. Today, leagues only account for around 40 percent of bowling alleys’ customers. The sport has slowly turned into more of a hobby or a fun family activity.

There have been improvements to the game and its equipment since its foundation — just as bowling has changed a lot over the years, so have bowling balls.

At first, they were made of wood and had no gripping holes, meaning players had to roll their bowling balls by launching it down the lane with just the palm of their hand. By the 1960s, balls were made from polyester, and gripping holes were added. Since the 1980s, they’ve been made out of hard rubber and surrounded with coverstocks. Coverstocks make bowling balls more capable of generating friction – allowing players to have better control over the ball and its hook.

The Components of Bowling Balls

Today, there are typically two classifications of bowling balls: three-piece or two-piece. In the past, this description referenced how many parts were required to build the ball, which is still true to modern three-piece balls, but not two-piece balls. Each type has three pieces:

  • Two-piece balls: Have a core, coverstock and an added outer core that’s separate from the coverstock
  • Three-piece balls: Made of filler material, a thin coverstock and a weight block

No matter which type of ball you have, the coverstock has the most influence over the bowling ball’s performance on the lane — 60 to 80 percent of a bowling ball’s performance is based on its coverstock, with the other 20 to 40 percent coming down to its core and other physical characteristics. That means you’ll want to understand your bowling ball’s coverstock before you start your maintenance routine.


There are two typical types of coverstock: sanded and polished. However, there are endless combinations that make each ball unique, such as finishing procedures, polish and compounds used and grit steps. The difference between the two coverstocks is seen on the lane as follows:

  • Sanded: Since rougher surfaces produce more friction, sanded bowling balls will hook toward the end of the oil pattern.
  • Polished: Choose this type of coverstock if you want the ball to get further down the lane before it hooks.


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The Importance of Resurfacing Your Bowling Ball

Periodic resurfacing is one of the most important aspects of bowling ball maintenance. Resurfacing will restore the pores of the ball that allow it to grip the lane and hook at an appropriate time. This tactic could make your bowling ball seem like it’s brand new again.

Maintaining your coverstock isn’t only about keeping it clean and free from dirt, scuff marks, debris and the oil that it collects with each roll down the lane. Think about how much you value being able to control your bowling ball. This consistency and predictability goes away as you bowl and resurfacing it sets it back to perfect.

Resurfacing your ball also takes care of any nicks or scratches it might have acquired since you first purchased it. This damage is frequent, inevitable and typically hinders your ball’s performance. Having a smooth, consistent roll every time should be important to any serious bowler — and even people who just bowl for fun.

Sample Bowling Ball Surface Maintenance Schedule

Maintenance details are important to consider when you’ve purchased a new bowling ball. You don’t want to slack off and let it get dirty, but you also don’t want to be spending money or your time cleaning it if it’s not necessary to do so.


It can be difficult to tell when it’s time to clean your bowling ball, and it’s even trickier to decide when you should have it resurfaced. If you want to keep your ball in top shape, follow this sample maintenance schedule:

  • After every use: Each time you bowl, you should be cleaning your coverstock with ball cleaner to reduce oil absorption.
  • After ten games: Re-polish shiny bowling balls or scuff balls with sanded coverstock.
  • After 30 games: Clean the ball with liquid dish detergent. For the best results and a complete deep clean, use soap with a degreasing agent in it.
  • After 60 games: Have a full resurface done professionally, or do it yourself at home. A professional resurface typically costs between $10 and $30, depending on the condition of the ball.

Keep in mind that this maintenance schedule is just a sample. You could find, based on your bowling ball and its track area, that your ball can go longer before it needs a deep clean or a resurfacing job. You could also find that you need to maintain your ball more frequently to get the results you want. Remember — the cleaner the bowling ball, the better it performs on the lane.

Why You Should Resurface Your Bowling Ball Yourself

Having your bowling ball professionally resurfaced isn’t expensive, but it adds up for frequent bowlers after a few procedures. Plus, there’s something about taking care of your products, especially equipment for a hobby that’s so close to your heart. You might even find that you like to resurface your bowling ball yourself.

Along with saving money — even if it’s not a lot — resurfacing your bowling ball yourself eliminates your dependence on the professionals. When you develop your own skills and learn how to maintain your bowling ball, you’re fully immersing yourself into the hobby.

Required Tools

To get it right, you need the right equipment. If you want to try resurfacing your bowling ball yourself, you’ll need to acquire the following tools:

  • Bowling ball sanding agent. You have your pick of the litter when it comes to what you’re going to use to sand your bowling ball. There are tons of brands out there for you to choose from — you could even just use sandpaper or 3M Scotchbrite pads — but most bowlers lean toward Mirka Abralon or SIA sanding pads.
  • Bowling ball spinner. This tool will make the process of resurfacing your bowling ball much simpler and less strenuous. If you don’t have one, there are affordable spinners out there now for bowling enthusiasts who don’t want to resurface their bowling balls professionally. You could easily find a beginner’s spinner for under $100, which pays for itself after just a few uses.
  • Water, if it’s not included with the spinner. Get a large bowl to rinse your sanding pads in and a spray bottle filled with water to squirt onto the bowling ball. Water not only takes care of the dust and debris that will come off as you resurface the ball, but it also reduces the friction between your hands and the ball as it spins.
  • Compound, polish and cleaner. Once you’ve finished sanding the bowling ball, you’ll need these items to complete the job. Your bowling ball will likely still have some dirt or oil from the lane or debris from the process of resurfacing. These products will ensure your bowling ball will come out looking fresh.
  • Towels and polishing pads. Make sure to use a different pad or towel for your compound, polish and cleaner.

How to Resurface Your Bowling Ball at Home

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary tools, you’re ready to get started. Follow this step-by-step process to resurface your bowling ball at home:

  1. Decide what results you want. The way you want your ball to work after resurfacing it can determine many of the choices you’ll make later in the resurfacing process, such as the grit you’ll use. Lower grits are better for bowlers with higher speeds, as they help the ball handle oiled lanes better and leave it with more surface. Higher grits leave your ball with less surface and are better for players who want more control. Higher grits will also lengthen your ball’s hook phase.
  2. Place the ball in the spinner. No matter which grit you choose, the most common sanding technique is to position your ball in the spinner and cross and sand at a 90-degree angle from the ball’s original sanding pattern. If you sand with the initial track, you’ll get greater length and more aggression at the end of the lane. Place the ball in the spinner with the center of its grip at the top and start sanding. Once you’re done with that surface, rotate the ball 180-degrees, then another 90-degrees to ensure you’re sanding all of the ball’s coverstock.
  3. Wet your sanding pads and ball. This step protects your hands from the friction between your sanding pad and the ball. It also keeps the dust to a minimum and rinses away loose particles. Overall, water helps to make your sanding more consistent.
  4. Set spinner speed. Some spinners have two speeds. If yours does, be sure to set it at the lowest speed while you’re sanding. Change this to the high-speed setting while you’re applying your compound or polish.
  5. Use your palm to hold the sanding pad. If you use your fingers to move the pad up and down the ball, you run the risk of one of your fingers getting stuck in the gripping holes.
  6. Apply pressure. To get the best results, apply more pressure for shorter periods with lower grits or less pressure for more time when using higher grits.
  7. Time the sanding. While there’s no time limit or magic number for how long you need to sand the ball, you will still want to keep track to make sure you sand each part of the ball evenly. Keep a mental count going while you sand each area before rotating.
  8. Change your grit. Depending on your goals, you might want to change grits throughout the sanding process. This is not a problem — just make sure to sand the entire ball with one grit level before moving to the next.
  9. Apply compound. After you’ve finished sanding, use a compound to make sure your ball gets full contact with the lane. Continue to rotate the ball as you apply the compound, and be sure to apply it evenly.
  10. Polish the ball. Use a different cloth to apply your polish. This product gives your ball a sharp reaction on the backend of the lane.
  11. Clean your ball. The final touch is to clean your bowling ball. You don’t need to keep using the spinner — just spray cleaner on the ball and wipe with another new cloth. Don’t forget the gripping holes!

How to Know When It’s Time to Resurface Your Bowling Ball

You might be wondering how often to resurface your bowling ball, or how many times you can resurface a bowling ball. Many amateur bowlers are never taught when or how often they should be cleaning their equipment. Some are taught that simply wiping the ball with a towel after a game is all it takes. While cleaning is important, it doesn’t count as resurfacing.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic number for how often you should have your bowling ball resurfaced. Some say you should do it yourself or have it done professionally every 60 games, others say you could go as many as 250 matches. Essentially, you should pay attention to the condition of your bowling ball’s track area. When that area seems to start showing signs of normal wear and tear, you should look into getting your ball resurfaced — or doing it yourself.

In general, you can resurface your bowling ball as many times as you want, until the manufacturer’s name gets hard to read — by then, it might be time to consider treating yourself to a new bowling ball.

Choose National Abrasives, Inc., for Your Resurfacing Tools

At National Abrasives, Inc., we want to help you make sure you’re getting the best products possible, and that you’re taking care of them. As a family-owned and operated company, we focus on providing excellent customer service and competitive pricing. We’ll even provide free samples upon request and free shipping when your order reaches the minimum purchase.

You don’t have to wonder where to buy Abralon pads for bowling or SIA air discs for bowling ball resurfacing anymore — National Abrasives, Inc., has what you need. Our high-quality foam-backed finishing discs and Mirka Abralon pads sets would be great additions to your bowling ball maintenance kit. Visit our website or contact us to learn more about them today.

Learn More About Bowling Ball Maintenance and Abrasives

*Updated February 20, 2020

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