How To Clean a Spinning Reel – 2021 Complete Guide

| Last Updated May 23, 2021

Keeping a spinning reel clean is not that difficult and is a perfect habit to force yourself into right from the start.

You can do most of it yourself, provided that you stay organized and committed.

A deeper clean is better left to professionals such as tackle shops who will know things such as when parts need replacing, and where to source them from.

Quick Questions Before Starting

Before you get underway with cleaning, consider: 

  • How Difficult is This to Complete?

         This task ranges on a scale of easy to experts only. While you should be able to do most things yourself,            some will be beyond your expertise.

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  • How Long Does it Take to Complete?

          Depending on the type of cleaning required, you will need to set aside from around 10 minutes to an                    hour.

  • How Much Do Materials Cost?

          Cost ranges from $7.76 for individual items up to $36.99 for a complete cleaning kit.

Items Needed For Cleaning

While you can purchase a complete fishing reel cleaning and maintenance kit for up to the $36.99 mentioned above, a list of requirements (together with a price for each) to make up a kit for yourself follows:


Price ($)

11/12 mm Wrench


Flat and Phillips Screwdriver




Oil and Grease Combo


Soft Cloth


Small Brush


Cotton Buds


Small Tweezers


Paper Towel


Note: The items marked N/A are not priced as they will most likely be lying around at home; An old toothbrush, earbuds, old pieces of cloth, etc.

Spinning Reel Maintenance

The following is a step-by-step guide on the cleaning and maintaining of your spinning reel split into two sections for clarity.

You must find a clean, open surface to work on that has no clutter. Keep a section to set aside all removed parts, screws, so nothing can go missing.

While working with your reel, we suggest that you hold the item in your non-dominant hand and clean, remove screws, using your dominant hand.

Drag System

     1. Drag Adjustment Knob

      Unscrew and remove the drag adjustment knob. Wipe clean and set aside

      2. Spool

      Remove the spool which will then allow you access to the drag system. Rinse the spool gently under                   running water to remove any salt, sand, or other residues. Dry with a paper towel and set aside.

Before proceeding, please watch the following video:

      3. Drag Washers

      Remove the drag washers using one of the two methods shown in the video. Clean the washers off, and            keep them in the same order. 

      While cleaning (using a solvent for grease), make sure that no washers are broken or torn. Once cleaned,           set aside. If there are any issues with the washers, order replacements.

      4. Spool Casing

      Remove any dirt or debris inside the casing

      5. Felt or Cloth Washers

      Using your fingertips, apply a little drag grease to felt or cloth washers. If these are carbon or ceramic                 washers, you need not apply any grease, as the lubricant ensures that the cloth or felt doesn’t burn with             friction.

      6. Return Washers to Spool

      When returning the washers, make sure that they're in the same order as when removed.

      7. Screw Cap Back

      Screw the cap back over the washers

Tip: Given how small the screws are, if not magnetic, apply a touch of grease to your screwdriver point to hold the screw in place.

      8. Drag Clicker

      The drag clicker is on the underside of the spool           casing. Make sure that it's still in working order             and apply a little grease.

Tip: When your reel is not in use, keep the drag knob in an open position to ease undue pressure on the drag washers.

Other Parts

Having covered the drag system's intricacies, we will now look at the other parts of your spinning reel.

      1. Gears and Bearings

      Periodically remove the side plate from the reel and grease the gears and bearings lightly.  The more you            fish, the more you should do this.

      2. Handle Knobs and Other Moving Parts

      Using the only manufacturer recommended reel oil, sparingly apply it to the handle knobs, line rollers, bail          arm springs, folding handle, and any other moving parts.

Tips For Cleaning Your Spinning Reel

Here are some helpful tips while performing this task:

Oils and Greases

Use only manufacturer-recommended oils and greases on your reel and not household ones. The latter tend to harden and crust faster than specialized products, causing other problems and reducing the lifetime of your gadget.

Greasing Gears

When greasing your reel's gears, be sure not to miss any part by doing it from the bottom to the top. Also, grease sparingly, otherwise, your appliance becomes a nightmare to clean at later stages.

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Saltwater Fishing

After saltwater fishing, soak your spool in clean water following every use. Saltwater and its after-effects cause corrosion and rust, and again reducing the lifespan of your reel.

Metal Against Metal

For your reel parts, allow no metal to work or rub against metal as it causes chipping and scratching. Note also that the drag washers alternate between steel and cloth/felt for this very reason.

Secure Line

Ensure that the line has been secured or removed during the cleaning process, leaving no telltale smells or small deposits once back in fishing waters.


When you first join the military or police, you will treat the firearm issued to you as though it's your spouse (as the military orders you).

The same should apply to your spinning reel, as good maintenance will cause a lasting 'relationship' that leaves no fish getting away because of a lack of loving care and treatment.

People Also Ask

Sometimes fishing reels, their workings, and longevity are things that people take for granted. Consider a gun misfiring or jamming while you are in a life or death combat situation, for example. When these items suddenly stop working entirely or in part, we ask questions such as:

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How Often Should You Clean Your Spinning Reel?

Try to rinse off the spool (with line) with fresh water after each fishing outing.

Most astute anglers will say that a reel should be disassembled and cleaned at least every two years or, preferably, annually.

Barring any accidents, when to clean also depends on where the reel has been used (in saltwater or fresh-water).

What Happens If I Don't Clean My Spinning Reel?

As with most equipment containing moving parts (your reel has many), keeping it as clean as possible is a must if you want to ensure reliable, and practical usage.

Not keeping your spinning reel clean and in working order is a recipe for disaster, especially when you snag that big fish that will look so good in your trophy pictures!

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.