How to Clean Your Spinning Reel For Smooth Fishing

Here's our quick guide for how to clean your spinning reel to keep it working smoothly season after season.

clean your spinning reel
Here's how to clean your spinning reel

A spinning reel is a type of fishing reel that consists of a revolving spool that is mounted on an axis. The line is wound around the spool and released when the bait is cast. The spinning reel is one of the most popular types of fishing reel among anglers.

Cleaning your spinning reel is important in order to keep it functioning properly. Here are some simple steps to clean your spinning reel:

Set Up

1. Set up an area with some paper towels or towels as a base.  This is going to be a bit messy.  And you'll find as you go through this process that there will be quite a few small and greasy parts that will leave residue on whatever surface you're on, that's why it's a good idea to have the towels.  And make sure you put the parts off to the side and keep track of them.  It may be a good idea to take pictures as you go.


2. Disassemble the reel.  Usually there's a knob on the opposite side of the reel handle.  You'll probably need to remove this knob, or at least loosen it.  Then unscrew and remove the reel handle on the other side.  Next remove the sideplate, drag knob, and the spool. Be sure to consult your owner's manual for specific instructions on how to disassemble your particular model of reel. Note that some of the sideplate screws may be of differing length, so make sure you keep track of what screw goes where.


3. Clean all of the parts with a mild soap and water solution on a wet rag or paper towel. A toothbrush can be used to scrub away any caked-on dirt or grime. Check the inside of the spool for any excess dirt, and even any line that may be left inside from re-tying or any snarls.  Make sure there's no lint left behind from your towels when you're done.

For the inside of the reel, most of the time you won't need to remove the gears to soak and degrease them.  But check to see that there's no obvious dirt inside the reel body, and if there is, you can use the toothbrush to sweep it away.  Then be sure to wipe down all of the inside parts thoroughly with a clean paper towel or rag afterwards.  

4. Dry all of the parts with a soft cloth. Allow the parts to air dry completely before lubricating the reel.

5. Lubricate all of the moving parts with a light oil or reel grease. Make sure you grease the gear teeth where the gears meet.  This will help to keep the parts moving smoothly and prevent rusting.

6. Snap the side plate back onto the reel body and make sure that everything lines up and it seats properly.  Screw the side plate back on the body.  

7. Before you replace the spool, lubricate the spindle that the spool sit on.  Then make sure the inside of the spool gets some lubrication too, on the moving parts inside.  Then pop the spool back on.  You may need to rotate it a bit to make sure the spool seats on the spindle properly.  It should drop all the way in against the reel body.  

Cleaning your spinning reel is important in order to keep it functioning properly.

Then put the drag knob on the spool and tighten it down.  You can re-adjust it once you have new line on the spool and you're ready to fish.

8. Lubricate the bail with some reel oil where the bail meets the spool body.  It's a good idea to move the bail back and forth a few times to make sure the oil gets worked in properly.

9. Lubricate the reel handle spindle that slots in to the body.  It's ok to squirt a bit into the spindle hole on the reel body too.  Then slide the handle spindle into the body and tighten the handle down.  Then replace the knob on the opposite side and hand tighten so it's snug.

Spool the reel with fresh line if you need to.  You're now ready to hit the water!

For a guide to spinning reels, click the button below to see our list of the 5 best spinning reels under $100.

How To Clean Your Spinning Reel - The Last Cast

Cleaning your spinning reel is a simple process that only takes a few minutes. By keeping your reel clean, you'll prolong its life and ensure that it continues to function properly for many fishing seasons to come.