How to Clean Skateboard Bearings

boy with Skateboard
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There are two ways to clean skateboard bearings -- a fast, easy way that is OK for your bearings and a longer, more complicated way that is far better for your bearings. You should clean your skateboard bearings if your bearings have slowed down, seem mucky, or if they make a gravely, junky sound when you spin your wheels. To avoid getting to that point, you should clean your bearings fairly often, even when they are only a little dirty or just haven't been cleaned in a long time. Cleaning your skateboard bearings like this from time to time will increase your bearings' lifespan and improve your skateboarding experience -- meaning you'll have more fun on your board.

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Setup and Tools

How To Clean Skateboard Bearings - Setup and Tools
Jamie O'Clock

First, remove your skateboard bearings. You can clean your bearings without removing them, but you won't get them very clean that way. It's quick and easy.

You need some rags, towels or paper towels -- this will get messy, so if you are going to clean your bearings in the living room of your house, make sure you put down a lot of towels. And, you might not want to wear your favorite clothes.

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The Quick and Easy Way

How To Clean Skateboard Bearings - Tri-Flow Lubricant
Jamie O'Clock

Use the quick method if you have cheaper bearings ($20 or less) or if you plan on wearing your bearings out quickly. The problem with the quick method is that the cleaner contains surfactants and perfumes that aren't the best for skateboard bearings. (If you spent $50 or more on skateboard bearings and want to keep your bearings as healthy as possible, use the "Best Method" below.)

The best product to use is Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant. You can pick it up at most hardware stores. The spray nozzle makes it super easy to use, and Tri-Flow is designed to not leave any residue behind. Do not use WD-40 or anything like it. WD-40 and other cheaper lubricants leave behind a film that actually collects dirt and dust. Shake the lubricant well before using it.​

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Hose Them Down

Hosing skateboard bearing with lubricant
Jamie O'Clock

Hold the bearing and using Tri-Flow, blast the heck out of it. Aim around the edges of the bearing and blast into every edge you find.

You should notice an awful lot of dark, blackish, nasty muck coming out of the bearing. That means that it really needed the cleaning. Don't be stingy with the Tri-Flow;  just keep blasting away. This is why you really want a lot of rags or towels under your work, and why you don't want to be wearing your favorite clothes. This can get pretty messy.

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Keep Going

lubricating and cleaning skateboard bearings
Jamie O'Clock

Really hose these suckers down. Use as much of the lubricant as you need. Flip the bearings over and clean both sides.

Once you feel like you've cleaned the bearing enough -- usually, this is when black gunk stops coming out -- pat it with a towel or rag to get the excess lubricant off and set it aside. You'll want to set it on it on rags or towels because it will continue to leak for a while.

Repeat with each bearing; you should have eight, two for each wheel.

Once you are done, you can let the bearings leak and dry out a little if you would like, but this isn't required. Feel free to slap these freshly cleaned bearings right back into your old wheels or into new wheels, or whatever else your master plan involves, and skate away.

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Super Quick Method

Quick Method for cleaning skateboard bearings
Jamie O'Clock

This technique is good for a quick tune-up. Use all the same tools but leave the bearings in your wheels. This method requires a lubricant like Tri-Flow -- something that can spray hard. Using the same technique as before, hose down the bearing inside the wheel. Blast it hard, getting into every crevice. Pat down the bearing inside after you've blasted it to get the excess lubricant off. You will only be able to clean the bearings on a very superficial level, but for a fast tune-up, it might be helpful.


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The Best Method

This is how you should ideally clean your skateboard bearings, but it takes a lot of love. You will need kerosene or mineral spirits, 99 percent isopropyl alcohol, and some good quality skateboard bearing lubricants. Powell Speed Cream and Rockin' ​Ron's Rocket Propellant are good choices. 

The first step is to wash your bearings with the kerosene or mineral spirits. Your bearings likely have a rubber shield that you will need to pop out with a small pin, but be careful not to force anything or damage the bearings. For the wash, you want to soak your bearings in the kerosene or mineral spirits. Gently swish the solution around to get some movement inside the jar or can that you are using to soak the skateboard bearings.

Remove the bearings and rinse them off with the alcohol. If you used a skateboard bearing cleaner, then you don't need to rinse with the alcohol (unless the instructions on the cleaner say you should do that.

After rinsing them off, dry your skateboard bearings quickly. A can of compressed air is perfect for this.

Then put those nice and clean bearings back in your wheels and put them back on your board.