How to clean a fishing reel in 5 simple steps

Cleaning a fishing a reel after a fishing session shouldn’t be difficult but definitely mandatory to prolong the life of the reel. Especially when it comes to marine fishing. Saltwater from the ocean over time can corrode the mechanicals if it isn’t well maintained and cleaned.

Don’t be caught out on the water with a seized up reel due to maintenance. I’ve put together a simple 5 step process to help clean and maintain your fishing reel after every fishing session.


Equipment required for reel maintenance

Equipment required for reel maintenance
  • A bucket filled with lukewarm soapy water.
  • Paper towels.
  • Sponge x1.
  • Microfibre cloth x2.
  • Reel maintenance oil x1.
  • Tackle guard reel protectant spray x1.


Step 1 – Tighten the drag and soap down the reel.

Firstly by using a paper towel or a clean rag wipe away any debris, gunk, and sand of the reel body. Once the reel has been wiped down we’ll tighten the drag knob securely to prevent any water seeping into the mechanical parts.

Fill a bucket with lukewarm fresh soapy water and use a clean sponge to gently wash the reel body.


Step 2 – Rinse with freshwater and wipe down the reel thoroughly.

Once the reel body has been soaped we’ll then rinse with fresh clean water. Avoid directly running water over the drag knob. After rinsing use a clean dry cloth to wipe dry and free of any moisture.


Step 3 – Clean the spool.

Once the reel body has been wiped down, we’ll undo the spool and wipe any moisture underneath. At this point, I like to also wipe the fishing line clean.


Step 4 – Lubricate all mechanicals.

Before placing the spool back onto the reel body we’ll lightly oil the shaft, handle, bail arm and springs. Remember to wipe away any excess oil.

Finish off by spraying a reel protectant on a clean cloth and wipe the reel down. Reel protectants leave a film over the reel preventing corrosion and displacing any moisture.


Step 5 – Assemble and store away.

Assemble the spool back onto the reel and leave the drag loose. This will avoid pressure on the drag washers. Finally, store rod and reel away in a cool dry place while not in use.

12 thoughts to “How to clean a fishing reel in 5 simple steps”

  1. I’ve never been fishing and don’t know the first thing about but it makes sense that you need to clean and maintain the equipment. I would imagine some of the kit is quite expensive so to keep it in good order will make it last longer on continue to work as it should.

    It’s the same with any hobby, sport or interest, looking after your equipment is essential.

    As you have shown here it doesn’t take long and is no huge effort. Cleaning and maintenance also shows a healthy respect and care  for your belongings .

    This article will benefit anyone who enjoys fishing and who needs to know a simple way to look after the gear.


    1. Hi Louise,

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Your absolutely right anything maintained well will ensure it works in correct working order. These reels also can be quite expensive to purchase.



  2. Thanks a lot for sharing this post. Usually, I don’t clean the reel because I think it will take a lot of time and can be a bit troublesome to do. But, lucky I found your post above. I never thought you can clean a fishing reel in only 5 steps. Definitely will be cleaning my fishing reel from now on. I bookmarked this page for future reference. Thanks a lot for taking your time and putting all these together.


    1. Hi Samm,

      Thanks for book marking my blog post. Cleaning your reel doesn’t have to take a long time at all and it’s quite simple. As you can see. Next time you’re done with a fishing session spend that extra 10 minutes after cleaning and maintaining. This will help keep your fishing reel healthy and in correct working order.



  3. This is really cool. I haven’t been fishing too many times, but when I did go, I absolutely loved it. It just some about being on the water and being in the moment that just calms you down and relaxing too. I have a 13 year old son now and I want him to try fishing out to see if he likes it as well which is why I am glad I came across this post. This was exactly what I was looking for because I wasn’t too confident in my reel cleaning abilities and your way is much more simpler. Great article, very helpful. Definitely sharing this on Facebook so other fishers can benefit. 

    1. Hi Garrett,

      Thanks for dropping a comment. You’re absolutely right! fishing does have a calming effect. Hope your son enjoys fishing as much as you do.



  4. I’m not much of a fisher but my father is. I never thought that the saltwater could corrode parts on the fishing rod. So you definitely need to clean them if they are used for saltwater. I appreciate you giving the step by step process on how to clean them. Could freshwater still cause damage to your fishing rods as well? 

    1. Hi Con,

      Generally it’s best practise to clean your fishing reel even if you intend to use it for freshwater only. Freshwater won’t do as much damage in comparison to saltwater can over time. But to keep your reel healthy and in correct working order. Spend 10 minutes after every fishing session cleaning and maintaining. It will be well worth your time and money.



  5. Not being a skilled fisherman I never really thought about cleaning the reel. I came across this post by chance but thanks to the clarity and the excellent photographic support this website has become my point of reference from now on for everything concerning fishing. Thanks again to Vinnie for sharing his knowledge.

  6. I’m not too avid of a fisherman and have never really given much thought to cleaning the reels afterwards. I guess that explains a lot after a couple trips, haha. You think I would have as I give my bike a good cleaning after every long ride! The break down is so easy to follow anyone can do it. I’ll be giving my reels a good clean after each trip now. Thanks!

    1. Hi Rob,

      Cleaning your fishing reel is often overlooked but well worth the time. No one wants a sized up reel while in the middle of a fishing session. Trust me it has happened to me before.

      Thanks for taking the time and reading my post and leaving a comment 🙂

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