How to clean skateboard bearings and grip tape

Cleaning skateboard bearings, wheels and grip tape are all essential parts of board maintenance. Learn about keeping your skateboard clean here.

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skateboard cleaning

If you’re a regular skateboarder, you know how great it feels when your board responds to your movements – and you know that that feeling relies on your board being in good working order. A build-up of dirt and mud in your board’s bearings can keep the wheels from spinning as freely as they should, for example, and grimy grip tape can cause you to slip and lose your balance while you’re riding. Knowing how to clean skateboard wheels, grip tape and bearings isn’t just a cosmetic matter – it’s important for your safety too.

Read on to find out how to clean and maintain your skateboard properly!

The specialist “grip gum” you can purchase at specialist skateboard shops to help clean grip tape can sometimes be found more cheaply at DIY or art supply shops – it’s used to clean belt sanders and to absorb excess fluid when watercolour painting. Ask for ‘rubber cement pickup eraser’.
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How to Clean Skateboard Wheels

The wheels on your board tend to be the easiest part to clean! Here’s how to clean skateboard wheels safely and effectively:

  • Use a socket wrench to unscrew the axel nuts from either side of each wheel before gently removing the wheels from the board. (Make sure you keep any nuts, bolts or washers together so that you can find them all for reassembly when you’re done!)
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  • Gently pry the wheel bearings from the wheels – these will need to be cleaned separately (we’ll get on to cleaning skateboard bearings in a minute).
  • Use a rag or an old toothbrush to scrub any obvious mud and grime from your wheels, then place them into a bucket of hot soapy water and leave to soak for ten minutes.
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  • Once you’ve removed them from soaking, give the wheels another gentle scrub with your rag or toothbrush. Then dry them carefully with paper towels.

You’re done with the wheels! Set them to one side for the moment – you’ll reattach them at the end.

How to Clean Skateboard Bearings with Household Items

If you can, it’s best to use cleaners and lubricants specifically intended for skateboards for cleaning skateboard bearings – but there are household items you can use in a pinch!

Acetone-based nail polish remover can be used to clean the bearings, and you could try bicycle oil, petroleum jelly or even a silicone-based personal lubricant to grease them before reassembling the wheels. Just stay away from things like WD-40 – these are much too thick for skateboard bearings and could damage your wheels in the long run.

How to Clean Skateboard Bearings

Cleaning skateboard bearings can seem a little more complicated than cleaning the wheels, but it’s simple once you know how. Your skateboard’s bearings need to be lubricated with grease or oil to function properly. That means that soap and water won’t do the trick here – you’ll need a solvent, such as acetone, isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol to get them clean – and you’ll need to re-grease them once you’ve finished.

Here’s how to clean the bearings on a skateboard:

  • Use something thin and sharp, like a pin, to gently pop the shields from your skateboard bearings. If your bearing shields are made of rubber, you’ll need to be careful not to puncture them or bend the metal ring that helps them hold their shape. If they’re made of metal, there should be a C-shaped clip holding them in place – get your pin under this and gently remove the clip, and the shield should come away.
  • Prepare a small bowl of your solvent – you only need enough in the bottom of the bowl to cover your skateboard bearings.
  • Place the bearings, ball part down, in your bowl of solvent. Let them sit for a few minutes, and then tap them gently on the bottom of the bowl to remove any embedded grit. Lay each clean bearing, ball side down, on a clean paper towel to dry.
  • While you’re waiting for your wheel bearings to dry, swirl the shields around in the solution as well and wipe away any dirt from them.
  • You’re nearly done – but remember to re-grease your bearings before you put them back together! Make sure the bearings are completely dry before you do this. You should only need a little lubricant – 2-3 drops is usually enough to get all the balls in the bearing covered.
  • Gently place the shields back over the bearings and use your fingers to snap them into place.

Now you can put your clean bearings and wheels back together, and reattach them to the skateboard. Check that the wheels are spinning as they ought to before you ride again, though!

How to Clean Skateboard Grip Tape

So your wheels are sparkling clean – what’s left? Your skateboard’s surface is covered in sticky-backed sandpaper known as grip tape, and any skater knows how dirty that surface can get. Here’s how to get that grip tape clean:

  1. If the surface is really dirty, start by using a piece of rubber cement pickup eraser – sold in skate shops as “grip gum” – to remove as much surface dirt as possible.
  2. Dip a brass or other soft wire brush in water and scrub the grip tape, working in sections. This will loosen any ingrained dirt and bring it to the surface to be picked up by the rubber eraser.
  3. Dry the grip tape thoroughly – it’s hard to clean grip tape while it’s wet! You can use paper towels for this, but there’s a risk that these will break apart and get caught in the grain of the tape. Other options are a clean rag – you could even use a hairdryer to make sure the surface is really dry.
  4. Repeat step 1, using the grip gum to remove the surface dirt from your grip tape.

That’s it – your grip tape should be good as new! If your clean grip tape still isn’t giving you the purchase you’re used to, just remember that grip tape doesn’t last forever – you’ll have to replace it eventually. Now that you know how to clean grip tape, you should be able to make it last a lot longer!

And there you have it – how to clean skateboard wheels, bearings and grip tape, and keep your board in good working order. Happy skating!

Key Steps

  1. Remove wheels from the board and separate them from the wheel bearings.
  2. Clean the wheels by first brushing off embedded dirt and grime, then soaking them in hot soapy water before scrubbing them gently with an old toothbrush. Dry thoroughly.
  3. Clean the wheel bearings by gently popping them out of their shields with a pin or craft knife and soaking them in a solvent solution like acetone or isopropyl alcohol. Leave them for a few minutes, then swirl and tap them in the solution, removing as much grime as possible. Wipe the shields down with your solvent too. Remember to re-grease the bearings and shields before reattaching with a grease or oil suitable for skateboard shields.
  4. To clean grip tape, use a soft wire brush dipped in water to gently scrub, bringing any embedded grime to the surface. Dry carefully with a rag or a hairdryer before using a piece of rubber cement pickup (also called “grip gum” or “crêpe rubber”) to remove the surface dirt.

Originally published