How to clean bearings
It can be quite tricky to work out how to go about cleaning your bearings if you’ve never done it before. So here is a simple guide to get you started.
What do I need?
The first thing you’ll need (besides dirty bearings) is to choose which product to use. Straight away when cleaning things you think of water. However this can easily cause your bearings to rust pretty quickly, so as a rule stay away from water. There are a few choices though that are easy to come by. Many people use acetone when cleaning skateboard bearings, as it can be found in nail polish remover, or they may use a rubbing alcohol over 90%. For this example I am using the Loctite 7061 ‘super clean’. It’s a reliable brand that we trust, and know it will do the job perfectly. If your bearings are too greasy you can use the Loctite 7063 ‘super degreaser’ instead.
The first step is to pop the seals:
There are two kinds of seal you may come across. Rubber seals and metal shields.
Either way you can easily remove the seal by using a pin or paperclip.
Slide the end of the pin, or whatever you chose to use, around the edge of the seal until it slides under and you can pop off the top. When the seal is removed you should be able to see small balls inside the bearing.
One thing to mention is, if you have metal shields, they are help in place by a circlip so be careful when finding the edge of the seal.
Next you clean the bearings:
Take your cleaner and fill a bowl (depending on the size of your bearings) with enough to fully submerge each bearing. Place your bearings flat with the balls facing down and leave them to stand for a few minutes.
Once you have let them soak for a while, take one bearing and tap it against the base of the bowl, again face down. This will help to dislodge any grit and dirt that may have made its way into the bearing. Repeat this action with all of the bearings. If you think there is still some grit inside the bearings, you can hold it between your thumb and forefinger and spin it with your other hand.
Dry the bearings:
When you are happy with them, remove the bearings from the cleaning solution and place them on a towel or cloth and leave them to dry with the balls facing down. You can spin them again if you want them to dry faster.
Clean the seals:
While the bearings dry you need to clean the seals you removed at the start. This is much easier as you can just rinse them in the solution until clean. Then leave them to dry with the bearings.
Lubricate the bearings (re-grease):
The next step, once the bearings are completely dry, is to apply lubricant. I will be using the Shell Gadus s2 v220, which is a standard lubricant and id fine for this application. Or you could use the SKF standard lubricant.
You need to apply enough to coat all of the balls but not so that it is too packed inside the bearing. Take the lubricant on the end of your finger and rub it into the bearing. Make sure you can feel the balls rolling around inside the bearing and that they are completely covered.
Put the seals back in place:
Now that the bearings are cleaned and greased you can put the clean seals on. They should just click back into place. Rub a bit of lubricant onto the seal and all around the metal parts to prevent rusting.
You now have a clean set of bearings.
If you want to reuse the solution you used to clean the bearings you first need to strain it to remove the grit. To do this you need a clear bowl to strain it into, so that you can see if the solution runs clear.
Place a piece of filter paper (or a coffee filter would work) over the top of the bowl and pour the solution over it. You may need to repeat this if the solution is not clear the first time round.
Once it’s clean you can pour it back in the bottle and use it again.
These instructions can be applied to many kinds of bearings but was written with smaller bearings, such as skateboard bearings, in mind.