Does your ball hook less than when it was new? Does the shell feel greasy, smooth, and less tacky than when it was new? Even if you clean your ball regularly, the shell can absorb oil to the point where a simple cleaning has virtually no effect. If this is the case, it’s probably time to “bake” your ball.
There is a variety of ways to do this, and it’s important to pick the correct strategy. Using the wrong method can damage your bowling ball beyond repair. This is a list of different methods that I believe to be viable. We will discuss the pros/cons of each method and why/why not to use it.
At the end of the day, it’s probably best to have your local Pro Shop extract the oil from your ball. They should have the ability to remove the most amount of oil while ensuring nothing bad happens to the ball. However, you will usually pay a significant amount of money for the service. This article is for those of you who want to pay as little as possible to extract as much oil as possible from your ball.
***The only way to guarantee you don’t destroy your ball is to have your local pro shop do it. These methods have worked for me in the past, but that is no guarantee that they will work for you. I am not liable for any damages that may occur to your ball***
What does “baking” a ball do?
Baking a ball refers to the process of using heat to extract oil from the shell of your ball. The reactive resin used as coverstocks will absorb oil over time. Wiping your ball with a micro-fiber towel after every shot can reduce the amount it absorbs, but a small amount will be absorbed everytime your ball rolls down the lane.
The term “baking” is a bit misleading. Many methods use hot water/chemicals/ultrasonics to remove the oil, but it’s still typically called “baking” the ball. Regardless of the method chosen, heating the ball up helps open the pores of the shell and release oil. However, you have to be careful not to heat the ball too hot or too fast. Doing so could cause cracks, or actually damage the resin surface.
To reduce the risk of damage, it’s best not to ever let your ball exceed ~140°F or ~60°C. Heating the ball too quickly can increase the risk of damage even if the temperature doesn’t exceed 140°F.
Hot Water Bath
There are a few different methods that use hot water, but the simple hot water bath is one of the best. This method requires the least attention, has a very small risk of damage, but unfortunately requires a long time-commitment. In short, you place your ball into hot water, let it soak, then clean it, possibly repeating the process many times.
This method is quite safe because your home tap water shouldn’t typically exceed 120-140°F.
- Place your ball in some sort of bucket or container that is deep enough to completely submerge the ball.
- Run your tap as hot as it will go (without exceeding 140°F) and submerge the ball.
- After ~15 minutes, drain the water, give your ball a good clean, and re-submerge the ball. *At this point, some people like to add a bit of Dawn dish soap to help break down the oil. I find it unnecessary.*
- Repeat the process 3-4 times or until you feel the ball is thoroughly cleaned.
- Clean your ball real well using your preferred method, and the tacky surface of the ball should be restored.
- Let the ball dry thoroughly for at least a day or two before throwing it.
This method takes quite a while. During the day or two you are letting it dry, you will be itching to bowl with your restored surface. However, I think it’s worth the wait just given the effectiveness and safety of using this method. Another small downside to this method is you can’t visually see when the ball is done releasing oil like you can with dry methods.
Using Your Dishwasher
First, check the temperature of your tap water. Turn your sink on as hot as it will go and check the temperature. If it’s hotter than 140°F this method won’t work for you. Either turn your hot water heater down, or don’t use this method. Choose one of the other methods in this article. If it is lower than 140°F, you should be good to go.
- Plug the holes with some tape, clay or whatever you have available.
- Place your ball on the bottom rack because it won’t fit in the top.
- Some people use soap but I don’t recommend it. The hot water and agitation alone do a fine job of removing and rinsing the oil from the ball.
- Turn off the heat/dry cycle on the dishwasher. This will cause uneven heating which can cause cracking. Turn off any sort of special cycle other than the regular wash cycle.
- Let the ball cool in the dishwasher for a few hours. It’ll cool down slower if it is left in there which reduces risk.
- Don’t use the ball for at least 24 hours to ensure that the ball is fully cooled and dried inside and out.
As long as the dry cycle is off, you should be fine. But checking on your ball every so often is probably a good idea.
Hair Dryer Method
The hair dryer method is another method that is quite risky. However, if you put the proper time and care into doing it right, it can work. This method is exactly what it sounds like, you use a hair dryer to heat up the shell, releasing oil.
- Place the ball on a towel.
- Begin waving the blow dryer back and forth, as if it were your head, and constantly rotate the ball.
- You will see the ball getting glossy as oil is released.
- When a layer of oil is on the ball, give it a thorough wipe and clean.
- Repeat the process as many times as necessary until the ball stops releasing oil.
- Once again give the ball a nice thorough clean and let it cool off for a few hours.
This is a method that I’ve just recently heard about. As you all know, if you leave your windows up on a hot day, the inside of a car becomes unbearably hot. Depending on how hot it is where you live, this could potentially be a very simple, easy way to extract the oil from your ball. Simply place your ball in a car on a hot day and wait for the oil to be released. This method works very simply, but heating the ball slowly enough and to the correct temperature can be difficult. This is how you can most safely and easily use this method.
- Place the ball on a towel on the floor of your car, out of direct sunlight.
- With all the windows and doors closed, watch the ball to see when it starts to become glossy.
- When enough oil has accumulated, open the doors and wipe the ball well.
- Close the doors, and repeat the process until little-no oil is coming out of the ball.
- Give the ball a thorough clean using your preferred method, and it should be tacky once again.
Bake Your Ball in the Oven
This is by far the worst technique, however, it seems to be used quite often with varying success. The lowest temperature most home ovens can go to is around 170°F. Due to this, constant attention must be paid during the process. This method is exceedingly dangerous, and honestly shouldn’t be used. Although you should never use this method, for educational purposes I’m going to tell you exactly how you would use it if you were so inclined.
It’s important to remember that not only should the ball not exceed 140°F, but you also don’t want it to heat up too quickly.
- Put the first wire rack as far away from the heating element as possible while still leaving enough room for the ball.
- Put the second rack underneath the first and place a cookie sheet on the rack. This will block some of the direct heat from the element.
- Place two rolled up micro-fiber towels side-by-side, perpendicular to the wire rack to create a sort of “bed” for the ball to lie on.
- Place the ball on the towels, close the oven, and turn the oven on the lowest setting.
- Every two minutes or so, rotate the ball a bit and wipe with paper towels. This constant opening of the oven should help mitigate the risk of the high temperature.
- Continue rotating and wiping the ball until no more oil is being released from the ball.
- Give your ball a good, thorough clean, and place it back in the oven
- While making sure there isn’t too much residual heat, turn the oven off, leaving the ball in the oven to very gradually cool off over the next hour or so.
- Remove from the oven and clean your ball as usual.
This is a method that I am not a fan of. It takes too long and is too hard to do properly. In short, you place the ball in front of a space heater that blows hot air, while constantly rotating it to heat up the ball. It’s too difficult to achieve uniform heating with this method, and most space heaters blow air hotter than 140°F, making it hard not to let the shell of the ball exceed that.
- Place the ball on a towel in front of a heater.
- Try to heat it uniformly by constantly rotating the ball.
- As oil builds up, wipe it off and continue the process.
- When the shell is no longer releasing oil, give the ball a wipe and a thorough clean.
The Absolute Best Way to Extract Oil at Home
The best way to get your shell rejuvenated is definitely at your local pro shop. They probably have one of the expensive ball baking machines, such as the Innovative Revivor, the Jayhawk Ultrasonic Ball Cleaner, or even the NuBall Bowling Ball Rejuvenator. Any of these three methods will extract more oil and are much safer for your ball than DIY methods.
The Revivor constantly rotates the ball while blowing hot air at the temperature you specify over it.
The Jayhawk uses warm water, cleaning agent, and ultrasonic frequencies to suck the oil right out of the pores.
Buying your own ball baking machine such as the NuBall Bowling Ball Rejuvenator is the best bang for your buck. This oven is simple, effective, and inexpensive. It blows temperature-controlled air over the ball and uses a specifically designed tray to catch any oil drippings.
All you do is place the ball into the machine and turn the dial to your desired temperature. I prefer to set this machine to 135°F. It is efficient enough that higher heat is not actually needed.
This machine will pay for itself quickly. I bake my balls at least once a month, and my local shops charge a minimum of $20. If you have only two strike balls, this machine would pay for itself in less than 5 months. Over the years, that will lead to an incredible amount of savings, so you can buy that new ball you’ve been eyeing.
As you can see, you can get pretty creative with this process as long as you are careful. Any method of heating up the ball will extract oil. All you need to do is make sure it doesn’t heat up too hot or too quickly.
My favorite DIY methods to use before I got my own oven were the hot water bath, the hot car, and the hairdryer methods. The hot water method is the easiest to do because most home water taps don’t exceed ~140°F. The biggest downside is that you need to let the ball dry for a long time before it is safe to use again.
The DIY methods work, but not quite as well as a professional machine. But, they are much cheaper than shelling out the ~$20 every time you need your ball maintained. If you plan to bowl seriously, I recommend the NuBall Rejuvenator mentioned above.
Thanks for reading! Comment below if you have any thoughts/questions/concerns about these methods.
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