Don’t clean reels too well: Hold off the suds

Steer clear of detergents to get the saltwater out of your fishing reels

Keeping fishing reels in good working order is essential for saltwater anglers, and the best way to do that is to rinse them thoroughly with fresh water after every saltwater fishing trip. And this should be accomplished as soon as possible.

It doesn’t seem likely, but it is possible to clean a reel a reel too well. Angler David Spinks knows this from first-hand experience.

“I rinsed my reels off with fresh water for years and never had any problems, and after one trip, I was rinsing them off and had a bottle of dish detergent outside, so I put some of that on a couple of reels and worked the detergent around real good, then rinsed it all off,” he said. “I thought I was doing something good, but the very next time I took those reels fishing, I noticed problems.”

Spinks said every time he made a cast, it sounded like metal was rubbing against metal, and turning the handles on his reels sounded and felt as if all the ball bearings were grinding against each other. It didn’t take him long to figure out what had taken place.

“I took the reels over to (his local sporting shop) to get the reels repaired, and the gentleman that works on them told me it was the dish detergent that caused the problem. He said that will surely clean the reels up, but the problem is what it does to the seals,” said Spinks.

High-quality fishing reels have sealed bearings and gears that keeps debris from getting into the working parts of the reel. Those parts are sealed with grease, and salt can eat away at the grease over time, which is why you want to rinse the reels off. Dish detergent, however, breaks down grease, so using that was Spinks’ downfall.

“He told me to stick with fresh water, and also warned against using a pressure washer for that. He said just a thorough rinsing straight out of the spigot was sufficient,” Spinks said.

About Brian Cope 194 Articles
Brian Cope of Edisto Island, S.C., is a retired Air Force combat communications technician. He has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina and has been writing about the outdoors since 2006. He’s spent half his life hunting and fishing. The rest, he said, has been wasted.

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