Whether you ride inline hockey skates, recreational inline skates, or rough-road rollerblades, you need bearings that spin smoothly. But if your rollerblade bearings don’t get a regular clean, they’ll soon start misbehaving. Your bearings might even decide to seize up on you when you’re rolling crazy-fast down a steep hill. And what happens in a crash situation is rarely much fun. That’s why you should learn how to clean inline skate bearings.
Properly cleaned and well-lubed rollerblade bearings roll fast and smoothly, making you love your pastime even more. And the good thing is that cleaning and oiling your inline skate bearings isn’t rocket science. Any skater can (and should) take care of their bearings. All it takes is the ability to use a simple tool and a little work.
What You Need to Clean Your Rollerblade Bearings
Before you start the bearings cleaning process, first gather together the items below:
- An Allen wrench and Inline wheel tool
- A high-quality bearing cleaner
- Some good bearings lube
- A tool to remove the bearing shields/seals (A thumbtack or brad will do)
- A clean dry cloth or a paper towel
- A hard flat work surface
- A small glass jar
- Your gunked-up rollerblade bearings
Now that you have everything you need to start the cleaning job, let’s get down to work.
Steps to Properly Cleaning Your Inline Skate Bearings
Follow the instructions outlined here and give your skate bearings the love and care they deserve.
Step 1: Detach the Wheels from the Frames
The first thing you should do is to take your wheels from the frames. Each wheel has a metal axle running through its center. And it’s this axle that attaches the wheel to the frame.
So, take your Allen wrench and loosen the nuts on the axles. Then, pull out each axle, releasing each wheel.
Step 2: Remove the Bearings from the Wheels
Each wheel uses two bearings, one on its inner side and the other on the outer side. At this point, you should separate the wheels from their bearings.
But what’s the best and easiest way to remove bearings from rollerblade wheels? Use your inline wheel tool. Take a look at it below, that’s what an inline wheel tool looks like.
Why an inline wheel tool and not your regular skate tool? It’s because an inline wheel tool has certain design features that make the tool better suited for the job.
This tool comes with both bearing push ends as well as pull ends. Because sometimes you need to pull the bearing and other times to push it.
If you have a push-type kind of bearing, here’s what to do. Get the push end of your inline wheel tool into the bearing. Then, use your hands to apply enough pressure to push the bearings out of the wheel. As each bearing detaches from the wheel, you’ll hear some kind of pop sound.
What If Your Wheels Have Short, Floating Bearings?
Where your wheels feature short floating bearings, you need to pull the bearings out rather than push them. That’s why I said that an inline wheel tool is superior in some way to the regular skate tool/Allen wrench.
If these are the bearings you have in your wheels, you’ll have to use the pull end of your inline wheel tool. So, hook the pull end of your tool into your bearing and pull until the bearings come off.
Repeat this bearing removal process for all the wheels of your skate.
Step 2: Remove the Shields of Your Inline Skate Bearings
You can’t clean your bearings thoroughly without disassembling them first. The specific thing to do in this step is to remove the shields. A bearing shield is a feature designed to keep dirt and other bearing-clogging materials from getting in.
If you have high-quality bearings, the odds are they have a rubber seal. But the typical rollerblade bearing features a metal shield or shields (sometimes there are two shields instead of one).
Removing a rubber shield isn’t hard. All you have to do is use a thumbtack or a brad to take the seal off.
What if you have metal shields? Metal bearing shields normally feature a tiny piece of aluminum whose job is to hold the shield in place. This tiny metal bit is called a C-ring. You’ll usually find this metallic piece on the bearing’s inner lip.
To get the C-ring out of your bearings, use your thumbtack to lift the ring gently off the bearing. Next, gently tap the edge of the bearing on the surface (maybe a table?). I usually have to tap my bearings a couple of times before the metal shield finally falls out.
Find some container to hold your shields, or you’ll misplace them and create a new problem.
Step 3: Clean Your Rollerblade Bearings
You’re now about to get your hands dirty cleaning filth and dirt off your inline skate bearings. At this point of the bearings cleaning process, put your bearings inside the little glass jar I mentioned above.
Well, it doesn’t have to be a glass jar. Pretty much any small container with a lid should work just fine.
Now, pour a little bearing cleaning solution into the container holding your bearings. Some people use acetone or alcohol as a bearing cleaning solution. And others even use the popular multi-purpose WD40.
WD40 sits tall among the most useful products ever invented. You can use WD40 to clean carpet stains or even remove sticker residue from your skateboard deck.
You can also use WD40 to prevent snow from building up on your windows. Or even remove paint rub stains and many other amazing uses.
Is WD40 a Good Bearing Cleaner or Lubricant?
Can you use WD40 to clean your inline skate bearings? No, it’s not a good idea to use WD40 as a bearing cleaner. Also, you shouldn’t use WD40 to lubricate your rollerblade or skateboard bearings.
WD40 sure eradicates rust and grime like magic. But as a bearing cleaner or lubricant, you most certainly need a different product.
Using highly viscous WD40 as a lubricant makes your bearings roll super smoothly….at first. But after a ride or two, WD40 will dry out your bearings completely.
That means you’ll have to keep reapplying this thick “lube” on your bearings. Additionally, WD40 is a dirt magnet. If you choose it, you’ll find yourself needing to clean your bearings more frequently.
Never Use Water as a Bearing Cleaner
Obviously, you’re going to use water to clean your bearings. You never ride your rollerblades in the rain, do you? That’s the same reason using water as a cleaner is a terrible idea.
But I digress, back to cleaning your inline skates bearings.
Shake the Bearings Container
Some bearing cleaners come in containers that let you immerse your bearings for a fully submerged clean. Other types of bearing cleaners need you to spray them onto your bearings.
If your bearings aren’t that dirty and they’re single-shielded, you can give them a squirt or two of this kind of cleaner. But we’re talking about caring for your rollerblade bearings in a special way so they can roll even better.
So, shake the container with the cleaner and bearings so that every part of the bearings gets cleaned. Most cleaners need about 30 minutes to break down the dirt and grime.
I suggest that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how long you should soak your bearings in their cleaner.
Step 4: Remove Your Bearings from the Cleaner/Solvent
After leaving the container and its contents to sit for 30 minutes or whichever recommended period, remove the bearings. Next, put the bearings on a piece of dry cloth or a paper towel and wait for them to dry completely.
What if you’re like me and don’t like waiting for anything unless you really must? No worries, there’s a way to hasten the drying phase of the bearing cleaning process.
You can choose to use an air compressor to blow air over your now clean inline skate bearings. That’s a real quick way of drying bearings. A simpler way to quicken drying is to use paper towels to wipe the bearings dry. You’ll have to dry the bearings each at a time.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 3 and 4
If you want your rollerblade bearings to be cleaner than they’ve ever been, give them a second but shorter clean.
To complete this step, repeat steps 3 and 4. But this time around, you don’t need to wait longer than 10 minutes. Shake your container and its metallic contents and watch the cleaner.
If the solution stays clear even after you’ve shaken the container for a while, it’s because your little steel guys are clean.
Step 6: Re-lubricate Your Bearings
Now that your inline skate bearings are all clean and neat, it’s time to re-lubricate them. I use Sonic ABEC 7 bearings oil, but I also Bones Speed Cream. Choose whatever bearings oil you like. Just don’t use WD40 or water!
So, hold the bearing oil container and give each bearing two drops. Then, use your fingers to spin each ball bearing. You do that to ensure even distribution of the lubricant throughout each of the bearings.
Step 7: Reassemble Your Bearings and Re-attach them
You now have before a set of clean, well-lubricated rollerblade bearings. Now, it’s time to re-assemble your bearings into the wheels. Put the shields back on and proceed to reunite the bearings with the wheels.
There’s no need to describe how to re-assemble rollerblade bearings here when I’ve written a more detailed post on that. Here’s the article I’m talking about: How to Assemble Inline Skates.
In that post, I describe everything you need to know to assemble your inline skate bearings correctly. I cover everything from inserting shielded bearings and bearing spacers into rollerblade wheels to adjusting the frame correctly.
By the way, how frequently should you clean your inline bearings? Once every 2-3 months should be adequate. However, how often you should clean them is a function of how regularly you skate.
How to Clean Rollerblade Bearings: Final Thoughts
Cleaning your inline skate bearings has never been much fun. But the cleaning process is critical to the performance of your inline skates. Follow the steps I’ve described above and you’ll get your bearings squeaky clean in no time.