Do Bowling Balls Go Bad?

do bowling balls go bad

When we think of things expiring or going bad, we tend to think of food or health products. I bet you’ve never realized that even a bowling ball can expire? Typically, a ball will last anywhere between 5 and 10 years, but this relies mostly on how you care for it.

Modern balling balls would in 1990, now featuring a shaped and weighted core. A modern bowling ball is made up of three layers. Exactly what is inside each layer is a closely guarded secret, but we have a basic idea.

In the center is the “inner core”, basically a weighted block. Next up is the “filler” or “filler core”. This layer adds further weight to the ball and also forms its shape. Lastly, they cover the ball in a layer of polyester, urethane, or resin. They call this layer the “coverstock”.

How Does a Bowling Ball Expire?

Cracks in the coverstock and lack of cleaning are the main culprits. Both of these can lead to your ball failing you and being unusable.


In bowling terms, cracking is the process of the outer layer we mentioned splitting to reveal the fill beneath. This renders the ball neatly useless. There are a few reasons this can happen:

Extreme Temperatures

Both very hot and very cold temperatures can be a death sentence for your ball. Bowling is best played at room temperature for the sake of your ball, and it is important to remember to bring your ball back into your home after you’ve finished playing. Repeatedly leaving your ball in a hot or cold trunk can over time cause your ball to crack. So be sure to find a good place indoors to store it.


When it comes to your ball, too much moisture can be a problem too. So can too little. When there is too much moisture where your ball is stored, this can cause the ball to expand. When it does, this puts pressure on the most central part of the ball and can damage the core of your ball. Conversely, if the air is too dry, this will cause the ball to contract. This can lead to cracks in the outer shell.


If you go out bowling every night, then this one shouldn’t be a big issue for you. However, it’s more likely that your ball is going to be sitting around a while in between games or tournaments. While you may think it would be worse to overuse or mishandle a bowling ball, leaving it alone too long can actually be more detrimental.

This inactivity can eventually damage your ball and in time cause it to crack. This is all thanks to gravity. Imagine standing on one foot for days. That foot is going to be pretty sore. The same goes for your bowling ball. Over time, all of the pressure on that one spot can cause cracking. To stop this from happening, it’s important to move your ball from time to time to adjust the pressure.


Another surprising cause of cracking is exposure to air. Simply storing your ball in an open area can lead to cracks. Storing your ball in a ziplock bag or other sealed bag is a simple solution and could save your ball’s life.

Dirt and Oil

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A bowling ball’s surface is porous, much like your skin. This means that there are lots of little holes in the coverstock which allows for the build-up of oils. Your ball can also collect wax from the lanes, as well as general gunk and grime from you and everything around you. This can significantly affect your ability to bowl well.

Did you know that most professional bowlers wipe down their bowling balls after each shot? Oil track is excess oil that is left on a bowling ball after a shot. When a lane is oiled too much, the amount of oil tracked on your bowling ball will greatly affect the way it rolls. Using a bowling ball wipe pad like this one after each shot can help keep excessive oil off of your bowling ball.

Hook Loss

Many bowlers’ worst enemies are dirt and oil. A dirty ball can significantly decrease the accuracy of each throw. When you “hook” your ball, the spin of the ball and friction of the lanes causes the ball to turn. As you play and use your ball regularly, oils from the lanes and dirt from either your hands or your surroundings collect on your ball. This grime builds up in the porous shell of the ball, reducing the friction it has against the lanes, ruining your ability to hook, and making the ball less usable.

Proper Care and Maintenance of a Bowling Ball

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Understanding proper care and maintenance can go a long way in improving the lifespan of your bowling ball. As mentioned earlier, with minimal effort, a ball will usually last 5 to 10 years. But when cared for properly, your ball could last you decades. Without it, your ball is likely to become useless quite quickly. And with a ball costing anywhere from $40 to $140, it’s important to have an understanding of how to use, clean, and store your equipment.

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Bowling Ball Storage

The first step to caring for your new equipment is to be sure you have a proper place to store it. Find a place in your home when the temperature and humidity remain stable. Many people tend to leave their ball in the garage only to find it cracked later. High levels of humidity and uncontrolled temperature changes are almost unavoidable in most garages.

It is best to store your ball in an air-tight bag, like a ziplock. You can also use any other plastic bag. Just be sure to secure it closed to avoid any air from getting inside. Just like your leftovers, if it’s not air-tight it might go bad. Don’t forget to turn your ball every so often to relieve pressure on the out shell and avoid cracks. It’s best to do this at least once a week. Especially if you plan to leave your ball there for an extended time.

Properly Clean Your Bowling Ball

Next, it’s important to know how to properly clean your ball. During use, it’s a good idea to have a microfiber towel on hand. In between throws, use it to wipe away any dirt, oil, sweat, or other debris from the surface of your ball. Don’t forget to switch out or wash the cloth in between play sessions. That way your cloth is always clean and won’t transfer old oils and dirt back onto your ball.

Once you’ve got your ball home it’s time for a bath. There are many products you can use to clean your equipment, including store-bought cleaners or DIY solutions. The most important thing is to use something that will remove the oils from the pores of the coverstock. An easy way to remove grease is to wipe the ball’s surface with rubbing alcohol.

A little less frequently—approximately every 6 games— you should more thoroughly clean the ball. To do this, you can follow the instructions on your favorite ball cleaner, or you can make your own at home. One of the simplest ways is good old dish soap. It works well for removing grease and dirt from your ball the same way it does your dishes.

Simply soak your ball in soapy water for 15 minutes to loosen some of the dirt. Then use a soft-bristled brush to scrub the surface. Afterward, dry it off with a microfiber towel. DO NOT let your ball soak in any liquid for more than 20 minutes to avoid damaging it.

Final Thoughts

Bowling has been popular for centuries. With the popularity of the games spiking again in recent years, more people are buying bowling equipment. Especially bowling balls.

With the prices of a new ball ranging widely, it’s important to know how to care for your ball. Proper care and storage are the most important aspects to extending your ball’s life. Where an improperly cared for ball may only last a few years or less, a little knowledge could extend its life by decades.

Simple steps can be taken to keep your ball going strong for 20 years or more. Lack of cleaning can even affect your games. Be sure to clean and store your ball properly to maintain its performance over time.

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