Can You Clean Fishing Reels with WD40? Surprising Answer

Can You Clean Fishing Reels with WD40? Surprising Answer

you’re on a weekend fishing trip with your buddies. The weather is perfect, the water is calm, and you’re ready to reel in that big catch. But as you cast your line, you notice that your fishing reel isn’t performing as smoothly as it should. You wonder: can you clean fishing reels with WD40?

Can You Clean Fishing Reels with WD40? The Surprising Answer

Can You Clean Fishing Reels with WD40

The WD-40 Multi-Use Product is an effective solution for regular maintenance, as it is a reliable and readily accessible item.

WD40, a well-known household product, has gained popularity as a versatile lubricant and cleaner. It’s been used for a variety of applications, from fixing squeaky hinges to removing stubborn stickers. With its wide range of uses, it’s no surprise that some anglers might consider using it to clean their fishing reels.

Why Cleaning Your Fishing Reels Is Important

Before we dive into whether WD40 is the right choice for cleaning fishing reels, let’s discuss why it’s important to clean them in the first place.

Fishing reels are subjected to various elements during use, such as water, dirt, and sand. These elements can cause the reel to become dirty and less efficient, leading to poor performance and a shorter lifespan. Can Fishing Reels Get Wet?

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your fishing reels not only ensures smooth operation but also prolongs their life. With proper care, a well-maintained reel can last for many years.

Can You Clean Fishing Reels with WD40?

Now, let’s get back to the question at hand: can you clean fishing reels with WD40? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

There’s a heated debate among anglers about whether WD40 is an appropriate solution for cleaning fishing reels. Some anglers swear by it, while others caution against its use. To understand the varying opinions, let’s discuss the pros and cons of using WD40 to clean fishing reels.

Pros of Using WD40 on Fishing Reels

  • Ease of use: WD40 is easy to apply, thanks to its aerosol spray can. The spray nozzle allows for precise application, making it simple to target the desired areas of your fishing reel.
  • Versatility: As mentioned earlier, WD40 has multiple uses. Having one product that can clean, lubricate, and protect your fishing reel is undeniably convenient.
  • Availability: WD40 is widely available in most stores and online, making it an accessible option for many anglers.

Cons of Using WD40 on Fishing Reels

  • Short-term lubrication: WD40 is not designed specifically for fishing reels and provides only short-term lubrication. This means that you may need to reapply it more frequently than a specialized reel lubricant.
  • Potential damage: Some anglers argue that WD40 can damage the internal components of a fishing reel. This is because WD40 is a solvent, which can dissolve grease and oil, potentially causing harm to the gears and bearings.
  • Not saltwater friendly: WD40 is not ideal for saltwater fishing reels, as it can leave behind a residue that attracts salt and can cause corrosion.

Alternative Ways to Clean Your Fishing Reels

If you decide not to use WD40 for cleaning your fishing reels, there are several other methods to consider.

Fishing reel

Various fishing reel cleaners are specifically designed to clean, lubricate, and protect your reels. These products are typically safe for all types of reels and are formulated to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

Soap and water

For a simple, affordable option, you can use mild dish soap and warm water to clean your fishing reels. Mix a small amount of dish soap with warm water, dip a soft brush or cloth into the solution, and gently scrub the reel. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry the reel completely before reassembling and lubricating.

Ultrasonic cleaner

Ultrasonic cleaners use high-frequency sound waves to clean small items. They can be an effective way to clean the intricate parts of a fishing reel without causing damage. However, they can be expensive and are not necessary for most anglers.

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can be use to clean certain parts of a fishing reel, such as the line roller and bail arm. It evaporates quickly and leaves no residue, making it suitable for these specific areas. However, it should not be used on the internal gears and bearings, as it can dry out the lubricants.

Signs that your fishing reel may need cleaning or maintenance include decreased performance, difficulty casting, and unusual noises during operation. If you notice any of these issues, it’s a good idea to clean and lubricate your reel to ensure it performs optimally.

While 3-in-1 oil is a popular lubricant for many household applications, it’s not ideal for fishing reels. It can become too thick in cold temperatures and too thin in hot temperatures, leading to poor performance. A specialized fishing reel lubricant is a better choice.

The frequency of cleaning depends on how often you use your reels and the conditions in which you fish. As a general guideline, clean and lubricate your reels at least once a year, or more often if you fish frequently or in harsh conditions.

Although WD40 can provide short-term lubrication, it’s not recommend as a long-term solution. It’s better to use a specialized fishing reel lubricant for optimal performance and protection.


Based on the pros and cons, it’s clear that there are valid arguments for both sides of the debate. However, considering the potential risks and the availability of specialized fishing reel cleaning products on the market, it may be safer to opt for a product designed specifically for fishing reels. These products are formulating to provide long-lasting lubrication and protection without causing damage to your reel.

Joshua Collier
"Joshua Collier is an experienced angler and writer based in Florida. With over 10 years of experience fishing in freshwater and saltwater environments, Joshua has become an expert on everything from fly fishing for trout to trolling for marlin.