Fishing

How to Clean Your Fishing Rod and Reel—Expert Tips to Make Them Last

Every sport has equipment that’s necessary, and fishing is no different. If your equipment is dirty, broken, or mistreated, it will not be able to do its job correctly, leaving you frustrated and fishless.

It’s important to know the best way to clean your fishing rod to make sure you get the best out of your most important tool. By the end of this guide, you will have all the knowledge needed so you can keep your rod and reel clean and performing with maximum efficiency all season long.

How To Clean Your Fishing Rod

A man holding a fishing rod

If I asked most people, “how often do you clean your fishing rod?” I bet I could guess the answer: never. Proper cleaning extends the lifespan of your rod and reel, so it’s critical that you get on a regular cleaning schedule.

While it is important to clean your gear, it’s also important to clean everything the right way and with the right materials. We’re going to take a look at all of this.

Fishing Rod And Reel Cleaning Materials

A bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels won’t cut it when it comes to cleaning your rod, so you need to get the right tools and materials on hand.

Before you get into the cleaning process, lay out a clean towel so you can set everything out in front of you. Here are a few of the many things you need to clean your rod and reel properly.

  • A few small screwdrivers
  • A pair of tweezers
  • A box of toothpicks
  • An old toothbrush
  • A small wrench
  • And your favorite rod cleaning products

Some of the best fishing rod cleaning products are Ardent Reel Kleen and Penn Rod and Reel Cleaner. The Ardent Rod Cleaning Kit is a great product that offers everything you need in one convenient kit. We have been using the cleaning kit for years.

If you aren’t interested in buying anything like that you could always use standard lighter fluid which works well to break down excess grime on the rod and reel.

Once you have gathered together all the necessary products, you are ready to start cleaning the rod. Clean up and down the entire blank and in all the guides to make sure there is no excess weed buildup in the eyes.

With your rod, there isn’t anything to disassemble or worry about like that, and the cleaning process is straightforward. The primary goal of cleaning the rod itself is to remove any dirt or minerals that corrode the rod material and cause it to become brittle and break.

How To Clean Your Fishing Reel

A man using a fishing rod.

The most critical piece of equipment to an angler is their reel, so you want to treat this piece with extra care. The amount of attention you give the reel during the cleaning process depends on what type of water you fish and how often you fish it.

If you fish freshwater, you want to clean your reel at least once every five trips. If you fish saltwater, you need to clean your reel after every trip.

After your trip, you want to spray down your reel with a light cleaner like the ones recommended above. Do not soak it because excessive moisture could get into the gear system and cause long-term damage.

Once everything is soaped up, you can use a small brush to get in between everything and get off any excess gunk and grime. If you think the reel is clean enough go ahead and rinse it down with low pressure to ensure you do not get any water into the drag.

Make sure to rinse all the cleaner off thoroughly and dry the reel completely to prevent rust.

After everything is nice and dry, you can spray the reel with a reel oil. If you purchase the Ardent Reel Kleen kit, it comes with some reel oil. Some of our favorites are Penn Reel Oil and Ardent Reel Butter Oil. If you prefer, you could also use WD40.

An area that is often forgotten is the underside of the spool. During your cleaning process, you always want to loosen the drag knob and clean the spools underside to prevent rust and corrosion. For optimal performance, grease the main shaft inside the spool before replacing it.

Once in a while you should also do a full-service job on your reel, this means taking everything apart and cleaning each piece using small brushes and washing everything separately.

You shouldn’t have to do this more than once per year, but it’s something you want to consider if you have not ever done it. Servicing your reel guarantees that it is performing at its best and will last you as long as you need it to.

How To Clean A Saltwater Fishing Rod

Saltwater fishing rods require a bit more attention than freshwater ones because the saltwater causes more corrosion. You need to keep that in mind.

Every time after you return from a saltwater trip you want to remove any line from the guides and take the reel off the rod. Wash the rod with warm fresh water and a light all-purpose cleaner.

Make sure to rinse them off thoroughly to ensure there are no built-up salt deposits. Check the guides well, too. Use a small wire brush to scrub them down. They can rust and corrode quickly from saltwater.

Cleaning Your Saltwater Reel

Saltwater can be devastating to a reel if you do not undergo the proper cleaning. Even while you are fishing, you can get a head start on cleaning by spraying the reel down with freshwater and wiping it down.

Once you get home after a day of saltwater fishing, cut off all the line that was used and remove the reel from the rod. Rinse the rods using moderate pressure and a reel cleaner like one of the options recommended above. Use a small brush to get in the tight spots and be sure to rinse the brush off thoroughly as well, so you are not just spreading salt around.

After you’ve given it a nice scrub down – rinse the reel off and dry everything thoroughly. Do not store the rod and reel until it is completely dry.

Keeping Your Guides Clean

Fishing rod guides

If your guides have a lot of build-up on them, it can do quite a bit of damage to your line resulting in breakage. That means you’ll lose a fish. A buildup of minerals and vegetation accumulate throughout the day as the line runs in, so you want to make sure you get that off there.

You can use a Q-tip or a soft brush with a little Simple Green or WD-40 and brush the guides clean. The best method is to keep these items with you so you can do this while your fishing. However, it’s perfectly okay if you have to wait until you get home.

Cleaning Your Rod Handle

This is more for appearance but having a dirty handle could make the rod harder to handle when battling a larger fish, and if you fish saltwater the water can take its toll on the handle as well.

The best method for cleaning the rod handle is to take some rubbing alcohol and scrub the handle and wipe it down. Follow this process over and over until everything shines.


Following a regular cleaning, schedule guarantees you and your rod have a stable relationship for years to come. How often do you clean your rod and reel? Leave a comment below.

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