Cleaning bearings and why most yoyo players do it wrong


I wrote this with the intention for all people to be as safe as possible.
Like working with any chemical, safety precautions should be taken before handling.

I don’t understand why all I have seen throughout countless yoyo bearing cleaning guides people always recommend products like mineral spirits, lighter fluid, acetone and other products that contain petroleum distillates. I think this is terrible and nobody should recommend petroleum distillate containing products. Alright before anybody lashes out at me read the whole thing. So painthinners and such work but require careful handling and can harm you if you get them on your skin because they can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream. They are harmful to use in areas that aren’t well ventilated. People will often not dispose of these solvents correctly, causing potential harm to the environment.

It is important to remember that the most or many yoyo players are CHILDREN! I think it is immoral to advise the use of petroleum distillate products when you can use safe alternatives that work just as well.

I recommend using products that are terpene containing orange cleaners as your solvent. Skateboarders have been using these for years and they work just as well but are much safer (skateboard bearings are basically the same because they are built for speed/to move fast). They still have some danger, you want avoid getting it in your eyes and it will irritate your skin because it removes the oils from your skin. Other than that they are in my opinion the best option and the safest. Don’t use citrus cleaners that have certain additives in them that make them less effective for cleaning bearings.

There are some points I have missed at the moment but I will come back to edit this later, if you feel I should add something, reply or PM me.

I want to know your opinions on my opinion, so please share.

DISCLAIMER: you must still take precaution using any citrus cleaner as with any cleaner. I suggest using gloves if you have sensitive skin or to avoid any irritation. I recommend you use eye protection for maximum safety. If you are under 18 ask an adult to do it for you or for permission to do it under supervision.



D-limonine is still pretty dangerous considering the skin and eye irritation and the fact that it has a relatively low flash point. You’ll find these with other solvents as well, but I guess if you don’t want to worry about fumes then this is an option.

I do skate myself and have been wondering about the process that each person takes to clean their bearings ever since I began reading about it. The one thing I’m not so sure about is if citrus cleaners would leave things behind that acetone and mineral spirits would normally clean out. Yoyo bearings, as I’m sure you’ve observed, are quite sensitive to even the slightest change in how the bearing spins. This can cause a frustrating amount of unwanted responsiveness, loud bearing noises, and severely decreased spin times. The reason for any of these problems could be a film of residue or a speck of dust that can often be overlooked in a skateboard without much consequence.

Of course, I don’t actually know if citrus cleaners are any less effective when it comes to getting bearings as clean as possible. If you or someone else can prove that citrus cleaners can consistently leave bearings as clean as acetone or mineral spirits will, I’d say that is a great alternative to the harsh, dangerous, smelly solvents that the majority of us are currently using. I’m curious to see others’ opinions as well. Glad you brought it up :slight_smile:

Oh yeah, and if you really want a safe alternative, I use water, dawn dish soap and a dremel/air compressor for my bearings :smiley:


Well to be honest I don’t have much experience cleaning yoyo bearings but in skateboard bearings I’ve found orange cleaner to be as effective as harsher stuff. Me and a few people I know dry off our bearings on paper towel to get excess cleaner off, and then run them through water after they sit for a bit then dry them out thoroughly with a hair dryer(I’ve never gotten rust on a bearing from this and I’ve had some sit around for a while after without being used). It’s pretty effective in skateboards but I haven’t tried for yoyo yet. It’s common to get skateboard bearings dirty though, between skating on dirty roads and sometimes during or after rain(they definitely have a shorter lifespan) I’d never take my yoyos out in the rain nor do I ‘walk the dog’-_- but I assume my skate bearing method would be great for yoyos as orange cleaner has been as good as te harsh stuff for skateboards.

I will say again though, my main concern is the kids. I can just picture a kid trying to clean his bearing with paint thinner in his room with no air flow and end up with overexposure to the fumes. That is what I want to prevent.


Opinions differ on this obviously.


Yeah I get ya. I’m sure using orange cleaner could give similar results as it is very effective in skateboard bearings. I hadn’t actually though about it much before, but it kind of surprised me that I haven’t seen anybody really talk about it until I saw this thread. If anybody does some testing, definitely post your results and thoughts.


I think we need to go the other direction, everyone needs to start using brake fluid like Mickey.

Safety is not, not, not a reason to go out and buy more expensive cleaners that have every chance of leaving things behind that you don’t want on your bearing. If you’re worried about the safety aspects of paint thinner and lighter fluid, you should probably just be more careful/smarter.

The problem is actually people like you; its true that those solvents are dangerous, but it is also true that with half a brain in the kids head and a not obscenely overprotective parent that is willing to teach a child as opposed to sticking it in a padded room, that kid will be fine. In fact, he will have an advantage over the protective parents children, since they made sure he never was within twenty feet of a substance more volatile than orange juice.

A bearing perspective

Well put. :stuck_out_tongue:
I agree that it’s far more beneficial to teach children about the dangers instead of avoiding the substance completely. But some people just don’t read or don’t bother listening to advice. I know I used to be like that… :-X


I know that you said you’d edit later, but do you mind being a little more specific about what products you mean? Where are they sold? What additives should we avoid?

That’s what I do, minus the air compressor I just spin it on a pen for a few minutes.

I used acetone for a while, but it has such a smell that I can’t handle it very well. This may be because of my asthma, however I thought about giving up yoyoing or playing only fixed axle for the rest of my life because I couldn’t bring myself to clean my bearings. :-\


For products, look on the label and it should say it contains terpene and the active ingredient is D-limonene(the primary component of terpene). You can find these kind of products at hardware stores or stores that have a wide selection of cleaning products, such as major department stores(like Walmart). I know some guys who buy it from skateshops as ‘specialty bearing cleaner’ in kits, but I’ve compared labels on some of these and they are pretty much identical(besides price). Next time I go pick some up ( should be soon) I’ll try and make a list of brands that work.


Acetone isn’t dangerous. It can’t be absorbed into the bloodstream, can’t cause cancer, and you can smell the fumes, so as long as you use some common sense, you won’t be overexposed.

Edit: Oh, here’s another source that says high quantities can get in the blood stream. Not five seconds on the tips of two fingers.


Basically, if you don’t know how to use common sense and read the warning labels on products, then you shouldn’t be trying to clean your bearings with anything other then water in the first place, whether your a teenager or older. Common sense really helps.


I like this thread. It’s funny and makes you sick at the same time.

The funny part is that most will read this, avoid the cleaners, then go drink a beer later. Let’s not touch the poison but go drink some instead.


Soap and water is all you really need. Just be sure to rinse all of the soap and, and immediately remove all of the water that was in the bearing by putting the bearing on a pen and blowing it with compressed air or a blow dryer on the highest heat setting.


Acetone is not particularly dangerous. Unless you drink it or clean your bearings next to an open flame.

Even spilling it on the skin is not harmful because it evaporates so quickly. Maybe if you dunked your hand in a pool of acetone for a few minutes it would start to hurt. Or just took the bottle and poured it straight into your eyeball for a few seconds.

Basically you have to be really stupid to injure yourself with acetone.

As for how well it works, I’m not sure. I’ve been having bearing cleaning problems but I don’t know if it’s the acetone to blame yet. It does leave residue on the bearings but I can’t imagine it’s worse than a citrus-cleaner.

There is contradictory information all over the place in the yoyo world about how to clean bearings. I think most people don’t really have a clue, have found that some method is better than not cleaning them, and conclude that this method works great. The proper way to test it would be to clean multiple identical bearings using different methods and then noting sleep times afterward and how long until the bearing needs to be cleaned again. Then repeat this a few times and average the results.


A similar thread was posted back in January. My response to it is also relevant here.


It’s not that I’m disregarding other options guys, I though it was just very strange that I had not seen one guide that recommended orange/citrus cleaners as viable option. Lots of people have a bottle of it in their house, it’s not very uncommon. I guess it was my mistake to address the topic title in such a way, I didn’t organize my thoughts as effectively as I could have and it caused my argument to start on wrong note; however I did intend to start a debate and I respect and appreciate all opinions so far. Thanks guys


cough cough I already tried making people aware of stuff like this. cough cough

the only thing you can do is make the public aware of what they are and what they actually do if it so happens to get in your eyes. The only thing you can do is educate the public on what they are. not to tell them you shouldn’t use them because I don’t use them. It’s best to help guide them make the right decision like making sure the don’t dump it down drains but
Letting it evaporate on it’s own so you don’t have to pay for replacing expensive pipe replacement bills later. Any who your fighting a battle that is already lost because I already tried and failed because I was put to school by others that are educated so I made a fool of myself but others can learn from my assumptions and naiveness.


Immoral? What an abuse of the word. Maybe unethical or some similar term but immoral is way off.
If somebody is too stupid to know that you handle solvents with care then they probably shouldn’t be yoyoing anyway. Common sense tells me that I’m not going to shove it down eye and I’m going to touch it very little/not at all.


Common sense isn’t quite as common as it once was :wink:



The problem with the initial post IMO was that he implied anyone using solvents is stupid, thus offending 90% of the audience here. Most people I’ve come across realize the issues with using them and act accordingly.