On bearings and the paper cleaning method:

Originally posted elsewhere, reposted here in an effort to aid those with bearing troubles.

I’m not entirely sure why the myth of cleanness being bad for bearings continues to be so prevalent. I suppose it could have started when a few guys didn’t clean everything out of their bearings (or used dirty solvents, maybe) and panicked when their bearings didn’t spin quite right until they put oil in to let the tiny bits of grit or whatever slide out of the way. Since they wanted to be helpful, they then spread the word: dry bearings lock up, so lube your bearings if you want to keep using them. Many other yoyoers heard this, took it as the gospel truth, and proceeded to spread it around…and so it continued for years and years afterward.

Contrary to the myth, locking and poor bearing performance is really due to the bearing not being clean enough. Under normal circumstances, when you clean your bearings, as long as they’re clean clean when you’re done, there shouldn’t be any problems whatsoever with locking up. If even a single bit of grit (or silicone, yikes!) gets in there wrong, it can make a noticeable difference in the bearing’s performance or even lock it. This can happen during cleaning or during normal use; the treatment is the same: clean it out, and do it right this time.

Also relevant to really getting bearings clean, I think, is the paper method I’ve been using on my bearings for years:

Deshield the bearing, then put it on a paintbrush handle or something that’ll hold it by the center. Inspect it for hairs or obvious grit and remove anything you can see carefully with an xacto knife or something of the sort. Cut out some small wedges of paper (with an angle of 20-30°) and fold them in half lengthwise to double the thickness. Firmly but very carefully insert one into the bearing between two of the balls, next to the outer race. Rotate the bearing several turns, then remove the paper. There’s probably some black gunk on the paper. Do it again with a clean piece. Also insert pieces next to the inner race to scrub that as well. Repeat this until you stop getting gunk on the paper. At this point your bearing should be bone dry and very clean. If you want, you can dip a wedge in oil and touch one of the races a few times to lube it up.

I also do this right after I clean my bearings with mineral spirits, before they dry. The paper directly absorbs the liquid and helps prevent residue from building up. As long as I’ve been doing this, I’ve never locked up a bearing. In fact, I’ve rescued several ‘dead’ bearings with this method as well.


Definitely helped me, actually been doing this to my bearings since I started throwing, just out of pure habit. I start cleaning I get ocd and have to do an entire sweep, if at all possible. Wasn’t too sure if there was a such thing as “too clean” on bearings, if anything could screw up in the process. Luckily now I know everything’s okay, if not a bit better on my end.

Though true what you have said, that the bearing needs to be 100% clean and etc, and that lube is not needed, I would also like to note that lube DOES help greatly extend the life of the bearing. Just a touch of it will extend the life of the balls inside of it, because if the bearing is dry, eventually, the balls inside of it will have rolled against the wall of it that they wear away and the bearing will eventually become unusable. BUT this process doesn’t just happen in days, it takes a long time, so I WOULDN’T worry about it if you don’t have any lube. But just remember that a touch of lube can greatly extend the life of your bearing.

Lube will help your bearing resist corrosion and let any grit slide to the side more easily, meaning you don’t have to maintain it as often. In practical terms, that’s about it. I have bearings I’ve kept bone dry and clean for years and they still function perfectly. Trust me when I say the difference is negligible enough that you are more likely to quit yoyoing than ever have any problems from playing it dry—as long as you actually take care of it and make sure it stays clean and dry. Grit and water will shorten a bearing’s lifespan much, much more quickly, and are the things toward which you do need to pay attention.

If it makes you feel better about it, though, then by all means put lube in your bearing. It’ll be quieter and smoother, which is something you might prefer.

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I think all of this depends on the quality of the bearings. I’ve had a new CT that was dry lock in less than two weeks. Some, like you Elephark, have had them last for a long time. Good quality bearings has to be a factor. Aside all of this, I’ll never run my bearings dry.

Now lets not start a debate. Please. Well not a heated one anyway.

It’s usually old guys like me that say you can’t run them dry. Oil starved bearings can cause really expensive racing engines explode. Don’t ask. BUT a yo-yo bearing doesn’t spin anywhere near as fast, and it has next to no load at all on it - just the weight of the yo-yo. So on paper the bearing is wearing out faster, but it can last for years. That said, like Icthus, I just can’t bring myself to run them completely dry. It’s a personal problem - I swear I can just hear the thing wearing out. (and a tiny drop of oil is cheaper than seeking professional help, so…)

Have Fun

woo! a way to unlock my bearing. although, that partially locked feeling is soo awesome. I get long silent spins AND a tug response.

That doesn’t sound like a locked bearing rather than a lubed one.


This method just revived a konkave bearing that has been locked for FOUR YEARS.

excellent method. Old post, but it deserves to be on the top of the forum.

Bump for a process that’s saved tons of my bearings. Thanks Elephark!

This is already in the List of useful modification and maintenance guides sticky section. No need for bumps.