Bowling Ball Surface Maintenance - Why It's Important and How To Do It

Posted by Ronald Hickland on

If you don’t like reading and prefer pictures and video click here. 

These are all new bowling ball out of the box that have been scanned using a laser surface scanner, and are being compared to the factory finish specifications as published by the manufacturers. We had the surface scanner calibrated for accuracy. If you want to understand why the numbers don’t match the factory finish grits keep reading. 

Surface Grits of New Bowling Balls


Pros and Cons of Abralon in Bowling


For the last 15 plus years, most of the bowling world has used Abralon pads as the standard for sanding bowling balls. At the time, sandpaper and Scotch-Brite™ were most common. While Abralon was a great replacement, due to all of the processing changes manufacturers had to make, it became nearly impossible for a consumer to recreate a factory finish - let alone maintain it.  Most balls are actually nowhere near the finished grit published because Abralon doesn't cut at the grit listed on the pad. This means the ball would be less aggressive and have less hook potential than expected.

Watch this video four minutes in to see an example of how industrial bowling surface finishing equipment works.

The consumer and pro shop do not have access to these tools or techniques so it is virtually impossible to reproduce any type of factory finish - whether it is polished or sanded.  This is not to say every manufacturer does it this way, or that one way is better than another. Because of this, we recommend that you get your bowling ball surfaced when you buy it to a finish that you or your PSO can repeat.

In short, we seem to have a SURFACE CHANGING CRISIS in bowling.

So Now What?

As an Engineer, I like to focus on solutions to problems and look for innovative ways to make bowling better. We have a two part problem here:

  • The pad and consistency issue
  • The education on how to use the pads

After more than a year of testing, we have found a solution to the first part of the equation: TruCut by CtD. It comes in three different grits 500 1000 and 2000 with 1500, 3000, and P5000D coming in Oct.  These grit formulations are EXCLUSIVE to Creating the Difference and actually cut a bowling ball at the grit listed on the pad.


What makes the TruCut by CtD pad different?

Use-It By CtD Sanding Pad Pros and Cons



Why it is important to maintain your surface.

Lane Shine on a New Bowling BallA new bowling ball will change surface as it is being used. This is typically seen as and called “lane shine” because the ball will appear shiny on dull balls in as little as a couple of games. 


Bowling Ball Surface Change Over 3 GamesHere is how the surface of a bowling ball changed from having a fresh surface at the start of league to the end of three games.  The ball surface changed by 34% in three games! The truth is, the lane has much less to do with “lane shine” than all the other components your ball contacts during the play - the pit, carpet area, and ball elevator system. These are the ball return systems that change the surface of the ball the most. This is evident because the only portion of the ball that touches the lane is the track area; yet when you look at the ball, the entire ball appears fairly uniform in appearance. However, depending on the lane surface, there can be some differences in the track area when measured. The friction created by contact with the ball return systems causes the majority of the change in appearance and a decrease in performance.  A highly polished ball will also appear more dull for the same reason. 


Bowling Lane Return SystemGo take your bowling balls and set them in a row next to each other. Now look at them and see how many appear to have the same surface appearance.

Surface is the single biggest way to change your ball reaction after the ball is drilled. When you bought your bowling balls, more than likely they didn't all have the same surface. If they did, then watch this video to understand The 4 Types of Ball Motion.

If they look the same now. It's time to start maintaining them better. The closer they look the closer they will perform. If they perform the same, then it is time to spread them out so you have different ball motions.

How to use a sanding pad

The majority of consumers have not been educated on how to properly use a sanding pad to adjust or maintain the surface of their bowling ball.  Improper use of sanding pads can cause flat spots on the ball or inconsistent performance. Do nothing to your bowling ball, and it will quickly change and lose performance. The changing will make your reaction inconsistent until it ultimately has “lane shined” and the reaction is very different than it was intended or when it was brand new. A lane shined ball has a measured grit of about 4700 grit. Most sanded balls start out lower than this. Lane Shine also tends to make bowling balls perform similar to each other.  Since surface plays such an important role in ball motion.

Here is a video explaining the PROPER way to maintain the surface of a bowling ball.

Interesting fact: The more pressure used sanding with a Abralon pad dry, the less aggressive surface it will leave on the ball. This happens because the shavings from the bowling ball load up and clog the pad. This turns the shavings into a smoothing agent that can actually help polish the ball. The harder you press, the faster this happens. Once the pad is clogged, the cutting ability is gone. These pads are very hard to clean. This is because the shavings can melt from the heat generated by sanding and adhere to the cutting agent on the pad.

Interesting Fact about sanding a bowling ball


Surface Maintenance And How Often?

We recommend that you hand sand your ball using the described technique every 6 to 9 games. Take a picture of your bowling ball after sanding it. Then take the same picture after bowling. If the two pictures look far apart like the picture below, then it’s time to perform surface maintenance.

Before and After Bowling Surface Maintenance

Will This Hurt Your Ball?

The average bowling ball is 8.585 inches in diameter. The minimum allowable size by USBC is 8.500.  Using the most common pad of 2000 grit. You would have to bowl 650 plus games using the recommended technique before your ball would be in danger of becoming illegal.  Sanding your ball to maintain the surface is safe for consistent use.

Is Resurfacing Your Bowling Ball The Same as Surface Maintenance?

Surface maintenance is different from having your bowling ball resurfaced by the pro shop. Resurfacing should happen when you have developed deep track marks in your bowling ball like this:

The track marks make your ball jump and lose contact with the lane and this will reduce performance and should be removed by a qualified pro shop who is trained on how to resurface a bowling ball.

What grit do you use?

The grit needed is dependent on the lane pattern you’re playing on.  However, to restore the surface to its intended performance, look up the final factory finish listed on the manufacturer’s website.  For example, some balls have multiple steps listed. It may read 500 / 1000 / 2000. The last grit listed is the final finishing step. Using TruCut by CtD pads. This is the grit you will want to use. You do not have to follow all of the steps. You can just use the last recommended step as the TruCut by CtD pads will cut like the pad number indicates. So for this example you would use the 2000 grit pad only.  The most common grit surface is 2000 grit so if you are not sure then start with that grit as you can always go to a lower grit. Remember the higher the number grit listed. The less the cutting and the smoother the ball will be.

Can you sand any bowling ball?

While you CAN sand any bowling ball, you won’t get the same benefit from all bowling balls.  Sanding works best on reactive and urethane bowling balls. If you’re not sure what type of bowling ball you have, go to the manufacturer’s website and look at the coverstock.  If it says anything other than polyester, it’s a safe bet, you can sand it.

Can You Sand a Polished Ball?

Yes, you can and you can have it polished back up by the pro shop if needed. It is ok to sand it and polish it multiple times.  Remember you can change the surface of your ball before and after competition only.

Surface Maintenance How to TruCut by CtD

So what we have is a new pad that fits in your hand, cuts better dry or wet, is reusable, resists lane shine and is cost effective.

Here are the step by step instructions on how to TruCut by CtD to your advantage:

Step 1: Place bowling ball onto a ball cup with holes up

Step 2: Spray ½ of the ball with So Fresh and So Clean and let sit for 20 to 30 seconds.

Step 3: Select the appropriate grit TruCut by CtD pad and lightly sand the ball for 30 seconds in a circular motion constantly moving around the entire top half of the ball.

Step 4: Apply That Purple Stuff to a CtD Power Pad and wipe the ball clean.

Step 5: Tap the TruCut pad on a hard surface to knock the shavings out

Step 6: Flip the ball 180 degrees over and repeat steps 2 - 5 on the other half.

Why Not Four or Six Sanding Sides?

Two sides will cover the ball and apply the true grit when sanding by hand. More sides than that doesn’t add additional grit, and should be reserved for resurfacing or using a ball spinner.

Use the listed process by hand to maintain your bowling ball surface and keep your performance at its peak. Next time you need a pad to change the surface of your ball. Remember TruCut by CtD to your advantage.

Click Here to Purchase

We are Creating the Difference in bowling.


  • I’m looking at you product. Most of what I throw with is polished. Do you not have a product that will polish the ball back.

    Jonathan McMahon on

  • Where do you purchase ctd pads?

    Gregory Barber on

  • @Stephen, if using Abralon, you would want to hit it with the 500 grit first. However, if you get some of our pads, you can go straight to 2000 grit. Thank you for the question!

    CtDBowling on

  • This is super informative. So, right now. My wife bought a Quick Fix (Siaair Micro Pad 500 / 4000 factory finish) thinking that it would be a better option on heavier oil than Code Red. However, it’s still skidding too far down the lane and I want it to grab the lane harder. Unfortunately, I only have Abralon pads with me at the moment. If I were to sand it by hand, should I hit it with 500 first and then 2000 or just with 2000 without going to 500? The ball is new with only two games on it. I also do have a 1000 and 3000 pads as well. Thank you!

    Stephen on

  • Thanks for sharing… trying to increase my knowledge about equipment maintenance so that I can improve my game!

    Pat Baker on

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