9 Simple Steps to Inline Skate Maintenance

How to Clean and Care for Your Skates

Man and child repairing Rollerblades
Adam Berry/Getty Images

Basic maintenance of your inline skates requires only your time and a few tools and supplies. With experience, routine maintenance will take very little time away from skating.

Not every maintenance session will require wheel and/or bearing removal, but you should be prepared to do these things, just in case.

Here are the tools you'll need:

  • Allen tool, all-purpose skate tool or manufacturer’s tool(s)
  • Small, stiff craft brush or toothbrush
  • Lint-free cloths, tissues or wipes
  • Light bearing oil
  • Locktite®
  • Bearing cleaning solution

And here's how to clean all the parts of your skates:

1. Remove All Wheels and Boot Liners

Remove all of your skate wheels with your Allen tool or skate tool. Open all boot fasteners and take out any removable insoles or boot liners. This will allow easy access to view or clean all parts of your inline skate. Inspect all of these items for any irregularities before you begin the cleaning process. Anything that is damaged and needs replacement or repair will not need cleaning.

2. Wipe Off Your Inline Skates

You should completely wipe off your inline skating boots and the frames with a moist cloth. This is for both cosmetic and maintenance purposes. Use a small brush to clear grits from crevices and holes. Be sure to also clean all of the inline skate wheels, including wheel spokes, since any dirt and particles of grit left on any part of your skates now may get into your bearings later.

3. Keep Your Inline Bearings Free of Particles and Dirt

Once the areas surrounding the bearings are clean, wipe the bearings themselves using a lint-free cloth or tissue, with a bit of light oil or cleaning solution—not water. The solution will help lift the dust and particles away without introducing water and humidity (the enemy) into your bearings.

Spin your wheels to check for a quiet, even roll. A single drop of light oil in the bearing on each side of each wheel will help extend their life. Do not add more, because the oil will build up and attract more dirt and grit. If any rough rolling or scratchy noises persist, the bearings should be removed and given a simple cleaning.

4. Check Your Brake Pads

Check your inline skate’s brake pad to make sure it is always attached firmly. You should also check for signs of wear after every skating session. Your brake pad probably has a wear line, and you should use this to determine whether the pad needs replacing. Replacement should be done before the wear line is reached.

5. Adjust the Wheel Bolts Properly

The correct adjustment of wheel bolts is important to your wheel performance. When you put your wheels back on and have the wheel bolt approximately tightened, check for any excess play (rocking back and forth across the axle) in each wheel. Tighten each wheel until the amount of play in the wheel is minimal and the wheel still spins freely. Sometimes a drop of Loctite® may be needed to help keep the wheel bolts in position after cleaning and adjustment. Take extra care to keep Loctite® solution away from the wheel bearings.

6. Check Your Buckles and Laces

Check all inline skate buckles, laces and other fasteners for signs of wear, loose parts or missing pieces. These items can be easily replaced and are an important part of the support and safety of your inline skate.

7. Inspect Your Inline Boot Linings for Dirt, Debris or Damage

Inline skate boot liners and insoles are a great place for pebbles and grit to hide. This may not hurt the equipment, but it will certainly make you uncomfortable while skating. Shake off liners and wipe both sides of insoles to make sure there is no hidden debris waiting to worry your feet in your next skating session. Also, wipe off the bed inside the skate where the liner or insole rests.

8. Inspect Your Inline Skate Boots for Damage

Even if you don’t play roller hockey or do any aggressive skating, your boots may still suffer some damage from falls or scrapes.

Make sure that routine wear and tear has not broken or weakened any of the boot structure, fasteners or support.

9. Wash Your Liners and Other Fabric Items

Most inline skaters’ feet sweat, so inline skates need to be aired out after each use to dry moisture and reduce potential smells and bacteria. All debris does not shake out, air out or wipe off of inline skating gear and skate liners, and some items will still get a bit funky with regular use. Fortunately, some of these pieces of protective gear and boot liners can be washed. The best way is to either hand wash them or place them inside a cloth or net bag (even a pillow case will do) on the mild cycle in your washing machine. In either case, use mild soap. And do not use a dryer. All of these items should be air dried. If there are any doubts, you should contact the manufacturer of your inline skates and gear for their recommended cleaning method.