How To Clean Your Spinning Reel Drag System (In Just 5 Minutes)


Is there a sweeter sound than hearing your drag scream?

It’s music to any angler’s ears, but it only screams if your drag system is working properly.

To keep it working like new, I put together this quick video to show you how easy it is to clean and maintain your drag system.

Check it out below for the simple, five-minute process.


How To Maintain Your Drag System [VIDEO]

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Step 1. Remove the spool

This will allow you to access the drag system.

Step 2. Remove the drag washers

There are several mechanisms that reel manufacturers use to keep the drag washers in place, so see the video for details on how to do this with two different types of reels.

3. Inspect the inside of the spool where the washers rest

Make sure to remove any dirt or debris in there.

4. Inspect the washers and make sure they’re not cracked, broken, or torn

If there are any issues, you can order replacement washers.

5. Clean washers off

You can use a solvent to wash old grease off, or you can just wipe them off with a paper towel.

6. Apply drag grease to felt or cloth washers

Just get a little on your fingertips and apply it to the felt or cloth washer.

You can get drag grease from your local tackle shop, or from Amazon here.

Note: if you have ceramic or carbon washers, you don’t need to grease them (the grease is to make sure felt or cloth washers don’t burn).

7. Put drag washers back in spool

Make sure they’re placed in the proper order.

8. Check your drag clicker

If your reel stops clicking, there’s likely an issue with the drag clicker, so be sure to check that.

You can also put grease on it to prevent corrosion.

Pro tip:

If you have to deal with really small screws like I did in the video, by putting a bit of grease at the tip of your screwdriver it will help the screws stick to it, which will make getting them back into their holes much easier than if you tried to use your fingers to get them back in.


saltwater spinning reel drag system

By regularly cleaning your drag system you can make sure that your reel is running smoothly and lasts a long time.

For more reel maintenance tips, you can check out this post on making your spinning reels last longer.

Have any questions about cleaning or maintaining your drag system?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who needs to clean their drag system, please TAG or SHARE this with them!

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2 years ago

Great info on here again guys! I have always run my stock drags til I needed to do the first maintenance on them when it becomes slightly jerky or hesitant. Then I clean and regrease with cals and order carbontex( there are others to order, but I have bought a few sets and have been more than satisfied with them…not so with two other that I’ve ordered from). Smoothdrags recommends a very light film of cals grease on there so I also use it on my reels as well since it’s formulated for both drags and gears…and there also a cold weather version for the guys up north. One thing I like is a smooth drag no matter what…saves so many lightly hooked fish, especially helps land more trout!

Paul Blake
3 years ago

My CI14 and my Pluger president reels when dealing in sound like a little resistance like sand paper not real bad but not smooth
Please advise.
Thank you,

Walter Nischt
3 years ago

How often do you perform the reel maintenance? I realize it is based on useage, but just wondering if this is once a season, monthly or weekly? Thanks in advance!

Richard Doane
3 years ago

Great information Thanks

Mathieu Laforest
3 years ago

I’m surprised you don’t recommend to grease carbon drags.
I have disassemble some high end reels (shimano stella, daiwa, ocea jiggers) and they all have carbon drags and are all greased.
I have replaced some felt drags with carbontex carbon washers and they recommend grease as well.

3 years ago

I have a couple of old Garcia-Mitchell 302 reels that have old, rusty metal spider-shaped drag washers… is there anything else I can use to replace these? The reels work fine other than the drag.

2 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Give smoothdrag guys an email or call. They may have some carbonated that will fit. Most smaller spinning reels up to bout 3000 size are bout $8.

George "Skip" Aten
3 years ago

Tony, can you upgrade your felt and steel washers to carbon and ceramic or are you locked in with what came with the reel

Jonathan Getz
3 years ago

Thanks for the video Tony!
I have a couple reels that have the drag setting on the bottom of the reel. I’ve taken the spool off before for putting on new line, but haven’t messed with the drag system. I assume it’s generally the same, but oriented upside down
Any tips in this situation?

Brad Simpson
3 years ago

What makes drag grease drag grease? Is the reel grease in the small tubes the same thing? Great video! Thank you

Brad Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Acevedo

Thanks Tony that makes sense…..

Thomas Marks
3 years ago

Great advice!


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