Rule 18 - Bowling Ball - Altering Surface

Altering the surface of a bowling ball by the use of abrasives while bowling in USBC competition is prohibited.


All bowling balls so altered must be removed from the competition. (See Chapter 7, Section 2, for additional information.)



NOTE:  If it is shown the bowler had prior knowledge his/her actions were in violation of Rule 18, the game(s) in which the violation occurred is (are) subject to forfeiture. In addition, the bowler is subject to dismissal from the league and suspension of membership.


Competition is defined as the remainder of the current game and remaining game(s) in the series being bowled.


The use of approved cleaning agents such as isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and polishing machines is permissible.



Commonly Asked Questions Rule 18.



When can an acceptable cleaner be used on a bowling ball?

Unless otherwise provided by league or tournament rule, cleaners designated as acceptable by USBC standards can be used on bowling balls at any time during USBC competition. For a complete list of acceptable cleaning agents, see or click here.



When may I alter the surface of my bowling ball?

a. Cleaning Cleaners approved for use anytime may be utilized before, during or after certified competition; Cleaners approved for only before and after certified competition may only be used during these times.

b. Sanding You are permitted to sand the surface of your bowling balls prior to certified competition, however, the use of abrasives is strictly prohibited once the first ball is thrown in the competition.

c. Polishing You are permitted to polish the surface of your bowling ball prior to certified competition. However, once tournament or league play begins, the use of a ball spinner is strictly prohibited; only an automated, self-contained polishing machine may be used.



A tournament consists of doubles and singles events. The singles event is bowled first immediately followed by the doubles. Can I sand my bowling ball between events?

No, Rule 18 does not allow the outer surface of any bowling ball to be altered with an abrasive after the start of competition. This includes balls that have not yet been introduced into play.

The start of competition is defined as the point the first ball is thrown by any participant for score. Since the tournament is conducting singles and doubles concurrently, you cannot alter the surface of the bowling ball (including sanding) between events.



Can a bowler use an abrasive on just the track or just a portion of the track of the ball?

No. USBC specifications require that the entire surface of the ball be sanded in a uniform manner. Sanding a ball in any other manner would be a violation of Rule 17a, Item 1. The penalty for a violation of this rule can include disqualification, forfeiture, removal from the league, and/or suspension of USBC membership.