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How To Clean A Bow And Arrow

a hunter inspecting a compound bow

Whether you prefer target archery or bowhunting, a bow of any type is sure to see its fair share of dirt and grime over the course of time. This places a significant amount of value upon cleaning your bow at certain intervals.

While regularly cleaning a bow is of relative importance, many archers do not know where to begin when tackling such a task.

In fact, it is not uncommon to encounter archers who have not given their bow a thorough cleaning in years, due to a lingering feeling that they will cause unintentional harm.

Luckily, there is a right way to proceed with such efforts, which largely eliminates any worries of this nature.

The following is a comprehensive guide to cleaning both compound and traditional bows.

Why Is Cleaning A Bow Important?

Periodically cleaning your bow is important for a handful of reasons. However, few of these reasons are as important as those which relate to preserving your bow in the best state possible, for decades to come.

Regular cleaning of a bow prevents the breakdown of vital components, at the hands of water intrusion and oxidation.

There are few better ways to prevent a bow’s metallic components, such as its cams and idler wheels, from rusting at the hands of the elements, than to ensure that it is sufficiently cleaned before storage. 

Additionally, regular cleaning of a bow is believed to prevent breakdown within the epoxied segments of a bow’s limbs, and prevent premature breakdown of base materials utilized in a bow’s construction.

This, in turn, alleviates the bulk of worries surrounding the untimely structural failure of both compound and traditional bows of most any perceivable type.

It is extremely important to keep up with all matters of bow cleaning and maintenance, whenever a specific bow is shot outdoors, rather than at an indoor shooting range.

This is due to the fact that a bow is subject to much more moisture and airborne contaminants when regularly shot outdoors.

Video: How To Clean A Bow Riser

Cleaning A Traditional Bow

Traditional bows, including those of a recurve or longbow design, can be easily cleaned with the use of basic utensils. The first step in this process involves wiping dirt and grime deposits off of the bow itself.

This is accomplished by using a soft towel that has been lightly dampened.

Many archers choose to utilize a microfiber towel, as this allows them to scrub vigorously if need be, without fear of damaging their bow´s finish.

After wiping away all dirt and dust, a second clean towel can be used to apply a very thin coat of automotive wax to the bow´s surfaces.

This not only presents a ¨like new¨ finish but also provides a secondary barrier to prevent moisture from penetrating a traditional bow´s wooden frame. This, in turn, minimizes weathering, especially when hunting in rain and snow.

Cleaning A Compound Bow

A compound bow requires a bit of extra attention to clean, due to its various moving parts. However, such a chore is still easily completed when an ample amount of attention is applied to the task.

This process begins by wiping the bow down in its entirety with a damp towel, just as you would when cleaning a recurve bow.

Due to the metallic composition of a compound bow, the use of a microfiber cloth is not as crucial.

After wiping down a compound bow´s limbs and riser, a Q-tip can be used to wipe any residual grime away from more intricate surfaces, such as cam cutouts, bow sights, and arrow rests.

An even better clean can also be achieved by wiping a bow down with a towel lightly saturated in rubbing alcohol after completing the above-mentioned steps.

This will remove any mud or grime that has adhered to a bow´s various surfaces. 

Before storing your bow, be sure to apply a touch of lubricant, such as WD-40, to all recessed screw heads with a clean Q-tip.

Doing so prevents rust and other forms of corrosion from discoloring these recesses that are not easily treated by other means.

Waxing A Bow String

The final step to cleaning any bow involves thoroughly waxing the bowstring itself. This is accomplished by rubbing a stick of bowstring wax along the surface of a bow´s string, as well as the buss cable.

This wax is then rubbed into the bowstring´s fibers through the application of friction heat.

This is achieved by pinching a bowstring between your thumb and index finger while sliding your clasped fingers from one end of the bowstring to the other.

This essentially causes the previously applied bowstring wax to melt, thereby leaching into all of the string´s fibers.

When finished, a bow´s string and cables should feel slightly tacky to the touch, yet no solid pieces of wax should be visibly evident.

Cleaning An Arrow

How to clean an arrow? Basically, it is the same as cleaning your bow, you want to remove any dirt or grime that has built up on it.

The best way is to wipe down the arrow with a damp cloth. It´s pretty straightforward for carbon and aluminum shafts.

You might want to clean the inside of your shafts too. Here´s what BOHNING says:

“It is very important to clean the inside of the shaft using a cotton swab dipped in denatured alcohol. Continue cleaning, using new cotton swabs, until no traces of black residue remain.”


Maintaining your bow is an important part of ensuring its longevity. In this article, we’ve outlined the basic steps you need to take to clean both a traditional and compound bow.

These cleaning tips will help keep your bow in good condition, whether you use it for hunting or target shooting.

We also recommend waxing your bowstring on a regular basis to keep it performing at its best. Thanks for reading and happy shooting!

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