Bowling Ball Towel vs. Shammy

When it comes to keeping your bowling ball clean during a game, two options rise above the rest – microfiber towels and leather shammy pads.

Bowling Ball Towel vs. Shammy

Both have their benefits, so let’s dive into the details to help you decide which is best for your needs.

What is a Bowling Shammy?

A bowling shammy, also known as a shammy pad, is a cleaning accessory made specifically for bowlers. Shammies are typically constructed from leather or synthetic materials that are highly absorbent to effectively remove oil and dirt from the surface of your bowling ball.

The material allows the shammy to soak up lane oil like a sponge while the texture helps lift residue from the ball’s coverstock. Many shammies also have a textured grip pattern on one side to help you hold and control the pad while cleaning.

Key Takeaway: A bowling shammy is a leather or synthetic cleaning pad designed to absorb lane oil for easy cleaning during games.

Benefits of Using a Bowling Shammy

There are several notable benefits to using a shammy pad for bowling ball maintenance:

Excellent Oil Absorption

The shammy’s leather construction gives it superior oil absorption abilities compared to regular cotton towels. The material almost acts like a magnet for oil, helping keep the ball’s surface much cleaner.

This means more consistent ball reaction and pin carry. With excess oil removed from the surface after every throw, your ball gets maximum traction for a controlled hook down the lane.

Long-Lasting Durability

With proper care, a quality bowling shammy can easily last multiple seasons of bowling before needing replacement. Since the shammy doesn’t go through vigorous machine washing like towels, it holds up well over many uses.

The long lifespan makes a shammy a smart investment that pays off season after season. Plus, the simple hand washing extends the pad’s oil absorption abilities.

Gentler Cleaning Action

Unlike the somewhat abrasive texture of towels, a shammy provides a smooth gentle cleaning of the ball’s coverstock. The soft leather helps lift oil and dirt without unnecessary friction or wear and tear over time.

This helps maintain the ball’s factory finish without quickly dulling polished balls or smoothing out sanded balls. Keeping that original surface is key for ideal traction and hook potential.

Drawbacks of Using a Bowling Shammy

While very effective for bowling ball maintenance, shammy pads do come with a few drawbacks to consider:

Higher Upfront Cost

The leather construction and bowling-specific design lead to shammy pads costing considerably more than basic towels. Expect to spend $15 to $25 for a quality shammy while towels can be bought in bulk packages.

The price may deter more casual or first-time bowlers on a strict budget. However, the long lifespan helps offset the initial investment over years of use.

Care and Cleaning Isn’t as Convenient

To preserve the shammy and maintain its oil absorption, you cannot simply throw it in the washing machine after every bowling outing. It requires gentle hand washing with mild soap and air drying instead.

While a bit more inconvenient, a few extra minutes of care helps the shammy last longer and stay cleaner itself. Just takes some getting used to compared to tossing towels in your laundry.

What is a Bowling Towel?

The bowling towel is the simpler, more familiar cleaning accessory bowlers know and love. Usually made from basic cotton or microfiber materials, bowling towels provide an inexpensive way to keep your ball’s surface oil-free.

Bowling towels come in a variety of colors and designs, often embroidered with different bowling brands. They have a soft, flexible texture that helps lift oil and residue from a ball’s coverstock after each throw.

Key Takeaway: Bowling towels made from cotton or microfibers gently clean oil and dirt off your ball’s surface after shots.

Key Advantages of Bowling Towels

Here are some of the biggest advantages bowling towels present over shammy pads:

Very Affordable Cost

You can buy 3 to 5 basic bowling towels for the price of a single shammy. This makes them extremely economical, especially if you bowl frequently and need multiple towels per bag.

The low cost also makes them a smart choice for new bowlers or kids still learning proper ball maintenance habits. It’s inexpensive to toss and replace towels as needed.

Quick and Easy Maintenance

When towels get excessively dirty or saturated with oil, simply toss them in the washing machine to get them fresh and clean again. The machine washing won’t damage the materials, unlike leather shammy pads.

The convenience of machine washing helps bowling towels stay super absorbent over many uses. Just replace when they eventually wear down.

Multi-Use Functionality

Aside from cleaning bowling balls, basic towels can also tackle other functions like drying hands, wiping down equipment, or soaking up sweats on hot days. You easily get more bang for your buck beyond just ball maintenance.

The versatility gives bowling towels more value compared to the single-use nature of shammy pads. One accessory tackles multiple needs.

Key Drawbacks of Using Towels

While very handy and affordable, bowling towels aren’t without a few notable shortcomings:

Limited Oil Absorption

The synthetic and cotton materials in basic towels pale in comparison to the oil magnet abilities of suede leather shammy pads. They require more frequent cleaning to remove oil during extended bowling sessions.

Having to wipe the ball down more often can get tedious while also allowing oil to build up quicker between shots. This can impact overall ball reaction consistency.

Potential Coverstock Wear

The texture of some towels – especially cheaper bulk packs – can be a little abrasive on sensitive ball coverstocks. This could potentially lead to unnecessary friction and gradual smoothing out of the ball’s surface.

Damage from abrasive towels shortens a ball’s prime usefulness, requiring earlier resurfacing to restore the factory polish or grittiness.

Direct Comparison

Key FactorBowling ShammyBowling Towel
Oil AbsorptionExcellentDecent
DurabilityHighly durable for yearsAverage lifespan of weeks/months
Cost per UnitHigher ($15-$25 each)Very cheap (bulk packs)
Ease of CleaningHand wash onlyToss in washing machine
Surface Wear FactorVery gentlePotentially abrasive


Do you really need a shammy for bowling?

No, it is not an absolute essential. Plenty of bowlers rely solely on basic towels with decent results. However, a shammy does provide noticeably better oil absorption and ball reaction consistency for more competitive bowlers.

What exactly makes a shammy “pad” different from a regular towel?

Shammy pads are made from premium leather or synthetic suede materials optimized specifically for cleaning bowling balls during play. The textures grab oil very effectively while staying smooth against coverstocks.

How often should you clean your bowling ball surface?

Ideally, you should wipe down your bowling ball with either a shammy or towel after every single throw. This keeps oil buildup to a minimum and allows for consistent ball motion.

Can any towel clean a bowling ball well or do you need a special one?

You don’t need a special towel, but ones made specifically for bowling are preferred. They have softer textures designed not to damage ball surfaces while lifting oil and dirt after shots.

Why do people put bowling balls in plastic bags?

Storing unused bowling balls in plastic bags helps prevent excess oil seeping out from the pores. This helps the ball maintain its performance qualities and initial factory condition while sitting between uses.


When choosing between a traditional bowling towel or modern leather shammy pad, consider your personal budget, bowling frequency, and willingness to hand wash the shammy. Both options effectively clean bowling balls with some key differences.

Bowling towels provide an ultra affordable cleaning option perfect for infrequent or casual bowlers not looking to spend much initially. Just know the trade-off is more frequent ball wiping during play and having to replace towels more often as they wear down.

Meanwhile, bowling shammy pads are considered the premier option for avid competitive bowlers wanting maximum oil absorption between shots. While pricier upfront, a quality shammy pays off through years of consistent throws and pin carry. Just takes a little more care and hand washing to maintain.

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.