How do you know when to clean a bearing? The yoyo will become responsive, and/or the bearing will suddenly start making a different noise. This is usually due to dust or hair entering the bearing. It is completely normal and happens quite often. Unscrew the yoyo carefully, remove the string, and spin the bearing. If it spins for less than 1 second, it needs cleaning. A properly cleaned and lubed bearing should spin on its own for 3-10 seconds, depending on the bearing. If you added too much lubrication, the spin will be shorter.
Firstly, remove the bearing from the yoyo. If it does not come off freely, use a Yoyofactory Muli-Tool to remove it. The multi-tool acts almost like an allen key, because it fits exactly inside the inner gap of the bearing. If you don’t have a tool you can try finding something else that fits in the hole exactly, such as the round end of a drill bit. Wiggle the tool around until the bearing comes out. You can use pliers, but this can bend the bearing, so it is not recommended. If you do want to try it, cloth between the bearing and the pliers.
Secondly, you need to remove the bearing shields (sides). Watch the video below to see how. You will need a sharp needle, please be careful. Keep your thumb over the side of the bearing as you work with the needle, because the tension on the c-ring can cause it to jump out, and they get lost very easily.
You can use a number of things to clean the bearing, basically anything that acts as a degreaser, but the safest is lighter fluid or regular dishwashing liquid. Lighter fluid and spirits can be used on its own, because it will evaporate from the bearing. Soap based detergent will need to be rinsed out with water. Shake the bearing (unshielded) in a jar full of soapy water (or lighter fluid) and let it sit for ten minutes. Then rinse it out in a bowl of clean water or under a running tap, provided that you put the plug in the sink first. A bearing can easily go down the drain. If using this method it is important to dry the bearing properly, otherwise it can rust. You can spin it on a pencil, or put it in the sun, but a a hair dryer works best. Spin the bearing on a chopstick or pencil while blow drying it.
You can extend the life of the bearing by using lubricant. Yoyofactory thin lubricant works best, but you can also use Elna sewing machine oil or saxophone oil or any other high quality lubricant with thin viscosity. Use a needle and stick the sharp tip into the oil. Shake off any droplet that forms, and touch two of the balls inside the bearing. It is important to note that you need an extremely small amount of oil on the bearing, otherwise the yoyo will become responsive.
After applying, spin the bearing to distribute the oil. You can now either replace the shields, or leave it off. Leaving it off will increase the chances of it getting dirty again though. If you want to decrease the chances of a dirty bearing, keep the bearing shields on, never unscrew the yoyo (which you should not do anyway, see how not to break your yoyo) and don’t put the yoyo inside a pocket, sock, or other material which may produce fabric dust.