The cleaning and protecting of a fishing rod cork handle is basic maintenance. Failing to clean and protect the handle leads to faster deterioration of the cork. You invested money into a good rod. It is a good practice to maintain the rod. The time it takes is only a few minutes with a few low-cost supplies.
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Cleaning the Fishing Rod Handle
Cleaning a cork handle is easy. Rinse under a faucet is the first step. This removes the loose dirt from the handle. Then use a soft cloth with a mild detergent and warm water. Murphy’s oil soap works well for cleaning. Gently rub to get the dirt off the cork. This is the safest method for cleaning a cork handle. In the event, the handle is still dirty. Proceed to the next step in cleaning.
Use baby wipes and gently rub along the handle to remove the dirt. Baby wipes contain a little isopropyl alcohol to remove oils and grease. These become embedded from the skin and other places. Handles cleaned regularly will be clean after this step.
Handles with dirt after using baby wipes have dirt ground into the cork. You need to use an abrasive cleaner method. The Magic Eraser is a good option for this cleaning method. You do not want to get abrasives on the rod or reel seat. The Magic Eraser keeps the abrasive on the handle.
Moisten the eraser with water and repeat the gentle scrubbing on the handle. Use caution with this method it will remove some cork. Take care so you do not scratch any other part of the fishing rod. Scratches on the blank section will damage the clear coat.
After the handle is clean, rinse with clean water and allow to dry overnight. You can stop here or go on and add a sealer to the handle.
Protecting a Cork Fishing Rod Handle
Before proceeding to protect the handle it must be dry. If in doubt wait another day. You do not want moisture in the cork when it is sealed with a cork conditioner.
A product called U40 is the popular and recommended product for cork fishing grips. There are other products similar to U40 for sealing cork also. These protectants seal and fortify the cork for a longer-lasting rod grip.
You apply one coat and wipe off the excess. Allow the sealer to dry. Applying a second coat does not help. A second coat will create a shiny smooth surface. Do not use an excess since it will create spots of sealer with sags. Use the amount needed to seal the cork. Then wipe off all excess.
After applying the sealer to the cork, allow it to dry for 24 hours before use. It will dry to the touch in 30-40 minutes. It does take longer to cure for full protection.
The U40 does not change the color of the cork. I have not tried the other products. Use at your discretion.
Cleaning and protecting a cork fishing rod handle is part of normal maintenance. The process takes a few minutes over 2 days. It will make the handle last longer and maintain its feel. The sealer will help to strengthen the cork and keep it clean.