Firstly, it’s important to consider what we mean by the term ceramic bearings, as it confusingly encompasses both hybrid and full ceramic ball bearings — each of which should be treated slightly differently.

In brief, hybrid bearings use ceramic balls, paired with metal inner and outer rings, whereas full ceramic bearings are entirely made from ceramic material.

Now you’re clear on the difference between full ceramic and hybrid options, how do you clean your bearings to keep them dirt free and performing optimally? The good news is that ceramic bearings are inherently more resistant to dirt, water and corrosion than their stainless-steel counterparts, so the maintenance process is a breeze.

Cleaning hybrid ceramic bearings

Lubrication isn’t required for full ceramic bearings, but it is often used with hybrid bearings, especially when performing at higher speeds. To clean and relubricate a hybrid ceramic bearing, firstly identify the closure type.

Only circlip retained bearing shields may be removed for cleaning or relubrication purposes. Use a needle on one end of the circlip to gently remove it from the outer raceway. The shield can then be removed by easing the needle into the gap between inner ring and shield and levering the shield out. For rubber seals, prise out the seal from the inner lip. You can use a penknife or small screwdriver but do not push it too far into the bearing or you may damage the retainer.

Following this step, use a degreaser and some paper cloth to make sure you fully clean away all old grease, you can also opt to soak the bearing if you wish. Once satisfied that the bearing is completely grease-free, use a lint-free cloth to dry the bearing. At this point, take the time to visually inspect the bearing for signs of wear. Make sure the bearing surfaces are completely clean and oil free before you lubricate the bearing.

Maintaining your full ceramic bearings

Full ceramic bearings are maintenance free. However, they can be washed using regular tap water or a standard bearing cleaner product if required. Make sure the bearing is completely dry before replacing it. These bearings do not need lubricant to operate, so there is no need to add an oil or grease at this stage. However, lubrication can be used to keep the ceramic material from wearing down prematurely and to extend bearing life.

Don’t go it alone

When choosing a bearing for a harsh environment, it’s important to seek the right advice and consider your exact operating requirements. While it is possible to carry out ceramic bearing maintenance at home – and this is often favoured by cyclists or skateboarders – for industrial applications or high-volume bearing maintenance, contact an expert.

If you would like more advice on choosing and maintaining ceramic bearings, contact an SMB Bearings specialist. We have years of experience supplying small and miniature bearings to a range of harsh industries. Call our experts today on +44 (0) 1993 842 555 or e-mail

Our determination to remain specialised gives us a high level of product knowledge, providing bearing and lubrication solutions to existing or potential customers, whether individuals or large corporations. We don’t just sell bearings, we help to solve your problems. - Chris Johnson, managing director of SMB Bearings.