How to Lubricate a Rubik’s Cube?

So you just got the concept of solving the Rubik’s cube

Saying that it’s a pretty cool thing to be able to solve the Rubik’s cube is an understatement; it’s more than awesome! After that accomplishment, you might now be looking to proceed to the next challenge – doing it faster.

World champions in speedcubing average about 11 to 12 seconds nowadays. But, speed doesn’t depend on having fast finger reflexes and a smart brain; you need to have a good cube – no; a great one.

You need a cube that moves easily rather than one that gets jammed every now and then, thus delaying your moves. In this post, we shall show you how lubricate your cube, keep it clean and maintain it in other ways so it supports your dream of becoming a speedcuber.

Here are the steps Lubricate a Rubik’s Cube:

Step I: Get the Materials

The things you need to get include:

  • A Rubik's cube – we’re hoping you already have this.
  • A screw driver – pretty helpful.
  • 2 tissues.
  • A can of Silicon oil.

Step II: Take the Cube Apart

Be sure to follow this step carefully; you don’t want to miss a step or do something that will ruin your cube.

If you just bought the cube, it’s probably very tight, and that only makes it harder for you to get it apart. You might need lots of calories in that case.

Rotate the top face of the cube by 45°.

Pry one of the upper edge pieces with the screw driver. You can use your thumb if it’s strong enough and the cube is not too stiff.

Is the cube too stiff? Try twisting the left of the right layer to free the upper edge’s inner anchor.

Once the first pieces come out, the corners will crumble and the other pieces will fall out easily.

Step III: Clean it

Do you see a thin dust layer on the cubelets (the smaller cubes)? That’s one of the biggest enemies to turning. Use the tissues to rub it off of each piece. Be sure to give the center pieces’ undersides enough attention. 

Step IV: Reassemble the cube

This part is not as hard as you might anticipate.

Of course, you can reassemble the cube scrambled or in the solved state. We highly recommend that you reassemble it in the solved state.

Start off with the white edge pieces; put them together and make sure that the color adjacent to them matches up.

Set the white corners in adjacent to them. Don’t forget to ensure that the surrounding colors match up.

Place the edges around the equatorial layer of the cube.

For the last third layer, put in the remaining pieces, apart from one edge. Keep in mind that edge pieces get into place more easily when the layer is rotated by 45°.

Rotate the third layer by 45° and force one side beneath the center piece. Now, push downward and inward toward the cube’s center.

Congrats! You’ve just cleaned your cube. Now, you should notice that the cube has a different touch to turning. It’s a lot easier to rotate it, and we’re not done yet. Let’s see what the next step has to offer.

Step V: Lubricate it

Take out one of the edges and spray the cube’s interiors including the central mechanism with some silicon oil. Use a clean rag to rub the oil into a uniform layer and wipe off the excess drops. You want to leave only a thin film of the lubricant. Remember, excessive lubrication can make it hard for you to handle your cube.

Note: don’t use WD40, as it’s corrosive and can easily damage your cube. Also, don’t spray much; a few seconds of spraying should be enough. When lubricating your cube, the best lubricant to use is 100% silicone, as it won’t damage your cube.

After spraying, place back the edge and make random turns to mix the oil properly.

How does turning the cube feel now? Much more effortless, right?

Some speedcubers sand the non-colored sides of the cubelets lightly with rough sandpaper, and then with finer sandpaper before they lubricate the cube. This helps wear down these parts to lower friction. It might help if your cube is very stiff (always helps if the cube is new or designed for purposes other than speedcubing).

However, if you’re to sand your cube, we recommend that you be extra careful not to damage it.

You might ask, “what if my cube has paper stickers?”

In that case, the silicon won’t be applicable, as it can damage the stickers easily. Here are a few options for you to consider:

  • Non-stick cooking spray.
  • Graphite spray.
  • White lithium grease.
  • Silicon-based furniture polish.

These alternative lubricants are less effective than 100% silicone but they’ll do just fine. We highly recommend that you clean them off shortly afterwards, as some of their components can make your cube sticky eventually.

We recommend that you don’t use petroleum products like Vaseline (petroleum jelly) and WD40. Such products have properties that damage some varieties of plastic and can damage your cube. Nonetheless, if your cube is new and super-stiff, you can use them to break in. Just be sure to wipe them off thoroughly afterwards.

After applying the silicon lubricant, give the cubelets around 10 minutes to dry before you reassemble the cube. Meanwhile, you can lower tension in the cube.

Reducing tension in the cube

As a matter of fact, apart from cleaning and lubricating the cube, the next best way to boost its turning speed is to lower tension in its turning mechanism. To do this, use the screw driver to pry the cubelets off the central mechanism.

Do you notice screws under the central caps (most models have these)?

Twist them to reduce tension. There’re springs coiled around the screws’ shafts, and therefore turning these screws will lower tension in the cube. Although making this adjustment is a matter of preference, this is a good place to start:

Pull 2 center pieces in opposite directions.

How far have they pulled apart? Preferably, there should be a similar space on both sides – around 1 millimeter. Loosen or stiffen each screw until every piece allows a 1 mm space when pulled apart from the other pieces.

Of course, it’s possible to loosen the screws for faster turns. However, doing that will only make the cube too loose and hard to handle; it can even crumble between moves.

Is your cube old and feeling a bit off? Just remove the screws and examine the springs beneath. If you see some springs unwinding, hold its end in place with a little superglue; be sure to use just a tiny drop of it.

In case a screw head is scratching into the center piece, all you need to do is fit a metal washer between the spring head and the center piece. Don’t use superglue to hold the screw head, or you’ll risk blocking the turning mechanism.

Never attach super glue to the other end of the spring, or you could block the turning mechanism.

Fit the central pieces back on and in case they keep falling out, use tiny superglue drops to reattach them.

Final Verdict

How does your cube feel now? Has the turning speed received a boost?

In a rare case, lubricating your cube might have made it stiffer. There’s no need to panic. That probably only means that you used too much lubricant. If the issue doesn’t resolve on its own within a few days, all you’ve got to do is disassemble the cube and use a clean piece of cloth to wipe off the excess lubricant.

Richard B. Torres
 

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