It may be hard to believe, but there are still folks out there who routinely wash their rods and reels down with a harsh spray from the end of their garden hose. I shudder every time I see someone bow up and blast their expensive equipment like this.
Modern reels are engineering marvels. They are capable of withstanding a generous amount of abuse and still keep ticking like a fine watch. But, they do need some attention following a day out on the water — especially saltwater.
1. Gently Spritz. At the end of the day, line your equipment up and gently mist it with water. Salt accumulations will easily dissolve and run off the reel without having to resort to a harsh spray. Harsh water baths cause the salt and water to be forced inside of the reel, where it stays; accelerating malfunctioning.
2. Wipe Down. Following the gentle bath, wipe down your reels with a dry paper towel or cotton cloth. Resist the temptation to use compressed air to blow them off. This, too drives the water into the reels' internal mechanisms.
3. Loosen Up. I recommend loosening the drag prior to putting your reels away. This relieves the strain on the drag washers, springs, and discs. Keep in mind however, you must re-tighten your drag prior to making your first cast on your next trip.
4. Lubricate. A thin coating of lubricant on the reels' surface will deter rust and keep reel components turning smoothly. Avoid spraying lubricant inside the reel. Some oil-based lubricants break down greases, thus accelerating the demise of the reel's internal parts.