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How to Unbond Your KSM Tokens in Preparation for Crowdloans

May 25, 2021

5 min read

The approval of upgrade v0.9.1 on Kusama introduces crowdloan functionality to the network. A crowdloan is a funding mechanism that allows KSM holders to support a project by locking their tokens until the end of the lease of the slot. The parachain project can use these tokens to pay for a parachain slot on the network for the duration of the lease, after which point the original KSM tokens are returned to contributors. Parachain teams can then reward contributors however they see fit. You can learn more about the basics of a crowdloan in this article.

To contribute to a crowdloan campaign, you need to make sure your KSM tokens are transferable, and therefore, available. If you have nominated validators on the Kusama Network, those staked tokens will be locked unless you have explicitly unbonded them (this does not happen automatically). Unlocking them is a two-step process:

  1. Unstaking: stops all ongoing nominations. This means that the corresponding KSM balance is available to stake with other validators, but is not yet available to be transferred. This is referred to as being “bonded.”
  2. Unbonding: starts the unbonding of the corresponding balance. During this unbonding period (7 days for Kusama), your KSMs do not earn rewards and are illiquid. Once this step is complete, the tokens will be transferable.

Tokens might be locked (bonded) as well via other mechanisms such as democracy. To learn how you can unbond tokens locked through democracy you can check this Polkadot wiki article.

This tutorial will guide you through the process of how to check if your tokens are ready to contribute to a crowdloan, and if not, how to unstake/unbond them to have them ready. A separate tutorial on how to participate in the crowdloan itself will be provided shortly.

If the account used was imported from a Ledger hardware wallet, make sure you have the device connected to your computer and unlocked, as you will need to sign a few transactions with it.

The Difference Between Unstaking and Unbonding

Unstaking is the action of removing a nomination for a validator (or multiple validators). By unstaking all nominations, your tokens will stop earning staking rewards and are ready to be used to nominate another validator. However, they are not yet ready to be transferred. Once the nomination is no longer active, the tokens are still bonded (locked), . You will need to take the additional step of unbonding them in order to use them for a transaction or crowdloan.

In general terms, bonding is a process by which tokens are temporarily locked. Staking is one of the scenarios that requires tokens to be bonded. Unbonding is the action of telling the network that you want to unlock these tokens. After the unbonding time (28 days for Polkadot, 7 days for Kusama), you can withdraw the tokens, and they become a transferable balance.

Checking Your Balance

Any KSM tokens that have been used for staking in Kusama, will show as locked balance. To check this, visit the Polkadot JS app and connect to Kusama (in the top left corner). Once the app is connected, you can take the following steps:

  1. Hover over the “Accounts” tab.
  2. Select the “Accounts” option.
  3. Expand the balance information.
  4. The locked KSM balance will be displayed here (if any). If you hover over the information icon, it should display information related to the type of lock, for this example, “Staking.”

You can see in the screenshot above that you have three balances: transferable, locked, and bonded. The balance that shows as “transferable” can be used to contribute to a crowdloan campaign. However, the balances that shows as either locked or bonded because of staking can’t be used. The following sections will take you through a step-by-step guide on how you can unstake and unbond your locked KSM.

How to Unbond Your KSM Tokens

If you have locked KSM tokens as previously shown, you can directly unstake and unbond them using a single action, which is “Unbond funds”. Unbonding takes 7 days on Kusama.

First, you need to head to the Staking options. To do so, take the following steps:

  1. Hover over the “Network” tab.
  2. Select the “Staking” option.

This will load the staking overview window. In here, navigate to the “Account actions” tab, from which you manage everything related to your account’s staking.


Next, decide from which stash you want to unstake and unbond the tokens, you can repeat this process for each stash (if applicable). Then, take the following steps:

  1. Head over the corresponding stash window. You can also navigate to the “All stashes” option.
  2. Click on the three vertical dots of the stash you want to unbond. This will open a dropdown menu.
  3. In the dropdown menu, select “Unbond funds.”

These actions will initiate a transaction wizard titled “unbond funds”, in which you need to:

  1. Set the amount of KSM tokens you want to unbond, or click on the “all bonded” slider to unstake and unbond your entire KSM balance.
  2. Click on “Unbond.”

Next, sign and submit the transaction. If you are using a Ledger, verify the transaction and approve it on the device. After the transaction is confirmed, your unbonding period will start (7 days on the Kusama Network).

To check the status of your unbonding, take the following steps:

  1. Hover over the “Accounts” tab.
  2. Select the “Accounts” option.
  3. Expand the balance information.
  4. The unbonding KSM balance will be displayed here. If you hover over the information icon, it should display information related remaining unbonding time left.

Once the bonding lock expires, you need to submit another transaction to withdraw the funds manually.

How to Withdraw Your KSM Tokens Once the Lock Expires

After the unbonding time expires, you can withdraw your locked tokens. To do so, head to the “Accounts > Accounts” tab and take the following steps:

  1. Expand the balance information.
  2. Click on the lock icon.

This will initiate the transaction wizard to withdraw the bonded funds. After the transaction is confirmed, your locked tokens should now be added to the transferable balance.


And that is it! You have successfully unstaked and unbonded your KSM tokens!