I am sure you have seen some pretty dirty pool balls before on a pool table in your local bar or pool hall. They can get all chipped up and turn grey or yellow, but did you know that by not cleaning your billiard balls you can shorten the life on your pool table’s cloth.
The truth is that you should always try to take care of all your equipment but by neglecting to clean and take care of your billiard balls you are costing yourself more money, damaging your pool table’s cloth wearing it down faster, and slowing down the speed of the balls. Your pool balls can change colors from the oils from our hands and dirt and dust that it picks up over time.
Don’t worry though, just keep reading and I will show you how to clean and take care of your billiard balls properly and ways that you should not clean them.
Consequences Of Not Cleaning Billiard Balls
All of your billiard equipment from your pool cues to your pool balls need to be cleaned regularly to make sure they stay clean and perform their best. A costly mistake that many players make is not regularly cleaning their balls.
Why do my pool balls look grey or yellow?
Billiard balls take lots of abuse on the table from the cue ball being hit with the cue to smashing into other balls on the table. Over time the balls will begin to pick up oils from your skin and collect dust and dirt from the table. This causes your balls to change colors, typically either grey or yellow depending on the quality and materials of the balls.
This changing of colors not only makes your balls look bad, but also affect the performance of them, slowing down the speed at which the balls roll across the table. Some pieces of dirt collected on the balls can be big enough to affect the way the balls roll as well causing unwanted drift, usually when the ball is rolling slowly.
If all those reasons were not enough for you to consider cleaning your balls regularly, when the balls are collecting dirt and oils from your skin, they are also transferring that to your table felt. This will wear down your felt faster decreasing its lifespan costing you more money over time.
So real quick let us review the consequences of not cleaning your billiard balls:
- Picks up dirt and oils from skin which can cause the balls to turn grey or yellow.
- Slows down the speed at which the balls will roll across the table.
- The dirt can cause unwanted drift in the ball when rolling slowly across the table.
- The dirt and oils on the balls will transfer to table felt wearing it down faster decreasing its lifespan.
- Will cost your more money replacing the balls and table felt more often.
Benefits of Cleaning Billiard Balls
Keeping your balls clean is really simple and as you have read above has many consequences if neglected. Cleaning your balls once in a blue moon will not be enough to fully achieve the benefits. So the key is to clean regularly and often.
How often should you clean your pool balls?
The answer to this question will vary from person to person and it all boils down to how often your play pool and you are handling the balls. I would say if you shoot regularly you should clean your pool balls every month or every other month.
By doing this regularly you will keep the oils and dirt off the balls which will keep it off the table. Also if your are polishing your balls when you clean you will keep your balls looking shinny and will help to improve the lifespan of your balls.
A clean set of balls will roll faster and smoother across the table because there is no dirt on the balls that will cause excess friction against the table, and also because less dirt and grim is getting spread out across your pool tables felt. This in return will increase the lifespan of your pool tables cloth.
So regularly cleaning your pool balls will increase the life you get out of your pool balls and pool table’s felt, saving you money not having to buy new balls or table felt as often.
To sum up the benefits of cleaning your billiard balls:
- Increases performance- the cue ball will roll faster and smoother.
- Increases the life of the table felt.
- Increases life of the balls.
- Saves you money by not having to buy new balls or felt as often.
Incorrect Ways of Cleaning Pool Balls
How to clean pool balls may sound like a really simple question but it is not as some ways of cleaning the balls can actually damage the ball. Billiard balls can get pretty expensive so let us go over the incorrect ways of cleaning the pool balls now so you don’t accidently damage the balls you were trying to maintain.
Can you clean pool balls in a dishwasher?
While using a dishwasher would be ideal as all you would need to do is load them up and start the dishwasher, this is not a good idea for your pool balls. Since billiard balls are made from phenolic resin or a polyester resin, the heat from the dishwasher can ruin the balls.
It will not only ruin the outside shine of the balls but also the integrity of the balls making them less durable and more prone to chipping and cracking. Never clean your billiard balls in the dishwasher!
Can you use bleach to clean the pool balls?
While doing my research when writing this article, I came across forums where people were recommending using bleach to clean your pool balls. Bleach is an abrasive chemical that can discolor your balls and destroy the outer finish on the balls. While using bleach will not cause as much damage as a dishwasher will I still do not recommend it for cleaning the balls.
I would also avoid any other household cleaning products like Windex or Simple Green as they are more likely to leave a residue on the balls that can get transferred onto the tables felt. There are only two ways I recommend cleaning your pool balls.
Correct Ways Of Cleaning Pool Balls: Step By Step Guide
There are two way I recommend cleaning your pool balls and they are using a dedicated pool ball cleaner like the Aramith Cleaner or the easiest is simply warm water and light detergent like Dawn dish soap.
Using Detergent and Warm Water
If you decide to use dish soap the key is to use warm water, hot water can damage the ball and cold water just isn’t strong enough to remove the dirt and oils from the balls. To clean the balls using this method:
- Fill a 3-4 gallon bucket half way with warm water.
- Add you dish soap to the water and mix.
- Soak the balls for 5-10 minutes.
- Using your hand or a micro-fiber cloth to scrub each ball for 30 seconds or until clean.
- Rinse the balls.
- Dry each ball completely using a micro-fiber cloth to prevent leaving spots on the balls that can transfer to the cloth.
Using this method above will remove any dirt or grim from your pool balls, but sometimes it isn’t enough to remove the yellow or grey stains if you have not been keeping up with regular cleaning.
Removing the Yellow or Grey Stain
To remove the discolored staining on your pool balls if the above method did not work, mix baking soda with just enough water to create a paste that you can cover the balls with. Use your hand or a micro-fiber cloth to rub the paste on the balls and scrub them for 30 seconds, then rinse the balls off with cold or warm water, again make sure the water is not too hot. Make sure to dry the balls completely after rinsing using a microfiber cloth. Use a little bit of elbow grease in your drying to achieve some buffering to get a nice shine one the ball.
Using Ball Polisher
If you decide to use a ball polisher instead the process is pretty similar to above.
- Read the back of bottle for exact directions because they may vary.
- Use two micro-fiber cloths.
- Add the recommended amount of polisher to the cloth.
- Begin rubbing the ball with the polish.
- Let the ball sit for a minute or two to dry.
- Use the dry cloth to finish drying and polishing the ball.
What Are Pool Balls Made Of?
Pool balls have been made of many different materials since the game was invented. Materials such as wood, clay, ivory, celluloid, ceramic, acrylic, polyester resin, and phenolic resign. Today the most common materials balls are made of is phenolic resin.
How does a pool table know the difference between the cue ball versus the other balls when returning the balls?
Have you ever wondered how at coin operated pool tables the table knows the difference between the cue ball and the rest of the balls? Well there are a couple ways the table is able to determine this depending on the table’s maker.
- The cue ball is slightly larger than the rest of the balls, so it prevents the ball from going into the collection area and is diverted to the cue ball return area. The cue ball is normally about an 1/8in bigger in diameter.
- The cue ball is magnetized and triggers a magnetic detector when it is pocketed that triggers a deflecting device that send the cue ball to the cue ball return instead of the collection area where the other balls are returned.
How Long Do Billiard Balls Last?
The answer will vary drastically depending on several things such as how much you place, how well kept your balls are, and the overall quality and make of your balls.
Typically, the balls will need to be replaced after a year or two of consistent use. The balls will begin to degrade after much use to the point the size of the ball is no longer considered to meet specifications. Of course, this really only applies to you if that matters to you or not.
The cue ball will more likely need to be replaced before any other balls because it is hit the most, and takes the most abuse.