Can You Polish Pool Balls?

Polishing your pool or billiard pools is essential for keeping them looking and playing their best. 

But, there are all kinds of DIY polishing methods out there, and it’s easy to get frustrated trying to figure out how to polish your pool balls the right way.

You can’t take everything you read online as gospel.

Instead, look to reliable sources for proven methods for polishing pool balls. The best guide is the manufacturer of your pool balls.

Why Do Pool Balls Get Dull?

Every time we pick up a pool ball, our hands transfer oil and dirt to the surface.

In addition, dust, skin particles, and pollen can end up on the surface of billiard balls.

If your pool players smoke cigarettes or cigars while playing, the smoke can even end up coating the ball with more residue. 

And, there’s always plenty of chalk floating around, not even mentioning the chalk on the cue tip. So, much of that dust inevitably ends up all over your pool balls as well. 

Your pool balls will begin to look dull and may even look yellowish. But, the result of poor pool ball maintenance is not just a lack of shine and a worn-out appearance.

As the balls become tacky, they may even stick to things a bit.

That means that the play of the balls will become more and more unpredictable as the dirt and oil continue to build up. 

Hitting pool shots is hard enough without the balls moving erratically from grease and dirt buildup. 

It’s a good idea to clean your balls regularly so that you don’t ever get to the point where they are unplayable. 

How To Polish Pool Balls

The best way to polish pool balls is to start with a clean set of balls. Then, use a commercially prepared product designed for bringing out the luster and shine of your balls. 

If your pool balls are very dirty, you may need to start with a restorer to loosen the caked-on chalk and residue. 

Clean First

The good news is that cleaning your pool balls might be something you can do with just a microfiber cloth. 

If the balls are relatively clean and just have a few fingerprints on them, you don’t even need to use a cleaning product. 

A bit of elbow grease used in combination with a clean, high-quality microfiber rag is all you need. Just buff the balls with the rag to remove any chalk and residue. 

If the balls are a little bit dirtier, consider using a commercially prepared cleaning product like Aramith Billiard Ball Cleaner.

Aramith Billiard Ball Cleaner in a Blister 8.4 fl.oz. Bottle

For a full-scale cleaning, take the following steps to clean your pool balls by hand. You may want to wear a set of nitrile or latex gloves. 

  • Apply a drop or two of cleaning solution to a clean microfiber cloth
  • Apply a drop of cleaning solution directly to one billiard ball
  • Using the microfiber cloth, vigorously rub the cleaner around the ball’s surface
  • Keep working the cleaner, turning the ball, and moving to clean spots on the microfiber
  • Once the ball stops leaving dirt behind on your cloth, it’s clean

Depending on how dirty your set of pool balls is, you may need to use more than one microfiber cloth to clean them. 

Time To Polish

After cleaning, it’s important to polish the balls with a high-quality commercial polish. 

You can purchase polish as a two-in-one combination product with cleaner and polish included in one bottle or a standalone polish

You can also purchase packages with a bottle of cleaner and a separate bottle of polish. Some of these packages even include a microfiber cloth to use. 

Polish Pool Balls by Hand

The process of polishing your pool balls is very similar to a simple cleaning:

  • Apply a drop of polish (also known as restorer or conditioner) directly to your ball
  • Work the cloth across the surface of the ball, rubbing well
  • Using a new cloth and a drop of your cleaning product, wipe off the restorer and released grime
  • Buff the ball with a clean, dry microfiber

Polish Pool Balls Using a Machine

There are polishing machines that you can buy to make the process of cleaning and polishing your pool balls a bit easier and less time-consuming. 

It can take three to five minutes to clean each pool ball by hand. 

Some machines polish one ball at a time. Others can handle a whole set all at once. Typically, you will add a bit of cleaner or restorer to the machine. 

When activated, it will do all the cleaning and polishing for you. When the process is complete, you have to give the balls a final wipe down with a clean cloth. 

Take Your Balls To a Pro

If you play a lot of pool, it can become annoying to clean and polish your balls. If you want a perfect shine and crisp pay without all of the hassles, try checking in with a local pool hall. 

It’s very likely that they have cleaning and polishing chemicals and machines on hand. Sometimes, they will clean your balls for you for a nominal fee. 

If they don’t clean their pool balls on-site, they might be able to recommend a third party that provides a cleaning service. 

What Doesn’t Work For Cleaning Pool Balls

Here are a few methods suggested by the online peanut gallery.

None of them work, regardless of who tells you they do. 

Dishwasher Detergent

One pool ball cleaning method regularly touted online is to use dishwashers and their detergent. 

Would you use a pool ball cleaner to wash your dishes? I hope not. Likewise, I do not recommend using dishwashers or other household detergents to clean pool balls. 

Detergents can have perfumes, abrasives, and chemicals in them that could tarnish your billiard balls’ appearance outright.

Soaking them in a boiling hot dishwasher is not recommended either.

Putting your pool balls in the dishwasher will likely ruin them completely, so please don’t try it. 


Do not use bleach to clean your pool balls. It will expose your body to the hazards of bleach and potentially ruin the finish and color of your billiard balls. 

In case you didn’t know, it’s not uncommon for bleach to turn red balls pink! It’s just not worth it to try this sort of caustic cleaner.

Other Cleaning and Polishing Methods Not To Use For Pool Balls

  • Rubbing alcohol 
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Car wax (also known as carnauba wax)
  • Soaking in buckets of water and dish soap
  • Abrasive or metal polishes
  • Wax removers
  • Dry-erase products

Now You Can Polish Pool Balls

If you had any doubts before, now you know that you can indeed polish your pool balls to restore their shine. 

The essential element to remember is that it’s really easy to damage a set of balls by cleaning them inappropriately. Don’t put them in the dishwasher! 

Don’t ruin your ball by making an impulse decision to take a shortcut. 

If you do so, you may end up with a useless set of balls, which means you will need to go to the expense of replacing them. 

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