Billiard halls or personal tables at home are a great way to relax after a long day of work. Grab a drink and rack up your balls.
Whether playing with friends or alone, playing billiards is an excellent way to destress, but poorly-kept balls covered in chalk and dust affect your game negatively.
Why Dirty Billiard Balls are a Problem
How to clean billiard balls is a question that doesn’t crop up in your mind too often, but it should.
There’s a whole host of problems that dirty billiard balls cause, and the easiest way to avoid issues is to keep them clean.
Dirty billiard balls don’t just look unattractive, but they can shorten the lifespan of the balls themselves, the pool felt, and lessens the enjoyment of the game because dirty billiard balls can affect the spin and trajectory of the balls.
Dust, grime, oil from handling, and chalk can turn your balls into splotchy messes. Not cleaning them can do more harm than good and the dirt transfers to the felt.
If you don’t keep your billiard balls clean, the table felt will likely need more regular cleaning or even replaced after an extended period.
If you need more reasons to keep your billiard balls clean, most cleaning methods are more cost-effective over time and can keep you from having to replace your high-quality set of billiard balls.
How to Clean Billiard Balls: 3 Methods
There are three common ways on how to clean billiard balls with various levels of difficulty. Depending on what you have on hand, your time constraints, and how much you want to spend, one method might be more ideal than another.
Before you select a cleaning method, always check out any manufacturer’s notes and see if they have any special tips for cleaning the balls.
The first cleaning method is the most labor-intensive but only requires a gentle detergent and some water. The advantage of this method is that you likely already have what you need on hand.
The second method requires a cleaner specifically for billiard balls, but the upside is that it takes less time.
The third method is popular among avid pool players and is a worthy investment if you plan to clean your billiard balls frequently. This hands-off method is the easiest and quickest method.
Before we get into the step-by-step instructions of how to clean billiard balls, let’s discuss a few ways you should never clean your billiard balls:
- Never wash in the dishwasher. Automatic dishwasher soap is too strong, and the heat could harm your balls.
- Household cleaners like Windex or CLR are too harsh and will harm the finish. CLR will turn your balls yellow. Bleach will destroy the finish on balls and create spots on non-white surfaces.
Keep in mind that certain methods will do more harm than good and may also void any warranty you may have for your billiard balls.
So, let’s break down how to clean billiard balls.
1. Soap and Water
The items you’ll need to clean your balls are:
- Two buckets of water (one lukewarm or hot, one cold)
- At least one microfiber cloth for washing
- A mild detergent (Dawn, Ivory, or eco-friendly laundry detergents like Seventh Generation)
- Microfiber cloth for drying
For balls that are 100% resin, such as Aramith, which supplies 80% of the world’s billiard balls, hot water is excellent. For any other type of ball, or if you’re unsure, use lukewarm water.
Do not use cold water for both buckets, as cold water will not lift the dirt away from the billiard balls.
Mix in your mild detergent into the lukewarm or hot water bucket. After it’s well mixed, soak your balls in that bucket for at least five minutes.
Take each ball out and scrub with a microfiber cloth for 30-60 seconds. Rinse in cold water.
After that, make sure you dry them thoroughly. Not drying the balls fully may cause spots that can affect gameplay and soap particles can transfer to the felt on the billiard table.
2. Ball Cleaner and Restorer
What you need:
- At least two microfiber cloths
- A high-quality ball cleanser/restorer
For this method, you’ll want to shake the bottle well and follow the instructions.
The restorer is a more potent form of the cleanser. If your balls are extra dirty, this is where the restorer comes in.
Put some of the restorer on one of your microfiber cloths. Wipe the balls for 30-60 seconds each.
Afterward, wipe the residue off with a clean microfiber cloth.
This no-rinse method takes a bit less time as you don’t have to soak the balls.
3. Ball Polisher Machine
What you’ll need:
- Ball polisher machine
- Electricity source
- Ball cleaner/restorer
Using a ball polisher is by far the easiest way to clean billiard balls especially if you don’t like using elbow grease to get your billiard balls clean.
It’s quick, effortless, and takes only a minute of your time before the machine does the rest.
A ball polisher is a machine that uses carpet and friction to clean billiard balls.
Set your balls into the slots available, pour some cleaner/restorer on each ball. Finally, turn it on.
Many ball polishers will come with a timer, so “set it and forget it”. They also buff and shine your balls, so they always come out looking great.
Tips for Removing Yellow Stains
High quality balls will turn yellow when exposed to UV rays and heat. There’s nothing wrong with the ball. It’s just a sign of aging.
But if you’d like your balls to look brand new again, then this is what you’ll do.
What you’ll need:
- More microfiber cloths
- Baking soda
You’ll want to do this method right after you’ve washed your balls but before you’ve dried them.
Mix the baking soda and water until you create a paste. Apply to the billiard ball with a microfiber cloth.
Evenly coat the ball, then rinse off the paste before the baking soda has a chance to dry on your ball.
Afterward, dry it thoroughly.
A pool ball case can help prevent the yellowing of billiard balls from the start. Make sure you store it in a dark and temperature-controlled space.
Polishing Your Balls
Polishing your balls is an excellent way to restore them and make them look brand new. Polishing usually is not needed for those who use ball cleaners and restorers.
If you’re thinking of going professional or are a professional yourself, here’s a word of warning.
The World Pool-Billiard Association does not allow balls to be polished during tournament play.
If you want to polish your billiard balls, never use oil-based polish or wax. Only use billiard ball polish.
Oil-based polish causes dirt and dust to cling to the balls. Attracting dust is the exact opposite of what you’re hoping to achieve.
Wax should be used on hardwood floors and surfboards, not billiard balls. Waxed balls will leave residue on the felt, which will affect gameplay.
Once the balls have been washed and dried, then use the polish.
As for the actual polishing, put a bit of polish on the balls and wipe with a microfiber cloth. Wipe for about 30 seconds, and then remove any excess polish with a clean cloth.
Benefits of Clean Billiard Balls
You’ve seen what can happen if you don’t keep your billiard balls clean. Here are the benefits when you do.
1. Protect Pool Felt
You won’t have to clean or maintain your felt as often. You won’t be embedding dirt from the balls into your table.
Clean pool balls mean less hassle in the long run and keeping your table looking newer longer.
2. Extend Lifespan
With each hit of the chalk, you slowly wear down your balls. Wear and tear is normal. But dirty billiard balls cause that wear on your ball to speed up significantly.
Balls last longer when they are taken care of. They have fewer weight imbalances as well, causing less friction and wear.
3. Better Play
Dirt and chalk-covered billiard balls don’t play as well. They don’t roll as they should.
Clean balls roll more smoothly across the felt. They’re more accurate and predictable in their movements. You’ll be able to enjoy playing a game more.
How Often Should I Clean My Billiard Balls?
There’s no solid rule that says how frequently you should clean your billiard balls. There are plenty of factors to consider such as the condition of the balls, how often you play, and how you store them.
If you play pool weekly, wiping down your billiard balls after you play can help keep them clean in between deep cleans. Some manufacturers recommend washing them monthly.
It is our responsibility to take care of everything we own, and that includes billiard balls. If you play regularly, you’ll want to clean your balls about once a week.
Keeping your billiard balls clean is an essential part of extending the life of your gear. Replacements will be more frequent if things aren’t well maintained.
It’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it, and all it takes is a bit of time and commitment.
Other articles you may also like:
- What Are Pool Table Balls Made Of?
- Billiard Table vs. Pool Table – What is the difference?
- How to Clean Billiard Balls (3 Easy Methods)
- How to Clean Chalk Off Pool Table Felt
- What’s the Purpose of Billiard Gloves?