Why Do Pool/Billiard Balls Turn Yellow? How to Prevent it?

Have you noticed your pool balls have turned yellow?

It isn’t unusual for old pool balls to lose their vibrant white color. They may turn yellow despite constant cleaning.

So, why do pool balls turn yellow? Photodegradation primarily causes the yellowing of these balls.

What Causes the Yellowing of Pool Balls?

Photooxidation occurs when you expose pool balls to:

  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation
  • Air
  • Heat

This process degrades the phenolic resins that make most pool balls, resulting in a color fade.

Frequent exposure to sunlight, air, moisture, and similar environmental factors accelerates the yellowing process.

The yellowing mainly affects the white cue ball. You’ll also notice that the more you play and use the balls, the faster they turn yellow (which is nothing but regular wear and tear)

Do All Pool Balls Turn Yellow?

Not all billiard balls turn yellow due to exposure. The color change depends on the material that makes the pool ball.

Yellowing is common in plastic balls.

Plastic materials are susceptible to sunlight degradation. In the presence of heat and air, sunlight oxidizes plastics, causing a chemical change.

Sunlight scissions polymers into smaller units called oligomers. The color change occurs because the altered material absorbs and emits light at a different wavelength.

White cue balls reflect all the wavelengths of light, enabling you to see the white color. But tarnished balls reflect light with a wavelength of 570–590 nm.

That’s why you perceive such balls as yellow.

Antique ivory pool balls also undergo photodegradation and turn yellow over time.

Pool balls made from polyester resin don’t turn yellow. Instead, they become dull and may turn grey.

Do Yellow Pool Balls Affect Gameplay?

Yellowing of pool balls is a matter of aesthetics and is unlikely to affect how you play pool.

That said, some pool sharks will view your balls as dirty and might avoid playing at your pool table.

Yellow balls might also be a sign that your balls are aging and need replacing.

Overall, you don’t have to be too concerned about yellow balls. This won’t be an issue and you can continue to use them for playing.

How to Prevent Your Pool Balls from Turning Yellow

Yellowing of pool balls is inevitable. However, there are several ways to slow down the aging of your pool/billiard balls.

The obvious way is to clean and store your pool balls in an ideal place.

Always store your balls in a closed case. Keep this case away from direct sunlight and hot temperatures.

You won’t prevent air from entering the storage case, but you can easily avert heat and sunlight.

The other way is to place your pool table away from the sun’s rays. As earlier mentioned, the rays will quicken the photodegradation of your balls.

While this is not a problem in most cases (as most pool tables are kept indoors), in case you have kept your pool/billiard table outside where could be sunlight, you should always pack the balls once you’re done playing.

It’s also advisable to place your pool table in a cool, open environment. Like sunlight, heat will also cause your pool balls to turn yellow.

How to Whiten Yellow Pool Balls

You can restore the shine of your yellow pool/billiard balls using several methods.

Use Pool Ball Cleaners

Pool ball cleaners can help get rid of the yellow color in your pool balls. Most pool table owners use the Aramith Billiard Cleaner to eliminate stains.

Aramith Bundle of 2 Items Billiard Ball Cleaner & Aramith Billiard Ball Restorer 8.4 fl.oz. Bottles

If the yellowing in your pool/billiard balls is extreme, consider using products like the Aramith Billiard Restorer.

Use a microfiber cloth to apply these products to the affected pool balls. Afterward, polish the balls with a clean paper towel.

Use Baking Soda

Surprisingly, you can use baking soda to remove the yellow stains in your pool balls. You’ll first need to create a paste using a few tablespoons of baking soda and water.

After creating the paste, use a towel to rub the paste around the yellowed ball. Repeat this process until the ball turns brighter.

Use cold water to wash off any remaining paste, then dry the pool ball using a clean towel.

Use a Pool Ball Cleaning Machine

You can clean yellow pool/billiard balls quickly and effectively using pool ball cleaning machines.

BallStar Pool and Billiards Ball Cleaner

These machines require some investment, but they are capable of eliminating the yellow stain in pool balls.

An example is the Aramith Pool Ball Cleaning Machine. You only need to add some cleaner, then place the pool ball in the holder, and this machine does the rest.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Another way of removing yellow stains from pool balls is by using Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Durable, Bathroom, Shower, and Oven Cleaner, Cleaning Pads with Durafoam, 10 Count

You have to wet this magic eraser before rubbing it around the tarnished cue ball. Like its name, this eraser will erase all the yellow spots.

While these methods work well to whiten the pool/billiard balls and restore the shine, the best way would be to make sure you slow down the yellowing process by keeping balls away from sunlight and heat.

What You Shouldn’t Use to Whiten/Clean Pool Balls

Restoring your yellow pool ball requires extreme caution. You can easily damage your balls if you use the wrong cleaner, chemical, or machine.

Below are the things you should avoid using.

  • Bleaching agents. Never use bleaching products to clean or restore your pool balls. Bleach will introduce pink stains on your billiard ball.
  • Toothpaste. It’s a bad idea to use toothpaste to restore your pool balls. Toothpaste leaves behind residues that can’t come off.
  • A dishwasher. The phenolic resins that make most pool balls are sensitive to the dishwasher’s heat.
  • An abrasive cleaner. Abrasive cleaners like Windex will ruin the aesthetics of your pool ball.

In short, don’t use any harsh chemicals or cleaner to clean billiard balls.

Sparkling white pool balls are attractive and improve the aesthetic appeal of your pool hall.

Pool players will hold your facility in high regard, and they will love playing at your tables.

On the contrary, yellow balls might send the wrong signals to pool players. Players might view your facility as untidy or run-down.

While yellow balls are normal, they are less appealing to most players. Only a small section of players consider yellow billiard balls durable.

Final Thoughts

Pool balls made from phenolic resins turn yellow when they age. UV light, air, and heat combine to give these balls an off-white appearance.

The yellowing doesn’t affect gameplay but messes with the aesthetics of your pool balls.

Although cleaning and polishing might help reduce the yellowing, you might need to purchase new balls to overcome this issue.

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