How to Soften Pool Table Bumpers (6 Easy Ways)

If your billiard ball seems to be quickly losing speed after just a few rebounds, then it’s probably time to take a closer look at your pool table bumpers.

Your bumpers usually are fairly soft, but they can turn hard with age and lack proper care. 

This article will discuss how to soften pool table bumpers and how to tell if they need replacement. 

Tips for Softening Pool Table Bumpers

Here are top-tier tips on keeping your pool table bumpers soft for a long time. 

Shield Them From The Elements

The smallest pool table you can get will be around seven feet long (unless it’s custom-made).

These pieces take up a lot of room, and often they’re the largest piece of furniture in the room. 

Common places to stash a pool table are the den, the porch, the game room (if you have one), the basement, or the patio.

Although there are indoor options for pool tables, it’s hard to find a place to keep such a huge piece if your home isn’t reasonably large. 

Most of the time, the patio is the best option for individuals with less room space. Unfortunately, this outdoor arrangement isn’t the best care for your pool table. 

Exposure to the elements means that your pool table will get dirty faster, may sometimes get wet, or be exposed to the scorching sun.

This can mess up many parts on your pool table, but it’s terrible for the soft bumpers (or cushions).

Pool table bumpers are only covered with a cloth, so they’re almost as exposed as the rails. Being exposed to weather changes means that they’ll deteriorate much faster.

So, if you have a pool table outside, set aside some stuff to make space and bring it in. Or you can relocate them to a shaded area and invest in some covers. 

Put Up Insulation

Even if your pool table is within your home, you still have to consider the temperature of the room it’s in. 

Put in some cheap insulation to help regulate temperatures and seal drafts. This will ensure that the temperature isn’t too hot or cool. 

Get an HVAC unit

An easier way to control temperatures is by getting an HVAC unit.

This way, you can be sure that the room is cool all the time. 

Get a Dehumidifier

Is it getting more humid lately? Then you may need a dehumidifier to ensure that your rubber bumpers don’t become bad because of the muggy air. 

This might seem like an unnecessary step, but it can help soften bumpers for people who live in humid areas. 

Use a Pool Table Cover

Excessive dirt from the environment can contribute to a lousy bumper as time passes by.

You can decrease the chances of this by using a pool table cover when you’re not playing.

This is especially important if you have to keep your pool table outside.

Vacuum Often

Your pool table’s felt covers might trap more dirt than you think. This dirt might go on to affect your pool table’s bumpers.

You can prevent this by occasionally vacuuming your felt cover. Use a hand vacuum and set it on the lowest level of suction. 

If you’re using a standing vacuum, you should not use an attachment with a rotation brush. The ideal attachment is one with soft bristles.

The second best choice is an attachment with no bristles at all. 

The best part of following this particular tip is that your bumpers and felt will last longer, saving you hundreds of dollars in replacement costs. 

How to Tell If Your Pool Table Bumpers are Bad

There are many ways to tell if your pool table bumpers have gone bad. 

An easy method is in the first paragraph of this article; the billiard ball losing speed after a few rebounds. But this method isn’t foolproof.

Here are a couple more tests that are more reliable. 

The Billiards Congress of America Cushion Test

The Billiards Congress of America clearly defines how pool table bumpers should react when launching a ball under specific controlled conditions.

If your pool table bumpers are functioning correctly, you should detect it with this test. 

Shoot the cue ball with a firm stroke and aim to keep the ball centered. It should be able to reach the foot spot from the head spot. 

The ball should also be able to move a minimum of four lengths of the table without jumping. 

Sight Test

This test requires a close look at your cushions. Regular cushions are upright, and the edges of your pool table will look steady and even.

But when bumpers turn bad, they may begin to melt. The melted bumpers then start to sag and make your table edges look slightly uneven.

This type of melting is easy to detect. It’s generally a result of exposure to scorching temperatures for prolonged periods. 

If your bad bumpers have a different cause, they may not be detectable through the sight test. 

The Feel Test

To check whether your cushions are bad with this method, you’ll need to feel up your pool table. 

Put your fingers below the rails and run them all around the table. The part you’re touching is where the bumpers overlap and come up on the playing area. 

You’re running your fingers through to search for worn spaces between the cushion and table.  If you find any, it’s an indication that your bumpers might need work. 

The Bounce Test

Take your billiard ball and slowly roll it so that it bumps into the rails. Note the ball’s reaction when it came into contact with the rail.

Did it bounce back onto the playing area quickly? If it did, then your bumpers should still be fine. 

If it just lays there or slowly comes to rest, then your bumpers might be pretty bad. 

The Spin Test

This method requires that you use a moderate topspin and aim at the rail.

Strike the ball at high speed. If it jumps above an inch, your cushions are bad.

The Squeeze Test

For this test, you’ll need to squeeze all the table rails. Apply pressure to them at different spots. 

A great rule of thumb is to leave around two inches of space between pressure spots. Bumpers are made of rubber, so they usually have a fair amount of give. 

You should be able to squeeze your bumper more than an eighth of an inch down. However, you should not be able to press them in any more than a quarter of an inch.

The reason for this is that, though bumpers have some give, the force that repels billiard balls will also put up some resistance. 

A bad bumper can either be hard or very soft. If it’s hard, it’ll feel a little like a wooden block. If it’s melted, it’ll feel squishy or mushy. Either way, you have a lousy bumper. 

If your bumpers are only slightly hard, they may still be salvageable. Check the other bumpers to be sure which ones are worse off than others.

You can try to soften hard bumpers by applying the methods above. However, there isn’t much you can do to harden melted or soft bumpers.

The Exception

You might sometimes feel like you have a dead bumper when the problem is with the rails instead. 

Some methods like the rebound test and the spin test check the bounce without feeling the cushions.

Sometimes a rail might have gotten loose. This can elongate the distance between the cushion and the playing area, thereby reducing its force.  

Make sure to check the pool rails while inspecting your bumpers. 

Some FAQs

Here are some answers to some fairly common questions about how to soften pool table bumpers. 

What If You Have Only One Bad Bumper?

Unfortunately, once you have one lousy bumper, the rest are likely to follow. 

Most bumpers were installed at the same time and were exposed to the same things. Because of this, they tend to turn bad simultaneously. 

How Long Do Bumpers Last?

It all depends on the quality of the bumpers in place. However, they aren’t meant to be changed every year. 

Low-quality pool table cushions may only last five to ten years. Some terrible bumpers may start deteriorating before the five-year mark. 

Higher quality bumpers can last between 10 to 20 years. Some great bumpers can even go 25 to 50 years.

Of course, this is on the assumption that you maintain your bumpers properly. If you don’t, even super awesome bumpers can go bust after ten years.

Here are a few tips to keep your pool table clean so that your cushions can last longer:

  • Keep the table clean: As we said before, regularly vacuuming your pool table will help keep your felt and your cushions adequately maintained.
  • Buy a pool table cover and use it when you’re not playing.
  • Don’t expose your table to moisture. Keep food and drinks away, and the temperature slightly cool.

Final Thoughts 

Now you’ve learned how to soften your pool table bumpers and maintain them. However, sometimes your bumpers are too far gone. 

If that’s the case, then you can call a technician to change the bumpers. You can also buy the necessary materials and use the magic of YouTube to fix them yourself. 

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