How to Clean Pool Balls
Updated: Apr 17
Have you noticed your pool balls looking a little dingy or yellow lately? When you're entertaining friends and family in your game room, the last thing you want is dirty and unmaintained pool balls and an unsightly table. Maintaining your pool table and accessories ensures you're keeping your game room looking great and ready for hosting those weekend parties. Keep your game room looking its best, keep your table in top shape and stay ready to welcome guests with a table full of clean and shiny billiard balls.
Steps for Cleaning Your Pool Balls
Cleaning your billiard balls not only looks great but keeps your table in top condition as well. However, it's important to understand what your pool balls are made of before you begin cleaning them. The type of material your pool balls are made from dictates how you're supposed to clean them. Generally, pool balls are made from phenolic resin, but some sets of pool balls are made of acrylic or polyester.
If your set of billiard balls is made from resin, then soap and warm water are the way to go and safe to use. If your billiard balls are made of acrylic or polyester, then you'll want to use a combination of lukewarm or room temperature water with just a small amount of white vinegar as a ball cleaner.
Follow these steps for cleaning pool balls made of phenolic resin:
Fill a bucket or sink with warm water: It's important to use only warm water and avoid using water that is too hot or too cold. Hot water can cause damage to your pool balls while cold water won't work to loosen the dirt and grease.
Add a mild detergent or dish soap: Use a mild detergent such as a little bit of dish soap to create a sudsy solution for soaking your billiard balls.
Soak your billiard balls: Add your billiard balls to the sudsy solution for five to ten minutes and no longer. Any longer than five or ten minutes can cause discoloring of the pool balls and cause hard-to-remove spots.
Scrub them clean with a rag: Once your pool balls have soaked for five minutes or so, remove them from the soap and water solution and scrub them with a rag or microfiber towel. Don't use a scrub brush or any other type of abrasive utensil to scrub them as this can damage and scratch the set as well as cause discoloring.
Dry them thoroughly: Once you've scrubbed them clean, then it's important to thoroughly dry your billiard balls. Take your time and make certain you've completely dried each ball as any water or moisture that's left to sit on your pool balls will leave water spots and stains that are nearly impossible to remove once they've set in. You'll also want to ensure all your billiard balls are dry to keep any soap or detergent residue from transferring to your pool table as this can damage the felt and affect your game.
Acrylic or Polyester Pool Balls
If your set of pool balls are made from acrylic or polyester, or if you're unsure what your pool balls are made of, then don't risk cleaning them as though they were made of resin. Instead, use a combination of lukewarm water and a small amount of white vinegar to get your pool balls clean.
Soak the balls for five to ten minutes in the warm water and white vinegar solution and continue drying them as outlined above. It's important that you avoid using hot water and dish soap on your acrylic and polyester billiard balls. Warm water and dish soap can negatively impact and begin to break down your acrylic and polyester billiard balls.
Soak the balls for five to ten minutes in the warm water and white vinegar solution and continue scrubbing and drying them as outlined above. It's important that you avoid using hot water and dish soap on your acrylic and polyester billiard balls. Warm water and dish soap can negatively impact and begin to break down your acrylic and polyester billiard balls.
How Not to Clean Pool Balls
Understanding how not to clean your pool balls is nearly as important as cleaning them in the first place. The last thing you want to do is ruin a perfectly good set of pool balls because you failed to use the appropriate cleaning equipment or products. There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding ways to clean your pool balls or shortcuts to take, so let's set the record straight.
Avoid Using Household Cleaning Products
First, avoid using household cleaners and chemicals to wash your pool balls. Household cleaners such as bleach or window cleaner can damage your set of billiard balls and leave them discolored. Household cleaners or other sprays are also abrasive, and using them can scratch your pool table balls. These types of products will cause damage to your pool balls as the chemicals will penetrate the surfaces too deeply.
Avoid Using Toothpaste
Next, you might come across online advice suggesting you use toothpaste to clean billiard balls, but you'll want to avoid using toothpaste. Similar to using household cleaning products, using toothpaste to clean your billiard balls can damage them. Also, toothpaste will leave a residue on your billiard balls that is difficult to remove. The residue can also transfer to your pool table and damage your table's felt.
Avoid Using The Dishwasher
You might also be tempted to wash billiard balls in the dishwasher, but you'll want to avoid this method for cleaning them as well. The extreme temperatures and heat of dishwasher cycles will permanently damage your billiard balls. Since pool balls are made of phenolic resin or a polyester resin blend, then they are easily damaged by heat and the detergents used in dishwashers. Dishwashers will impact the core of your pool balls, causing them to be less durable and shiny.
Avoid Oil-Based Polishes and Wax
Last, it is also tempting to polish pool balls, but you'll want to avoid using any type of oil-based polishes or wax. The oil from these types of polishes will leave a residue on your billiard balls that will transfer to your pool table. This will damage the table's felt and negatively impact your billiards game in general. No matter how hard you try to remove and dry all of the polish or wax from your billiard balls, a light residue will remain and transfer to the felt on your pool table.
How to Polish Billiard Balls
You might be asking how to polish pool balls. Once you've cleaned your billiard balls using soap and warm water, you'll likely want to polish them. There are a number of products on the market designed specifically for polishing pool balls. Shiny pool balls make your playing experience all the more enjoyable. However, you'll certainly want to use the right types of products and take your time shopping for a billiard ball polish. Using a cheap polish for your billiard balls can ruin your set.
Once you find a good product for polishing your billiard balls, then be sure to use a microfiber cloth for polishing them. A microfiber cloth will not damage or scratch the finish on your billiard balls. The microfibers are soft enough to not cause any damage, but they are still strong enough to effectively remove all of the polish from the surface of your billiard balls.
Again, you'll want to avoid using any type of wax or oil-based polishes when cleaning and polishing your billiard balls. Try to use only polishes that are designed and made specifically for billiard balls.
How to Remove Yellow From Pool Balls
If you've noticed your billiard balls turning a little yellow and dingy, then chances are you want to remove that and get them back to their original shine. Pool balls turn yellow for many reasons, but it mostly has to do with what pool balls are made of. If your pool balls are made of phenolic resin, then they'll turn yellow from exposure to UV light, heat and oxygen in the air. If your pool balls are made of polyester resin, then they will not turn yellow from exposure to these elements and instead will turn grey.
If your pool balls have turned yellow, there is no need to worry as this will not affect gameplay or their ability to roll across your billiards table like they would if they were dirty. Yellow pool balls will also not impact the felt on your pool table. However, it's understandable that you don't want unsightly, yellow pool balls when you're hosting friends and family for weekend parties or get-togethers.
Invest in a Carrying Case
The best way to get your pool balls back to their original color is to prevent them from becoming yellow to start with. You can do this by investing in a carrying case. Carrying cases will protect your pool balls from exposure to elements such as UV light, heat and oxygen in the air. Storing your pool balls in a carrying case when they are not in use is the best way to keep them from becoming yellow in the first place. A carrying case will also help keep your pool balls clean. Storing your billiard balls in a case keeps dust, dirt and other debris away from your balls.
Invest in a Ball Washing Machine
If your pool balls have already started to turn yellow, then you can try investing in a ball washing machine. A ball washing machine will obviously help you clean them, but will also help to remove any yellow tinting from your billiard balls. A ball washing machine is a big investment, but it will help get your pool balls cleaner and more polished than simply doing it by hand with soap and water or using a polish.
The yellowing of your pool balls will happen naturally as they age, so protection and prevention are going to be your best options. Again, yellow pool balls will not affect your ability to use them for playing games.
Benefits of Cleaning Your Billiard Balls
As discussed, there is a range of benefits to cleaning and polishing your billiard table balls. Consider the following benefits to cleaning your pool balls:
Save money: Did you know you'll also save time and money by keeping your pool balls clean? Taking the time to clean your billiard balls is likely a cheaper option than investing in a whole new set of balls or replacing your pool table felt.
Pool balls last longer: Pool balls with dirt and chalk embedded into them will not last long, or they certainly will not be suitable to use for playing games. Keeping your billiard balls clean will extend their life and create a better experience for you and other players.
Protect your pool table: The dirt from pool balls not only impacts your pool game but transfers over to the felt on your billiards table. This dirt and chalk from the pool balls transferring over to your table and the felt means you have to clean and maintain your table more often. You may also have to replace all of the felt on your table if it's not properly maintained.
Shoot better pool: Cleaning your pool balls keeps them in top playing shape. Clean billiard balls will roll better and offer you better shots. If you're serious about your pool game, then cleaning your pool balls regularly will help you shoot better pool.
Cleaning your pool balls to their shiniest is an excellent way to keep your game room and pool table in top condition. By keeping your pool balls clean, you're essentially protecting your investment in your table, accessories and your game.